So life is slightly manic at the moment! However I have found maternity leave a great inspiration for finding things to rant about and now have found 5 minutes to myself (!) to blog about one of them…..the lapdancing church!
In Bournemouth it seems churches are OBSESSED with building projects – I guess this may reflect an ongoing trend elsewhere but I wouldn’t want to speculate! One of the local congregations looking to expand their empire (I said I was going to rant!) has undertaken a massive development in the heart of the town. This particular brand of christian denomination does not have an egalitarian theology and I think personally has a sappy complementarian approach that smacks of, at best, patriarchy in disguise and, at worst, blantant misogyny. Masked behind the ‘we value women BUT’ argument I have struggled to balance their theology with the justice I see advocated by Jesus and his radical treatment of women. All this aside I was shocked to see the hoardings of this congregations building works. Granted the building is also going to be student accomodation, but clearly a development by the church (their own signage is on the hoardings), I was amazed to see a poster for a local lapdancing club!
As a signed up, happy-to-shout-it-out, feminist I am not a big fan of lapdancing clubs. I think they perpetuate the objectification of women, an issue which has far-reaching consequences. Sex as commodity and women as property to be brought and sold are not what I see as Kingdom values. Why, oh why, then are this church seemingly, by default (or not,) advertising this kind of ‘service’ on their development? Does no-one else see this as an issue?
I have contacted the church to ask them why the advertising appears on their hoardings. Their response was disappointing claiming the hoardings are owned by an outside company and so, as such, they have no control! I don’t know that I believe this in all entirity so I am pursing an activist approach and looking to get my own advert on display. I may go for a poster for Rob Bell’s new book, or maybe one for the local spiritualist church. I wonder what would move them to action.
Because for me the issue is that they don’t seem to see the issue. I can’t help but think there may be a bigger reaction to something that they can evidently contradicts their theology, but perhaps their own view of women (submissive / second-class?) is actually inherently linked to their passivity on this problem. If you hold that a woman is not really a full person, but merely subject of her husband (heaven forbid she is single) then how women are treated is of little importance. But it is important to me! What does it say to those in my community? That the objectification of women is fine by us as christians? That lapdancing is another consumer product that we as Church will happily endorse?
So I am really happy for people to join me on my mission to get the church to make the company remove the advert. The company must have a price – how much will they pay to remove the poster? How much is the rsepect and dignity of women worth? How much do we care about modelling a radical, justice fuelled, non-compromising faith over empire building? Who’s with me?!
So David Willetts, conservative minister for universities, has declared that feminism has robbed working class men of jobs and stifled social mobility. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/01/david-willetts-feminism-lack-of-jobs I must admit reading his comments I have been convicted of my own heinous crimes in seeking an education, securing work, hoping to be a positive influence within my community and bringing up my children in partnership with my husband. I now know that the young people I meet who are faced with a continued bleak future without work, debilitated by lack of prospects and left feeling hopeless, are in that position because I am a feminist. I have inflicted this on them – I have robbed them of vocational opportunities, taken their study allowance, raised university fees, closed factories and taken the very jobs they aspired to have. I have married above my station in marrying another earner and thus left the country with a legacy of non-earning households. It is my beliefs, in terms of inequalities still encountered by women in salaries, prospects and work distribution (to name just a few), that have led to working class men trapped by social immobility.
I must surrender now for the sake of these men – chomping at the bit for my jobs, ever so anxious to climb the social ladder to my dizzying heights of success. I must stay at home now with my babies, wash more clothes, clean more floors, cook more meals and give up the fight for any kind of fairness. Maybe our newest addition – Eden Lindsell Wells – 9lb 5 – 26 / 03 / 11 – will change me from raving feminist to 50s housewife overnight…………………………………….or maybe not. David Willetts I think your social analysis lacks some depth.
My little girl is obsessed with bodies. I blame her uncle, a nurse, who had for a long time, a skeleton poster on his wall. Esme, at 3 1/2 knows more about anatomy than me. So I was surprised when after nursery one day when we were playing gymnastics and I commented ‘You are very strong’, Esme replied ‘Girl’s don’t have muscles Mummy’. Under further investigation it turns out one of her nursery friends, a boy, told her that girls do not have any muscles. Needless to say we chatted about what her friend had said, and concluded that everyone needs muscles to move.
On reflection (maybe this is my pregnancy hormones taking charge) I was really frustrated that at not even 4 Esme has seen sexism firsthand. I know, I know it’s quite harmless and is childhood banter. She was unruffled, and being the girl she is I am sure she will set the record straight! The incident left me wondering how on earth any change can ever happen in terms of gender equality when we are so steeped in it.
Esme and I talk about girls and boys a lot. She often asks me ‘why do you turn the boobie magazines around?’ following my ritualistic tour of the ‘men’s magazines’ section in the supermarket. She informs me that the toys marketed at ‘boys’ on tv adverts are for ‘boys and girls Mummy’. I try to affirm her in ways that don’t just relate to appearance (like being strong!). She helps me take the ‘boys toys’ sign down in the shop. And yet I know that in September, when she goes to school all this may be in vain. And what about when she’s a teenager??!!
I despair at how some of the young women I know and have worked with despite showing enormous potential, being articulate and emotionally intelligent, seem to just settle for boyfriends who hold these age-old sexist views. The nursery ‘girls don’t have muscles’ surfaces its ugly head in the relationships of so many young women. The teasing sexism that leads to the subtle control then the outright abuse and misogyny. Clever girls, passively accepting because their boyfriend has a car, or buys her presents sometimes and only looks at porn occasionally. Young women full of potential, giggling sillyly at sexist retorts in order to keep ‘her man’. I want to shake them, shout at them ‘Girls take a stand, don’t settle: show your muscles!’
I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to write a paper or do a talk on ‘Jesus: The Feminist’. I’m not sure who would read or listen to what I have to say, but practising my arguments helps pass the time when I should be doing other things like work! In the interests of research the other day I drew on the best of academic resources available to me….Google. Firstly, I read a very articulate article on Jesus as a feminist which made me think I still need to polish my own rants. Secondly I found a disgusting, offensive and totally abhorant website basically conveying the author’s opinion that women are second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom. Nick, my husband, immediately told me to leave the site in concern that I may engage in one of my tirades – website tourettes – against the ‘author’. It was just so inticing to read though! The arguments put across were irrational, unbiblical and stank of misogyny. My favourite line had to be “Not one man has ever had an abortion!” as seeming justification that men are righteous before God and women evil. I think he failed to perceive the anatomical limitations of his argument somehow.
Sadly this kind of attitude, although in this case very extreme, seems to underline so much of the Christian thinking I have encoutered. From the raised eyebrows of ‘Oh so you used to be your husband’s line manager’ to the ‘feminism is from satan’ I have struggled to equate the Jesus I read of in the gospels with the one that thinks I am a little less (or in some cases a lot less) valuable than a man. In the words of George Orwell “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”
So what to do? Give it all up? succumb to the call of home-baking, home-making, baby-making, baby-rearing, always endearing, hospitable, unflappable, unintelligible, unquestioning wife and mother? (Not that I think being a ‘stay at home’ mummy is in any way wrong – just not very me!) I am afraid I can’t – much to my husband’s and daughter’s relief (I really can’t cook well). Onwards with the challenge in the belief that equality, fairness and justice are at the very heart of God.
I have been sharing my nipple story with a few people who have strangely found my adventures inspiring! I think I may just have a little too much time on my hands but neverless my escapades have encouraged others to take action. One of those people is the lovely Tessa so I thought I’d post her and her sister’s success story….maybe we’ll set a trend!
“So.. I went out for a coffee with my sister today, while we were out I told her about your campaign and the nipple story, I knew she would appreciate it and she did!!
After our coffee we went shopping in Boscombe. We pottered around the shops and went in to the 99p store, when i saw a “nuts – best of” book in the childrens books section (bottom shelf)… there were 3 books, 2 were sealed with plastic but one you could open and flick through!
Me and Molly agreed that we needed to take this away, so we hid all 3 of the books on a top shelf behind lots of frames (completly out of sight), and rearranged the childrens book section, and replaced nuts with the big book of ships!! yay!”
Brilliant story! Well done Tessa and Molly. Here’s to lots more stories like this!
On my way to work on Wednesday I walked past a bar with an interesting poster (!) advertising a wet T shirt competition. The poster clearly showed a girl’s nipple through her wet T shirt. Now I am no nipplephobic……. I have two nipples of my own. I object, though, to having to see other peoples’ as I go about my day to day life. Even my old favourites the ‘lads mags’ austerely keep nipples under wraps…maybe they like the mystery! So I thought I’ll do something about this (slow day at the office).
I wrote a little sticker ‘Women are not objects’ and placed it over the protuding boob.
I rang the Council……not the best idea! I was passed between at least four departments, told to ring the Advertising Standards Agency (which I did) and told there was nothing anyone could do as the poster was on private property(!). Evetually advised by the Council to phone the police. Bit fed up of the ‘n’ word by then.
Rang the police, who were not overly amused or enamoured by my call. Gave me an incident number to keep me happy.
Emailed my local councillor to complain that there seemed to be no regulation of local advertising. (Not the councillor suspended for having porn on his work laptop…that would have been going a bit too far!)
Emailed my local newspaper…just in case!
Emailed the bar with my concerns.
So on the way home I was so pleased to see the poster gone!! Hurray!
When I checked my emails later the bar manager had responded with an apology to say the poster does not normally go up until 9pm and it had been displayed as a mistake. Good to know that nipples, like owls, are nocturnal!
My lesson; With a bit of perserverance I can bring a little bit of change.