Thursday, August 29, 2013

Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke

Lutheran pastor Eric Clapp has a fantastic article on reaction to the Video Music Awards.

I highly recommend reading his whole article, but here's a little of it:
If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter with any kind of regularity over the past few days, you’ve probably heard countless friends or followers sounding off on any number of objectionable things about the performance. Undoubtedly, 99% of things written about it throw around words like “obscene”, “offensive”, and the like. 
There have been a number of different parenting websites or blog posts who have come up with good ways to talk to your daughter about Miley. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about parents talking to their daughters about sexuality. 
But is no one going to hold anyone else on stage or behind the scenes accountable for that performance? Are we really going to have another one-sided conversation where we only talk to the girls about their sexuality while we completely ignore the boys in the room about their standards of behavior too?

Clapp quotes an excellent article by Shelli Latham:
Girls' sexuality is so much the focus of our ire. Women who have sex are dirty. Men who have sex are men. Girls who dress to be ogled are hoes. Men who ogle are just doing what comes naturally. This is the kind of reinforced behavior that makes it perfectly acceptable to legislate a woman's access to birth control and reproductive health care without engaging in balanced conversations about covering Viagra and vasectomies. Our girls cannot win in this environment, not when they are tots in tiaras, not in their teens or when they are coming into adulthood. 

Also on my mind is all of the original critique of Blurred Lines, especially Elly Brinkley's article:
I don’t think very many people are criticizing the song on the grounds that Thicke is going to go out there and start hurting women. The issue is that the song seems to undermine the importance of consent in sexual relationships. The very title of the song draws from the rhetoric of rape apologists who believe that date rape isn’t real rape and that sexual assault is often a “gray area.” 
Thicke’s defenders have argued that the woman in the song seems to want what’s going on. Some of the lyrics seem to indicate that the woman is interested.  We don’t often think of songs as works of fiction, but they are. I would think that Thicke would certainly say that it is fictional. Thicke, in writing the song, created the character that is depicted. Does he have a right to say that she actually does express consent? 
There is nothing productive about arguing whether the character actually/secretly wanted the attack. 
The idea that “she was asking for it” is a classic example of victim-blaming. That we might use that argument in public depictions of assault just points to how deeply rape culture permeates the way we think about sex. The fact that we don’t automatically believe that a lack of clear consent constitutes rape shows how rapey our culture can be. On TV, in movies and in music, there are “Blurred Lines”–and this is not a good thing. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

"The enemy today looks much like you and me."

This is currently found on The Episcopal Cafe, with commentary by Jim Naughton:

Dean Gary Hall of Washington National Cathedral took part in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Saturday, and then preached a sermon on Sunday in which he said it was time for the cathedral to confront its own institutionalized racism. An excerpt:

As a straight white man, I am coming to understand how much of my life has been lived under the protective canopy of privileges I have not earned. As one who now has led four prestigious Episcopal Church institutions (two large parishes, a seminary, and now this cathedral) I am increasingly aware of how—from our histories to our demographics to our hiring practices and investment policies—we are enmeshed in the institutional racism that we decry so vocally when we observe it in others. It is meaningless for me to criticize the Supreme Court, the voter identification laws proposed around the country, or the decisions of mostly-white juries when I have not examined, confessed, and changed the sinful practices of the institutions I both lead and serve.  

Talk, as they say, is cheap. As Jesus asked, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” [Matthew 7:3] As he goes on to advise, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” [Matthew 7:5]  

Friends, what we have here is a very big log in our eyes. Our problem is not the racism of any one individual, because racism is not only personal. It is also interpersonal, institutional, and social. This fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech and the march that occasioned it demands that we take an inventory of ourselves yes personally, but also interpersonally, institutionally, and socially. What does it mean to belong to an 86% white denomination when, by 2040, there will be no one majority race or ethnic group in America? What does it mean to call ourselves the “National” Cathedral when we confine our ministry to the whitest and most privileged quadrant of the District of Columbia? How can we live into the dream articulated by Dr. King when the evils we face in 2013 are so much more insidious than they were in 1963? The enemy back then looked and acted like Lester Maddox and Bull Connor. The enemy today looks and acts very much like you and me.

Hall concludes:

On behalf of Washington National Cathedral, I pledge today to initiate a process of cathedral self-examination, renewal, and reform, seeking to explore the racism inherent in our worship, ministry, staffing, and governance. We will always suffer from the legacy of racism that infects our culture and our relationships. But we can commit ourselves to act in new ways—ways that reflect the inclusive, gathering, indiscriminate love of God in Christ.

How can our church, both on the local and international levels, begin to root out institutionalized racism?