Some Girls, Part 2: What Words Mean

Continuing from Part 1, Intern 2 extrapolates on the consequences of vagueness in rhetoric

It is a little alarming that the following assertion should need to be made. It would be a relief it turned out to be unnecessary. But please bear with me a moment, as I’ll breathe easier knowing these words are out.

Women, like men, are creatures of God, and therefore are possessed of individual souls and unique vocations. Please trust me when I say that women do not function together as a vast hive intelligence. Women are not only not a vast hive intelligence, we are more specifically not a vast hive intelligence that, created for the sole or main purpose of serving the needs of men, was corrupted by the Fall into a vast hive intelligence that functions solely to drive men to sin. (Just like men do not and never have existed as a vast hive intelligence that functions solely to make women miserable, a viewpoint comfortingly less common than its vocal espousers make it appear.)

There is a distinction between what some women do as individuals and what all women do as a sex. There is also a distinction in how to approach the determination of what some individual women do and what women as a sex tend toward.

There is a distinction between making a statement about “some women” or “that woman who” and making a statement about, plainly, “women.”

One is an observation of something that individuals or an individual did or does.

The other is an observation of something that a whole half of the living population of humanity did or does.

Clearly these types of observation are not equivalent.

It is not accurate to state that “Women have been indoctrinated by feminism to think they enjoy working fourteen hours a day,” or “Women are naturally overjoyed to spend the whole of each day in their homes with three toddlers, two of whom are in diapers,” or “Women like to drive trucks” or “Men like to get exfoliation treatments” or “Ladies prefer salad” or “Gentlemen prefer steak.” While in some contexts the statement is clearly a generalization and not actually applicable to an entire sex, the actual meaning doesn’t change and the ambiguity can turn off-putting. And worse than off-putting, when discussing divorce, abortion, or abuse (or, as described in Part 1, false allegations thereof), this vague rhetoric becomes unjustly accusatory.

But put a “some” or a “many” in front of the sentence? Or the number from a reliably obtained statistic? Then it becomes true, if not empirically proven, and we can acknowledge that women, and men, are possessed of unique souls, and that no sin or virtue or struggle or preference can necessarily be attributed across the board.

Our nature as God’s image remains fundamentally the same; the good things we strive toward for joy and salvation are simple, few, and alike; but the details, and the means of striving, are richly varied.

We are given the means to express this in language, in rhetoric. Let’s use language carefully, for the fullness of truth.

(If you see an instance where this blog hasn’t used language carefully for the fullness of truth, please speak up.)

Sincerely yours,

Intern 2

Pink Cross

Just saw this post on Facebook from our friend Shelley Lubben.

Shelley is a tireless anti-porn activist who–through her organization Pink Cross–dedicates her time to getting the whole truth out about pornography and helping women and men who are ensnared in the lifestyle. You can read Shelley’s story here. Originally printed in Salvo issue 12 (Spring 2010).

The Story of Shelley Lubben, Former Porn Star
by Judith Reisman

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Chris Hedges, in Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, writes that the “cruelty” of the “new” pornography “takes a toll on the bodies, as well as the emotions, of porn actresses.” But someone is trying to help them:

The Pink Cross booth has a table of anti-porn tracts and is set up in the far corner of the Sands Expos Convention Center in Las Vegas. It is an unlikely participant at the annual Adult Video News (AVN) expo. Pink Cross is a Christian outreach program for women in the porno industry, run by ex-porn star Shelley Lubben.

read more . . .

Robert George On Being “Personally Opposed”

From Conservative Heavyweight: The Remarkable Mind of Robert P. George by Anne Morse at CERC:

“Some politicians say that they’re ‘personally opposed’ to abortion, yet ‘pro-choice,’” says the 48-year-old professor of constitutional law and moral philosophy. “But we must ask: Is this a position that can survive the test of logical coherence? After all, if abortion is wrong, surely it is wrong because it is the unjust taking of the life of a developing human being.” He pauses to let that sink in and then launches another question: “And if one believes that, then what could possibly justify a regime of law that licenses so grave an injustice?”

“Of course,” George adds, climbing up on a front-row chair and crossing his arms, “If abortion is not a form of homicide, if the developing embryo or fetus has the moral status of an unwanted growth — such as a tumor — there would be no grounds on which to ‘personally oppose’ abortion. So the question is this: Is the developing embryo or fetus a human being or a mere unwanted growth? Notice that this is not a religious or even an ethical question. It is a question of human embryology and developmental biology.”

George hoists a foot onto the chair back, plants his forearms onto his knee, and fires off another round of questions: Is it morally acceptable to conduct research on embryos not yet implanted in the uterus, even if the embryos must then be killed? What about so-called spare embryos in frozen storage, which have no prospect of implantation? Is abortion ever morally justified, despite its homicidal character?

Students begin offering tentative answers — but not before they’ve taken a moment to think. As smart as these kids are, after half a semester in George’s Civil Liberties class, they’ve learned not to blurt out a thoughtless opinion: George will force them to defend it, which could prove embarrassing.

One bespectacled youth speaks up: “I don’t think I was an embryo,” he announces. His classmates chuckle, but George responds seriously. “You weren’t an embryo. Were you a fetus? Were you an adolescent?”

“I am not a physical organism,” the young man insists; he is his ideas, beliefs, and desires.

George pounces on the person/body dualism implicit in this remark and forces the class to confront the implications of affirming it: “If ‘I’ was not an embryo or fetus, neither was ‘I’ once an infant,” he says. “To have destroyed the fetus or infant that later became ‘me’ would not have been to destroy me. So at what point then do we say ‘I’ began to exist? At what point do we draw the line on killing?”

George then drops a cerebral smart bomb: “If dualism is true, the answer won’t be ‘birth,'” he notes. Will it be six months after birth? A year? Two years? Three? After all, when does a child achieve thoughts, beliefs, and desires?

Pro-choice students must now confront an uncomfortable fact: The logical implications of their position entail believing that killing three-year-old children is morally acceptable.

. . .

Phillips on “The Rage Against God”

I’ve been meaning to read this book. In fact, the Salvo managing editor let me borrow it well over a month ago and, for various reasons, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But after reading this short article by Robin Phillips about Peter Hitchens, i think it’s definitely time I got started on it. From Robin’s article “Transforming Evil into Good“:

. . .

The notion that ideas have consequences is one of the themes in Peter Hitchens’ latest book, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. Published last year by Continuum, the book tells the fascinating story of Peter’s rejection of his boyhood faith, his pursuit of socialist utopianism, and finally his return to faith in later life.

Hitchens’ return to Christianity was a slow process involving many factors. One of these factors was the time he spent in the Soviet Union as a reporter during the 90’s. Living in Moscow during the twilight of the Soviet empire, Hitchens was able to witness firsthand what happens to a society that tries to structure itself on atheistic principles.

The brutal and dehumanizing aspects of the Soviet Union are common knowledge, as is the fact that the nation tried to structure itself on an atheistic worldview. While no one disputes these two facts, some people have doubted that there is a necessary connection between them. The value of Hitchens’ book is that he shows that there was an intimate causal link between the Soviets’ rejection of God and their dehumanized society. He establishes this by drawing on his own experiences, as well as primary source materials from Soviet archives.

One of the most chilling parts of the book is when Hitchens shows that many Soviet thinkers were prepared to reverse the moral continuum, believing that under certain circumstances evil could be transformed into good.

. . .

Some Girls, Part 1: Use Your Words

(In which Intern 2 raises the major moral implications of a minor rhetorical imprecision.)

The first time I heard the problematic phrasing was in a high school class. We were being educated about date rape.

A boy in my year, an athlete, commented, “Girls sleep with you at parties and then lie and say you raped them.”

We were very young, and most of us only beginning to consider the issues of sex and its abuse in much depth. The boy was expressing what was likely a very present and legitimate fear among his teammates. He’d probably picked it up from older boys on the team, and they’d have all been aware of the relevant stories of accused college and professional athletes. The boy was just relaying this fear to our class, in such words that occurred to him to use.

This was understandable. I understand it now. But all those years ago I didn’t think it through. All those years ago the comment was absolutely infuriating.

And it wasn’t so much the comment itself that was infuriating, though I did unjustly fail to what its context or cause or intended meaning might be (I was very young).

What got me, and what I got hung up on, was the phrasing.

Because the boy, who was very young as well and hadn’t thought this through, didn’t say, “Some girls sleep with you and then lie.”

And he didn’t say, “There’re girls who’ll sleep with you at parties and then lie.”

He said, in effect, “Girls sleep with you and then lie.”

Which my very young, very reactionary, very dramatic self interpreted as his saying, “All girls can and will sleep with athletes and then lie that they were raped, so they can get money or look innocent. All girls believe that gain for oneself is worth a lie that could destroy someone else. All girls, inlcuding Intern 2 and all her female friends and loved ones and all the girls and women she knows and has heard of, are capable of monstrous dishonesty. All girls are liars who hurt guys.” Which implied, conversely, (thought my brain that had only recently grasped the proof processes of logic), “Rape is not real. Girls, all girls, are just making it up.”

This cannot be what the boy wanted to say. One word, one “some,” would have made his real meaning clear. But he was a young boy making an impulsive comment in a high school class. I acknowledge that now: now I would like to discuss the same issue in a different context.

There is a tendency now, in the online conversation about the impact of feminism on our contemporary culture, to use such phrasing as the boy used. The discourse at hand happens occur mostly in written form, mostly among adults. “Rhetoric” is a more fitting term here than “phrasing,” because “rhetoric” implies the careful consideration of the meaning of words we choose and how they’re arranged.

This is not high school: this is the Internet.* We are not young teens grappling with the world’s troubles for the first time: we are maturing and continuing to gain degrees of perspective, experience, and understanding. We have the outward and inward resources to shape and perceive what our writing means to readers.

In short, we have no excuse not to try our hardest to say what we mean. Which includes employing the vital word “some” when we talk about women and feminism and all the ensuing issues we find relevant.

I forgive my classmate his statement, such as may be necessary to forgive. But I call us now to do better by our language.

Please see Part 2 for why.

Sincerely yours,

Intern 2

*Which, as a free public forum, is as good or bad as we make it.

Reclaiming Dignity in a Culture of Commodification

Some of the Salvo staff will be attending this conference on bioethics–with a focus this year on women’s health issues–this Thursday through Saturday (July 12 – 14) at Trinity University in Deerfield, Illinois. Salvo columnist Paige Comstock Cunningham will be giving the opening plenary talk on the topic “Reclaiming Her Dignity: From Commodification to Community.” See below for more information.

About the Conference

Human dignity, once a cornerstone for bioethics, is increasingly obscured by a contemporary culture of commodification. Myopic fixation on sexuality, fertility, and reproduction reduces the female body to a resource for medical exploitation and reproductive tourism. Procreation is being engulfed by the reproductive imperative and the child of choice. Without neglecting the ongoing emphases on beginning- and end-of-life issues, our task must include attention to prenatal discrimination, the neglect of the girl child, worldwide disparities in women’s healthcare and maternal mortality, and the objectification and exploitation of the female body. Responsible Christian bioethics embraces her dignity as essential to her community and foundational to our common humanity. Join us as we explore important ethical considerations surrounding developments in reproductive practices and global women’s health through the lens of reclaiming dignity in a culture of commodification.

And speaking of our culture of commodification, you should really read this statement written by Robert P. George and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. A thought-provoking read. Pornography, Respect, and Responsibility: A Letter to the Hotel Industry