Esquire gets it wrong with rape joke

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

This week's award for not only Most Ill-Advised Rape Joke, but also Most Tasteless Celebrity Death Tie-In and Least Sincere Apology definitely goes to Esquire.

So. You're running an article themed around sex and you want to make it current and oh-so-relevant to the issues hitting the headlines right now. How about a guide to satisfying oral sex? Good thinking. How about running it as a tie in with the Strauss-Kahn rape case, using details of the incident to proclaim that it doesn't have to be so bad, if readers take your advice on board?

Yes, Esquire went there. Accuser Nafissatou Diallo, who, as the case threatens to fall apart amid numerous controversies, has this week gone public, telling her side of the story to Newsweek. She has revealed her ordeal in graphic detail. And in the original version of the feature, which was entitled "How to have more satisfying sex than DSK", Esquire described this as "a tragedy". No, not the fact that a woman has told of being raped, but the fact that the act itself obviously wasn't particularly enjoyable. Readers were told in the opening paragraph:

"A blowjob need not be hurtful or degrading, for either party."

And whatever you think about this statement on its own, I think most people would agree on the fact that it should never, ever be used to apply to situations which involve rape. Especially in a way which suggests that you know, it's a bit, well, funny. Because the fact she didn't enjoy it meant that she could probably do with a few sex tips, right? "Ladies: How to get the most out of your rape". My sides are splitting. They went on to tweet a link to the article from their official Twitter account:

Within minutes Twitter had exploded with what it does best: outrage. Esquire deleted the offending tweet and even cut the first paragraph of the article to remove any trace of reference to DSK. It was just a shame, then, that they followed it up with a pretty poor excuse for an apology. "Sorry if an earlier tweet offended anyone"? It's nice that they plumped for "if", there, referring to their "sense of humour", as if, in the grand scheme of things, anger at rape jokes is merely a matter of some people just not getting their zany way with words. Because at the end of the day, it's easy to confuse run-of-the-mill oral sex with traumatic non-consensual incidents.

Let's be clear here - rape jokes aren't funny. In case any members of staff at Esquire are wondering, here's a handy guide that explains when it's okay to mix rape and humour. The gist is this: if you're thinking of making a wisecrack at the expense of rape victims, don't do it. It's not big, or clever, and it contributes to the wider problem of what we call rape culture.

That's the way in which society rationalizes and normalizes rape - by laughing about it, victim blaming, saying it's a natural consequence of various actions like drinking or wearing short skirts, treating it as 'a compliment', using it to make cracks about the attractiveness of the victim, using the word when you mean that your football team lost a game or someone hacked your Facebook account. And guess what? It has a devastating effect on the many men, women and children who, each year, become victims of rape and sexual assault.

Call it another tiresome drama for the pitchfork-wielding Twitterati or hysterical feminists with their knickers in a twist if you like, but Esquire definitely crossed a line. And that must be a theme for them this week, as Monday was also the day its style blog ran a post entitled "In tragedy, a style appreciation for Blake Fielder-Civil". Yes, that Blake Fielder-Civil, Amy Winehouse's ex-husband - currently serving a jail sentence for burglary and possession of a firearm, the man who was at her side during some of her most self-destructive moments and someone who's been widely condemned as an unhelpful presence in her life in the wake of her death at the weekend.

Seeing as we'd already had the most mind-boggling of Winehouse tie-ins when the Huffington Post published "Amy Winehouse's untimely death is a wake up call for small business owners" on Sunday - Esquire decided to run with "most tasteless" instead. Good work, guys!

This post originally appeared at BitchBuzz.

Blogging for Mulheres do Brasil

Monday, 25 July 2011

Today I'm blogging in support of ActionAid Brasil's new initiative, Mulheres do Brasil - Women in Brazil.

Through raising awareness about the particular challenges affecting women in Brazil, ActionAid is hoping that it can do more to help combat poverty, lack of access to education, sexual violence and domestic abuse with this new campaign.

When I visited Brazil earlier this year I spent plenty of time talking to some of the women ActionAid helps support and it was clear that there is a need for more focus on gender equality and tackling deeply ingrained problems. Everyone we spoke to was agreed - domestic violence is a major issue; economic inequality is a big worry. In fact, domestic violence is the leading cause of death for Brazilian women aged between 16 and 44, killing more than car accidents and cancer - and it is estimated that more than a million women are victims of abuse there every year. Although pioneering legislation like the Maria da Penha law - recently recognised by UN Women as a landmark reform in the struggle to end VAW - is making a difference for many women, domestic violence is still seen as a private matter which is kept hidden by families and communities, and a decrease in the number of incidents has not been seen for a decade.

ActionAid is monitoring the effects of anti-VAW legislation, funding training and education so that women can set up businesses and generate their own income using local resources, and running courses on equality and citizenship to help them become more aware of their rights and the opportunities available to them. This is vital work and I've seen first-hand that it's successful and providing inspiration and motivation to many, as well as the skills and knowledge to fight gender inequality, and help women to be independent, get back on their feet and provide for their families.

I'm blogging about this today not just because I feel it's important but also because I hope that it might encourage some of you to look into the work ActionAid Brasil is doing to help women and promote equality, take part in today's blogging or even consider offering your support by making a donation. Check out the #mulheresdobrasil hashtag on Twitter or ActionAid Brasil's tweets for more information and further blog posts.

Media favourites: the 'myth of having it all'

Thursday, 21 July 2011

'Having It All'

1. Phrase coined by former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown - and the title of her book published in 1982.
2. A lifestyle which involves having a successful, demanding and well-paid career, a stable relationship and a happy, fulfilled experience of motherhood.
3. A concept popularized by feminists, ball-busting 'career girls', women's magazines and television shows.
4. The ultimate falsehood. Unattainable, unwise, leading only to depression, divorce, infertility, misandry, badly-brought up children and low self-esteem.

Common usage:

1. "The myth of - "
2. "The grave consequences of - "

"Of course women can have it all - they just don't want it"
"They have it why is it so hard for some women to be happy?"
"Girls 'can't have it all': Bridget Jones author warns of the perils of mixing family and career"
"The truth is that modern women can't have it all. They may succeed in their careers and they may succeed as mothers, but to do both at the same time? No."

The rules of discussing 'having it all':

1. Context: must be mentioned that the 'pressure' was brought about by 1970s feminists, as opposed to capitalism, 1980s popular culture, the media and an emphasis that women must be perfect in everything they do (although even Gurley Brown's book was condemned by figureheads of the women's movement at the time).
2. Gender: on no account must the concept of men 'having it all' be discussed. The thought of a man combining a career, marriage and fatherhood is never considered impossible, a pressure or a lifestyle doomed to failure. It is expected, praised and seen as the norm.
3. Stock words/phrases: "making it in a man's world"; "comes at a price"; "superwoman"; "trade-off"; "Sex and the City"; "high-flying"; "juggling work and family".
4. Shifting the blame: on no account explore the idea that societal pressure on women to never trip up, falter, have a bad day or appear less than perfect might be partially at fault. Continue to promote fad diets, pushy parenting, unobtainable beauty standards and harsh criticism of women who don't 'measure up'.
5. Equality: refuse to explore idea that increased pressure on women may be due to men and businesses failing to adapt to a changing world. Stay-at-home fathers are 'emasculated', men doing housework is 'demeaning', and 'supposed' workplace inflexibility and sexism is a sign of women just not having what it takes to run with the big boys. Expecting things to change is 'laughable' and 'hopelessly outdated'.
6. Mental illness and unhappiness: a direct result of attempting to 'have it all'. Prevalence would be less great if society made a return to traditional gender roles and hierarchy (nb avoid all mention of 'mother's little helpers').
7. Public figures: bonus points incurred if person denouncing 'having it all' is a celebrity, politician or middle-aged figurehead of feminism. Double bonus points if the story is published in time for International Women's Day.
8. Furthering the debate: under no circumstances attempt to steer discussion of concept in a productive direction.

This post brought to you by a read through today's Daily Mail story, "Successful and childless: The career women from Generation X who have it all... except a family" and the articles a search for 'women+have it all' brings up (istyosty links).

Created or Constructed? Part One

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

In my post on Mark Driscoll's response to the 'effemigate' furore, I briefly discussed the statement he used as a standfirst. When Driscoll wrote:

"Gender. Is it a socially constructed reality or a God-given identity?"

he started a lot of discussion about what it means to be male or female. Although he acknowledged that it's a very complex issue, the feelings he outlined about the debate appeared to be insinuating that this is a mutually exclusive dichotomy and that he firmly believes that gender roles are God-given. I don't entirely agree. While I agree that our gender identity is God-given and that the Bible does have plenty to say about men, women and the church, I do not believe that this brings with it specific desirable personality traits, emotions and skills, rather that the majority of those promoted by Driscoll and others who are strong on 'traditional' gender roles are heavily influenced by society and cultural trends. Indeed, perceptions of gender roles and responsibilities within Christianity differ, as can be shown by comparing official statements on three main strands of teaching.

Contrasting perspectives on gender roles:
Patriarchy (typified by Vision Forum) - The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy
Complementarianism (typified by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) - The Danvers Statement
Egalitarianism (typified by Christians for Biblical Equality) - CBE Statement on Men, Women and Biblical Equality

So, to what extent are Christian views on gender roles and gender-appropriate behaviour defined by cultural factors? It's obvious that there is major influence, whether we're talking about the hold the 19th century 'cult of domesticity' or 'cult of true womanhood' still has over society, the hyper-masculine all-American action hero (with added super-Godliness) promoted by Driscoll or the crusading warrior/waiting for Prince Charming stereotypes of books like 'Wild At Heart' and 'Captivating', which tell us:

"Little boys want to know, Do I have what it takes?...Little girls want to know, Am I lovely?"

Some who believe in distinct gender roles and behaviours feel it is important to emphasise these when raising children - for example encouraging girls to enjoy personal grooming and wearing 'feminine' clothes, or encouraging boys to play sports and take 'leadership' roles - so that they will grow up with an awareness of what it 'means' to be male or female. This is echoed by our society in general, which stereotypes children from almost the minute they are born, judging every movement, cry and aspect of behaviour as evidence of being a 'proper little boy' or 'proper little girl'. Despite the case against so-called 'hard-wired' gender differences, explored by Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender, society dictates that even as babies, girls and boys and to be treated according to socially constructed ideas about what it is to be male or female. Before the recent birth of the Beckhams' daughter, the BBC ran a feature which showcased all the old stereotypes to the extreme.

Describing girls as 'manipulative', 'evil' and 'hell-bent on showing off' while underlining a predilection for all things pink and princess-related. Referring to boys solely in conjunction with mud, football and dinosaurs while discussing their lack of 'hidden motives'. Thankfully we also hear from those who believe such differences are mainly the product of parents' imaginations:

"According to Dr Helen Barrett, developmental psychologist and research fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London, studies suggest even when baby boys and girls are lying in a cot kicking their legs at the same rate, boys are seen as more energetic.

And a newborn boy's cries are seen as more forceful and may be responded to quicker, even when there is actually no difference."

Undoubtedly, Christian thinking on gender is influenced by 'the world' in this respect - and we can see further parallels with views on 'roles' in the family, the home and the church. In US Christian culture, it's more obvious that some aspects of these views are a direct response in opposition to what's seen as the un-Biblical and nefarious influence of feminism, which if you believe some critics is directly responsible for promiscuity, failed marriages, deadbeat dads, emasculated men, manipulative women, domestic abuse and indeed the majority of social problems you can think of. The traditionalist view of gender roles is not only 'Biblical', but if accepted by society in general might herald a return to happier and more righteous times, when 'men were men and women were women' (and presumably, marriages were blissful, homes were happy and everyone knew their place). The anti-equality perspective is obviously present in other countries, but it's the US which seems to have spawned the majority of the backlash.

There's a real resistance to the word 'equality' in a way which makes me uncomfortable. Equality as the way of the devil, if you like, because it 'denies difference' and shockingly, emphasizes similarities. I find it incredibly hard to get worked up about this denial of difference, possibly because I'm one of those feminist egalitarians, but I think it's also because I don't believe equality 'denies difference', rather that it describes worth and purpose, male and female being created 'in his own image'. Equality is not an insult, or a dirty word, as I have seen implied. I wonder, when I read comments to that effect, just how deeply certain gender roles have been ingrained so that despite clear teaching on equality of worth in God's eyes, there is real horror at the suggestion of 'sameness' between men and women. I often wonder if it has much to do with the same views on gender roles which lead people to say "Well I LIKE cooking and babies and shaving my legs so I am HAPPY to be a REAL woman, thank you very much, feminists!'

I think it's very easy to get bogged down in perceived similarities and differences which actually have little to do with relationships, gifting and a call to ministry - and are not hard and fast to begin with, easily dispelled by countless people who do not 'fit the mold'.

As part of this ongoing exploration into gender in the church, I've ordered a copy of Elaine Storkey's Created or Constructed? The Great Gender Debate, which I've been meaning to read for a while. I'll be reading and discussing it here.

Image via Steve Rhodes's Flickr

This week's round-up

Monday, 18 July 2011

Judith Woods, writing in the Telegraph, was disgusted to learn that Nick Clegg, who feels that his children "come first", shoehorns the school run into his busy daily schedule. Apparently this is the worst kind of reflection on his "militantly ball-breaking missus", the "scary global law expert" Miriam, "who prefers to be known as Miriam Gonzalez Durante", (rather than "Miriam Clegg" - I know which I'd choose - and it's not the latter) and told Grazia magazine that she and her husband share parenting duties equally. Interestingly she doesn't see it as a plus side of Clegg's approach to fatherhood that he wants to continue to spend time with his children. Nope, it must be his wife, being all emasculating.

"As an Alpha female, she deliberately chose a Beta mate she could boss about. The masterplan, which she may or may not have outlined before the wedding, was that she would breed, then bread-win and he would be a house-husband, stocking the fridge with Petit Filous and managing the recycling bin in a blamelessly ineffectual Lib Dem sort of way. Now he has been inexplicably catapulted into government! That was not the deal. No wonder she’s so cross!"

Today we've learned that the deputy Prime Minister has hit back, saying:

“I love having the opportunity as often as I can to take my children on the school run. And much more seriously, look this is 2011. It's not 1911.

“The idea that fathers or mothers can't do a very good job in whatever walk of life but also remain as dedicated fathers and mothers is frankly an attitude which belongs in the last century or the one before that.”

How To Be A Retronaut - Suffragette Surveillance, 1913

In 1912, Scotland Yard detectives bought their first camera, to covertly photograph suffragettes. The pictures were compiled into ID sheets for officers on the ground.

Sian and Crooked Rib - Consent, statutory rape and the Daily Mail,

There’s a lesson here. Anyone out there who rapes a child, but who then can find a way that makes it look like the child was to blame has nothing to worry about. Just admit it frankly, show a bit of remorse and easy. You’ll be out of jail in less than a year.

Marina Hyde - Celebrity magazines must be scrutinised

I don't know if Lord Justice Leveson has a permanent mobile phone number – he's probably using burners – but if anyone has it can they give him a bell and ask if his inquiry into press behaviour will take in celebrity magazines?

I only ask because I'm looking at one of the cover headlines on this week's New! magazine – Broody Kate's Anorexia Nightmare – and the grim, confected "story" about the Duchess of Cambridge that lies therein, and wondering whether such titles will escape this opportunity to take a long hard look at what they do, before stabbing themselves in the eye with rusty knives?

Emerging Mummy - In which I am part of the insurgency

I will be the small underground movement, the insurgency, the one taking every opportunity, however small, to strike a blow for the Kingdom's way of womanhood.

It's in the small ops then. The monthly cheque sent off to Mercy. The determination to value my daughters and sons for their intrinsic worth, their mind and hearts as well as their appearance. To give respect and honour to the stories of women around the world - and in my neighbourhood. The raising of my tinies to follow the example of Christ first. It's in the refusal to ignore the stories - however much I want to stick my head in the sand and act like it's not happening.

Elaine Storkey for Christianity Today - A Liberating Woman: A Reflection on the Founder of Christians for Biblical Equality

With utmost meticulousness, Kroeger sought to reconcile the Pauline passages that restrained women with the clear directives calling women to proclaim Christ. Rather than offer a clumsy cultural relativism that glibly dismisses Paul as a "man of his time," she showed how better knowledge of Greek helps us to understand the kephale ("head") metaphor in Ephesians 5, the silence of women in churches in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, and head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11. Careful contextual work raises questions about traditional interpretations. (For example, if Paul's fellow-worker Priscilla was exercising a clear gift of teaching to correct the theology of Apollos [Acts 18:26], then the injunction on women not to teach [1 Tim. 2:12] must be a limited one.) The interplay of language, historical context, and archaeology excited Kroeger. This was particularly evident in "I Suffer Not a Woman", which, written with her husband in 1992, opened up new ways of understanding 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

The Frisky - How I learned about feminism and motherhood from Molly Weasley

It was a form of magic to see the same qualities play out between this made-up mother character in my favorite books and my real mom. My views on modern motherhood were inherently affected by witnessing both mothers nurture all children who need them, not just their own blood; manage to hold their families together under any and all circumstances; have unconditional love and support, even in the most frustrating moments; and partake in empowering, female-friendly movements that positively influence their daughters and sons alike.

Hopefully to come later this week (if I have time) - exploring deeper into the concept of gender as God-given and role-based vs gender as a social construct.

Mark Driscoll responds to 'Effemigate'

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Well, I have to say that I'm surprised. As a result of Rachel's post, I think Mars Hill Church must have received a lot of emails this week - not to mention the many blog posts I've spotted in addition to those I linked in my previous post. What I'm surprised about is that we have a public response, of a sort.

It's not really an apology. It provides an 'explanation' of why Driscoll asked that question on Facebook last week and I think it does miss the point a bit in doing so. So a man explained to Driscoll that he was put off church because the worship leader at one he visited was "effeminate". To put it bluntly, in my mind that doesn't point to problems within the church. Why treat so many in the church with disrespect in order to fall in line with cultural stereotypes of masculinity? Such behaviour isn't consistent with Jesus's attitude towards ingrained cultural norms. As well as a reinforcement that Driscoll feels distinct gender roles in the church, society and the home are important, the post is also a major plug for his upcoming book and website.

In asking "Gender: Is it a socially constructed reality or a God-given identity?" he seems to suggest that the two are mutually exclusive. I disagree and believe that while it is a God-given identity to the individual, many facets of what we see as 'gender' and what it means to us are socially constructed. I also believe that it is not wrong to challenge translations of the Bible which refer only to men and do not use language inclusive of humankind when this is plainly what is intended. Looking to what the Bible says about gender identity and God should enable us to see through societal constructions and I really hope that in exploring the issue further on his new website, Driscoll will look into this (I have a feeling this may be a hope too far).

So what's good about it? I'm happy that he admitted he has been spoken to by elders in the church and told to address these issues more effectively, because it's important that leaders are accountable and can be encouraged to change problematic behaviour by those they work with. I know that accountability was a concern for many who have been upset by his remarks. I was pleased by the acknowledgement of the enormity of gender issues in the church and in theology as a very wide-ranging matter which needs to be taken seriously, not reduced to throwaway comments on Facebook. There was also acknowledgement of the cultural problems on which he bases many of his opinions - that according to some studies and reports, young men today are allegedly slow to take responsibility, immature and unreliable, contributing to toxic relationships, shirking the duties of fatherhood.

I don't think it's wrong to want to address this and I absolutely believe that churches should be encouraging maturity, responsibility, Godly behaviour and respect for women in men. But I don't believe that this has to go hand in hand with reinforcement of 'roles' and stereotypes which, when it comes down to it, are rooted in modern American culture. I think it is possible to do this in a positive way. Interestingly, Driscoll asks:

"How can the church compel men to rise up without pushing women down?"

I think many people would welcome deeper dialogue from him regarding this as it's been a sticking point in the past. It's also one of the most important questions facing Christianity today, with the patriarchal movement gaining adherents and the continued marginalization of over half the church. I know I probably won't agree with many of the conclusions Driscoll will come to when he goes into more detail about gender issues, but I hope for a more measured approach on his part.

Mark Driscoll, the Facebook status and the blogosphere fallout

Sunday, 10 July 2011

I thought I'd do some sort of post collating all the posts written over the past few days in response to the latest controversy involving Mark Driscoll and his interesting beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes. On Thursday he invited fans on his Facebook page to engage by telling him about some of their experiences of church. Namely, "So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?".

So this is the man responsible for gems such as:

"In Revelations, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up."


"Paul is simply stating that when it comes to leading in the church, women are unfit because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men. Before you get all emotional like a woman in hearing this, please consider the content of the women’s magazines at your local grocery store that encourages liberated women in our day to watch porno with their boyfriends, master oral sex for men who have no intention of marrying them, pay for their own dates in the name of equality, spend an average of three-fourths of their childbearing years having sex but trying not to get pregnant, and abort 1/3 of all babies – and ask yourself if it doesn’t look like the Serpent is still trolling the garden and that the daughters of Eve aren’t gullible in pronouncing progress, liberation, and equality."


"After church tonight you will go home and you will eat chicken, not human, because of the spread of Christianity... go to a country where there hasn't been the spread of Christianity and they're having human for dinner."

And it aggrieves me, no matter what people say about his supposed skills with leadership and preaching and getting people, particularly young people, engaged with God. It makes me profoundly uncomfortable that he happily talks about vetting his wife's emails and the anger he has felt towards other men who so much as go near her or look at her. His entire approach towards gender aggrieves me and I know it gets a lot of other people wound up too. That's why it was so interesting to read the varying responses to that Facebook post, which ended up generating over 600 comments before it was eventually removed at some point yesterday.

It started with a fantastic post from Dianna Anderson for Jesus Needs New PR.

Do you think those archaic gender roles, which aren’t even clearly laid out in the Holy Scriptures of your religion, might just be wrong? Do you feel like who you are as a person is being ignored because of what you happen to have between your legs?

If you actually followed that thought process all the way through, you have just a little, tiny sliver of how it feels to be a woman in the church. When you say to the men in your congregation, “being womanly is wrong,” the men aren’t the only ones listening. Yes, be bold, preach the gospel (or what you think is the gospel), but be aware: there are others listening, and they are not liking what they hear.

I loved Dianna's post; she gets right to the heart of why Driscoll's schtick on men and women is so offensive - firstly because it relies on stereotypes very particular to his own culture and place in history rather than anything Biblical, and secondly because he consistently implies that anything 'feminine' or 'womanly' is a bad thing, something to be mocked. Of course, he would probably reply that that doesn't mean it's bad for A WOMAN to display 'feminine' characteristics, because that's what she's supposed to do. It's only bad if a MAN behaves like that. This doesn't make it any less offensive and negative about women and only serves to promote the extreme anxiety you see in many Christians about the word 'equality'. You know - "But equal means 'THE SAME'! And men and women are NOT 'the same'! Therefore equality is wrong."

Dianna Anderson - A Jesus I Can Beat Up

"If you are a mainstream Christian, then you assert that Jesus WAS beaten up. One whole hell of a lot (pun intended).

He was whipped. He was forced to carry the instrument of his own death. A crown of thorns was shoved onto his head, to the point that he bled.

While you may not like it, the fact remains: If you believe that Jesus died and rose again – in other words, if you profess the Christian faith – you ALSO must believe in a man who was beaten to a pulp, a man who took a massive beating and who did not praise the violence."

Dianna is now doing a series of follow-up posts about gender and the church which I'm very much looking forward to - the above is one of them.

Elizabeth Esther - God DOESN’T hate gays–but pastors mocking them is A-OK!

"Honestly, how can ANY pastor justify publicly inviting people to publicly humiliate other Christians? As a Christian I feel embarrassed and grieved by this kind of public display of graceless behavior."

Joy Bennett - Don’t Take Pot-Shots at Worship Leaders, er, I Mean, ANYONE

"Whether or not you believe that men should dress and act a certain way, you cannot dispute the clear commands to Christians to speak kind grace-filled words. We are to use our words to build up, not tear down. Romans 1:29 and 2 Corinthians 12:20 and 1 Timothy 5:13 all state that gossip is a sin, included in lists alongside envy, murder, deceit, jealousy, and anger."

Elizabeth and Joy talk about one of the other main points to have come out of all this - that the very act of a high profile megachurch pastor inviting other Christians, on a public social networking page, to tell mocking stories about the way other Christians look and behave purely because they don't measure up to his macho ideal of what a man should be, is spectacularly un-Christlike.

Brian Wooddell - A Letter To Mark Driscoll

"I’m a man, Mr. Driscoll. I’m a man because I do everything in my power to help the less fortunate and the downtrodden. I’m a man because I respect and love others. Most of all, I’m a man because I spend every day striving to be how God wants me to be.

And I refuse to let you or any other bully with a pulpit tell me otherwise."

Tyler L Clark - Mano-a-Mano: A Letter to Mark Driscoll

"When you put out a call on Facebook for people verbally attack “effeminate anatomically male” men, I find myself back in high school—shoved against a locker, with the bullies calling me a faggot."

Brian and Tyler write as Christian men who don't live up to Driscoll's stereotype of the ideal man - due to their interests, their clothing choices and their personalities. Both speak of feeling 'bullied' by other men and church leaders in the past about such issues - and the effect this has had on them.

Are Women Human? - Dianna Anderson: Dear Mr. Driscoll

"Try to see, just try, how this kind of daily, ceaseless attack on femininity makes the many, many people who don’t fit into the patriarchal model of gender feel. Try to see how it makes us feel like we have to embrace an identity of inferiority to be part of the church, or leave."

Grace says that Driscoll sends out a clear message that he believes anyone who does not place patriarchal masculinity above all else in their views on gender and the church is to be mocked and shunned - and how this impacts Christian women.

Rachel Held Eavns - Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him.

"Godly men imitate Christ — who praised the gentle and the peacemakers, who stood up for the exploited and abused, who showed compassion for the downtrodden, who valued women, and who loved his enemies to the point of death.

If this Facebook status were Pastor Mark Driscoll’s first offense, it might not warrant a strong response. But Mark has developed a pattern of immaturity and unkindness that has remained largely unchecked by his church. In evangelical circles, he’s like the kid from high school who makes crude jokes at every opportunity, uses the words “gay” and “queer” to describe the things he most detests, encourages his friends to subject the unpopular kids to ridicule, and belittles the guys who aren’t “macho” or “manly” enough to be in his club."

Rachel encourages readers to take direct action and contact Driscoll's church, talk to him and attempt to start some dialogue on why he continues to feel this sort of behaviour is acceptable. There has been some discussion over the weekend that 'open letter'-style blog posts, while often very articulate and important, are becoming an overdone form of indirect action which achieves little. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I will be emailing Mars Hill Church.

Picture of Mark Driscoll via jgordon13's Flickr. Screenshot of his Facebook page via HomeBrewed Theology.

Digital equality revisited - new report on gender and digital politics

Friday, 8 July 2011

Hat tip to Cath Elliott for alerting me to a new report by the Hansard Society entitled Gender and Digital Politics, published yesterday, which I would have missed otherwise thanks to a certain story dominating the news.

Reading the report reminded me of the post I wrote on debating digital equality at Netroots UK after I attended the conference in January. Cath was also there and I recognised many of the issues we discussed that day in her blog post from yesterday, which covers many of the main points I feel it's important we make here. The way women's voices are sidelined by the 'blokosphere', abusive behaviour below the line and a dismissive attitude towards such abuse, the way many of the things women write about are categorised as 'Life and Style', even when they're actually important political issues (sorry Guardian, I'm looking at you). Is it any wonder that the report identified that the majority of commenting on political blogs is done by men? Not at all, when you get to know about the level of abuse and intimidation leveled at many women who get involved.

As Cath says:

"Until that changes and feminism is recognised as being political rather than seen as some kind of niche lifestyle interest, we’ll continue to see questions like “why are political blogs dominated by men?” being posed, when in reality the question should be: “Why do men always get to decide what is and isn’t politics?"

In the last election we saw how the majority of issues were framed as 'men's issues' while women were portrayed as only having interest in areas of policy such as child benefit and flexible working. Never mind the fact that every other issue affected them too.

Says the report:

"There is also evidence to suggest that women are discussing politics online in places that would traditionally have been perceived as non-political. Mumsnet, which is dedicated to sharing information and tips on parenting, has a campaigning focus, lobbying government and private companies on a variety of issues. This site has blogs from female contributors, and features a talk section, where users are able to discuss issues such as childcare, children’s food and education, lifestyle issues, health and politics."

This was a key aspect of our discussions at Netroots. Many people felt it's important to recognise that there is massive engagement in political issues going on which is not limited to the 'big' political blogs, which are male-dominated and are often a very hostile environment for women. But because these blogs are the ones getting the attention, it's assumed that there is a lack of participation, that women have a tendency to interact on 'lightweight' websites and talk about 'lightweight' issues - when in fact it's more often the case that women are combining discussion of politics with discussion of other topics. The same goes for blogging.

Overall I feel the report missed a lot of important points and that the reasons for political exclusion and how this links in with male-dominated political discussion, with a lot of stereotypically 'female' issues being seen as secondary or 'fluffy', need more analysis.

Royal Baby Bump Watch Begins

Thursday, 7 July 2011

It's official - Royal Wombwatch is ON. As Kate and Wills prepared to tie the knot in April, I predicted that it wouldn't be long before the speculation over their potential offspring began. And I was right.

This week, the media rumour-mill has gone into overdrive - becoming the journalistic equivalent of the annoying relatives who drop pointed little hints and quiz you about the 'pitter-patter of tiny feet' every time they see you and your partner. And it's all thanks to just four little words uttered by Kate as she chatted with a well-wisher while visiting Quebec on Saturday.

British ex-pat David Cheater wished the Duchess well in her efforts to start a family - and Kate replied, not as you might think from all the fuss being made about it, with "Yes, we're trying already!" but with "Yes, I hope to."

And just like that, the press and the blogs have gone for it with gusto:

Kate Middleton & Prince William’s Baby Plans – Kate’s Ready To Be A Mom!

Broody Kate Middleton Reveals Baby Hopes

I'm a mummy in waiting, admits Kate

All off the back of "Yes, I hope to," which is the sort of thing you might say when you plan to have a baby some day, in a few years' time, or, yes, soon. But it's hardly an admission of broodiness - and it's not as if it hasn't been mentioned before. While being interviewed around the time of their engagement, William stated that they both wanted children.

But now Kate has officially been classified as 'broody', the media will be watching her clothing choices, her waistline and her activities in a more obsessive way than ever, much in the same way that they hover like vultures over Jennifer Aniston, waiting for the merest signs pointing to babies or marriage.

If broody's the same as 'I hope to have children one day' then I'm sure many of you are now looking at your opinions about starting a family in a different light. Go forth and start charting your body temperature, ladies!

Getting in on the action, The Telegraph obliged with a nice run-down of some the royal women who have gone before Kate, detailing how long it took them to produce the heir after they'd got the ring on. Princess Diana gave birth to William 11 months after her marriage, whereas the Queen waited just short of a year before popping out Charles, don't you know. Of course no-one would dare to suggest that the couple should be getting a move-on, but in these Kate-obsessed times it would seem like the thing they should be seeing to next.

Otherwise I'm not sure if I can take much more of this overblown analysis of the couple's every move, typified by this month's tour of Canada. The eight-day visit has been chronicled with daily picture roundups and dissection of everything from Wills and Kate's body language and jokes to their clothing choices.

They take cookery classes! They compete in dragon boat races! They do a whole lot of walking about and smiling! And Kate looks radiant in a succession of "classic yet contemporary" outfits, destined to sell out the minute the papers reveal she's bought her dress from Reiss or Whistles.

I'm not sure whether the nation's women believe that by owning the Shola dress or the Natalie clutch, they'll exude a little bit of Kate-style poise and elegance, but the instant rush on items she wears is being touted as 'The Kate Effect' and it's currently big news. At the weekend I turned on the television to find Kate's hats and shoes being discussed at length on BBC News.

I have to say I'm hoping that the frenzy around the tour of Canada is more because it's their first tour as a married couple than anything else. That or the papers have realised that they can't create news based around who Pippa Middleton may or may not be dating every single day.

For now, I await with dread the first time Kate wears a flowing top or slouches slightly and the gossip pages explode with 'COULD THIS BE A BUMP?!' I'm sure she's thinking the same thing and I hope she can rise above it.

At the moment it's looking like her life is a choice between being tediously portrayed as either a Womb or a Fashion Plate (not forgetting, of course, her lovely glossy hair). So much for 'a very modern marriage', as far as the media is concerned. Times may have moved on - and I'm sure they have for Wills and Kate behind closed doors, but for the press it's still all about clothes and motherhood.

This post originally appeared at BitchBuzz. Image via Brian Gratwicke's Flickr.

Daily Mail claims teachers' strike caused girls' death

Friday, 1 July 2011

Now this really is a piece of work. I spotted this story in my local daily, the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, which describes the death of Sophie Howard, killed by a falling tree branch at a park yesterday as a 'freak accident' and a 'tragedy', both of which are fairly accurate assessments.

Head on over to the Daily Mail (istyosty link) and we've got the same story reported not as a 'freak accident', but as a tragedy caused by the fact Sophie's teachers were on strike yesterday, meaning that her school was closed - hence her fatal trip to the park with friends. Yes, it's the teachers and the unions who are to blame for Sophie's death.

Said Charlie Brooker on Twitter: "Most despicable headline since The Sun's notorious Hillsborough insult?"

And for once, the commenters at Mail Online seem to be in agreement with the 'Twitterati', indicating that the Mail has truly gone beyond the bounds of acceptability this time.

"The single most appalling and vindictive piece of journalism I have had the misfortune to stumble across for many years. It shows a total lack of respect for the family and the teaching profession. An unambiguous apology to all sides is needed without any delay,'" writes 'Mike, Lincoln'.

I think we're all in agreement with that.

Edit: As word started to get round that even some DM journalists were disgusted by the story, the headline was swiftly changed to "Girl, 13, crushed to death by a falling branch as she sat on park bench on the day her teachers went out on strike" and the story moved further down the front page of Mail Online.

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