Tag Archive | women

Twelve Conclusions From Reading Paul’s Epistles in Full

Hypatia of Alexandria - SmithsonianToday I read all of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament from start to finish, something I never did when I was a Christian. No, I haven’t “seen the error of my ways” and converted back to that religion.  Rather this is part of my ongoing research into the life and death of Hypatia of Alexandria, the gifted astronomer and philosopher murdered in 415 CE by a mob of Christians in Alexandria.  I am seeking for the roots of her murder. Why was she considered a threat to the Christian community and why did that community believe it was morally justifiable to murder her so viciously when Exodus 20:13 is so explicit on the matter?

My reading of the epistles is first and foremost looking for bias — a critical job for any historian.  Who was Paul? What did he believe? What biases and bigotries did he possess? Here are my opening conclusions and impressions from reading the epistles as a whole:

1) Paul genuinely had one or more visions that affected him profoundly.
2) Paul’s legalism from his time as a pharisee did not go away. He believes in the written “word of God” as he experienced it as a pharisee.
3) Paul believes God has inspired him to write down what God wants for everyone. Because it comes from God, it must absolutely be obeyed without question or intellectual scrutiny.
4) Paul did not believe in individual liberty.
5) Paul believed in absolute obedience to authority without question. Especially slaves must obey masters. Women must obey men. Neither groups are persons with their own human rights.
6) Philosophy (the educational systems of his time) is bad. It leads you away from God and into sexual perversions.
7) Anything that takes you away from his view of Truth and God is bad and must be avoided at all costs. That includes people who do not believe or live as you do (though Paul contradicts himself on this point at times, depending on the letter).
8) God made women and slaves inherently inferior.
9) Women are innately perverse, sinful, lusty creatures.
10) Women need men as masters in order to be saved from Satan and hell.
11) Women lack the innate morality to lead men, especially in religious matters.
12) Sex and sexual desire, especially for a woman’s pleasure or between two men is gravely sinful.
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The final point about sex is especially important. Paul spends probably more time on sex and sexual mores than any other specific topic he covers.  It is almost an obsession for him.
For example, 1 Timothy 5 verses 11 and 12 says, “11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry.12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge.”

This theme continues in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 when he writes regarding all people, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.”

Paul sees sexual pleasure as a perversion that keeps men (males) from holiness and living godly lives. Women, seducers that they are, must therefore be tightly controlled and silenced because they through their sexuality are Satan’s tools who will sabotage men at every turn.

The birth of Pandora

This belief that women are seducers and Paul’s incessant missives to control women, to keep them away from places of influence and power, may be at the core of why church leaders in Alexandria were able to ignore Exodus 20:13 and command Hypatia’s murder.

It was not the first time the Bible was used to kill an innocent.  It was not the last.  But perhaps we can chart a different future, one where religion is no longer the excuse for the inexcusable.  Perhaps then we shall have peace.

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En Garde: sexual expectations and rape culture

Last night I was casually watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory on my local NBC station.  It was one of the episodes where newly wed Howard was still on the International Space Station and having difficulties dealing with the closed quarters of life in space.

At the very end of that episode Howard has just been given an anti-anxiety drug and decides to strip down to his pants (underwear) on a video call to his wife.  For several seconds we see the contours of the actor’s man parts under that minimal clothing.  Instead of being turned on  I found I was absolutely revulsed.  No, I really DON’T want see a man’s parts on television like that, not even indirectly through his clothing.

Thinking about my feelings and sharing them with my best friend my contemplative nature found itself exploring the deeper aspects to my gut reaction to this very quick final scene to the show.  Why are women expected to enjoy the public display of a man’s sexual features?  Why are we supposed to be turned on by every man and want sex any time anyone expresses the slightest interest?

Looking back at my past I noticed a pattern:  flirting with someone not because I wanted sex with him but too often to distract him from abusive impulses that might suddenly explode and endanger my safety.  I also realized that there is an unconscious pressure and expectation put upon me as a woman that I should be sexually ready and interested in the men in my life and consent to their advances any time and any where they might occur.  The second half to this is more frightening still:  failure to be  whatever a man wants or expects of me sexually means that he is likely to simply impose himself on me in the form of sexual assault.

Or thought of another way:  I either force myself to say yes or I will suffer a more violent response from him that still results in sex anyway.  Hence the forced flirtations as a defense strategy.

Though we tend to deny it to ourselves and those close to us, women too often have to live in a sexual minefield where the potential for sexual assault is everywhere.  So we engage in unconscious defensive behaviours.  We flirt.  We pretend to like people we don’t.  We smile at people behind gritted teeth.  We pretend to be okay with behaviours we find uncomfortable. We play act, concealing our real opinions and emotions in an effort to keep unwanted advances at bay.  There’s a mind game to this, even when we are not aware of it.  We even convince ourselves that we find something sexually appealing when it really frightens or repels us.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Nowhere is this mind game more evident than the infamous “Fifty Shades of Grey” where main character Anastasia Steele forces herself to consent to sexually abusive and highly controlling behaviours from Christian Grey, often making excuses for him.

Like Anastasia, we too often pretend to like things sexually that we do not.  We pretend interest we lack.  Society tells us that the way a woman is supposed to express her romantic love is sex.  And not just sex but the any time, any where, any way that the man wants.  To love is to become his sexual servant.  Add in religion to the mix and women are told that our needs do not matter.  We are inferior.  God made man in His image–but women are the source of evil in this world, born flawed and incapable of Goodness on our own without a man directing us and telling us who to be and what to do.  So it is only right that men should rule over us; we women are not capable of making our own choices, especially when it comes to our bodies.  Especially when it comes to sex.  Can it be any wonder then that so many male politicians feel duty-bound to regulate the intimate affairs of women?  How can they trust women to make their own choices?

Sex is something I want in my life — but not just sex.  I want a healthy sexuality.  I want to express myself sexually from a genuine place of love and devotion.  Yet who can do that when we must continually and often unconsciously living our lives defensively?  When the world around us is so unsafe and sexual assault persists as a constant danger?  How can any woman feel truly at ease even in her own home with those she loves?

These are very real questions that must be addressed by our society.  We must stop making excuses and fight against both institutional sexism and rape culture.  As women we need to learn how to say “no” and be true to our actual feelings.  We need to be okay inside ourselves and with those we love with expressing love in many different ways instead of tightly correlating love and sex.  Because they are genuinely not the same thing.  Not all acts of sex come from love and not all acts of love are sex — even in romantic relationships, even in our marriages.

Love can take many forms.  We need to embrace that.  We need to stop pressuring ourselves and others into this very unhealthy idea that sex and romantic love are one and the same.  Just because I love you does not mean I want to have sex with you or sex with you right now.  Love is not a blank cheque to sex.  Saying no to sex is not a rejection of the other person.  As a matter of fact, it takes courage to say no to sex when you love someone, to love yourself and respect your partner enough to only be sexual with her or him when you really truly feel you want to be.  The easy road, the one drilled into women from a very early age, is that we shouldn’t say no when we don’t want sex — just lay there and take it because it will soon be over.

That’s no way to live.  That is no way to love.

 

 

 

 

Going at it alone: more lessons from Josh Duggar

josh-duggar-reason-for-abuseRecently the Duggar family went on the record in an effort to lay to rest the scandal concerning Josh Duggar’s molestation of his sisters when he was fourteen years old.

In the interview the Duggar parents admit that Josh informed them of his behaviour three times across 2002 and 2003 and that each time the family decided it was best to deal with it from within the family boundaries instead of going outside of it.  When that did not work on the first attempt, they went to their church for help.  On the third time in 2003 they sent Josh to a faith-based camp for help.  But in all three cases it was dealt with entirely from the tiny confines of their close-knit community instead of informing the law and allowing the state to step in.

In 2012 I wrote a report for Yahoo Voices concerning rape and incest within the insular orthodox Jewish communities, a report that was re-posted into this blog before Yahoo dismantled Yahoo Voices.  In that report I called for an end to victim-blaming in religious communities.  Sadly with the Duggars his victims are also defending his behaviour, no doubt partially because the Duggar parents are in denial themselves regarding just how serious sexual violence is.

Until we start treating sexual crimes as serious, until we stop making excuses for those who violate the physical integrity of other people, and until we genuinely punish the perpetrators of these crimes while providing a strong and protective support system for those hurt by them then of course we cannot expect to stem this epidemic of violence and sexual violence.  Even in 2015 we treat rape as “no big deal.”  Women and men both do this, including victims of assault and sexual assault.  We keep making excuses and telling those hurt to shut up and “get over it.”

Now as a healed survivor, I am the first to say that experiencing assault and sexual assault does NOT BREAK YOU.  It doesn’t taint you.  It doesn’t make you less of anything.  In fact it becomes an opportunity for transcendence, to grow into something greater and be a better person — no different than any other form of hardship.  This isn’t lessening the horror of the experience; what I suffered WAS HORRIFYING.  A healthy human being MUST BE HORRIFIED by violence and especially sexual violence.  At the same time, our societies have this habit of not only dismissing survivors when we speak up (been there!), but also treating us as the walking dead.  So we are dismissed first for daring to speak up and second when the wounds heal — as they must heal.

It’s a culture that favours those who rape, beat, and kill and treats those who receive this treatment as surplus population who had better just die off quickly so our societies can pretend there’s not a problem.

Most alarming to me is the matter of the insular community.  Why?  Because I see its danger as someone whose insular community made it easy to continue these acts of violence and to continue dismissing me when I sought help.  Yet, unlike the Duggar girls, I went to adults for help — but they wouldn’t  help because of the insular community.  It was easier to call me “evil sorceress” or “seductress” (right because four year old girls instinctively know how to seduce men 10x their age into sex?) than place that phone call to social services that would have taken me to safety.

The larger problem is therefore not Josh Duggar — a man who doesn’t deserve to have his children grow up with him — but the communities themselves.  We can only help people in need when we go beyond our castle walls and allow the larger secular community to intervene, to enforce laws written to protect children and provide safe home environments for everyone.

Yes, our governments are not perfect; there has never been a truly perfect government.  But when we fail to trust others beyond the boundaries of our small communities we set ourselves up for exactly the epidemic of violence and sexual violence plaguing our societies.  Protecting the community becomes more important than what is right and just for the people being hurt.  This was the case at Penn State and it is the case with the Duggar family.

What is your take on the Josh Duggar matter?  Reply to this post with your comments below and let’s get a serious conversation going!

The Ultimate Reading Quest is on!

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CLICK ON THIS BUTTON TO START YOUR QUEST!

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Happy New Year from all the Authors in the Ultimate Reading Quest! This year myself, and all the Quest authors, want you to enjoy your reading experiences more than ever! So in 2015, the Ultimate Reading Quest has more, more, more! More authors and more books, means more mystery, more danger, more intrigue and more edge-of-your-seat adventure awaits you! We want you, our readers, to be able to fill that Kindle, tablet or E-reader you got for Christmas, with fabulous reads to take you through 2015. The Quest is so much fun! Who doesn’t love searching for treasure? The ULTIMATE READING QUEST is about finding books that are “perfectly” suited to your reading taste by clicking on choices. To thank you for participating, the authors have decided to give away oodles of prizes for free! Enter your name to win Amazon cards and free books from authors! Plus a whole store of treasured books are just waiting to be discovered by you!

Enjoy your journey as you travel through the QUEST! Don’t forget to enter the raffle on the first page of the Quest. And please leave comments or questions for the authors of the Quest. We would love to hear from you. What are you waiting for? Click on the button above or below to get started on your QUEST for the next ULTIMATE READ!

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CLICK ON THE BUTTON TO START YOUR QUEST!

 

Boudicca:  Britain's Queen of the Iceni

The Great Succession CrisisGood-bye A672E92 Quintus

 

 

 

 

 

Catherine de ValoisAs part of the quest, I am offering 2 $5 Amazon gift cards, an audio copy of Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni (USA only), plus FIVE digital copies of the four books featured in the quest:  The Great Succession Crisis, Good-bye A672E92 Quintus, Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni, and Catherine de Valois.

 

So join the quest, discover the hottest in middle grade and young adult fiction and non-fiction books, and enter to win these and other prizes!

Repost: 5 Simple Ways to Say No

Women/ValidationA few days ago I received this fantastic article in my email about how to say “no” to people.  As women, most of us are trained to NOT say “no” no matter how badly we need to say it.  We are told we are selfish, arrogant, and so forth.  But “no” is the most important word any woman can say.

 

Here is Dharma Rose’s Advice on the matter:

“Do you find it hard to say “no”?

If so, you’re not alone.

Many people find themselves saying “yes” to things they don’t really want to agree to out of fear they’ll appear selfish or rude… or in an effort to avoid conflict or hurting another person’s feelings.

Saying “no” isn’t always easy, but it IS vital to your own self care.

You see, healthy people have healthy boundaries, and part of being healthy is occasionally saying no to requests, situations or people that you can’t or don’t want to accommodate.

Here are 5 simple ways that you can say no with ease, power and grace:

Tactic #1: The Full Plate

If you’re way too busy to accommodate the person’s request, let them know you’re slammed and that you simply have no time to fit what they’re asking you to do into your schedule.

“I’m sorry, I’d love to help you, but my schedule is crazy today/this week/this month and there’s no way I can fit this in.”

Tactic #2: The Think-About-It

If you’re not sure if you can fit the person’s request in, or if you’re dealing with someone who is super pushy, consider buying yourself a little time to think about what they’re asking of you and to get back to them on your own terms.

“Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”

Tactic #3: The Boomerang

Are you super busy? Or in the middle of something else? You can ask the person to come back to you later on when you have more time to listen to and consider their request.

“I’m in the middle of juggling a few things right now. Can you please ask me again in a couple of hours/days/weeks? I’ll have a bit more headspace then to consider what you’re asking.”

Tactic #4: The Counter Offer

If you can’t or don’t want to agree to the person’s request for whatever reason, but you’d still really like to help them out, consider making a counter offer for a lesser commitment that works better for you.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you move on Saturday. But I CAN come by for a few hours to help you pack on Friday evening. Does that work?”

Tactic #5: The Firm No

The simplest way to say no is to simply… say no! You can be direct and let the person know that what they’re asking of you just doesn’t work for you, and you’ll be surprised how often people will respect a firm, direct no.

“No, I’m sorry, I can’t.”

As you practice declining requests that don’t align with your schedule, values or needs, you’ll find that saying no becomes easier and easier…

And that you’ll have more time for yourself, the commitments you already have and the things that are most important to you.

Rock your day!

Dharma Rose
Abundant Entrepreneur

Poverty and the Perception of “Blurred” Sexual Lines

Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video glorifies rape.

In 2013, Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” highlighted American rape culture with its message that when a woman says “no” to something, she does not really mean it.  The naked women parading across his video made it perfectly clear where the lines, to him, are most blurred.

 

It is easy to look at the song — and all the controversy it created — and chalk it up to a mediocre “musician” playing a publicity stunt, a stunt that had Mr. Thicke laughing all the way to the bank.

 

Except I’m not laughing and nor should any woman anywhere in the world.

 

The problem is not the video, of course, but what it represents:  a culture where women do not need to be respected, where men believe “no” means “not yet,” and where that “not yet” is easily changed to “yes” if the man simply pursues aggressively enough.

 

Among the affluent, this culture has very little meaning.  With enough wealth and power, a woman can live her life feeling reasonably safe because she can hire protection for every aspect of her life.  While we do hear of celebrity stalkings, they are rarely fatal.  Money can buy safety and security.

 

But what about the rest of us, especially the poor?  What about the millions of impoverished women who are struggling just to buy food and pay rent?  Especially in low income housing where crime rates are higher, women find themselves vulnerable.  Police department budgets are strained; they don’t have the money or manpower to truly “serve and protect” as they are mandated.  Sexual harassment, rape, and so forth are just not worth responding to in the minds and budgets of the police when there are drug offenses, murders, and so forth to respond to.

 

In our predatory sexual culture poor women are forced to fend for themselves.  Like when a simple act of politeness to a neighbor is taken as an invitation for sex.  Say no, I am not interested and the advances do not go away.  Why should they?  If women do not actually mean “no” when they say it, it becomes in the interest of the man to keep pushing — to force his way into her life, into her mind.  That these advances obviously frighten her is not important.  No where in American culture are such obvious communications actually deterrent.  American culture says that women ALWAYS WANT IT — FROM ANYONE WHO SEEKS IT.  And worst of all:  there is no perception that there are any negative consequences.  Not to sexual harassment.  Not to rape.  After all, who cares if a poor woman is violated?  Ignore the crime and nothing bad will happen — to criminal or to law enforcement.  And when (not if) a predatory man with a mind that says “you have nothing to lose” violates a woman’s dignity, it remains easier for all involved or near the woman to simply claim “she had it coming to her.”

 

Because for the poor, there is no such thing as “no,” no right to refusal.  No human dignity.

 

We must stop tolerating this.  Men must stand up and start caring again about the dignity of women, to stop being predators and become protectors — not in the sense that women are objects to be own (that itself is predatory), but in the sense that human life has value — rich or poor.

 

Old Fashioned respect needs to return.  For every person deserves respect.  Every life is sacred.

 

In Dorothy’s Footsteps The Legacy of a Star Trek Pioneer and Legend

Though it received fewer comments on Yahoo Voices, this tribute to Star Trek pioneer Dorothy “DC” Fontana remains popular among science fiction fans.

 

In Dorothy’s Footsteps

The Legacy of a Star Trek Pioneer and Legend

April 2nd, 2013

On March 25th, the legendary Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana turned 74 years old. Dorothy has been a pioneer in science fiction since first beginning her work with Gene Roddenbury in 1963. She wrote some of Star Trek’s most famous episodes, including “Journey to Babel” for the original series, “Yesteryear” for the animated series, Star Trek the Next Generation’s opener, “Encounter at Far Point,” and “Dax” for Star Trek Deep Space 9 (see Startrek.com’s recent interview with Dorothy Fontana).

Babylon 5 also owes some of its glory to Dorothy Fontana with “The War Prayer,” which is one of my favorite episodes from season one, a poignant story about racism, politics, and love. A famous line from that episode is delivered by Londo Mollari, “My shoes are too tight, and I have forgotten how to dance.”


I remember reading Dorothy’s work in junior high when I first discovered Star Trek on a serious basis, books marked “D.C. Fontana” on the cover, disguising the fact that my favorite science fiction author was a woman.

Growing up, I never saw any examples of women science fiction writers, as if it were a complete oxymoron — rather like a female physicist or astronomer. Women were teachers or nurses — not writers and certainly not scientists! Women were supposed to get married, have children, stay home, and promote their husbands’ careers. And if their marriage was abusive or unhappy, women were supposed to just put up, shut up, and hope to not be killed by her husband.

As a child I often questioned this expectation for my life as a girl growing up in a very conservative, Evangelical Christian home. My feelings were dismissed as defiance and rebellion. There was something unnatural about me for loving science.

Without knowing that my favorite science fiction writer was a woman, I had no clear evidence my family was wrong. Only in later years, when Ms. Fontana’s real name came forward to me, did i realize that across the many years of my life, my role model for great science fiction writing was a woman.

In the aforementioned interview, Dorothy (no longer D.C.) talks about the barriers she faced as a woman daring to defy gender stereotypes and the discrimination that forced her to publish under pseudonyms. No one would take “Dorothy” Fontana seriously in the 1960s and 1970s when some of her most cherished works were first published and produced on television; using her initials masked her gender from sexist eyes.

Hidden from view, Dorothy Fontana changed our world. Everything we think of as “Vulcan” we owe to her pen and her willingness to not let gender stereotypes define her nor lesson the quality of her work.

More than perhaps most of the visible icons of the “women’s movement,” she quietly followed her talent and imagination, opening doors for the rest of us who dream of the stars, understand science, and embrace our gift for language.
The legacy of Dorothy Fontana is in every single woman who dares to be more than “just” a woman, who follows her passion, no matter where it takes her, including and especially to the stars.

Forty years after “Journey to Babel,” the barriers are not completely gone for women in science fiction. But they are fewer. Today, no woman feels she needs to conceal her gender to the world when she writes. We are allowed, finally, to pursue the “final frontier” as Star Trek puts it in ourown right.