Girls and Guys, Getting [It] Together; Some Observations on Double Standards

(Surprise, surprise, Intern 2 has a bone to pick with cultural attitudes on sexuality and the sexes)

Recently my friend Barnabas mentioned that another (male) acquaintance of ours had once written a story whose implausible content “revealed his virginity.” The tone was not complimentary.

Due to the setting we were in, I chose not to mention that I too was wrestling with a scene in my own work-in-progress, one key to the characters’ emotional trajectory, that suffered from my lack of firsthand experience. But if I had, I know my friend would have vocally distinguished my situation from our classmate’s. There were other reasons (my actual presence, for one) that my lack of experience could be denoted the more respectable, but I’ve long suspected that chief among them would be the fact that I was a girl.

Say what we will about the pervasively decadent quality of popular and academic culture, but the secular world is still remarkably kind to female virgins. We have our detractors, (Jessica Valenti comes first to my mind), but they are generally not disdainers. It is frequently argued that women are harmed or restricted by abstinence, but not that there’s something innately wrong with a woman who abstains. The prevailing mindset does not suggest that a woman who has not engaged in sexual conduct is any less of a woman for it. (If your evidence or experience says otherwise, by all means post a link/tell us your story, and join the conversation.)

This is not the case for abstinent men, and men and women alike bear the responsibility to face the injustice.

Surely it is a point of agreement for all reasonable people that men’s promiscuity ought not to be excused and even praised while the same behavior is denigrated in women. I do not believe that this, which many feminists hold as the capital-D-S Double Standard (see also; “Stud/Slut Dichotomy”), is nearly so prevalent now as it was many decades ago, but this new double standard that excuses women’s virginity while denigrating men’s (we can call it the “Nice Girl/Nice Guy Dichotomy”) seems to have sprouted from the same root. The difference might have come with the shift of mainstream sexual mores. As pre-marital abstinence, rather than sexual activity, becomes the frowned-upon behavior, so do men, rather than women, become the chiefly frowned-upon participants.

This is not progressive thinking. This merely inverts our old thinking. The new double standard operates from the same false premises as the old. It still presupposes that men are passive victims to their all-consuming sexual desires (so, if a man has not had sex by a certain age, he must be either completely undesirable to women or otherwise suspect in his manliness). It still presupposes that women do not struggle with sexual desire at all, or only to a degree that is easily controlled (so, if a woman has not had sex by a certain age, that is an understandable decision on her part.) Just like the old double standard, this discredits both men’s and women’s capacity for strength in virtue.

It may be easier in this cultural climate for me, as a woman, to openly discuss my moral choices than it is for my male friends and counterparts. But I propose that even so, in such contexts that are appropriate and in such terms that are constructive, we all put these choices into open discussion. We, men and women together, bolstering the required courage, should calmly explain ourselves and defend each other.

Had it come to that, I could have reminded Barnabas, who does know better, that being male or female was not really a relevant factor in the conversation about twenty-something virgins trying to write what they don’t know. He would have listened. So would many others.

As we strive together toward the same fixed and unchanging standards, let us be confident, assured, and transparent* in our striving. Let us strive together so that others may see and understand, and may begin to strive alongside us.

I remain, sincerely yours,
Intern 2

*But tactful, and not obnoxious or boastful. Discretion, valor, better part, etc.

‘Choice’ Writ Large

The Genocide Awareness Project

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform
On a couple of sunny fall days last September, in the very week hundreds of pseudo-courageous ‘occupiers’ were gearing up to protest a mishmash of ill-defined quasi-injustices having something to do with banking, a small cadre of genuinely courageous young people placed their convictions and reputations on the line to expose a real injustice having to do with life and death. The Students Choosing Life (SCL) of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) hosted the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP). By the end of the week, according to Larissa R. Hofstra, president of SCL, “the entire campus was talking about abortion,”

That was the intention. GAP is the college campus outreach of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR), a California based ministry dedicated to establishing “prenatal justice and the right to life for the unborn.” CBR pursues that mission primarily through displays of arresting photos showing the grim reality of abortion – blood, body parts, and all. According to its website, “CBR operates on the principle that abortion represents an evil so inexpressible that words fail us when attempting to describe its horror. Until abortion is seen, it will never be understood.”

Principles of Successful Reform
CBR was founded in 1990 by Gregg Cunningham. A decorated Vietnam War veteran and a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and political appointee of Ronald Reagan, Gregg was at that time a Special Attorney with the U.S. Federal Courts in Los Angeles. He had been active in the pro-life movement, both as a legislator and as a volunteer, but he had begun to sense a need for another strategy. As he studied social reform movements of the past, he discerned common principles that successful reformers had put into practice and that he believed could be more effectively put to work for the pro-life cause.

Specifically, public attention had to be focused on “the humanity of the victim and the inhumanity of the injustice.” Furthermore, given the human propensity to avoid all things difficult, these two realities had to be presented in a way that would be impossible to ignore. Dr. Martin Luther King, for example, had forced the nation to look at racism in the South through staged activities such as lunch counter sit-ins and freedom bus rides. The subsequent media coverage of white-on-black violence shamed decent Americans who had been either unaware of, or content to remain comfortably ignorant about, race-based segregation. The publicity became a catalyst for an eventual sea change in attitudes toward legislated civil rights protection for blacks.

If segregated lunch counters were unacceptable to decent Americans, how much more intolerable would be the wholesale bloodshed of abortion, once it was brought out into the open? Gregg knew that many people would not look favorably upon abortion imagery in public, but he wasn’t concerned with what they thought about him. He cared what they thought about abortion. So he resigned from his post as U.S. Attorney and started the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform with himself, an idea, and a notepad.

Alternative Forms of Mass Media
The first order of business was the acquisition of high-quality pictures, both the marvelous prenatal imagery of babies in the womb and the damnable pictures of babies killed by abortion. But Gregg and his colaborers faced one hurdle that the civil rights activists didn’t – an unsympathetic, if not hostile, media. To draw public attention to the humanity of the victims and the inhumanity of abortion, they would have to take the pictures to the public themselves. Toward that end, CBR constructed a variety of portable, photo-mural exhibits.

  • GAP, launched in 1998, sets large pictures of historically recognized forms of genocide, such as lynchings and Nazi death camps, beside pictures of the unrecognized genocide of abortion.
  • The Reproductive Choice Campaign (RCC), also called the Highway and Byway Project, superimposes the abortion euphemism ‘CHOICE’ over supersized images showing the bloody remains of the tiny victims of ‘CHOICE.’ It began with billboards, signs, and billboard trucks in 2001. A year later, planes towing 50’x100’ aerial signs were added.
  • The Obama Awareness Campaign (OAC) juxtaposes pictures of Barack Obama and some of his otherwise laudable quotations with pictures of the grotesque products of his relentless abortion policy. It was officially launched in May, 2009, when CBR trucks and planes swarmed South Bend, IN, home to the University of Notre Dame, where the president delivered the 2009 commencement address and received an honorary law degree.
  • The Corporate Accountability Project (CAP) began in May 2011 when letters were mailed to fifty companies that sponsor Planned Parenthood. The letters informed company executives about the work of the abortion giant and notified them that unless they redirected their “philanthropic” giving, they risked becoming the object of a picket. “If businesses support abortion, they get us, and they don’t want us,” said Fletcher Armstrong of CBR. The stately St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel in Dana Point, CA, became CAP’s inaugural target in August, 2011.
  • The School Choice Project attempts to educate high schoolers about abortion through volunteers who distribute literature as trucks circle campus near dismissal time.

CBR also conducts a Church Outreach, called the Matthew 28:20 Project, and publishes educational literature and conducts seminars to establish the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of abortion. Today CBR possesses the largest storehouse of broadcast quality video and high quality print photos of abortion in the world and shares it freely with any individual or organization observing its one requirement – to explicitly condemn all abortion-related violence as CBR does.

Precipitating the Crisis: A Necessary Mercy
CBR does not engage in civil disobedience. All projects are scrupulously legal. Staffers and volunteers do, however, get a wide variety of reactions, as the photos are so disturbing, coming to terms with them is extremely difficult. But this is a necessary mercy, as Gregg explains. “Difficult change seldom occurs in the absence of a crisis which compels that change. Abortion photos, displayed strategically, create such a crisis for many viewers. That crisis can be moral, spiritual, political, or commercial. Abortions photos are disruptive and without disrupting business as usual, abortion will remain forever off the nation’s agenda, hidden under a rug of ignorance and indifference.”

CBR aims to throw off that rug – not to inflict pain, but to effect change. “It is human nature to evade responsibility for ending dysfunctional behavior until a crisis makes that responsibility unavoidable. But many people resort to every imaginable stratagem for defusing the crisis instead of facing the problem from which the crisis derives. This flaw in human nature is killing today’s children.”

Stopping the Killing
Stopping the killing is the goal. “Who’s really suffering and being harmed, and who we should really be praying for and thinking about is these children,” said Don Cooper, who left his job as an electrical engineer in 2004 to become CBR’s Operations Manager. “At CBR, we’re being used by God, we hope, [to make the public] more aware of the children that are dying, that we could be saving.”

It was effective at UTC. “These pictures are changing the way I look at this,” a professor said after visiting the GAP exhibit.

“It’s crazy,” a female student said. “This should never be.”

Exactly. This should never be.

Related Links:

Changing Times, Chicken, and the Blessings of Constancy

In 1946, S. Truett Cathy, took out a small loan and opened a restaurant in Hapeville, GA. The humble establishment had four tables and ten counter seats. Cathy named it, aptly, the Dwarf Grill. Full of optimism and ambition, if not experience, Cathy experimented with different ways to make flavorful chicken in short order, and his business steadily grew by serving up quality food in a friendly atmosphere – it wasn’t uncommon to find one of his three children mingling with the customers – 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Cathy refined his culinary skills, and by 1963, he’d developed the recipe for what would later become known as the Chick-fil-A sandwich. Chick-fil-A, Inc., was launched the following year and soon began to pioneer the in-mall fast food market where the Chick-fil-A sandwich became a favorite of hungry shoppers.

The restaurant chain thrived. By the late 1970s, annual sales topped $100 million. Chik-fil-A was a textbook American success story.

Crisis
Then came a crisis. The deep recession of the early 1980s brought a sharp drop in revenue, and that, combined with soaring chicken prices and heavy debt (with interest rates hovering around 21 percent), landed Chick-fil-A in economic dire straits.

In 1982, Cathy took his top managers on a retreat to strategize. At issue: whether to maintain Chick-fil-A’s lifelong practice of closing on Sundays or to consider opening up on Sundays to take advantage of weekend shopping traffic. The move would add an estimated 16 percent to current revenues, quite possibly the difference between corporate survival and bankruptcy. Furthermore, the policy had at times created difficulty securing mall contracts; the change could open up avenues that had previously been closed. As a matter of mere economics, the decision was a no-brainer.

But there had always been more to Cathy’s decision-making than the merely economic. Truett Cathy was a devout Christian. From the day he opened the Dwarf Grill, he had cared for his employees and their needs (and, not coincidentally, enjoyed the lowest turnover rate in the industry). He believed that he honored God by honoring his employees and customers. His commitment to Sunday closure had been instituted in keeping with the principle of honoring God first, both in personal life and in business. And it honored his employees by freeing them up to rest, to be with their families, and to attend worship services if they so chose.

At A Crossroads
Now the company was at a crossroads. Would it adjust to the times, do what most of its competition had been doing for years, and open for business on Sundays to get through the crisis? Or would it maintain the policy Cathy had always believed was the God-honoring course, knowing it very well could end in business failure?

At bottom, Cathy had to decide whether his organization’s culture would be directed by God’s compass or a by gauge of human making. He chose the former and decided to serve God first, letting the remaining chips fall where they may. On that retreat, Cathy rededicated the business to God and, in conjunction with his management team, crafted a new corporate mission statement:

“To Glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The company survived. Through the 1980s and 90s, it added innovative menu items, introduced three delightfully endearing, semi-literate cows that mutely invited us to “Eat Mor Chikin,” and sales grew sufficiently to maintain the Sunday closure and weather the crisis.

There’s an interesting twist at the end of this story too. Not only has Chick-fil-A faithfully served its employees and customers for over half a century now. It also, ironically, served its competitors in the malls during that steep recession. “Some of our competitors in the malls tell me,” Cathy said much later, “that they wouldn’t have made it if we didn’t close on Sundays.”

Well, whaddya know? Faithfulness and honoring God first serves everyone.

I think I’ll Eat Mor Chikin.

Yefemiya Goes to The Library

(Intern 2 points out the hopefully symbiotic relationship between public libraries and private discernment.)

Yesterday a Facebook Friend of mine posted a story about finding a library book that had undergone a little DIY expurgation. Someone who’d checked out the book previously had taped blank bits of paper over every description of a pretty girl character. The Friend posted one of the covered descriptions in its entirety. It said basically that the girl was slender and graceful, and mentioned the shades of her hair and skin. That was all.

Because this Friend is a homeschool grad who might have been in my church youth group had she not lived in another state, I’m going to go ahead and call her Yefemiya. And while I’ve known a number of Yefemiyas and McHaleys whose mothers or fathers might have censored their library books with blank pieces of paper (and not de-censored them upon return. No one, at least, seems to have been capable of breaking out a black Sharpie for this purpose), this Yefemiya and her parents found it hilarious. And silly.

I find this hilarious and silly, too. In fact, the thought of this story even now makes me break out into huge, heaving breaths of laughter that are the physical equivalent of sobs. In a moment Intern 1, who shares the office, is going to be looking at me strangely.

But there it is. Yefemiya found an innocuous book in the library that was censored by another library patron.

Maybe it is debatable that the taped-over passages in the book were innocuous, but it is not debatable that the book, a public resource, was censored by one person, by an individual.

To be fair, this individual may have simply forgotten to remove the papers before returning the book. But it is not impossible that the individual left them in deliberately for the benefit of other patrons.

It’s not impossible that the papers were left in deliberately, because the attitude behind such an action is very much a present and living thing.

This is the attitude that the public library, a resource operated for the benefit of every single person in the community, should remove from availability any materials an individual deems problematic. And this is not what the library is for.

I am not saying that some materials are not objectively problematic, or that all materials should be of unquestionable access to all patrons. In fact, I am highly in favor of “issue” picture books being given their own shelf, separate and apart from the rest of the children’s section, so that I can set my future children loose to choose books without worrying that they’ll come back with “Lacey’s Uncle Was An Aunt.” But it is not within the library’s proper authority, or sphere, if you will, to remove “Lacey’s Uncle Was An Aunt” from circulation entirely.

This is not what the library is for. The library is there to provide the materials that suit its capacity and the demands of the community as a whole. Staff cannot and do not prevent patrons from using the whole library system to obtain materials that their library does not stock.

The public library exists to freely provide information and resources to the public.

We, as the public, are then free to choose what we take and what we do not take. We are free to be discerning.

We, not the library, are responsible for overseeing what our children are exposed to. We are free to help them be discerning.

These are our rights and responsibilities as individual library patrons. Or as library non-patrons (it’s a beautiful thing, our liberty to abstain).

The library, not us, makes materials available either remotely or immediately available to everyone. The library is not the gatekeeper.

We can be the gatekeepers for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. We cannot make the library be the gatekeeper for others. And we cannot be the gatekeeper for others themselves.

It is well within a parent’s right to censor the library book their child borrowed in a way that does not permanently deface or damage the book, which is after all Continue reading

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

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.

. . .