All marriage speakers and bloggers get push back for what they say. But I’m not sure everyone realizes what women go through.
Today I’d like to share some of the comments and words that are hurled at me, female bloggers like me, and my daughters when we speak up for healthy marriages and for healthy sex lives and for a healthy view of relationships. These comments are very different from what most men get, and so I thought it may be instructive to share some.
WARNING: These are graphic and disturbing. But I think the abuse of women online, and the culture of the broader Christian community which enables this, is important to talk about. And I can’t talk about it properly unless you see the extent of the problem. If you find sexual insults and misogyny triggering, then please don’t read this. I normally wouldn’t publish these things; I tend to delete them immediately so no one ever sees. But I do think it’s important occasionally to have a talk about these bigger issues going on. However, if this discussion isn’t for you, feel free to tune out today!
For instance, one day last month this was the first email that greeted me when I checked my inbox that morning:
I get sexually graphic stuff a lot.
Likely because I write about sex, I’m always getting emails and comments that are quite vile and disgusting. They never make it through on the public platform, obviously, and frequently the spam filter catches them so I don’t even see them.
But it’s not just me. Jessica Harris, who writes about recovering from a porn addiction at A Beggar’s Daughter, sent me this one:
Chris, who from the Honeycomb and Spice community where Christian wives can talk about sex, received this one shortly after she put her picture up on the blog:
Okay so u are not a bleach blond bimbo with big fake boobs. But you look great. I would rather be with someone that is for real. You could snuggle up to me anytime.
We need to be aware of the disgusting, abusive comments that women in ministry receive online. Warning: graphic language.
And then there’s my daughter Katie.
She has a YouTube channel, and when she made a video about why the whole “Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins without Tattoos” was so off-base (mostly because all of those things refer to actions you did in the past, and are based on outward appearances, rather than current, inward character), she was subjected to thousands upon thousands (and I’m not kidding) comments that were horrendously hateful and often sexual in nature. She was asked, “How many guys have you sucked?” over and over. That seemed to be a theme–another one said, “She’s just mad because she got spit roasted by black d***s in college and knows she’s no decent Christian white mans first choice for marriage.”
She stopped checking comments, and some of my assistants did it for a few weeks, so she never saw them. And my assistants just deleted them. But we took some screen shots of some specially bad ones before we deleted them:
I don’t keep the stuff that shows up on this blog directed at me, so I don’t have the screen shots, but I took a bunch of screen shots of the stuff insulting Katie because, as a mom, I was just so incensed. But I get a lot, too.
And it’s not just bloggers. Let’s remember that Paige Patterson, one of the bastions of the conservative resurgence in the SBC, joked from the pulpit about how built a 16-year-old girl was. SBC Pastor Wade Burleson recently documented how Dr. Joshua Dara, a Dean at Louisiana College (SBC affiliated), spoke at the chapel on Valentine’s Day of this year saying that the reason that women weren’t getting dates is that they weren’t “mowing their lawns” (a euphemism for shaving their pubic hair). When women are sexualized in sermons and in chapels, there really is no safe space for us anymore.
Often in the comments people express sympathy for our husbands or put down our husbands.
This normally takes place when I write a post standing up for women, saying that God’s ideal is for a man and a woman to live in a truly intimate relationship, not one where the man dominates. When my husband wrote on this blog a while back that he thought men who didn’t want their wives to be their partners and teammates and instead just wanted to dominate them were missing out on something and were rather pathetic, commenters said (and I’m sorry if this is too graphic) “when are you going to stop taking it up the butt?” (except that they said it even worse than that.)
On Katie’s channel, here’s an adult male criticizing her husband. (I’m sorry the screen shot is so hard to read; I originally took these just for me for posterity, and wasn’t thinking about sharing them, or I would have saved them in another format):
In case it’s hard to read on mobile:
Please don’t call yourself a Christian who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ yet you are an absolute hostile opposition to everything that the word says concerning a woman. I feel so sorry for David.
To reiterate, this is an adult male commenting on a 21-year-old young woman’s YouTube channel saying this. Look at his profile picture. What kind of adult male takes pleasure in leaving comments like this on a mostly teenage-girl channel?
Frequently men say they feel sorry for Keith, too–to tell me that they’re praying for the poor guy and hope that he gets relief from this marriage.
I find that really, really funny (and so does Keith). Keith is a well-respected pediatrician who is extremely well-known in our community. People love him here. He saves lives. And he’s married to a woman who writes books on sex. Just think about that for a moment. Think about how much he must like his life. And I’ll just leave it to you all to figure out what I mean! 🙂
These comments are also mostly from those who would call themselves Christians.
It is not like it is only weird, gross dudes in the internet land. No, it is weird gross dudes in the internet land who claim Christ and who use “Christianese.”
For mobile users:
I don’t believe you’re saved by Christ. you don’t possess one bit of repenting attitude. Keep w*&^&*(* yourself b*&^&.
You are a whitewashed tomb…a hysterical shrill jezebel…your vocal intensity shows what major emotional feminist defects you have
What makes it doubly awful is that so many of the vile comments weren’t even addressed to Katie. They were in reply to teenage girls who had commented about how they had had messed up pasts, but had found Jesus and now were so at peace. Somehow these adult men (many profile pics looked in their 40s) thought it was okay to call these girls horrible names and tell them they were going to hell because they hadn’t “kept their legs closed” but had “given it to any *&* who walked by.”
And then, of course, they would quote Bible verses about how fornicators were going to hell. To reiterate, we deleted all of these comments and the girls never saw them (nor did Katie, really). But they were there.
But, wait! The gross comments get worse, because then they’re paired with the thought that we women don’t have a right to speak at all.
And this is really what I want people, and especially pastors and male authors and bloggers, to understand. Many of these horrible comments are paired with Bible verses also telling us that women should be silent, that women shouldn’t speak, and that we are disobeying God. Men may deal with insults or with people who think they’re wrong; but they don’t deal with people saying, “you have no right to say anything, you *&^*”. They call us jezebels, saying that women are responsible for all the ills in the world.
For mobile users:
- Poster child of the Jezebel spirit!!!!
- This woman is in rebellion against God’s Word…she has a problem with God and she’s following in the foot steps of the first rebellious woman, EVE, and we see where that lead [sic] the human race!
Frequently I’ll have people who just simply leave a Bible verse telling us to shut up, like this one that does nothing except quote 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.
I tell all of this not really to get sympathy, because trust me, my family and I can handle it. And we had a great time with that first email when it came in. I texted it to everyone on a group text and the gifs that everyone sent back were awesome!
But there are three important points I want to make.
1. I want men who write blogs and books to understand what it is like to be a woman who talks about marriage and sex.
I know that all of us are under tremendous pressure. But there is a unique pressure on women that I don’t think men necessarily understand. I sometimes wish that some of the male authors would moderate my comments just for a week and see the personal, sexual attacks that come in, especially those paired with Bible verses. Perhaps then some men would understand how their teaching that women should stay silent and simply follow their husbands enables and feeds this kind of mentality in debased men.
If you’re going to teach that women should rest under a man’s authority and should defer to men, please understand that you embolden commenters like these. We women have to deal with the fallout of your doctrine. You may believe that doctrine, and also think that these commenters are beyond the pale and don’t represent Christ at all. But I’d ask you to please at least have empathy for those of us who are the recipients of the hate that is stoked from that doctrine.
Men in ministry:
This is what women in ministry have to deal with. Is your doctrine protecting women in their quest to serve Christ, or worsening the issue?
2. I want male pastors and teachers to understand how hurtful it is to have people tell you that you have no right to speak simply because you’re a woman.
All male pastors and bloggers, think back to the sermon or book or blog post that you’re the most proud of. Think about how much you laboured and prayed over that. Think about how much you felt that God was in that message.
Now imagine if, after you had delivered it, you had people tell you that you had no right to speak any of it simply because you’re a man. Imagine that they were all saying,
- “your opinion doesn’t matter because God made you wrong.”
- “You aren’t in the image of God as much as these leaders, so you shouldn’t speak.” (as Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Bruce Ware holds about women’s inferior image)
- “I am closer to God than you are because my genitals are different than yours.”
This happens every single time I write an epic blog post that attempts to get at Jesus’ heart towards women. It happened when I wrote about men and lust. When I wrote about Love & Respect. When I wrote about Desiring God’s article that husbands need to get their wives ready for Jesus. When I write about submission. I get these emails telling me to “shut up.”
3. I want pastors and bloggers and authors to ask yourself, “If men sat under my teaching for a year, would they know explicitly that I thought such attitudes and behaviours were wrong?”
This was really the point of the Twitter thread that I wrote when I was incensed about the reaction to Katie’s video. I started it off this way:
A 21-year-old woman made an awesome video combatting legalism & telling girls that God values them.
— SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) August 10, 2018
But it was the end that was really important.
Let me reiterate: this is a group of very young girls and women who are seeking Jesus. Katie is pointing them to Jesus. And middle-aged supposedly Christian men think it’s okay to call them [email protected], [email protected], & b*tches. Middle aged men seem to think that this is evangelism. — SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) August 10, 2018
They are going to churches where the context of verses like 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is never discussed, so that these men feel empowered to say “women are more easily deceived”, “women should stay silent”, and “women should shut up.” — SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) August 10, 2018
So pastors, let me be clear: If you are not administering this chemotherapy & fighting back against these attitudes, if you are not actively calling them out—then you are allowing that cancer to grow. Even if you do not hold these horrible beliefs, they are in your church. — SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) August 10, 2018
Ask yourself: “If a person sat in my pews for a year, would they know that God values women? Would they know that women’s opinions matter? Would they know that calling women names is ungodly—especially if those names have sexual overtones?” — SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) August 10, 2018
Because they will only know these things if you explicitly teach them. Even then, evil men will likely reject the Truth. But at least then their actions will not be on your head. Right now, they are. And as a mom, I am incensed. As a Christian, I am brokenhearted and lamenting. — SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) August 10, 2018
But as a woman, I believe a sleeping giant has awakened. Women are looking at the church, with all the #churchtoo stories & coverups, and how women are treated like second class citizens. And the dam is breaking. God is pouring out His Spirit, and His daughters will prophesy. — SheilaGregoire (@sheilagregoire) August 10, 2018
There is so much hate in the world right now, and I don’t know if many men realize how much is directed at women.
If you’re a good guy, you likely assume that most guys are, too, and that this is just a loony fringe. But I think it’s far more widespread that most people realize. The comments are endless and relentless.
Seriously, if you want to see the extent of this vileness that is sitting in your pews, just walk in the shoes of a Christian online female sometime who says anything remotely controversial about women being made fully in the image of God and God loving women. Just see what comes out of the woodwork.
What Beth Moore has to put up with just because she wants to preach Jesus is beyond the pale. What Julie Roys, who uncovered the corruption at Moody and at Harvest Bible Chapel, has been subjected to is terrible, too. It needs to stop.
As I’m going to talk about in my podcast next week, this year I’ve had a big revelation that I’ve been very, very naive.
Because I’m married to a great guy, and our male friends are great guys, and my sons-in-law are great guys, and my pastor is a great guy, I often assume that other people are generally well-meaning, too. That’s why, when I wrote up the report on Love & Respect and sent it in to Focus on the Family, I genuinely thought they’d care. I thought that women’s voices would matter to them. I thought that the problem was just that they had been ignorant of how the book was being abused (and how the message itself was damaging and faulty), and I thought that if I just pointed it out, they’d see the issues.
But instead they refused to answer my emails, and answered other readers that wrote in and told them that they disagreed with me. Apparently they thought it was okay to only refer to sex as being about man’s physical release, and not ever talk about sex as being for women’s pleasure or being about intimacy. They thought it was okay to tell a woman she must not speak up even if her husband is “drinking or straying.” They thought it was okay to tell a woman married to a physically abusive man that she must learn not to react to his anger and not to trigger his anger.
And then I saw this tweet by Beth Moore:
Then I realized it was not over Scripture at all. It was over sin. It was over power. It was over misogyny. Sexism. It was about arrogance. About protecting systems. It involved covering abuses & misuses of power. Shepherds guarding other shepherds instead of guarding the sheep.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) May 11, 2019
I am calling on organizations to be places that protect women. I am calling on pastors and male bloggers and authors to stand with women and stand against this kind of misogyny, for there is no other word for it.
As I have been watching the fallout from Beth’s tweets, and watching Focus on the Family’s response to all of your stories on Love & Respect, I am getting discouraged and incensed all at the same time.
Jesus loves me. Jesus loves women. Jesus has given women a voice. Jesus elevated women. When men say these horrid things, especially in Jesus’ name, well, I would hate to be them on judgment day.