Monday, July 21, 2014

Changing culture away from misogyny

Two recent videos with product ties challenge culture norms:

Lauren Greenfield directed a short video commissioned by Always. "Like a Girl" was seen as a social experiment: and Greenfield wrote about it in The Telegraph:

When we asked more than 250 people what it meant to do things “like a girl”, the results were surprisingly consistent. Women, men and boys were quite happy to lark about – running or fighting “like a girl”, in a silly or deprecating way, as my elder son had. It wasn’t until I asked them, still on camera, if their impression was insulting in any way, that the penny dropped. Some got emotional, and expressed disappointment and regret over their interpretation. Some said it applied to most girls, but not to them (or their sister). Some knew better. One older woman, who did an exaggerated impression that made girls look ridiculous, subsequently revealed that her daughter was a college baseball player on an otherwise all-boys team. 
Although women reportedly apologise more frequently than men, scientists attribute this tendency to the fact that men have a higher threshold for what they deem offensive behaviour.Why? The explanation for this seems relatively simple: we live in a society which conditions women to be kinder, quieter and more polite, fuelling this apology culture when we don’t fit nicely into these categories. Pantene highlights this with painful accuracy: women apologise more often simply because we’re taught to apologise for entering situations in the same manner as men: with confidence and assertiveness. As Meghan Murphy describes, “We smile when we’re harassed on the street or hit on by jerks. We laugh at sexist jokes. We learn that when we have strong opinions, we’ll be called bitches and that if we get angry, we’ll be called hysterical. When we say what we want, we’re called pushy or aggressive.” So we learn to apologise for normal emotional reactions, before stating our opinions – and even after things that weren’t our fault. 
That moment of realisation – when the women and men in our film suddenly understood that they had been sucked into this cultural cliché – is magical to witness, because the viewer also gets to experience it at the same time. It is not judgmental, but collegiate – a moment we share that is simple and yet instantly empowering and illuminating. When these moments of realisation occurred in real time, we knew something profound was happening in front of the cameras. Both I and some of the women on set were moved to tears.

Laura Maw wrote "Addressing Apology Culture" in The Style Con after seeing Pantene's new "Not sorry" spot:

I can’t begin to count the number of times I say sorry on a regular basis – and whether or not this is a product of my instinctively polite nature or that I feel compelled to apologise, I shall never know. And yes, Pantene’s argument isn’t exactly a new one, but it is relevant. It’s no surprise that women are taught to apologise more frequently than men: apology culture fuels male entitlement. If we feel compelled to say sorry for being assertive, this allows more space for male assertiveness. If we’re sorry for taking up space in conversation by stating our opinions, this conveniently allows more space for male opinion. How many times have you heard the words ‘sorry for the rant’ or ‘rant over’ after a female friend has been speaking about something important to her?

(a version of this appeared in The Episcopal Cafe)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Did Archbishop Welby say "Twitter kills thoughtful reflection?"

(Ahead of the church's "Social Media Sunday", I'd thought it good to reprint my piece in The Episcopal Cafe)

Twitter kills thoughtful reflection, says Welby: Archbishop insists big questions cannot be answered in '140 characters' 
---Most Reverend Justin Welby made comments in major Westminster speech---He warned politicians including Cameron and Miliband of social media---'Instant reaction' has replaced 'reflective comment', he said

The rise of Twitter and other social media sites is threatening to kill off quiet reflection, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned. 
Instant reaction has rapidly replaced “reflective comment” in an era in which angry remarks can be spread to “the far corners of the Earth” within seconds, the Most Rev Justin Welby said. 
The need to compress arguments into the 140-character limit for Twitter messages can distort discussion on complex subjects, he told an audience including David Cameron and the Labour leader Ed Miliband.

My first reaction, as a regular user of Twitter, was that perhaps he is unaware that each of The Beatitudes are 140 characters or less...

But upon investigation (thanks to 21st-century technology), I believe Archbishop Welby did NOT say any such thing about Twitter. In fact, I mostly agree what he did say in this section of his address at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast (with my bolding text):

"A 21st-century global Church, with all Christians irrevocably belonging to each other through the action of God, seeking to discern truth in many thousand cultures, is a church with fuzzy edges; because in a world in which cultures overlap constantly, and are communicated instantly – and, judging from what I get, often with some friction – you need space to adapt and to meet with one another, and you have to trust the sovereign grace of God for the consequences. He (unclear if Bishop Welby means Pope Francis or Cardinal Vincent Nichols) comments that even 20 years ago took months to reach the far corners of the earth now, as we know, take seconds. Instant reaction has replaced reflective comment. That is a reality that you deal with in politics, and it demands a new reality of ways in which we accept one another, love each other, pray for each other. The best answer to a complex issue on which one has heard a soundbite from a sophisticated argument is not always given in 140 characters. 

"The Church of this century must be a generous church, because of that communications revolution, because of technology, because we are face-to-face with everyone, everywhere, always, in a way we never have been in history. The Church is a generous church which loves truth and loves people with the overwhelming love of God in Christ. As Christians we believe that God reaches out to us unconditionally and we are to do the same for others. God has no preferences, except a preference of love for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable; the widow and the orphan, the alien and the stranger. The Church is the most effective church when it demonstrates that love. And with that love comes the obligation of holiness: of being ourselves, but not turned inwards but living in holy lives that draw people to the blessing of which Isaiah spoke.

The Archbishop certainly did not say "kill Twitter", or even that Twitter has no purpose (although, ironically, that's the instant reaction expressed in these stories). Noting that technology makes instant reaction the norm does not mean it is inherently bad, just different from the past. He even makes clear that "a sophisticated argument is not always given in 140 characters". That's certainly true, and leaves plenty of room for meaningful Twitter dialogue. His valuing reflective and extended dialogue should not preclude using the tools of social media.

What I think (and hope) he's also saying is that the church should be aware and engaged in the age of instant reaction, AND lift up the value of reflective and nuanced conversation, all in a spirit of generosity.

That's worthwhile, when it does and doesn't fit in a Tweet.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The misogynist extremism of the Santa Barbara rampage

Stories of the Santa Barbara man who killed his roommate and then went out shooting sorority women is dominating social media.  He left a video about why he did it:  blaming women for denying him what he wanted (sexual response).

Yes, there are issues concerning mental illness and gun control, but the realities of misogynist culture must not be downplayed in this story.

Here are just two of the many voices that need to be heard (with short excerpts from their articles so worth reading):

The term “rape culture,” which has been in use for some time among younger feminists – particularly in the context of the sexual entitlement and sexual violence-soaked climate of American college campuses — makes many people uncomfortable. But it is a term that I want to use here in order to stand in solidarity with the younger and more outspoken generation that coined it, and in order to support the work of confronting the sick sexual culture in which Elliot Rodger’s mental illness progressed. Rodger left a manifesto that makes it absolutely clear that his actions were developed, pre-meditated and carried out because women he lusted after did not respond to him. For this “crime,” he murdered them.

The hashtag #YesAllWomen started trending on Twitter soon after the shootings, giving testimony to the widespread culture of violence against women and to how it is becoming almost acceptable. The #YesAllWomen is a furious rebuttal to the familiar 'not all men' argument that deflects analysis of rape culture and redirects it to individual male behaviors. 

If you read the Twitter feed, you will scroll through fear, rage, heartbreak, courage, lament, insightful analysis of rape culture, as the tweet above demonstrates, and more. It is a virtual tour of the battlefield of the war on women. You can, for a time, actually witness to the fact that all day long, all night long, every day and every night, the bodies of women and girls are turned into a battlefield. Their bodies are penetrated against their will; they are burned, maimed, bruised, slapped, kicked, threatened with a weapon, confined, beaten with fists or objects, shot, knifed; their bones are broken, they lose limbs, sight, hearing, pregnancies, and their sense of personal and physical integrity. They are terrorized and they are killed.