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5.13.2008

A couple of very interesting articles

We are having a very interesting discussion here.
Even way back in Santa Fe, I knew I had a great teaching story.

Here is a little more grist for the mill. Two articles in the NY Times about
young saudi men and young saudi women, in a culture that not only covers but completely segregates, as the answer to our conundrum.

And interesting thing that I noteds in the article on the guys. Where as in many cultures, like ours, women are considered to be less naturally driven by their sexual impluses and therefore givent he job of controlling things. These Saudi young men consider women to be weak - that they can be talked into anything with just a few words, and must be segregated for their own protection.

I don't think any of us want to mimic this culture, But what can we learn from it?.
Comments:
Dear Peggy,

I'm glad you're having such an interesting discussion. Unfortunately, up to now I have felt no room to join it, since the forceful, partisan tone of your posting seemed to indicate that there would be no respect given to any position but your own.

Your question, "what can we learn from this culture", might be a step toward opening up dialogue a trifle. Or it might just be prologue to using Muslim Arab culture as an archery target; I dunno. I am hoping for the best, obviously; otherwise I would not be posting this comment.

It seems to me — given that this conversation is taking place in an explicitly Christian context — that the elephant in the living room here is the passage in the book of Genesis where Cain asks God, "Am I my brother's keeper?", and the implicit answer is yes, he certainly is.

Christ endorses that implicit answer in the parable of the good Samaritan, and goes a big step further in Mark 9:42 / Matthew 18:6, where he says that the person who causes someone else to sin is himself (or herself) culpable. Your criticism of the Christian tradition of pudor (modesty), and even of men who move to women's defense, would seem to be a denial of all that. This surprises me, coming from a person with your rôle in the church.

Some of the comments your "interesting discussion" has elicited, have startled me even more than your own writings. They seem to suggest that the only non-sexist thing for a man to do, when a woman is endangered, is to leave li'l Kitty Genovese to fend for herself.

I am not denying that the old lady's comment to you after church was extreme and irrational. Sensible pumps, hose, and a business suit ought not to be any problem at all in a normal U.S. context.

But your assertion that male preachers "obviously did better when they were physically attractive" strikes me, personally, as mistaken in the other direction. There are plenty of cases on record of male preachers "doing better" in a purely worldly sense because their congregation becomes smitten with their glamor, but that is hardly the same as actually transmitting the Gospel. James Nayler at Bristol is, alas, a Quaker case-in-point, although he apparently only made this mistake for a brief period. For those who don't know their Quaker history, we might instead consider the cases of some of the male evangelists described in the Wikipedia article on Christian evangelist scandals.

I don't think there are any easy formulas to follow in the matter of sexual temptation. Ideally, it seems to me, both parties should do what they can to neutralize the problem; and if the (involuntary) tempter won't do her or his part, for whatever reason, and the temptee cannot find the strength to pull out of the downward spiral, then anyone else who happens to sense what's going on has some responsibility to intervene. But that's hardly a formula; it's just a request for all sides to be constructive.

What I'm trying to say, anyway, is that it's not a matter of formulas. It is a matter of everyone having a part of the responsibility in this. It doesn't just take a village to raise a child. In the long run it also takes a village to keep each and every one of us adults on the path of sanity and self-restraint. We can't always do it ourselves, and that is why we do have this responsibility to one another.

And that, I think, is where the theory of "it's not my responsibility if the other person feels tempted" runs into trouble.

You don't, if you're wise, leave large sums of money out in the open; it's a form of battering people with temptation, and for some people the temptation will be too much, and then you will be partly responsible for their downfall.

You never, if you are wise, leave your car in the parking lot of a large urban high school, with the keys in the ignition and the engine running, unattended.

You don't sing "The Old Orange Flute" at the top of your lungs in an Irish-American sports bar on Saint Paddy's Day.

And for a parallel reason, while I see abolutely nothing wrong with a woman in a business suit in the pulpit of a normal American church, I'd have trouble with a preacher, male or female, who cultivated a sexual aura and then said it was the parishioner's fault if she or he was pulled off center. That's not a conveyance of the Gospel, and it comes perilously close to playing Elmer Gantry.

All the best,
Marshall Massey
 
Hi Marshall,

I am so glad to see you drop in.

Tone is so hard sometimes, especially in casual writing. But even when my tone is strong, even strident, even occasionally partisan, I still respect other viewpoints.

I firmly believe that every culture has that of God and something to teach, I also believe that every culture has something that Gospel order would overturn, occasionally with passion.

I could not in good conscience reccomend Saudi treatment of women as one of the good bits.

I am pretty sure that I do not want to engage in debates about Biblical exegisis here. But I agree strongly with your assertion that the example of the Good Samaritan is one we are to hold up. But I would put forth this - the man in the ditch was probably crying out for help, He was clearly and obviously in mortal peril - this is why the good jews ignored him - they didn't want corpse defilement if he croaked on them.

I see Jesus saying that we are to risk getting out hands dirty and our pockets empty with compassion.

To compare Kitty Genovese to my situation in Santa Fe is really a bit of a stretch. She screamed for help and was ignored. I was in no danger. I was not even more than mildly annoyed.

But it does suggest the reasonable, responsible all parties mindful kind of response that I think both you and I long for.

What if the old man had looked me in the eye, not just the belly, and spoken to me, and said "Hello young lady, are you ok? are these fellows bothering you? Would you like me to speak to them?

I think that would have been nice. I also bet it would have had a very similar effect on the young fellows. Just seeing him converse with me, would have humanized me, and I bet they would have shut up. He might have lent me his presence, not taken up the role of avenger. The Samaritan was present to the one he saw needed help.

Of course If he had done that I would have missed a great teaching story.

(Speaking of teaching stories, I wonder if D2 would like to write up and send me the story she shared in Meeting last Sunday?)

Addressing (ha) the issue of modesty, I think that all being responsible for themselves, their thoughts and their actions equally, and being concerned for the health of the individual and the community is, of course, the non-formulaic answer to the problem. I dress a little different in Burundi than I do here, out of respect for the culture, but not much, they also adjust their expectations for me. It works - love and respect.

I think that what many women have experienced, and still experience is an attempt to enforce a very non-equal formula where women bear way more than their share of the responsibility. It hurts, and continues to hurt.

The only answer is to be "Live as Free People - not using your freedom as an occasion to sin" Peter.
And as Quakers we do not let others define 'sin' for us, we listen to the voice of the Light.

One time the Light let me preach the Gospel in a Leather mini-skirt with sparkle tights and storm trooper boots! Motorcycle parked at the edge of the stage. Of course it was a Christian Punk Rock Concert, and I stood out in no way.

I do love my life!
 
Peggy, thank you for your kind reply to my comment. We have many points of agreement, including unhappiness with the "non-equal formula", and I am glad of that.

And no, I don't think much of the Saudi treatment of women, either. I agree it's not "one of the good bits."

On the other hand, I notice that the Saudi women I've heard talk about this matter, tend to be pretty critical of the Western, and particularly the U.S., way of treating women, and tend to say, when the subject comes up, that their own way shows women more respect.

It's also interesting to me that, right now, a high percentage of the suicide bombers in Iraq are women. (There was a news story about that in the paper just this week.) How odd. You might think that, being oppressed, they'd be no more eager to fight for Islam that way than the blacks were to fight for the South in the War Between the States.

I have been keenly interested in nonviolent approaches all my life, since I grew up in a very violent setting and yet have always been drawn to nonviolence and. Two things I feel I have learned are these:

— First, that in a potentially violent situation, it is not wise to wait to intervene; the best time to do so is before the potential assailant has made up his or her mind to attack. If you were already being assaulted and crying out for help, like Kitty Genovese, your assailant would not have stopped simply because an old man was shouting at him; he would have been thinking that the die was cast, that he was already liable to incarceration even if he did stop, and that his only safety now lay in silencing anyone who tried to stop him. Both your chances and the old man's would have been far worse. So if you were in a situation of that sort, it would be important to do something before the potential assailant got to the point where he felt the die was cast.

— And second, the best intervention is the one that throws the situation most thoroughly outside the script that the potential assailant is writing in his or her head. If those young men were preparing to assault you (and I'm not jumping to the conclusion that they were; I am simply saying, if), then the script in their heads was disrupted by the old man's shaming them; his words threw their minds onto a different track while it was still relatively easy to do so.

A fair example of the importance of these two principles is the story of Louise DeGrafinried and Riley Arceneaux. There is a brief retelling of the story here, which leaves out a lot that might have been helpful to this discussion, but at least serves to illustrate my present point. You may notice how Louise acted immediately to derail the potential assailant's script.

My own life has been saved at least four times by my own adherence to those same two principles — taking the initiative immediately, and derailing the script. And on at least four other occasions when I failed to follow those principles, and instead waited too long and let the potential assailant's script go into motion, I have been badly beaten.

I was not present, of course, on that day in Santa Fe. And I recognize that it seemed very clear to you the young men were not about to do anything more than harass you verbally. But from your own account, it sounds like you were neither acting swiftly in response the unfolding situation, nor derailing the young men's script in their own minds. And it sounds like the old man's judgment was that waiting to derail the script in their minds until he'd asked you if you were okay (assuming he could speak enough English to ask you) would not have been wise.

Maybe he was wrong to think you were in some danger. On the other hand, unlike you, he lived in that world, knew that culture, and knew what those young men's behavior, seen in the context of their culture, said about what kind of people they were and what they were capable of doing. He might even have known the young men personally, and known from that what they were up to.

It sounds like his judgment might perhaps have been that they were not just going to heckle. It sounds like his judgment might, just might have been that even if you'd said, yes, you're okay, you could handle it alone, you didn't need his help, the reality was otherwise. You've made it very clear that you feel you were in no danger, that you were only mildly annoyed, and I respect that. But I still wonder about the possibility that perhaps, just perhaps, he was right, for reasons that were hidden from you as an outsider.

You chastise him for not speaking to you first. I wonder about you not speaking to him afterward.
 
The difference between the US and Burundi and Saudi Arabia is cultural for sure, and dressing the way they do in Burindi while travelling in Saudi Arabia would be the equivalent of leaving large sums of money laying around as noted. Part of the question has to be what the dresser is saying with clothes, and that can be true of men as well as women for sure. Sometimes people read, "hey look at me, I'm HOT!" where nothing but "Hey, this is comfortable and appropriate for the circumstances" is intended, and there ARE cultural differences both in reading and stating. The other part of the question in relation to Saudi Arabia is what attitude is displayed about the sexuality and personhood dichotomy. Clearly, the less the individual value of personhood is considered and the more only the sexuality is seen, the more restrictive a society is going to be. Iran under the Shah was relatively open, and seemed to value individuals more, but a large part of the culture (society) was outraged.
Just musing..... no good answers.

In His Love,
Nate Swift
 
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