Wales and the Man-Hating Thing.

So, this time last week I was in beautiful Wales. It was raining rather heavily by Friday, but there was still a serene enough atmosphere for the day to be enjoyable. I was at Camp Meeting, a religious conference that happens every year. I was able to meet lots of new people and saw friends who I haven’t seen for months. We stayed in a deluxe caravan which meant that many wanderers passed through our dwellings to eat and relax in a comfortable place. I was with five other girls, two of which I hadn’t met before the trip but I’ve since become friends with them.

On the Saturday night I had a chat with someone who told me that I “have a dislike for men when it comes to relationships”. At the time I laughed it off, but last night and today I’ve really been thinking about what he said. This blog has always documented my loop-the-loop of feelings regarding men, misogyny in church and a dislike for a certain type of man. I used to dislike men because all the men in church I met seemed to not take these issues seriously, but I never thought I still emanated a vibe of “misandry”. I find this a little worrying, if I’m honest, only because I’m currently in a “it’s complicated” state with the person who said this to me, and I wonder if this is one of the things that is holding him back from me.

I always knew that amongst some of my friends I’m just a Feminist Ranter, but those are my friends. Now it seems that potential love interests will see me the same way. I’m not sure how I feel about that. A while ago I made a post that I’m stepping out of the relationship boardroom, mainly because I was fed up with all the requirements given to women about how they should behave if they want a man and also because the relationship topic is constantly being talked about these days to the point of tedium. Since then, this particular person has come along, even though I wasn’t looking for anyone, and even though we’re definitely just friends, this situation and his subsequent comments have made me view my personal romantic life in a different light. It’s one thing to be single by choice, but another to be single because people are weary of you…

But then again, if church men are weary of me because of my views (which believe it or not are no where near as extreme as they once were), then maybe it’s best that I seek the Kingdom first before trying to get involved with anyone. Maybe it’s a good thing that I am single. I wouldn’t want to change who I am or not care about women as much as I do because it somehow makes some men feel uncomfortable. I’m grateful that this man made no indication that I need to change who I am (I take that as a good sign of his character), but what he said has made me think. I’m starting to learn a bit more about how others see me. I just don’t know if this will have an impact on who I am.

The mind wanders…

 

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Chain Link Fence

My week has been uneventful but revelatory. I opened up to the Rolling Prayer Request list that my friend set up on Facebook. I started to write my prayer request and deleted it several times. It dealt with an issue that I wasn’t keen on letting people know about—after all, I don’t know the majority of people in the group. I was aware that I would be recognisable as the girl with “that problem” if I ever went to a national church event. I’ve already made friends with people in the real world because they recognised me from the list. I didn’t want to be branded with anything.

I’ve really built this up haven’t I? Anyway, this is what I wrote:

 

Please pray for me. I suffer from low confidence and low self-esteem. It shows to other people and gets me in compromising situations, I guess. And I’m too sensitive. My sensitive nature has had me holding a grudge for years whilst the people involved just carried on with their merry lives. Basically, just pray for me to be more Esther-like or something. I feel as though my current personality, one of “fear” and “worry” completely contradicts the Bible’s standard of having faith and being bold. After all, if I have a strong relationship with God I shouldn’t be so emotionally weak. Thanks xXx

I got a lot of responses that really touched me. The same people I was weary of before took the time to message me privately with words of encouragement. It really gave me a boost. I then saw that there were people who were also going through the same state of mind but had been worried to ask for prayer about it before. I hope that this helped them in some way.

I would like to end on a thought about how we build and break each other in church. In a place where everyone wants to be seen to be doing something for the work of the Kingdom, I reckon it can be easy to heap too much praise on an individual when we like them or magnify their open sins when they look like a spiritual threat. This boils down to our natural sinful nature and is something we will only overcome by completely surrendering to Christ.

But it really hurts me when people say ridiculous and demeaning things just to ensure their own delusions of piety and status. I’ve just read a quote from an unknown person (and to be honest I don’t want to know them) fundamentally saying that the church needs men to stop the drama that women generate and this is why women don’t make good leaders.

As a young woman in church, when I hear things like that, how can I possibly have high self-esteem? If I’m being judged and broken down in such a way by the brothers in my own church, I don’t think it’s surprising if my morale is a little low. I feel more anger at such statements initially, along with the drive to prove the speaker wrong—at the same time, I feel terrified. I’m supposed to pick a husband out of this bunch.

I’ll be away for a week on Monday, so this is my last post until the 24th. I’m going to a church camp meeting in Wales. Hopefully I’ll have lots to talk about when I get back.

xXx

 

Eve and Gender Equality

It has been a few weeks since I updated this blog, mainly because of exams and coursework. It was really stressful; I’ve never felt so unprepared for an exam. No matter how much I revised, the information just wasn’t staying in my head, but I prayed and I would like to think I did well. God’s got it all under control.

In between exam papers, I’ve been reading Daughters of God by Ellen G White. She was one of the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist church and is also our prophet. She was alive in the 1800s so I was rather skeptical about what she had to say about women. I always assumed that her views on gender roles would be old fashioned and anti-womanist, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what she has written. So far, my favourite quote has been her opening assessment of Eve:

God Himself gave Adam a companion. He provided “an help meet for him”—a helper corresponding to him—one who was fitted to be his companion, and who could be one with him in love and sympathy. Eve was created from a rib taken from the side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as the head, not to be trampled under his feet as inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him. A part of man, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh she was his second self, showing the close union and the affectionate attachment that should exist in this relation.

I’ve heard similar sayings before, but I think it’s a positive sign that Sister White made this point. A lot of people in our church disagree with such things, believing that women should be beneath men, despite our own prophet saying differently. I have another quote from her that I would like to share with  you, probably tomorrow, regarding the Independent Woman.

xXx

Naked

One day, I wanted to feel strong
so I stood by the mirror
in the nude
and thought about Eve.

As I basked in my reflection
I forgot that
a naked woman is sin:
a salacious role play
between Him and Her
becomes too clear in the mind
of the one who beholds.

I need to remember
that my body is a weapon
made to mortally wound the minds of men
and force them to lose control.
So the sensitivities of my brothers-in-Christ
must be at the forefront of my mind
whenever I get ready for church.

A woman should remember
that her nakedness will only be valued
when she is lying beneath the man she vowed
to be her wedded owner.

Patriarchy, the Church and My Hatred of Men.

I was just on Tumblr when I came across this quote:

“The thing about patriarchy is that individual men, gay and straight, are often really wonderful people who you love deeply, but they have internalized some really poisonous sh*t. So every once in a while they say or do something that really shakes you because you’re no longer totally certain they see you as a human being, and you feel totally disempowered to explain that to them.”

Source

I reblogged it because it completely explains the feelings I’ve been harbouring about men for a long time. I’ve gone through many phases, thinking at one point that I actually hated men. When I think about what women are going through at this moment in time, what’s happened to women in my own family, what’s happened to me on occasion, I feel sick and angry. This anger begins to form against men in general. I’ve been praying about it, but I think this is something that will take some time.

It’s within the confines of a church setting that I see male ignorance and privilege at an astounding level. I was dubbed the “feminist ranter” so often that I couldn’t be bothered to get annoyed anymore. Thinking logically about it, if the men in church really understood what it’s like to be a woman, then they would be ranting too, because Satan’s influence over certain men has made them all look bad. I feel sad that the only men in my life [excluding my Dada] who really and truly get angry over misogyny, male dominance and patriarchy are not in the church. I speak of my friend Tim in particular, smartest person I know, who is just so clued up about these things and the compassion he feels towards women puts a lot of church guys to shame.

I wonder, do church men feel threatened when a woman talks about independence? Or when she expresses anti-misogynist sentiment? Do they think she’s trying to usurp his divine appointment of head of the family?

Then I think about all the times I’ve heard the “male-edited” edition of Ephesians 5. Yeah, let’s skip 5:21:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

And let’s erase 5: 25-28:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

And let’s concentrate on this little gem, right in the middle:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Because that’s all that matters, I’m sure.

Church men have the luxury to be ignorant about the abuse women have suffered under the system of patriarchy, because they are of a privileged position. I’ve used this analogy before, but I’ll use it again: their ignorance is similar to the ignorance of the Royal Family. Why would the Royals care about what a single mother living hand-to-mouth on a Peckham estate is going through? How could they possibly know what it feels like to worry about bills or debt? They’re too busy cutting ribbons and posing with Usain Bolt. Likewise, I can’t expect these men to really be clued up about misogyny and the disastrous effects male dominance has had over the world. They’re men; they’re not going through it. No where in the world are men dominated, oppressed, sexualised or subjugated by women. It’s always the other way around.

Yes, I know I’m being general. I’ve made a lot of generalisations, but this is what resonated with me when I read the above quote: the individual men in my life are wonderful people, but as a collective there’s an attitude that emerges that makes me really fearful about my relationships with men—romantic or platonic.  My parents’ divorce isn’t the only thing that puts me off marriage; it’s my misgivings about religion and female oppression. My closest female friend believes that I will never marry a church man because he would make me feel imprisoned.

I would like to think the men in church care about us women, but I fear their concern is only surface-level, and that that’s all it will ever be.

(And honestly, I love you guys—almost all of my closest church friends are men—but these things have been burdening my heart for a long time.)

xXx

Proverbs 31

It’s a beautiful passage in the Bible in which the image of a “Woman of God” is described. Sometimes, though, I wonder whether this emphasis on young women in church being a “Proverbs 31 Woman” causes more harm than good.

There are constant pressures in the world telling us what women should be. Modelling agencies tell us to be size zero; everyone else wants a “real woman”: curvy and rounded. We shouldn’t be sluts, but we also shouldn’t play hard to get; we should either straighten our hair or be “natural beauties” and join the movement of big chops and dreadlocks. Going into the realm of Ethnic minorities, we should remember our places in the home and not follow the western women into wanting independence and equality. I get annoyed at these pressures, as would a lot of people—man or woman—and I know God alleviates some of this by setting equal requirements in the Bible for what a man and a woman should be together.

It’s just starting to niggle at me that there is now a requirement within church to be the Ultimate Woman. The Proverbs 31 Woman. Hey, to me, there’s nothing wrong with women encouraging one another, praying and helping one another to hold on to Christ, but I’m noticing that the level of a woman’s virtue, her sexual purity and her obedience is starting to cloud the desires of women and men in particular. These things shouldn’t be a man’s concern, but similar to the world, the church places a lot of value on a woman’s sexual prowess. I know males who have had their “fun”, they’ve been out in the world, sleeping around, breaking hearts and whatnot, who would have a real problem if their future wife wasn’t a virgin. Not only is that hypocrisy, it’s sexist and downright hurtful: it’s in her past. Let it go.

I do find it strange when I hear young men going on and on about pure, holy, submissive and virtuous women. It sounds oppressive. Life is hard enough for women without us coming into church and being told we need to be virtuous and pure. The more I hear such things is the more I feel a life of celibacy is the one for me. Perhaps God is calling me to that life? I’m not sure.

But anyway, this is just something I was thinking about today. I’m beginning to feel the pressure, I suppose. I’ve been called a “humble” and “virtuous” woman, amongst other things (by men), and I still don’t know what that means. Is it because I’m quiet? That I don’t wear high heels? That I wear a hat to church? That I wear knee-length skirts? That I’m a virgin? Or that I’ve never been in a relationship? Or am I being overly cynical?

The mind wanders.