Tag: #feminism

Why I don’t know what to think this week

A while back I wrote a blog about how the world throws up big issues and there are generally two extreme camps and the rest of us in the middle. In these situations, the extremes throw rocks at each other for a while and social media makes the entrenchment of each position more stark and vitriolic. The rest of us sit in the middle looking at each side and wondering how to make sense of it.

This week is no exception.

Big things have been happening in New South Wales this week. On 8th August, the Reproductive Healthcare Reform bill passed the lower house with 59 votes to 31. This bill makes abortion legal upon request up to 22 weeks. Past this point, the consent of two doctors is required but abortion is available up to birth. If you want to read the bill itself, I highly recommend it – it’s far better to read the original rather than summaries on Facebook. You can access it here. It still has to make it through the upper house but this is as it stands at the moment with a few minor amendments.

Here’s why I don’t know what to think.

I am hugely grateful that I have never had to go through the kind of decision making process required to choose to have an abortion. I cannot imagine what it must be like. It would be easy for me to think “Oh, I would never do that.” But I have never been raped and fallen pregnant. I have never discovered that my unborn child has such extreme medical issues that they would face death imminently after birth, or have no quality of life (no physical or brain function). I have never been diagnosed with a medical issue that would mean going to full term pregnancy would be a serious threat to my life.

I have never been alone in a foreign country and placed under pressure to terminate. I have never been in the kind of violently abusive relationship that places some women in fear of their lives if their medical condition were revealed.

At the same time, I have never faced an unplanned pregnancy. I have never had to look to abortion as a way that could solve the problems a pregnancy presents to me.

People often go to the extremes to prove the “norm”. But what is the norm when it comes to abortion? Some portray the scenario as women choosing abortion frivolously. Some portray the scenario as choosing abortion because they are women facing death.

Of course the answer is that there is no norm. People’s reason for abortion is far too diverse and nuanced.

Me personally? I wish that nobody had to have an abortion. I wish that people didn’t even have to make that choice. In that sense, as a Christian, as a woman, as a humanitarian, I am pro-baby. But I also recognise that people do and will make this choice – for whatever reason – and so having access to safe health care is a must. To not have access to safe healthcare would take us back to the horrific days of the backstreet abortionist. Thousands of women sought terminations in this way in the UK before eventual de-criminalisation in 1967, and far too many were rendered infertile or died because of the effects. So in this sense, I am pro-woman.

(I do not want to use the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” because they are such heavily loaded terms and I don’t think they are helpful. I think the baggage they bring weighs down the debate and takes us to extremes when we need to think and talk lovingly about this deeply personal issue.)

What troubles me most about the recent debates around the Reproductive Healthcare Reform bill is our apparent ability to sustain antinomy. An antinomy is a paradox – holding two things that are entirely contradictory in perfect balance as though they are both true.

Here’s the issue:

Society talks about abortion being a part of women’s rights. But these rights only extend to the mother, and not the girl-child – how can both be right? Before now, we (the west) have rallied against developing countries for the “heinous crime” and “social evil” of female infanticide and feticide and sex-selective abortion (as an example, see this piece from last year from Save the Children India).

In fact, one of the amendments proposed by Tanya Davies MP for the Reproductive Healthcare Reform bill was that “if a live child is born, the child must be given the same neonatal care as would be given to any other child born at the same stage of pregnancy and in the same medical condition.” (Hansard, NSW Legislative Assembly Thursday 8th August p21).

We should be clear here. Currently there is an obligation on medical professionals to render care to a live-born foetus so this amendment would not change Current practice. However, I think a lot of us would have been way more comfortable if this had been enshrined in this reform bill.

This amendment was rejected though because it was one of four sub-parts of an amendment that sought to limit the places where an abortion could occur (in a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit) and would limit the access to late term abortion unless on the grounds of necessity to save the life of the mother or the baby.

The other sub-part of that amendment would have meant that if the foetus was compatible with life, that the same neonatal care be provided as any other child at the same stage of life. I think (although I am a Bear of Little Brain) that means that the child would necessarily be delivered by natural birth or by C-section (as any other child at that stage would) rather than a termination procedure. I don’t know enough about the differences in procedures to comment but what makes me nervous here is that one is treated as a child and the other is not – and not because one is more medically viable than the other.

Tanya Davies also proposed an amendment that “Termination not to be used for gender selection. Despite anything else in this Act or any other law, a medical practitioner may not perform a termination on a person – (a) for the purpose of gender selection, or (b) if the medical practitioner reasonably believes the termination is being performed for the purpose of gender selection.” (Ibid, p87)

This amendment was also rejected.

So the very “heinous crime” Save the Children is trying to stop in India (and UNICEF and hundreds of other charitable organisations) will be permissible under law in Australia.

I know many will argue that “Australia is not the same”. I know. There is nuance and there is hundreds of years of cultural differences that culminate in a very different set of circumstances. BUT I genuinely don’t understand how an amendment to enshrine life giving care to a live baby, and to prevent abortions on the basis of gender selection could be rejected. Pro-woman access to safe healthcare is one thing. These amendments have nothing to do with that. And I am just lost for words as to why we, as a society and our parliament on our behalf, would think this is OK?

Which leads to the second antinomy.

On 9th August – the very morning after the parliamentary debates on abortion – an article appeared that described the new mission to reduce stillbirth rates. Obviously this is very different to abortion (but no less personal). But the rates of stillbirth are still so alarming that the medical professional in the piece notes that “Its time to act.” And this the very day after the Reproductive Healthcare Reform bill rejects amendments that would potentially save more babies.

Similarly, the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2017 was introduced in March 2017 after a woman (Brodie Donegan) was hit by a car while 32 weeks pregnant, after which the pre-born baby died. The long title of the Bill was “An Act to amend the Crimes Act 1900 to prohibit conduct that causes serious harm to or the destruction of a child in utero; and for other purposes.” and it included a clause that the Bill not apply to any harm done during a medical procedure (ie an abortion). (You can read the Bill here and the Second Reading speech here). This bill never made it to law.

What makes me very queasy in all this is that what has become apparent is that a child does not have intrinsic value in and of themselves. Their value lies in whether they are wanted or not. A child killed in utero in a hit and run is horrific and wrong. A child lost to miscarriage or stillbirth is agonising and tragic. A child aborted by gender selection and a child dying after being aborted alive……

The only difference is whether the child was wanted or not. And having that as the moral line that distinguishes our political decisions, our cultural bias and our law making makes me want to cry and vomit at the same time.

I am not talking about the access to safe healthcare. I am not talking about the woman who is being forced into it by a violent partner. I am not talking about the parents who have to make the agonising decision after being told their baby cannot live.

For me, this debate has not come down to the provision of abortion, it has come down to what we, as a society, accepts as morally right. Its about what has been exposed in the rejection of amendments that I would have thought would be a no-brainer. Its about our moral pendulum swinging where it is convenient for us.

And its about how we no longer seem to look at alternatives.

I feel odd about abortion up to 22 weeks (the amendments wanted to cap this at 20 weeks) but I can understand why medical practitioners have pushed for it. The kinds of serious medical issues that might show up, are often only picked up at the second scan had at 18 or 19 weeks. This means that if they are placed in that decision-making position, the parents would potentially have to make that choice in the space of a week. That is an extreme mental and emotional load to place on a shocked and probably grieving couple. There is not enough time to think through the implications. There is not enough time to think through the possibilities and the opportunities. There isn’t enough time to explore all the options. There isn’t enough time to access an unplanned pregnancy support centre.

For me, these centres, such a Diamond Women’s Support, help the mother look at all those options. They support and counsel. They help to remove roadblocks and barriers to having the child and, if the mother decides to go ahead with an abortion, they support her for a full year afterwards with counselling, because they know that an abortion is a trauma that needs to be processed and the woman herself needs to feel loved, valued, supported, listened to and understood. They are wonderfully pro-woman and pro-baby.

And this for me, is the middle ground. I see the nuance. I see that this is deeply profound for all of us (not just women). I see the medical needs. I also see that it is possible to become myopic in our views. It troubles me that “more time” could mean “More time to decide to have an abortion” as though its the only viable option and is a foregone conclusion – because this is where our cultural bias ultimately leads us. “More time” doesn’t necessarily mean “More time to evaluate all the options and seek support”. And this is where I feel like we need to pull the pendulum back.

As godly people, I want to support women and support babies. I also want to glorify my God and support the church. Which means entering the debate with love and respect and grace. It means knowing its OK to air how I feel about this and encouraging my sisters and brothers to know their feelings and views are valid and valued. It means supporting centres like Diamond Women’s Support so they can go on supporting women who are in this position.

But I believe that children, men, women – all humans – have intrinsic value. All are worthy of love and grace. If we believe that, then we should act accordingly. That’s the only thing I think, and know, this week with any clarity.

 

Masculinity is good and not all men are toxic

“Masculinity” just means qualities that are characteristic of a man. But these days it has become a bit of a dirty word. This is partially understandable:

  • Most women have been at the arse-end of what has commonly been called “toxic masculinity” for an awful long time – that is everything from arrogance and casual sexism to misogyny and abuse.
  • The women’s movement is still relatively new (I talked about it a few weeks ago. You can read it here if you want to suss it out) and so we still have a lot of pretty poor attitudes, assumptions and behaviors towards women that have been institutionalised in our culture. For the longest time, we have been culturally numb to these, thinking its OK or doesn’t matter. But now, people are calling it out louder than before.
  • What erupts on social media is a reaction to hundreds of years of things that are not OK. Its a reaction to the feeling of not having had a voice before, or not being heard before, or just not plain being listened to before.

What happens then is that we have swung the pendulum towards all masculinity being bad and all men being jerks. This is just not the case.

What I want to see being part of the conversation is what real men look like, and what good masculinity looks like.

We might fall into the trap of thinking that all masculinity should be eradicated. But I don’t think this is what most women – or our culture – wants. We want our men to be grown ups. We want out men to be real men. But what does a real man look like?

Our culture actually celebrates what a real man should look like. The Marvel Universe movies have been some of the biggest and most popular movies in our generation. And what is aspirational in these movies is the men of character. In these movies we celebrate Captain America as the quintessential man. He is strong and powerful – but he is gentle and uses his power and strength in the service of others. He is humble, protective, principled, he has integrity, self-control, passion and a sincere sense of responsibility with no hint of complaint or resentment.

What we might not realise is that we have plenty of examples of just this kind of man in our day-to-day lives already – they just might not look like Captain America, and they might not be able to keep up that superhero character 24/7. But they try, and they self-reflect and they grow.

We should celebrate this. We should celebrate them.

Because that, in my opinion, is what a real man looks like. He is strong and he is powerful but he uses it for the good of others, in the service of others – not for his own glory or pride.

Does this sound familiar? It should. As Christians we have the picture of manhood: Jesus was the most powerful man ever to have lived. Yes, he is fully God, but he is also fully man. And as a man he, as the most powerful, did not relinquish or give up his power. He used his power for the salvation of the world.

When I say “power” here, I don’t mean like his superpower. I mean, on the cross, as a man, he used his power to die.

Just pause there and think about that.

God created man. And it was good. But after the fall, we all suffer from, and struggle with, sinful behavior. We will never be perfect until we get to finally relax in heaven. Until then, there will be good men and there will be bad men. There will be good women and there will be bad women. It is incumbent on us, with the help of the Spirit, to be active participants in our discipleship and growth in Christ-likeness.

Women – a discipleship journey does not preclude us from calling out crap behavior. But it means we should do it with love and grace.

Men – that means not being a jerk (you can read more about that here too). There is such a thing as toxic masculinity. But we have good men in our midst who should be celebrated for it. And we can help them use their power in the service of others. I know great men who you might call “feminist” in that, they choose to use their power and strength in the service of women – lifting them up, calling out crap behavior when its directed at them, respecting them, protecting them, working shoulder to shoulder with them, being aware (or actively learning) what women face, working to change institutional and cultural numbness to the plight of women, listening to them.

These are great men and we should not tar them with a “all masculinity is toxic” brush. Men are good. Masculinity is good. But like all things, good things can be made bad when mishandled or subject to pride and arrogance.

I want to celebrate our good men. I want them to be men. I want them to be masculine. Because I want us to be in conversation. This is a long game. If we are to change the kind of culture that results in terrible behavior towards women, we need men on our side. This is not a game to be played in opposition – nor should it be. We are co-workers in this life. We were created to be co-workers and it’s where we can be at our best, or our worst. I would like it be be at our best.

 

Do we still need International Women’s Day?

Until recently I didn’t know whether I was a feminist or not. Mostly because I don’t really know what it means these days. I mean, back in the 1910s it was about identity and political recognition – the vote (and so much more!). Back in the 1960s it was personal freedom and social and cultural recognition (and so much more!). But I don’t really know what it means today. Surely we’re doing OK? Do we really need a day if we’re all basically doing alright?

The women’s movement that I see on the telly and social media seems angry, bitter, screechy and just downright unpleasant sometimes. It can even seem like its not about equality any more but superiority. And I’m not down with any of that. BUT we still seem to be in a cultural mess when it comes to attitudes to women. (This includes how “the screechy feminists” are reported on in the media and portrayed in opposition on social media as it turns out).

Time to spend too much money at Book Depository and read up about women and decide once and for all if I am a feminist, I thought.

The good news is, Goal #1 (Spend too much money at Book Depository) was achieved v v quickly. Goal #2 (Decide if am a feminist) has taken a few months of reading and thinking.

It turns out I am one. Just not one of the angry screechy ones.

Walk through my thinking with me because this involves the guys too.

I read quite a bit about the history of the women’s movement and was reminded just how “new” the women’s movement really is. We’ve had the vote for only 100 years. It became illegal to sack us for getting pregnant only 40 years ago. It took 20 years in the US to ensure marital rape was a crime in 50 states – it was achieved in only 1993, just one year after marital rape became a crime in all States in Australia. That’s right. A husband could rape his wife less than 30 years ago, and it was not a crime.

In terms of large scale movements, this is a fledgling one. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we still have a long way to go. This feels weird to write because comparatively, I’m doing fine. I went to university, I have risen gradually through my profession, I work now in a firm that has excellent attitudes to gender equity.

I have also seen men defend, support and protect women. I’ve seen them go into bat for them, put them forward, lift them up. I’ve seen women not have to fight the fight on their own. I’ve seen it work as a team effort. And it is amazing.

But I have personally experienced attitudes that range from casual sexism to downright misogyny. Unfortunately this goes for inside the church as well as in the world. I’ve seen women hurt and damaged, I’ve seen them held back and put down. I’ve seen attitudes to women that are old fashioned, unhelpful and just plain damaging. I’ve even seen these attitudes smuggled in under the guise of biblical male headship. (For anyone struggling with this, I alluded to the “inferior-and-different” attitude in a previous blog. You can read it here. Just know there’ll be future pieces exploring and re-dressing the equal-and-different paradigm that is cleansed of those damaging elements.)

I also know that in our broken world, there are nearly 25 million slaves today and 71% of them are women and girls. In fact, sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing “trades” in the world. There are also an estimated 15 million women and girls forced into marriage every year. There are still countries where a woman, if she is raped, will be flogged or executed for adultery.

So yes. I am fine. And the Bible tells me who I am in God’s eyes and it is beautiful. But we also live in this awful broken world and so if one woman is held back, hurt, enslaved or executed on the basis of her gender then I am NOT fine.

Yes, I am fine. But that means that I must speak up and become mobilised. Its the price for being alive and OK both at the same time. I have been blessed by God in my situation and my home and my finances. It is incumbent on me then, to use them in support of others who’s blessings have been removed from them.

Yes, I am fine, but we still need International Women’s Day to shine a light on inequality of respect – even casual sexism feeds a culture that is numb to rubbish attitudes to women. We need International Women’s Day to help people understand that at current rates, women will achieve parity in the workplace in 202 years. We still need International Women’s Day to come together to look at how we can use our “fine-ness” to support other women.

When it works best though, is when the men get involved too. “Male feminist” is not an oxymoron or a joke. I know many of them. They are secure in themselves as men and as Christian men. They are confident enough to stand up for women without being jerks or being patronising or hypocritical. They are just good guys with good attitudes and who feel compelled to call out crap when they see it.

There is so much more to be said about a lot of this, but for now, let’s keep the spotlight on why we need days like International Women’s Day, on using our “fine-ness” in support of others, in fighting – shoulder to shoulder with men – against basic terrible attitudes to women that provide fertile ground for even more terrible behaviour.

 

We need you, Christian men!

OK, normally I don’t like to shout but this made me bloody angry. A game called “Rape Day” (I kid you not) was set to be released on video game platform Steam run by Valve. In the last couple of days, a change.org petition got up and in the last 12 hours, Valve decided not to sell the game on Steam.

Here’s the facts you need to know: The game is set during the zombie apocolypse and “described by developer Desk Lamp as a visual novel, players can verbally harass, kill and rape women as they progress through the story.“*

This is not made up. Someone actually thought up and developed this game and one of the largest gaming platforms nearly distributed it.

Valve said that “After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think Rape Day poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam. We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that.

You know what they should have said? “We, as humans, are OUTRAGED that someone could even THINK that something like this is OK, and we are not going to have anything to do with it. Further, we’ve referred the developers to the authorities as we think this game publicizes, celebrates, endorses and condones violent behavior towards other humans which could be ILLEGAL.”

THAT’S what they should have said.

Desk Lamp (the developer) wrote “The game is marked as adult. It’s for a niche audience; If it’s not your type of game you definitely don’t need to play it but as other’s have said I tried to make a game that I would enjoy playing, and there are other people like me. 4% of the general population are sociopaths and the type of people that would be entertained by a story like this is not even limited to pure sociopaths.

You know what this means? That there are people who are so entirely lacking in humanity that they think its alright to feed the dangerous fetishes of sociopaths and mainstream them for entertainment. And we are allowing it, because we aren’t fighting this tsunami of rubbish.

So let’s break down all the element’s of the developer’s rationale above.

  • “It’s a game for adults.” Oh. That’s OK then. Because if it’s for grown ups, acting out rape is totally alright.
  • “It’s for a niche audience. If you don’t want to play it, then don’t.” Of course, you’re right! I don’t know about you girls (and guys!) but the next time someone is trying to rape us, we should acknowledge that this is just their particular fetish and that’s OK.
  • “It’s not just for sociopaths.” Great! What used to be the just for insane people can now be done by any anyone and everyone!
  • “They will be entertained by it.” That’s RIGHT! Because rape is ENTERTAINING. Frankly, WHAT THE EFF.

This is why domestic violence is one of the biggest problems of our era. This is why there are over 20 million sex slaves in the world today – a quarter of which are children.

Why are people not outraged by this? Have we become so culturally numb that we have allowed this to just become part of the backdrop of our world?

Well, here’s what we need. We need our Christian guys to get outraged. Women have been saying for millennia that guys should stop raping people and nobody has listened. And now its a game.

So now we need our men to get so thoroughly heart sick of this that you become mobilised to speak and to act, to protect and to fight for us. Christian men – real men – exemplify this:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

Please, let’s start a conversation about what Christian men can do and how we can fight this fight together because if we don’t, we are looking at so many more millennia of this inhumanity – and who knows where it will end up if we don’t?

 

* https://au.ign.com/articles/2019/03/06/controversial-game-rape-day-wont-be-allowed-on-steam

How do I make sense of all this?

Most opinions on issues of the day are separated into two camps – and the two camps will be extreme opposites. Women preaching, divorce and re-marriage, same-sex attraction, singleness, politics and “the Christian vote”, masculinity, feminism – all of these can have extreme opposing views.

In one sense, rightly so. We should always examine and debate and be sure why we know what we know. It stops us becoming Christian-bots. It forces us to look and look again at the Bible, to be sure of our theology.

The trouble is, that a lot of the time these issues are not so much debated as screamed from opposing corners. This is a function of our time and how we disseminate and receive our information. Nearly three-quarters of us get at least some of our news from social media platforms. If you want to reach people, you have to reach them via social media. In our world of 7-odd billion people, 2.5 billion people use social media.

A function of this is that information has to be bite-sized which means it cuts out all the nuance from any opinion. Everyone is competing for the biggest audience so nuanced opinion doesn’t really get a look-in against more shocking click bait. Reasoned, loving debate gets drowned out by who can shout the loudest – and if you want to join the debate (even in a loving way), you find you have to shout louder than the other guys just to get heard.

This is a problem for us. Because normal messy Christians like me don’t know how to make sense of it. We sort of know what we think, but the arguments become dizzying, everyone is shouting, everyone is quoting Bible verses and the positions are becoming more and more entrenched. This erodes our confidence in what we think, in what we believe.

There are very good reasons for many opposing views on all these subjects. But most of us are just sitting in the middle trying to do life. For clarity, I spared no expense on creating the info-graphic below:

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One of the things I want to use this blog for is to speak into this space – the space in the middle. We need good theology. We need our ministers and churches and our wise Christian friends. We also need nuance, compassion and humanity. In short, we need grace.

So, if there is something you want to talk about – lets talk about it. If there is something hurting you, confusing you or even exciting you – lets talk about it. Email, comment or message me and lets start talking about things that really matter to women. And lets talk with love and reason and respect.

Lets meet each other where we are.