Women's work

This was a post- Thanksgiving column
still can't believe they let me have that last line at UPI

So There I was...

Looking at the news. Late in the day after the Feast of Gratitude. There was a video clip of a two women being interviewed by a Local TV reporter clearly at the low end of the Totem Pole. It was this poor man’s job to get a story out of how their shopping had gone. I almost clicked off, and then the camera caught an unusually good angle; the woman’s chin up and out, a laugh rolling out of her mouth, and flash of her eye that meant victory. The look was one that in earlier times or other places would be called blood satiation. She had triumphed and was bringing home the trophies, scalps and booty. She had planned and executed an invasion. The God’s and Goddesses of war had smiled upon her. She was the hero to whom the crowds yell “Die Now! Die Now!” for nothing more noble could be achieved.

She had shopped well.

Oh, my sister. How we have fallen. This is our victory.
The pillage of Wal-Mart. The plunder of Target. The sack of Sachs.

Clearly, no one has ever told you who you really are. What you were created to do. Let me try and give you a glimpse. See if it does not sound an echo within your soul.

Our most ancient stories tell us the truth of who we are and what we can do. In every culture, the stories exist. Scheherezade knew these stories. Boudica told these stories to her daughters. These stories tell of heroic women; Judith and Xena. This archetypal woman has come down to our day and turns up as a blonde in Sunnydale. But she is here and she will not go away. You know these stories, you have just forgotten their meaning, and failed at their application.

The oldest story I know is of a garden. Firstmother was seduced by a lie. A fear-based lie. A myth of scarcity. She was told that her creator was holding out on her. She bought the falsehood that she must acquire, by deceit or force, what she was not given. She realizes her mistake very quickly, but the adhesive gum of the price-sticker of that lie stuck to her soul and was passed down.

But not before her creator gave her one more thing.
A task.
He spoke to her seducer and said this.

“You who were made for glory, you who has never had a predator, you have now made an enemy, and her name is woman, and you should be afraid, very afraid for although you will cut her, in the end, she will crush your head.”

Not Firstfather. Not the second Adam who came to plant the new garden. No, SHE was tasked with vermin eradication. She shall have the final victory. Doubt me? Get thee to a Roman church; find the pretty Lady, the one of the serene face, the upturned eyes. Look at her feet, and see what is crushed under them.

Since that day two forces have been competing for your soul, my sister. One, a foul lie from Hell, which says that you are not complete, that you are not good enough, that you must have more, be more. The other force is deeper and more powerful, but often buried, unawakened. It says that you are more powerful than you could ever know – right now. That force knows that evil itself, fears YOU. You were meant to crush poverty. To thwart abuse. To free captives as well as to bind wounds. You were meant to have clear sight, wisdom and power.

But sister, you have bought the lie. You have bought it wholesale, retail and on sale. You have stocked your cupboards with it and put it away for the winter. You have breast-fed and spoon fed it to your babies. Your soul has root cellars full of it.

You have let your enemy bind your feet, so that you cannot stand your ground. You have let your enemy steal your right to read, so that your may not look upon the truth. You have let your enemy impoverish you through mistaken wars you have enabled with your cooking pot and laundry pail. You have died bearing daughters who do not know who they are.

Yet in your deepest dreams the battle songs on Miriam and Deborah still sing.
“Horses and chariots are no match for my God”

There was nothing wrong with that feeling you felt on Friday night, my dear. You were hardwired to crave it, seek it, fight for it and revel in it. But oh, by sister, my mother, my daughter, you have settled for a pale echo of the truth.

Give it a thought now, before we settle into the cookies and the glass balls and the laughter of children. Any maybe on this New Year, you might want to sing a new song, and laugh a new laugh, and look your true enemy in the eye and let him see that you see him, clearly. Let him see that flash in your eye. Scare the Hell out of him, I tell you it will.

“Get the claymore out of the thatch where you hid it Molly.”

Vini… Vidi… Vi – effin – Ci


The Myth of Moral Superiority

I take a lot of continuing Ed to keep my counseling license. I have a strong preference for high content, low fluff, and I have a continuing interesting in the Brain, so I sit in a lot of seminars presenting the results of recent research. PET scans and other functional imaging have given us a wealth of data that is only beginning to be sifted. But it is clear that there is such a thing as a male brain vs a female brain both in structure and function.

A most important caveat is that there is more difference inside gender as there is between genders, but there are clear truthful generalizations that can be made. Some interesting ramifications are forthcoming; transgender is real - you can have a female functioning brain in a chromosomally male body. The autism spectrum can (rather simplistically) be seen as an 'extreme male brain' even when it appears in girls.

Women in general function socially, non-verbally and intuitively at a higher level than men. Men handle spatial relationships and certain kinds of complex systems better than women.

But none of this addresses morality. In one of our previous posts we saw young Saudi men putting forth the notion that females are morally inferior and need to be protected by segregation. Common in our culture and age is the notion that women are actually morally superior and that if they ruled, war (and a lot of other things) would never happen - ala Dee Dee. This is not actually a modern feminist notion, it is the core of Aristophanes's play Lysistrata, ca 411 BC. where the women of Athens get together with the women of the enemy, and deny sex to all the men until they cease making war.

It is a notion I have wrestled with. It is clear to me that women have been at least co-dependent in every war that ever happened. The Rebel groups that hide out in Burundi and the Congo, do not, I assure you, cook their own food, wash their own clothes, and do without sex. And they do not get these things entirely by violence or coercion. The women of Africa have affirmed this to me. I have in fact thought of having Lysistrata translated into Kirundi. When women take a stand in unison - things change. The situation in Rwanda is interesting. After 1994, with 100,000 dead and a 100,000 in prison, both disproportionally male, women had no choice but to step up, first at the local level and then at the national level. The quota system will be an interesting experiment. (why 30% and not 50% - notice one of our commenters suggested 60/40 - if you are going to have a quota, why not an equal one?)

But I just do not believe that it is that simple. I do believe that 50/50 participation at every level of society would bring some interesting balance. But I do not believe that it would bring peace on Earth, or even better morality, and less skullduggery.

I guess, bottom line, I believe this because I know ME. I do not believe that I am a better person than my brother. At least not because of my femininity. I have the same temptation to hate and revenge. I can be sneaky and judgmental. I can use my social skills for good or ill. I am pretty fierce about the protection of children, but I know of way too many women who seem to have missed this.

I think I have things to bring to the table as a woman, but innate superiority is not one of them. I believe that women may be spiritually tasked in certain areas (tomorrow's post). But our tasks are only equal to other groups tasks.

When I am good. When I am better, it is not because of what I am, but what I aspire to. It is because I am willing to be changed, transformed. It is because I recognize that I carry a vital piece of the entire image of God, but that other pieces are as vital as mine.

I do not want to replace a false male notion of God with a false female notion of God. I would not replace male dominance in human society with female dominance. It would be differently ugly, but ugly still it would be.

What if we surrendered the notion of superiority and brought what is best from every culture, every gender, every orientation, and were willing to have removed from us what is base in every culture, gender, orientation.

Just a notion.


And now for somthing a little provocative

Below are some excerpts from and summary of a new book. I don't agree with much of it. but it is interesting. Before I make a longer comment, I am interested in what you think...

Why Women Should Rule the World
a new book by Dee Dee Myers

Dee Dee Myers served as Bill Clinton’s press secretary and now does political commentary on various news shows

“Women tend to be better communicators, better listeners, better at forming consensus”. In the competitive and divided society in which we live, Myers believes women possess the kind of critical problem solving skills that are urgently needed to break down barriers, build understanding and create the best conditions for peace.

She speaks of the informal group of women Senators, who get together to discuss current issues. They have managed to get beyond the partisanship that has infected much of Congress and forged political alliances on issues where they agreed.

Her book first talks about the problems women have in succeeding in a male dominated society. One example as quoted by Pauline Frederick, “When a man gets up to speak, people listen, then look. When a woman gets up to speak, people look, then if they like what they see, they listen”.

“When a man drives a hard bargain, he knows what he’s worth and by God, he’s going to get it. When a woman does the same? She’s a pushy broad and no one wants to work with her.”

Voters are more judgmental of women if they make a mistake than they are of men. Voters assume men are tough enough to be elected to public office, but women have to prove it. That is why Clinton was more criticized for mistakes than Obama was.

Even a woman’s name can cause problems, as Hillary Rodham Clinton found out. She took much heat when she only used her maiden name as well as using both maiden and married name; she finally succumbed to only using Bill’s last name. Then when she ran for president she simply used her first name. That had the advantage that it distinguishes her from her husband; the disadvantage is that Hillary has less stature than Senator McCain or Senator Obama.

Male candidates can cry, but female candidates generally cannot. John Edwards, when he was running against Clinton for the nomination, said that if she couldn’t survive the campaign without crying, she might make a weak commander in chief.

There are just too many ways women candidates can lose. Either they are too female or not female enough or not male enough or too male.

Another example of double standards for female candidates: Many are voting against Senator Clinton because “she is too much of an opportunist” as if no male candidates are opportunists.

Both Bill Clinton and John Edwards had news reports about their hair. He waited on the tarmac holding up air traffic for his haircut and Edwards received a $400 haircut. For men it was about the process of getting hair cut. For Hillary and other women it is the style, too short, too long.

If women are not judged by their appearance, then often they are simply invisible. How many women have made a suggestion in a group of people and no one seemed to even hear it? Then a few minutes later a man will say the very same thing and all of a sudden, it is a wonderful idea. Myers has a good way to deal with the situation. “Joe, its so great you thought my ideas was right on target. I like the way you’ve reworded it and you are exactly on the point I was on and so (then speaking to the group) what do you think about implementing my suggestion that Joe just articulated so nicely?”

Myers indicates that when Fortune 500 companies have a high percentage of women on their boards, the companies do better financially. One interesting example is the Revlon Corporation, a company that makes products for women. Want to guess how many women are among their senior managers? None.

Myers talks about her children a lot in order to prove some point she is making. They were all playing house. The boys indicated that there was an intruder in the house. The girls didn’t want to play that way. The boys left because if they didn’t have an intruder to shoot to protect family, they weren’t especially interested in playing that game. Girls tend to want to play cooperatively; the boys are more likely to play games, which are competitive in nature.

Tests prove women are better able to read body language than men are.

Men think about sex more often, according to some surveys, as much as every minute. Women usually about twice a day.

Women and men use humor differently. Men love Three Stooges and women hate them. Men laugh at slapstick and flatulence jokes. I love slapstick, but flatulence jokes are poor taste.

Men and women listen differently. Usually women, when talking to other women, will face each other. Usually men, when talking to other men, will both face forward with little if any eye contact.

Women do think differently than men. What if the Three Wise Men were the Three Wise Women? They wouldn’t bring gold, frankincense and myrrh. They would have “arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, brought practical gifts and there would be Peace on Earth”. Well, sorta.

She quotes Dianne Feinstein. “Women are accustomed…to cleaning up after men. In a sense, its one of the reasons I think women make very good mayors and governors. Because they are very management oriented. They know things have to be managed, that you have to stay the course. You have to see that it’s done every day, that you lay out your checklist, and you go through it. Women are accustomed to that from the managing of the house”

Rwanda has a Minister of Gender. Though their constitution mandates 30% of the seats in their congress are reserved for women, the voters usually elect more.

She studied countries and how they spend their money and found that when a country spends more on its military, the more likely it is to go to war. “More women mean fewer wars. Maybe it’s not that simple. Then again, maybe it is”. “Women often bring a different point of view and different priorities to questions surrounding war and peace. And that perspective can be crucial to ratcheting down the violence, creating opportunities for reconciliation, and beginning the process of rebuilding”. Sally Field, in accepting her Emmy for Brothers and Sisters (excellent show by the way), said, “Let’s face it. If mothers ruled the world, there would be no …wars in the first place”.

During talks in Northern Ireland, the men who were part of the negotiation team, walked out leaving the women. They kept the conversation going and resulted in the Good Friday Agreement ending a conflict that had lasted for decades. “Men are stubborn. Women are more comfortable seeking compromise. They see it as a strength not a weakness” said one of the women negotiators.

Myers reports on studies I have seen before where female students who were asked their gender before taking a math test, did poorly. Studies where African Americans were asked their race before taking a test did poorly. When asked to take the test without mentioning race or gender ahead of time, students did much better. Women and African Americans when reminded of their race and gender think subconsciously, “I am not supposed to do well”

Myers concludes women generally seem more interested in consensus. More women in Congress would change the partisanship that now permeates in Congress. Therefore, more women in leadership positions would make our world a better place.

Unfortunately, it appears we will not be able to see what a difference a woman makes in the presidency for many many years.



Forgiveness, is the ultimate expression of Self-regulation.
Here is another example of a self-validating, self-regulating, invincible woman, from yet another culture
So There I was…

…In the St. Esteban del Rey Church up on Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico. My youngest daughter and I were visiting my eldest daughter and her husband. It was Sunday, but there was not much interest in the group in finding the Quaker meeting that I knew was in town. The day was October clear and crisp. I suggested we take a drive out to Acoma Pueblo, an hour’s drive outside of Albuquerque. I had not been there in decades, but I knew the drive was beautiful, and I could enjoy my daughters’ company and get them a history lesson at the same time.

We ended up on the walking tour through a village perched on a small Mesa that rises 367 vertical feet out of the desert. Our tour guide was Dale Sandoz, a matriarch of the Eagle Clan of the Acoma people. We were lucky to get Dale. She is small and round, “Like the cedar trees that grow at the base of the Mesa – strong, dry country growth.” She splashes water on the ground from her canteen as a gift to Mother Earth, to secure a safe tour. The Acoma are matriarchal; all property passes from mother to the youngest daughter -- “Because we expect that she will outlive us all.” A couple of long tall Texas cowboys in our group discovered that you do not walk in front of an Acoma matriarch without being rebuked -- “ But you ladies can walk where ever you like.” Acoma governors are all men. “Women have more important things to do -- so we nominate them, and if they do good -- we keep them, if not, we don’t.” The village has been continually inhabited since at least 1150. The houses are two or three stories high, none have electricity or water. They are made of limestone blocks (the traditional material), or adobe, or cinderblock -- Dale regrets these innovations -- “But there are no zoning laws up here, and you can’t tell a youngest daughter what to do with her house.”

We started our tour in the church. It is huge -- at least three stories up from the plaster and dirt floor to the massive ponderosa pine beams that were carried many miles from Mount Taylor in 1629. “Because they were holy, they never once touched the ground between here and there. The men took turns carrying them, and rested them on platforms at night.” The Spaniards gave them a bell as a peace offering -- and a peace offering was dearly needed because of the massacre of 1598. Thirteen Spanish soldiers tried to steal grain and were killed by the Acoma. One of them was a relative of the governor, Juan de Onate, and he retaliated with a brutal assault on the pueblo that saw the women taken as slaves, the men killed or left alive but with their right foot cut off, and children were pulled screaming out of hiding in the kiva -- their throats slashed and dragged through the village behind horses. The atrocity shocked even the Conquistadors, and Onate was eventually prosecuted. The Acoma were ‘given’ a church. I’m not sure what ‘given’ means when you spend a lifetime of the people -- 40 years -- building it yourself. The Acoma chose Saint Stephen for their patron. When they heard the story of the man who prayed as he was being stoned to death, “Lord, do not count this sin against them”; they recognized him as their own. Dale says that they freely accepted the religion of their oppressors because they recognized the truth in it beyond the actions of its adherents. This woman is so NOT oppressed! She says they recognized that it was in harmony with their own native beliefs – “99% of Acoma are Catholic – 100% practice the ancient religion -- because they are so similar.” At the altar are four pillars carved from those ancient ponderosa -- carved as twisted, entwined beams of white and red “For the two religions that are practiced here.” Symbols of the people are painted on the walls of the church along side paintings of saints and a prominent picture of purgatory. There are only a few pews up front to accommodate the elders -- the rest of the space is left free for dancing. A small window is aligned to admit a ray of sunlight to fall directly on the Santo only on the winter solstice. It is a most integrated place.

We walked out through the burial yard and through the village, I bought a small pot. I was deeply moved, but it took days for the full truth to sink in. The Acoma built that church twenty years before Quaker George Fox stood and preached for the first time. The Acoma had found Christ in the church of their murderers. They found a faith that spoke to their condition. They found ‘That of God’ in the ugly ‘other’. They found a model for forgiveness in the worst of situations. We consider these to be Quaker testimonies. George would have had no truck with the Spanish church; but he would have understood the Acoma.

One of those near the stoning of St. Stephan was the Apostle Paul – spiritually preserved, perhaps, by the prayer of his victim. Paul’s image is also on the Acoma altar. I wonder if the prayers of the Acoma have saved Onate.


Blogorama over?

Eight days of blogging and a Blog Sabbath
Are we about done?

No I think Not.

A review:
Day One addressed the erronious notion that women must cover so as not to cause thought problems in Men. This was named as co-dependency which both morally wrong and completely inefficient.

Day Two - While I treasure my biology - I am not my body. I am not my gender. I wished to be addressed as who I really am. If I appear to be in trouble - by all means ASK me if I need help. If I am unconscious call 911.

Day Three - the purpose of religious education is not the indoctrination of beliefs, but the inoculation of invincibility.

Day Four - A day of many comments. Where we heard from Friends, newcomers and both daughters.

Day Five - Cross cultural women's issues with Saudi Arabia as an interesting example

Day Six - A guest post from Daughter #2 in which she gives an example of a stranger speaking to that of God in a Young woman even when his presumptions are incorrect.

Day Seven - n inclusive side note, and the proposal of a Gospel Order sexual ethic that is based in Self-validation, self-regulation, intentionality and listening.

Day Eight - an example of an invincible and self-validating girl.


Covered Dish

Here is a reprise of a column about a girl that I consider to be quite invincible. She wears a head covering, a practice among Christians that conveys obedience to authority more often than 'modesty'. A practice that the catholic ladies in my neighborhood practiced in church until very recently. Orthodox Jewish women also cover their heads, as do many of their muslim sisters. It does not speak to my condition, but I was fascinated by this girl.
-- -- --
So There I was...

In Oklahoma, talking to the future of American womanhood.

That might be a bit sweeping. But Angelina is a very interesting and instructive piece of the future of American womanhood.

I spent the weekend at a regional Quaker women’s retreat. It was an event that intentionally brought together women from the diverse branches of Quakersim. Over the last 350 years Quakerism has suffered the typical number of religious splits. I know of no faith group immune to this process. But there is a convergent movement afoot in Quakerism. It is a rising sensibility that, without the need to cobble together structural re-integration, that we can speak to each other across our divides. We can be in relationship to each other without sacrificing our integrity. Everybody knows that it is easier to talk to total strangers than it is to converse with your own strange cousins, but this is what we try and do at the convergent events. Look our shirt-tail relatives in the eye and listen to them with an open heart. It is good work.

Among Quakers, diversity in the 21st century means that in the room we had women who were fundamentalist Christians and women who identified as Jewish, Buddhist or Non-theist Friends. Interestingly enough you cannot always tell who is who by looking at them. With a few exceptions, the women across the spectrum tend to be middle aged, graying, and sensibly dressed. It is not a real flashy crowd. One thing you do not usually see is head coverings. Quakers mostly gave up the bonnet by the turn of the 20th century. So I was surprised to notice a mother and daughter combo in intentionally modest dresses and a small white headscarf that looked old order Mennonite to me. Among Christian women head coverings of any sort are usually in obedience to the one place where the Apostle Paul recommends that women not cut their hair and wear a head covering in public (1 Corinthians 11). Most Christian churches have interpreted this as a cultural issue pertaining to the Apostles day and not ours, and so have abandoned the practice. When you see it practiced, often, it is part of a general literal interpretation of scripture, and that often entails a certain socially conservative lifestyle. Many 21st century Christian women would associate head coverings with patriarchal oppression. I was curious.

At dinner I got a chance to sit by the daughter. We enjoyed each other’s company, and got a chance to talk several times over the weekend. Angelina is fourteen years old. She lives on a small ranch some 60 miles outside of Austin, Texas. She has five older brothers and two younger sisters. She laughs easily and loudly. She interacts easily with adults. She can politely correct her elders when they are in error. She has the strength of a girl who has survived five older brothers. She is bold, and open, but has none of the coquettish Psuedo-sexuality of many fourteen year olds in our culture. She knows who Brittany Spears is and she so doesn’t care. She is a thing we rarely see anymore; she is fourteen and a girl. She has a full set of girl powers that she hasn’t yet traded in for woman powers. It was refreshing, let me tell you.

She has a Clydesdale/Morgan cross horse. She weighs exactly 100 pounds at the moment but she can fling her saddle onto his back and make him behave. She puts on a pair of pants under her skirt to ride, and admits that the skirt is a bit of a pain at a full gallop, but it is not anything she can’t handle. She studies at home, although she admitted that she sometimes wishes she could go to a regular school. I am sure that she is not home-schooled out of fear of contamination with the wider world, because her family drives 65 miles to attend an unprogrammed liberal Quaker meeting that exposes Angelina to a wide variety of theological perspectives. Angelina is a vegetarian. Her mother is presently eating raw foods only. Her daddy is a commercial airline pilot. Her parents left their Mennonite community because according to Angelina they were “too strict” and asked her parents not to wear wedding rings. Angelina clearly approved of her parents insistence on their liberty. Angelina started wearing her “veil” at the age of eleven. She says she took it freely, out of respect for her father and God. She thinks it is funny that some kids in Texas think she is Muslim or a nun. She doesn’t think that anyone else is particularly wicked for not having their head covered. Angelina is so not oppressed. She doesn’t fit into any boxes. She doesn’t particularly believe in boxes, theological or otherwise. She plans to go to college. She plans to have a full and rich life. I have no doubt that she will.

Angelina gives me hope for a theologically diverse nation. She has the strength to hold on to some absolutes in her life without fear of people who do not agree with those absolutes. She is conservatively and progressively counter-culture at the same time. She is a post-modern throwback. She is not going to isolate. She will not be terrified. She and her covered head will thrive in the 21st century. Let us all learn.



A Slight Aside

I just want to say - before someone points it out for me - that this women's blogorama, has, to this point, been very heterosexually oriented. I am fully aware that this leaves a lot of people out. I would welcome any comments from sexual minorities on the topics we have raised.

You just can't do anything more rigorous than 'airing things out' in this setting, but I think the airing does us all some good. And I think we are working towards our own clarity on our personal, communal and cultural sexual ethics.

I desire an ethic that is flexible enough to be personal, but which partakes of equality and could be reflective of a Gospel Order ethic than transcends gender or culture.

I think such an ethic would be based on


I will talk some more about these things soon.



A Guest post from Daughter number 2

I was sixteen and had reached my full height of five foot eight inches. However I only weighed about 105 pounds, was pale as only a white Oregonian can get and half awake. I was greasy that spring morning and chose to wear baggy army surplus pants with a black sweatshirt. At the time I was attending an alternate high school at the local community college which required a ride of the city bus.

Now, before we begin, it needs to be said that I come from a loving, stable, middle class home. Food was in fact available and the whole family sat down every night for home cooked dinner. I just usually opted out of eating most if any of it. As a consequence I slept for 16 hours a day and didn't get a lot of exercise. I was also into the whole “war orphan” look and carefully cultivated a sad and lost affect.
That morning I was feeling very half dead and was curled up in a ball on the bus mostly asleep.
A youngish man on the bus leaned over to me and asked hesitantly “Do you...need, um, breakfast?”. This man looked to my 16 year old eyes as “too old to be potential threat” (potential threats were kids my own age who may feel entitled to pester me) which probably meant he was 25-30. I, being half awake, looked up in confusion and said “No? Um, no thank you? What?” to which he looked abashed and said “oh.”

The rest of the ride and day commenced without anything interesting happening. But thinking back, I realize what an amazing amount of bravery this took. This young man had to overcome many social barriers to offer me kindness. First he had to overcome the barrier of talking to an underage girl without being thought a predator, he had to talk to a stranger, which just isn't done in Salem, Oregon, and then he had to talk to what I'm sure appeared to be a homeless teen. Homeless people in this town are regarded as crazy meth addicts who will murder you without the slightest provocation.

I really wish I had had the presence of mind to thank him profusely and encourage his future offers of help. I actually did need breakfast that morning, I'm sure I hadn't eaten a thing in the previous 20 hours, and emotionally was sorely in need of help. So, maybe with the help of the interwebs, I can communicate this message to him, and to others who hesitate about offering food to strange children.

Hey guy on the bus, thanks.



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?.


A Comment

I have to go to work for a few hours.

I pulled this comment up from my friend Derek from the backwaters of a previous post. I am not at all sure that D reallt went back and read Wess' post and 45 comments.

I won't get back to this until later today.
Meanwhile, anyone want to have a go at responding to this?

Derek Lamson said...
What do we do about the fact that young impregnable women's secondary sexual characteristics - breasts, buttocks, skin tone, hair sheen, eyes, lovely smell - ALL are apparently designed by a Benevolent Deity with one practical object in mind... and that, brothers and sisters, that practical function is to attract otherwise clueless young males. Otherwise they might spend all their time blowing things up, or punching each other on the arm.I mean obviously. The biological task programmed into any young guy is - at a glance - to tell the difference between a possible mate, and say, a sapling. Or another male. Wouldn't want to make that mistake, would we?

Look, Ms Parson's, I have always enjoyed the smart strong savvy women in my life. Always. And I've usually been able to admit the truth with a smile when I knew some woman was smarter, stronger, savvier than me. For instance, better in airports, just to pull a wild example out of my imagination...

As an almost 55 year old guy I can say a little easier these days, "Dress - or undress - any damn way you want. Wear a burlap bag or a bikini: my job is to treat you with courtesy and respect."

And absolutely, the young guys in the car were out of line. Three on one is chicken anyway you slice it. I feel a little more sympathy for the older guy; because I think that having a protective attitude towards the pregnant lady is a good and gallant thing.

So... but... so... do you really think, "Hey bud, whattayou think you're lookin at...?" is quite fair? Isn't little buddy - our universal young man - just looking because that's the way he's built, too?

Just sign mePerplexed in Portland

Day Four - first a review

Day One addressed the erronious notion that women must cover so as not to cause thought problems in Men. This was named as co-dependency which both morally wrong and completely inefficient.

Day Two - While I treasure my biology - I am not my body. I am not my gender. I wished to be addressed as who I really am, or not at all.

Day Three - the purpose of religious education is not the indoctrination of beliefs, but the inoculation of invincibility.


Day Three

(for my mother and daughters, with Love)

So There I was…

…Sitting in a Wednesday night Bible study. I was a very young adolescent. The church was small, Midwestern, Christian and conservative. A volunteer churchman was teaching the class that muggy summer night. He was going on about the creation story in Genesis with a special emphasis on the place of man and woman in the story. He was trying to make the point that because man was made first that this clearly put him in charge. I spoke up and said something that indicated that I didn’t think this was very good exegesis. This brought the undivided attention of teacherman who said;

“Really, Miss Peggy; and why, then, do you think that God made man first?”

“I dunno; ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’?”

I don’t remember his response, although I think there was minor sputtering involved. I do remember that my mother stifled a laugh, and shot me a look. I expected that look to involve disapproval. I was surprised to see amusement, and maybe a little bit of pride in my mother’s eyes. At the time she said nothing. Later she spoke to me, in private, and her words were about refraining from the temptation to humiliate and mock people in public.

You see, my father was a strong, good man -- a natural born leader. But he did not rule my mother. She had a sense of self, rooted in God’s love for her, and it could not be shaken, oppressed or ruled. She was my father’s -- any man’s -- true equal. At her breast I got not only physical antibodies, but also spiritual and emotional antibodies. I grew up resistant to oppression. I learned to listen, but I let no one do my thinking for me. I found my voice early. I practiced using it until it became strong and even occasionally disciplined.

I learned my Bible, and I learned it well, but I also learned that the purpose of religious education is not the indoctrination of beliefs, but the inoculation of invincibility.

A couple of decades later I found myself sitting in the anteroom of a guitar studio. I was eavesdropping on my 13 yr old daughter and her wise, gentle and gifted guitar teacher. Mr. Walt had student recitals twice a year. Emily loved her guitar and loved Mr. Walt, but hated recitals. At the age of eight she just went along with it, by ten she was resisting, but could be bribed. At early adolescence she found her voice -- she told me that she wasn’t going to play in this year’s recital, and none of my tricks worked. I liked the recitals. I liked seeing my beautiful child shine. I sat there hoping that Walt would talk her into it, one more time. He asked, he cajoled, he tried minor guilt and gentle manipulation.

Emily held her ground.

Then a strange thing occurred -- I felt my own, now deceased, mother’s presence in the room, and she was rooting for Emily. My thinking took a radical shift. I realized that my daughter was holding to her sense of self in the face of the temptation to please someone she respected, but with whom she disagreed. It was a skill that I wanted her to have. I changed my allegiance.

Emily continued to play her guitar but never played in another recital. The inoculation took; like her mother and grandmother before her -- she was and is invincible – any time she wishes to be.

Supernatural Blessings on the Blogorama!

OK - The important thing to know here is that I took an OATMEAL bath, and when I drained the tub, this Image APPEARED!

Obviously, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe is with us!

Two Quaker witnesses can attest to the undocotored nature of this photo.

The Silly Poor Gospel Religion desk has a call in to the Vatican.


Day Two

So there I was

Walking down a back street in Santa Fe. The sidewalk was minimal, the adobe wall on my right hand was solid, my left hand could have touched any passing car. It was a one-lane sidewalk.

I heard the slow rumbling approach behind me. Then I heard the young men in the car. They were speaking Spanish, but their intent required no interpretation. They leaned out the open windows. I took a deep breath, blew it out and ignored them. They matched my pace, rolling along directly behind me, providing color commentary.

Then I noticed the old Hispanic man walking towards me. He looked at me, he took in the boys. He could see what they could not – I was visibly pregnant – and it just popped his top.

He jumped off the curb in front of the car. He stood there screaming at the boys, in Spanish of course. He waved his arms wildly in my direction. The only word I caught, multiple times, was “Madonna.” I turned. The boys got the message. The old man continued to yell and pound his fist on their hood. The chastised put it in reverse, backing away from the avenger.

I slipped around the corner, unnoticed.

And that, was in fact, the problem. Nobody on that street had seen ME. The ones in the car saw the biological usefulness of my backside. The one in front of me saw the biological usefulness of my womb. All had opinions about my status as a woman. Their opinions were in severe conflict.

None of them saw the young woman who was neither flattered nor frightened by the unasked for attention. No one saw the young woman who needed no protection or vengeance. What I thought or felt mattered not at all to them.

But hear me now.

I am not my biology.

I enjoy all the things that my body can do.

But I am not my body.

I treasure my body, giving it respect without worship. It is my friend and my servant.

But it is temporary and I am not.

My gender is temporary.

I, created in the image of God, cannot be truly defined by gender.

When my blood and sinews, hormones and neurotransmitters are all rot,

I will remain.

Some of what walked that street will remain.

But those blind men on that street that day would not recognize me,


they never saw me.


Let's Get rollin - this could take a while

So There I was

Preaching the Gospel in a Friends Church. It was the 1990’s I was still in my thirties. I loved preaching the Gospel. It was a beautiful spring morning, the house was full, the meeting felt gathered, the message I had brought come out smoothly. I was grateful for having been used. It was a good day.

After Worship an older lady took me aside.

“I really appreciated your message, Peggy. I really appreciate your ministry in general. But May I tell you something?”

“Of Course”

“I only tell you this because I know you are a mature Christian and I know you can hear my heart in this.” (I have now learned that this is always your warning to escape)


“I know that you care about presenting God’s Truth. I know that you would not want anything to hinder your ministry. I know you would be open to ridding your ministry of any distractions.”

“Well, I guess I would. Are you aware of such a distraction?”

“Yes, honey. It’s how you present yourself, it’s how you look.”

“Really – I had no idea” I gazed down at myself. I was wearing sensible pumps, hose, and a business suit. It was robin’s egg blue, but it was exactly the style of suit that any lawyer would wear in court, or that I did in fact wear as a professional counselor.

“I think you may not be aware of what a distraction you are to the men sitting in the pews. Men have trouble with their thought-lives sometimes, and we women have to help them. It’s our job to not put a ‘stumbling block’ in front of them.”

“I’m a little confused.”

“Well, let me speak plainly then, I think your ministry would be greatly enhanced, if you would dress a little more modestly, less fashionably, gain a few pounds, and stop coloring your hair – maybe put it up. I think the men could receive your fine preaching much better if you changed the package a bit.”

I stood there in stunned silence. I think I may have actually thanked her for her input. I may have promised to take it under consideration.
It wasn’t the first time I had heard this theory, but it was certainly the most personal and blunt exposition I had encountered.

I was sure it was just a fluke, a left field thing. So I took it to my spiritual director -a very wise Quaker woman and minister. She disagreed about adding poundage, an obvious health issue, but acknowledged that we are to be thoughtful in how we present ourselves. She didn’t argue too hard against the point. She thought there was a core of truth in it. She did encourage me to “rise above” the critical, and to her thinking, possibly jealous presentation. Her nuanced, gentle and gracious response only modified the basic premise that it was my job to at least consider that my physical appearance might be a problem for someone else’s thought life, and that I might want to do something about it. I was flummoxed.

As I sat with the thing, and prayed about the thing, it didn’t get any better.
The first realization I came to was the obvious and screaming inequality of the thing. Never, in my decades in the church, had I ever heard a male minister criticized for simply looking too good. Male preachers obviously did better when they were physically attractive. My sense of justice objected. I just don’t like double standards.

But this observation did not seem to address the issue thoroughly. Something else still bothered me. I didn’t figure it out until a couple of years later, while taking some training in addictions recovery.
The problem is Co-Dependency.

Co-dependency is the flipside of addiction. They feed and fuel each other.

Co-dependency is defined like this. Somebody has a problem with their desire mechanism. But they can’t or won’t admit it. So someone else near to them, who doesn’t have the primary problem starts changing their behavior in order to make the problem or the consequences of the problem go away.

So say I like to get drunk. It causes me problems. But I don’t see it as a problem or I won’t do anything about it. You live with me. You see the problem clearly. But you can’t or won’t make me take responsibility for it. So you search out my hidden booze and pour it down the sink. I buy more booze. You call my boss and make excuses when I am late because my problem embarrasses you and threatens our livelihood. You yell at me a lot. But I do not change and say that your nagging ways drive me to drink. It gets worse

The real problem with co-dependency is that it does not work. It is completely ineffective. In fact it perpetuates the very behavior it chooses to address. This is what happens when the person with the power to change a behavior – the person doing the behavior – does not take responsibility for it. The person who is putting all the effort into the problem actually has no power to change the problem.

They will go crazy trying.

The answer is for the person with the problem to deal with the problem, and for everyone else to let them have their consequences, let them feel the discomfort until they want to do something about it. It is “Let go and let God”. This works.

If women cover in an attempt to ‘help’ men with their thought-life problem – willingly as in some churches, or unwillingly if you have the Taliban around – all it does is allow men to be lazy about self-regulation. And it won’t work. Because as we all know if you cover shoulders, arms become sexy. If you cover knees, ankles become very sexy. Sexy is in the brain of the beholder and that is where the change needs to take place.


Because actually, there is nothing wrong with sexy. All God’s creatures have it. Sexy only becomes a problem when it gets in the way of other things that God also made, Like you ability to listen.
Like your commitment to equality.

When sexy becomes so big in your brain that it crowds out those things then what you have is a problem with idolatry.
And nobody can fix that but you.


A Women's Blog-o-rama

My Friend Wess Daniels, a young man I think of as one of the up and coming Q thinkers in the Q continuum opened a five gallon bucket of worms this morning, by raising the issue of "modesty."

The particular usage of modesty is not the same as humility, which is a virtue, or decency, meaning common human kindness. The particular use of modesty is "the covering of girls/women so as not to provoke lust in boys/men."

It will surprise no regular readers of this blog that this is a topic that I find I can get real riled up about. Over first coffee this morning I decided not to respond fully on Wess' blog for fear that I would use up my year's ration of Capitol Letters and exclamation points.

By the time I got back to the computer this afternoon Wess had received many salient and thoughtful comments that covered many points that I would have made.
But not all of them.
Not By a long stretch.

So as the Wizard said to Dorothy - "you have forced me to a cataclysmic decision!" (well, not so much forced, but certainly inspired).

So for Wess, and especially for "L", and for Gregg's daughters, and the child my firstborn is carrying, I am going to launch a "Women's Blogorama." I am going to post daily until I run out of steam on the topic of Women's empowerment, oppression, invincibility, "modesty and other co-dependent scams" and every other rant and revelation that the Spirit supplies.

I start with a fresh "So There I was" and repost some of my previous columns and add some random stuff, and nail a few theses to a few doors, and anything else that occurs to me.

Because the attitude displayed by the Blogger Annie that Wess Quotes, is one of the very best examples I have seen lately of what mother Margaret correctly called a Silly Poor Gospel.

So start by reading Wess's post and comments, and then fasten your seat belt and come on back here.

And By all means, all you bloggers, join the Blog-o-rama for Women and post your own experiences with nonsense, oppression and empowerment.