Friday, May 02, 2008

Irritable Syndrome and Christian Sexism

A close relative of mine has a really bad case of irritable bowel syndrome, but I think I just have "irritable" syndrome. Oh, it comes and goes, and moves from one area to another - usually I don't flare up all over at once. But as with any allergic-type reaction, certain things help, and certain things trigger a flareup. So, I try to pay attention to what those things are. What makes me mad, sad, mean, irritable? What restores my peace, serenity, kindness, and mercy?

One bit I've been scared to explore with is why other people's sexist comments get under my skin. Usually when I cry (which is rare) or get angry (which is more common) about anything, it's because something is probing one of my insecurities. So, how do other people's generalizations about what men and women are like hit me at a point of insecurity? 

I was regularly mistaken for a boy when we were kids. I clearly remember one incident as late as sixth grade. That set up some insecurities that further experiences (e.g., being excluded for being female but still judged for not being feminine enough, or harshly criticized for not behaving the way women are 'supposed to,' being still single at this age, etc.) and my responses to them (e.g., bitterness) have built on. All that can create a pretty big yucky mess in one's head, and play a major part in causing those knee-jerk reactions. So I need to "own" my part in that (as they say). Chances are if I'm willing to talk and pray through this stuff with friends or mentors it will become LESS of a mess in my head and might even change the way I relate to people.

A willingness to open these cans of worms, as I've found with this healing prayer business, can open up whole new interpretations of past events and their significance - one can actually allow God to rewrite the text of one's life. (And there's no better author/editor out there than him).

* * *

Nevertheless. I think there really IS something messed up about the way [some of] my fellow Christians talk and joke about gender, don't you think? It's not just me being irritable, even if we accept the I.S. diagnosis as a significant factor :-)

Consider this situation I found myself in recently:

Man1: "We're so glad that [wife] could join us today. Oh, and she brought along [husband]. (Laughter).
Wife: "He's my chauffeur!"
Man1: (getting serious now) "[Husband], why don't you tell us about what you've been doing?"
(Wife not heard from again until the 'joke' is relaunched. Husband does almost all the talking).
Man2: "[Wife], why don't you tell us how we can pray for you, since we know [husband] isn't going to?"
(Wife doesn't realize this is just a dig at her husband to get him to share their prayer requests. They don't expect anything from her, it seems, but she starts to talk. After a while, Man1 cuts her off by directed a direct question to [husband] again, using his name so he'll know he's the one we want to hear from.)
Man2: It's always good to see you, [wife], and I guess we'll put up with [husband] if we have to.
(Laughter from everyone but me.)

Isn't there just something wrong with this kind of thing? To put women on a pedestal with empty compliments, then sideline them? Seems so dehumanizing.

* * *

Just to show I still have a sense of humor about all this (or maybe that I'm just as guilty), let me recommend this article I found truly hilarious: Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained for Ministry.


Megan Noel said...

er, if it is any comfort, i am still single, too! and question whether i am feminine enough since i really am not interested in makeup, perfume, high heels, etc.

i was working on a list of pet peeves this week, too!

* documentaries with subtitles for people speaking accented english. not even very accented. oh, give us a little credit!

* documentaries where the voice-over for a foreign speaker is in accented english. i mean, it is like they do it on purpose. then i suppose they have to subtitle the voice-over.

* misuse of its/it's. ANY use of "alot". ever.

* bullies

* people who think the rules should apply to everyone but them.

* people who take free right hand turns without looking to the right for pedestrians. at a cross walk. for that matter, people who stop in crosswalks. while talking on their cell phones.

that was it for this week! :)

Marti said...

So, no kitten heels under the Christmas tree for you, Meg?

Re: subtitling accented English. I'd love to see a strong Georgia or Mississippi accent subtitled but I don't think I ever have. Seems only used, in our country, for people from other countries. Including some who are native English speakers (from India, Africa...) Myself, I have spent time in the company of such people and sometimes wished subtitles were on option. I remember a bus-tour in Jaipur that went completely over my head because I couldn't understand the English. The weakness is mine, though, not theirs! Brits don't seem to use subtitles / voiceovers in such cases as much as we do - they expect their listeners to adjust. But I'm not peeved by it, I guess, if it fits the needs of the audience.

Now, that's funny what you say about accented voiceovers - you don't like that? Yes, they do it on purpose to reduce the reader's distraction. So, the film some of my friends did which was mostly in Kekchi is primarily a 'read-along,' but I think they used a Mexican guy for the bits with English narration.

It's a pity so many people think grammar does not matter, ever. Sure, everyone makes mistakes - but if you pay a bit more attention you can catch a lot (if not alot) of them. If what you are writing is important, find a proofreader!

Someone at work was writing something this week that included the words 'Over 1.8 billion people,' and I suggested he change it to 'More than 1.8 billion people,' explaining that 'over' should be restricted to spacial relationships. I didn't push it, but was pleased when he looked it up in my AP manual and made the change.

I Was Just Thinking.... said...

Man, marti, there is a lot in here. A lot I can relate to, although I typically disregard sexists jokes - ignore them confront or rebuke the teller
I wonder how many women still question their femininity. Mass media has propped up this ideal that no one can fit.
But I felt the same, even before puberty, so maybe it's just an insecurity shared by all as a result of sin. I find comfort in the fact that other people are just as insecure as I am. Does that sound cruel?

Marti said...

B - I often ignore sexist comments, but when they happen in more formal group situations - where other people have to be there, that's probably an element - I tend to react more strongly, inside. Also when the offenders are in leadership positions, setting the tone and expectation for acceptable behavior for a group, I think I expect a higher standard.

Yes, I too take comfort in knowing that even in these situations where the lie is 'you are different, and there's something really wrong with you, and you are the only one,' others actually feel the same way. It means we aren't alone. Or we aren't crazy. Or anyway if we are crazy we still aren't alone!

On the whole femininity question, I don't think it helps if, when I feel punished for not being feminine, someone comes along and says: but I think you're feminine! (or beautiful, or whatever). I don't want to hear that. I want them to say: it doesn't matter if you are feminine, or beautiful, or whatever: you are a =person= and made in the image of God and you are of great worth.