Bits and pieces: Dyer, Women Speak Out and Philippa Stroud

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Having spent the past couple of days in a state of advanced excitement/anticipation/trauma and disbelief that David Dimbleby managed to keep it going for 17 hours (I went to bed at midnight, got six hours sleep and was still flagging by Friday afternoon, although it's possible I wore myself out refreshing Twitter and the Guardian's live coverage) I'm pleased to announce that I'm having some down-time. And because the election isn't the only thing that's happened this week, here are a couple of interesting bits and pieces for you:

- You can't have failed to miss the outrage surrounding Danny Dyer's 'advice column' in Zoo magazine. If you did, we're basically talking about a man who told a reader he should 'cut his ex's face, so no-one will want her'. Now we live in times when half of all women will experience domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking and half of young men think it's sometimes okay to hit a woman or force her to have sex. Plenty of people encouraged us to 'lighten up', assuring everyone that Dyer must have 'meant it as a joke'. Oh, a joke! Silly me. There I was thinking that joking about committing acts of violence against women isn't acceptable either.

In an apology, a spokesperson for Zoo described it as a 'regrettable production error' before stating that the magazine does not condone violence against women. Obviously they'd forgotten about the time that Dyer's advice column instructed a reader to set fire to his girlfriend's pubic hair. Later in the week, we were told that Dyer's column has been dropped from the magazine. There's a great post analysing the ongoing issues surrounding Zoo et al over at soisaystoher, which tells us that many Zoo readers themselves have decided to stop buying the magazine following this week's incident and gives a couple of truly sickening examples of lads' magazines condoning violence and abuse.

- I was excited to hear, via UK Feminista, that two feminists from England are planning to undertake a tour of the country in order to speak to women about their thoughts on feminism, politics and what really matters to them. Jessica and Michelle decided to organise Women Speak Out after being inspired by GirlDrive, Emma Bee Bernstein and Nona Willis Aronowitz's road trip across the USA, in which they talked to both young women and older feminist pioneers about what matters to them today and subsequently wrote a book on their findings.

At present they're planning to visit London, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Bristol, and East Anglia and would love to hear from women who would like to get involved. Their first discussion is planned for May 29th in London. You can find out more at the Women Speak Out site or their Facebook page.

- Finally (and I didn't want to say too much about this, because it's been going on for a week now), I read a couple of good blog posts on the Philippa Stroud controversy which I wanted to share. Al Shaw and Steve Smith have analysed Christian reaction to the story, sharing many of the views I've had as I've observed it on Twitter and in the blogosphere this week. It was noticeable that much of the reaction from Christians was characterized by its description of the allegations as 'hateful', 'biased' and 'anti-Christian', going as far as to suggest that the allegations were completely 'made up'. Al Shaw made some important points on this:
...the article is triple sourced - three individuals (two named) are quoted. Uncomfortable reading though their testimony makes, it is surely unwarranted to automatically assume that they are lying about their experiences. The reality is that any local or national newspaper could find individuals who are unhappy with the pastoral care they claim to have received in virtually any church in the country - including the ones any readers of this blog may attend or even lead! Evangelicals have to accept this reality, rather than automatically dismiss such claims as inherently impossible just because they "know" that such-and-such a church leader is well meaning...

The tendency in some quarters to avoid rigorous and critical self-analysis about our beliefs and practices should hardly be considered a virtue. This defensiveness, which at its worst can come across as a kind of corporate brand protectionism, is sometimes confused with the Biblical mandate to "contend for the faith". It is even less consistent with the Biblical injunction to "test everything" - which I take to include our own beliefs and practices, not only those of others.
Having no experience of Philippa Stroud's church, I'm not in a position to comment on the facts of anything which happened there. But I do believe it's unwise of Christians to instantly dismiss allegations of spiritual abuse or hateful practices simply because they believe the person in question to be 'good', or because they attended that church and nothing untoward appeared to be going on. I don't believe she helped herself by issuing a single, unclear statement on the matter because it leaves the truth open to more speculation. Furthermore, as someone who is most definitely not a Conservative supporter, I'm happy she didn't win her seat on Friday. And no, this doesn't make me a traitor to my fellow Christians.

On another note, it was interesting to see the discussion on the allegations touch on gender roles in NewFrontiers - such as in this piece from Ekklesia.

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