Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Girls

The world is a dangerous place for girls and women.

If you don't believe me, just walk with me along Kingsway as the night shift of working girls is beginning or ending (or, alternatively, at 9:30 in the morning after dropping your kids off from school, it'll work then too).   Cars have slowed down next to me to see if I was for sale even when every inch of my body except my face was covered.

Or watch the news, and hear stories like this one (about an infamous "honour killing" here in Canada), this one (about a modesty squad attacking an 8-year-old in Israel), and this one (about forced marriages for young Australian girls).

Or, alternatively, just listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Rachel Held Evans has already responded with her usual eloquence to Rush's off-the charts offensiveness and the corresponding failure of evangelical Christians to critique and correct him.

For my part, I offer a story.

It was January of 2010.  I was 9 months pregnant with my third son, and walking by myself from one shop to another in the west side of Vancouver (which, it should be noted, is more affluent and generally considered safer than my own east side neighbourhood).  It was late afternoon.

As I walked to the next shop, a man passed by me on the sidewalk, took one look at my swollen stomach, and said (verbally--out-loud--in my face),

"Slut."

I was by myself and he looked a little crazy.  So I did what I think most would agree was the wise thing to do:  turned bright red, felt his shaming words sink deep into my stomach, and kept on walking.

I went home and told my husband about it.  As Matt works in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside amongst a community with higher-than-average rates of mental illness, he wasn't too bothered by it.  Just another crazy guy, right?

The recent comments by Rush Limbaugh reinforce my fear of the still-present, still-pervasive danger for girls and women like me all around the world.  It's not just crazy people who use the word "slut" to diminish and disrespect their fellow God's image-bearers.  It's popular pundits, too.  The only difference between the crazy on the street and Mr. Limbaugh is that the first made his judgment based on my sexual activity as evidenced by my pregnant body, while the second made his judgment based on a woman's sexual activity as evidenced by her using contraceptives.

(Also, the crazy man is crazy.  Which, as my husband pointed out, excuses him a bit.  What's Mr. Limbaugh's excuse?)

Mr. Limbaugh has of course apologized, after losing more than 20 30 of his advertisers who were pressured by their customers to disassociate from him.  And that, I think, is the good news of the story (if you can keep following it long enough without throwing up).  Limbaugh was venomous towards a woman (venomous, mind you, not vitriolic) and thousands of men and women stood up to him.  Their willingness to do so gives me hope.  They know, as I think we as a world are learning better, that what we say and how we say it matters.  (Or as Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of his heart a man speaks").  Mr. Limbaugh made explicit that he wasn't "just" calling her a name. He was also calling for her to be objectified and visually victimized by him and other men.  And by doing so, he made clear what women and men have long been saying: a society in which it is acceptable (or funny/witty/whatever) for men to call women "sluts" is a society in which women are not safe (if the still-steady rates of so-called honour killings, girl-kidnappings, forced marriages, domestic violence, and sexual trafficking don't persuade us of that fact already).  "Slut" is not only a moral evaluation of a woman's behaviour, it's also a judgment of what she deserves (be that violence, disrespect, or being shamed into silence).

All of us--male and female--were created for something better, for the safety and dignity that is not earned but simply invested in us by right of God creating us in His image.

That being the case I pray for you, Mr. Limbaugh, that God may bless you with a corrected and convicted heart, out of which respect for your fellow image-bearers may flow without impediment.  And not only yours, but all those in the world for whom women are not considered or spoken of as worthy of respect, dignity, and safety.

(If this gets your ire up, consider donating to these girl/women-friendly works):
Servants Anonymous
International Justice Mission
Days for Girls
Faith Trust Institute

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Kadee. I always love reading your posts! Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete