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.

“This is What Title IX is All About”

President Obama’s recent statements on Title IX:

“In fact, more women as a whole now graduate from college than men,”Obama wrote. “This is a great accomplishment—not just for one sport or one college or even just for women but for America. And this is what Title IX is all about.” –685,000 men and 916,000 women graduated from college in 2009 (the latest year for which statistics have been published)

How is this what it is all about? Even if you believe in the magical unicorn of equality (in the liberal sense), why are skewed numbers in the other direction a good sign? Our friend, blogger Wintery Knight, does not share in the president’s enthusiasm about the situation either and writes about what he thinks are some of the damages done by such thinking.

Getting Religion and Getting Informed (today, related to women, and men too.)

Happy Friday, Salvo Blog Readers. Put on some fresh afternoon coffee before you read any farther, because you’ve got yourself a few rabbit trails to follow and it may be a while before you surface.

Get Religion is a site dedicated to the critique of the coverage of religious topics in the mainstream press. It doesn’t preach, it doesn’t yell, it simply combs through a given piece, identifying bias—in exaggeration, alarmism, omission, and word choice—crossing over to other resources to reveal the fundamental facts (or lack thereof).

Rife with commentary on both weak and strong examples of clear, fair journalism, Get Religion is a worthy addition to your morning blog cycle.

Today, complete with links to several in-depth articles with long Comments sections, Get Religion (check the comments here too!) has posts up that are of interest and importance to men and women alike, but especially prescient to the issues women of faith face as they navigate their lives and roles in Western culture.

Like this piece, which examines one instance of the media vilification of religious leaders who oppose the HHS Mandate. Watch out for a link in the middle, to a source that questions the validity of the oft-cited Guttmacher Institute stat on birth control use among Catholic women. Say you are the 2%…or say you’re not so alone after all.

And this one, in which a comment from Cherie Blair about careers and children makes us wonder, as we often do, about doing best by our families and our vocations, and the distinction between “having it all” and “having enough.” Don’t neglect the links here either, and be sure to speak up if you have something you want to say.

“Jesus, what are we doing?”

No one survives an abortion encounter unscathed. Even though he’d been raised in a family that was “thoroughly pro-abortion” and believed that abortion was “always the best option,” after his wife’s abortion, one post-abortive father was surprised by his own reaction. Despite the fact that he’d wanted it, insisting on it so vehemently he’d threatened to leave her if she didn’t consent to it:

“I found that I felt guilty, like I’d stepped over a line that shouldn’t have been crossed. There was also a feeling of dread, of impending doom. I sensed that some sort of divine punishment was waiting for me, and it was frightening.”

Dr. Arthur Shostak, who describes himself as “unswervingly pro-choice,” also confessed distress after involvement in an abortion:

“While I believe my lover and I chose the least-worst of the options available to us over two decades ago, I have lingering regrets about the situation.”

And that paragon of virtue, Steven Tyler, wrote this about witnessing his girlfriend’s abortion, which he also had coerced under threat of abandonment:

“It was a big crisis. … they put the needle in her belly and they squeeze the stuff in and you watch. And it comes out dead. I was pretty devastated. In my mind, I’m going, Jesus, what have I done?”

Jesus, what have I done? Whence cometh these reactions from decidedly pro-abortion fathers?

What have I done? indeed. One of the three, the one who opted to remain unnamed, eventually let that question penetrate his emotional defenses. But it wasn’t easy:

“I kept trying to find ways to run from that feeling of punishment. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, and I had no idea what I was feeling, or why. Our country’s lawmakers had made abortion legal, hadn’t they? They said everything was fine about it. So, why did I have these feelings? Why was my wife having these problems? During that time I started drinking more. I got more actively involved in sports. I did anything I could to try and cover up the feeling. I just wanted to quench it.

I didn’t want to think about the abortion or have anything to do with the subject, but my wife’s distress was a constant reminder. I tried to ignore her. If I allowed myself to believe that her problems were the result of the abortion, then I’d have to admit that what I did to her was wrong. I was very stubborn and very prideful. I had a heart like stone.

But one day I had a revelation. It was almost like someone removed scales from my eyes, allowing me to see clearly for the first time what I had done. My heart softened and I saw what abortion really was–not a solution to a problem, but the taking of an innocent life.”

He faced the difficult reality of it, and that opened the way for him to process the distress and lay it to rest for good:

“Several years later, my wife got involved with a post-abortion counseling ministry in the local area. One day they had a men’s outreach. I went, but I really didn’t want to share anything personal with this group of strangers. … But I took a chance. I opened my life to these Christian men and told them what I had done to my wife.

I expected anger . . . but what I found instead was compassion.

I expected judgment and condemnation . . . but what I found instead was forgiveness and acceptance.

I expected hatred . . . but what I found instead was Christ’s love being expressed through His people.”

His answer to post-abortion distress?

“Jesus truly is the only answer to post-abortion guilt.”

Father’s Day is this Sunday. Feminists will tell you that abortion is a women’s issue. It’s not. It’s about men just as much as it’s about women. Maybe more. Look at how all three of these pro-abortion men found themselves deeply troubled in the wake of a real abortion. Those feelings are saying something important. We would do well to listen to them.

For as much as loud voices of the day insist that everything’s fine with it, the conscience knows better. It’s not fine. The taking of an innocent life is never okay, and the conscience knows it. Face up to it, and Jesus can deal with the guilt of it. Ignore it, and it will remain. It’s as simple as that.

May God bless fathers today, including the post-abortive ones. May God inspire more men to face up to what we are doing. And lay the abortion holocaust to rest for good.

Related reading:

Day of Dialogue

This Friday, April 20th, marks the annual Day of Silence, an LGBT-espousing observance in America’s public schools and now on college campuses. Day of Silence was inaugurated twelve years ago by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GSLEN). On this day, GLSEN encourages students to “take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.” The idea, as Michael Brown puts it, is “standing in solidarity with LGBT youth who are silenced through bullying and harassment.” Day of Silence activities are generally coordinated through GLSEN-organized student clubs called Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs).

But are LGBTs really forced into silence?

Consider this incident that played out over recent years. Scott Savage was a librarian on Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus. As a member of the university’s First Year Reading Experience Committee in 2006, he suggested four books for consideration as freshman reading. One of them was The Marketing of Evil, by David Kupelian, which contains one chapter on homosexuality. Three professors objected to the selection, but they didn’t stop at blackballing the book. They took great umbrage with Savage himself, as their subsequent actions revealed.

Two professors filed formal sexual harassment charges against him. One wrote to the OSU-Mansfield faculty that he was, “deeply saddened – and THREATENED … You have made me fearful and uneasy being a gay man on this campus. I am, in fact, notifying the OSU-M campus, and Ohio State University in general, that I no longer feel safe doing my job. I am being harassed.” Four days later the faculty voted unanimously (with nine abstentions) to put Savage under “investigation.”

“The fact that there are one or two unhinged professors out there – that’s not news,” said David French, the lead ADF attorney defending Savage. But the fact that, by a unanimous vote with nine abstentions, the faculty would classify a book recommendation as threatening sexual harassment warranting investigation suggests exorbitant pressure to silence certain views on homosexuality.

The next question becomes, Why?

Michael Brown relates a poignant admission from a young gay blogger named Matt. As he explains in his book, A Queer Thing Happened to America, Dr. Brown had conducted a public forum devoted to the theme, “Can You Be Gay and Christian?” Local gay and gay-affirming clergy had been invited to present their views and engage in public dialogue. Many declined, but Matt had attended, and before the evening was over, he took the microphone:

“You had some very good points, and they were couched in very compassionate language, but for a person like me, throughout this whole thing, all I’m going to hear is, ‘the queers need to die.’”

This is a breathtakingly candid confession. In other words, as Dr. Brown paraphrases, “No matter what you say, and no matter how compassionately you say it, I’m still going to hear hatred coming from your lips.”

This is why certain views on homosexuality must be silenced? Notice that the complaints, “All I’m going to hear is, ‘the queers need to die,’” I am being “threatened,” and “I no longer feel safe” are not responses to any name-calling, bullying, or harassment that took place in the specific incidents which gave rise to them. They’ve either been made up in pursuit of an agenda, or they’re coming from somewhere else. In Matt’s case, they’re coming from within. Either way, there clearly is suppressive silencing going on, but it’s taking place in the name of “anti-bullying.”

Reject Silence; Let’s Talk
A peaceful, silent statement against name-calling, bullying, and harassment is a fine thing. But there’s a better option than silence. For the second year in a row, many students are doing silence one better and, without name-calling, bullying, or harassment, engaging in a Day of Dialogue by being prepared to communicate the Judeo-Christian view of sexuality. “This event helps students have an equal opportunity and a safe space to express a faith-based point of view in a loving and respectful way,” said Candi Cushman, director of Day of Dialogue. According to the Day of Dialogue website:

The Day of Dialogue gives you, as a student, the opportunity to express the true model presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible—who didn’t back away from speaking truth, but neither held back in pouring out His incredible, compassionate love for hurting and vulnerable people. His example calls us to stand up for those being harmed or bullied while offering the light of what God’s Word says.

Instead of remaining silent, an invitation is extended, Let’s talk! Teens are good at that anyway, and certainly something as important as sexuality deserves an open discussion.

“People were interested to get both sides,” said Kaitlin, a 16-year-old high school student in Michigan who participated last year. “They were open and really wondering what we had to say. God has the best purpose for us, even when we may not know it on our own.”

Yes, God has the best purpose for us. So this year consider saying No to silence, and instead, say Yes to dialogue.

Related Reading: