Thursday, September 30, 2010

open question

Does affirming a "principle of male spiritual headship" logically imply that men are inherently better equipped to be spiritual leaders?

Yes or no, give me a thumbnail sketch of the reasoning. Am curious about the consensus/dissensus on this point.

a short random personal observation

So today, as I sit down to finalize prep for a class at Calvary on Sunday on religion & science perspectives on the creation narrative, I realize once again the complete absurdity of my personal situation. Here I am, about to prep for an adult forum as a completely normal and routine part of my workday, because I was invited to teach a class on a subject I've spent years now acquiring a certain level of expertise on--after spending days in the rabbit-hole of arguing for the possibility, the ability and privilege of my doing such things. Sometimes--most of the time--it's really healthy for me to inhabit this whole other world where this debate doesn't exist. But today, stepping from one to the other is jarring.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

on scripture

Imagine with me, for a moment:

You're in church, on a Sunday morning, a little rumpled but not late--a sincere Bible major about to graduate from one of our "brotherhood's" institutions of higher ed, and you're listening closely to the sermon, which is on the parable of the talents. You've heard this story since the womb, practically, maybe (who knows) even a couple times in utero--after all, it preaches pretty well. But this Sunday, you hear it differently. This Sunday, like you are all the time these days, you're wondering just what exactly you're going to do with your life, constantly barraged by the question from well-meaning friends and relatives "so what are you going to do when you graduate?" You're not ready to answer that question, despite four years of college nearly completed and a steady, unwavering conviction that majoring in Bible has been the right thing to do. You don't feel ready for a pulpit--not by a long shot. You're not even sure you're up for youth ministry. You certainly don't feel equipped for mission work in some faraway place. So this Sunday, you hear that parable differently. Rather than shake your head in pity for the fool who didn't have the sense God gave a (capitalistic-minded) goat and at least invest in a bank and draw interest, for the first time, you're afraid that might be you. This time, you hear in that story a challenge: what are you going to do with your talent? And you sit there, listening to the familiar text, the familiar sermon theme, and you think--no. No, that's not me. I'm not going to bury my talent. And I'm not going halfway, either. I'm going all the way, because that's what God asks of me.

Now, imagine that that's you, and you're a girl.

Or is that bit just for the boys?

Friday, September 24, 2010

hope sinks

Don't get me wrong. Underneath all this grumping I have a boundless optimism that indeed human beings have the capacity to desire good, to change, to shift, to repent, to act. I do, I really do. Otherwise I'd be outta here.

But damn it, I hate these online discussion like pure pizen. They, more than anything else, send me as close to the Pit of Despair as I ever get. I can sit through a service with its all-male revue and not sweat it. I can hear casual benevolent sexism, and sigh and move on. I can hear these stories, note that in the last decade nothing has changed, grumble, and then roll up my sleeves in determination that this must change. But these online things...I should skip them.

It's not even just that they are inevitable stalemates and dead ends, with the same hermeneutical arguments deployed futilely from both sides and (best case) the same polite incomprehension in the end. Or, even, worst case, ending in things like accusing women of "spiritual abortion" because somehow advocating the giftedness of women to do all sorts of things necessarily implies not teaching other women like the Bible says. (??)

The real problem is, the faith I had in the ability of narrative to crack open the possibility of real dialogue, conversations that won't just repeat ad nauseam as they swirl around the drain, is waning. I really thought this was the key, the sort of magic key, that might make our endless discussions productive. I haven't entirely lost this hope, but it's starting to be hard work to keep it afloat. Its initial buoyancy has been shot full of holes.

This is why (excerpted from my downer of a comment on preachermike's post):
the real disconnect is that one side of this discussion perceives the relevance of women’s experiences as part of the dialogue, and one side views all human experience as something basically sinful and untrustworthy, to be submitted to the corrective lens of (received interpretations of) scripture. In short, gals, it doesn’t matter that you experience an internal crisis of life-shattering proportions because you are caught in the middle of hearing God’s call and hearing the church you want to serve deny that this is possible or genuine or righteous. It’s not relevant, because what you need to do is “get your mind right” (in the immortal words of the Captain of Road Prison 36 in Cool Hand Luke). Somehow, it’s become a badge of righteousness to deny one’s own experience, and by extension, the lived experiences of these women.
To be "rude" about it, I'm stuck with an image of incredibly sincere, faithful, loving people opening their Bibles, staring fixedly at the text, and sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "lalalalalalala" to drown out the sound of these women's voices. Because we can't allow ourselves to hear, to understand, to care, to examine what these women are saying. That itself would be to dangerously flirt with unfaithfulness to the Word, a sign that we were wavering in our conviction that the only thing that matters here is our received interpretation of scripture.

The women thing is not about women. It's not. But it should be.

haaaaaaaaappy anniversary, cy-boys and cyber-girls!

If you're into this sort of thing, you won't want to miss the celebratory 50 posts about cyborgs in honor of the cyborg's 50th anniversary (since its etymological debut in 1960, in the Clynes and Kline article on space exploration in the now defunct Astronautics journal).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Half the Church

Go to and listen/download the podcast! I haven't been able to listen past the introduction of the four women featured in the podcast--had to go pick up Clare--but just hearing the names (Naomi Walters among them) and knowing the people involved in putting this together, I know this has got to be good.

From the site:

The site was launched in September 2010 as a companion to two presentations at Abilene Christian University’s Summit.  The two presentations were titled “Half the Church” and were a part of a track on Women in Ministry in Churches of Christ.  The title of the class was both a (not so) subtle play on the New York Times Best Seller Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and a line from an interview with a female student in ACU’s Graduate School of Theology.  She said, “It’s not good for the church to be silencing more than half its members.”

The two presentations were the product of two research projects:
“Half the Church: Calling and Vocation for Women in the Churches of Christ”
“Half the Church: Women in Gender-Inclusive Churches”
The purpose of this site is to archive the audio podcast titled “She Is Called” presented in the first session and to extend the research of the second session that seeks to identify Churches of Christ “that have found gender inclusivity important enough to talk about openly and act upon positively.”

Thursday, September 09, 2010

sweat girls

Last week, I woke up from an unplanned exhaustion coma-nap on the couch, particularly grumpy as it didn't alleviate the exhaustion really, to find Clare staring wide-eyed at a Bratz dolls commercial. "What is she watching?!" I hissed at my poor spouse. "Those are SLUT DOLLS! Don't you have any judgment whatsoever?!"

Okay, so among the things wrong with this scenario is being mean to Brent, who, after all, let me sleep. And I have never wanted to be a parent who refuses to let her kids watch TV or go to the movies or whatever because it's eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil; I've always wanted to be a parent who encourages a sort of fearless exploration of the world. And, as Brent pointed out later that night, labelling female figures with epithets like "slut" is pretty judgmental and anti-feminist. Sigh.

But, she's four. And she doesn't discriminate in her susceptibility to commercials. I've blogged before at the hilarity of her wanting a Turbo-snake for Christmas--and just yesterday in Shoprite she berated me up and down the laundry aisle for not buying any OxiClean because it gets clothes the cleanest and brightest. Skechers Twinkletoes, Zhu-zhu Pets, slut dolls, housecleaning products, you advertise, my child wants to Buy.It.Right.Now. I mean, shit.

So, of course, Clare immediately proclaimed: "Mommy I want one! ...What's a sweat doll?"

Double sigh.

I told her that what I meant was that I did not like those dolls, she would not be getting one ever, and that Mommy had said a mean thing that she shouldn't have and she was sorry for calling them a mean word.

But the sweat girls have been haunting us ever since. They are now an ontological category in Clare's developing worldview and they will not budge.

A few days after that it became apparent that Clare had put together that one of the offending characteristics of sweat-girls is lots of makeup. But this was confusing to her, because as little makeup as I occasionally use, Clare has seen me putting it on and has the inevitable corresponding envy/curiosity about it. And worse, my little logician concluded that makeup = sweat girl, Mommy + makeup = Mommy is a sweat girl. And she used it against me as her verbal logic super-weapon to argue me into conceding that she could have one of those godawful dolls.

This is enough to make me sincerely want to dump every bit of lip gloss and zit concealer in the trash, along with the TV and every pair of high heels I own. And moving to a cave and home-schooling and in all other ways super control-freak indoctrinating my daughter in the way that she should go. This is not the mom I want to be. But I have got to deal with the sweat girls.

happy golden princess
Like phdinparenting, I have a daughter who cannot resist anything pink, sparkly, and conventionally girly, and I've already struggled with that. And of course, I'm still engaged in (slightly stalled and currently stowed out of sight) The Great Barbie Project of 2010, which touches on these same problematic gender constructs. And I've sewed my girl a gold lame and tulle princess dress with my own two hands, for crying out loud. And so my basic parental strategy is already set, I reminded myself: subversion, not opposition. Constant, quiet, insistent, hopeful subversion. I can't keep her away from pink and fluff and sparkle. And I shouldn't have to--pink sparkle fluff is fine, as long as what she is doing is enjoying herself, her body, and her imagination in healthy ways. I do think that's possible. It just means my task as a parent is creating the space for that possibility, when the rest of the world doesn't.

But the sweat girls? Are they redeemable? Barbies--frankly--are barely on the edge of redeemability, and possibly out of my reach, given my limited skills and available tools. The Bratz dolls seem less pliable to me--more frozen in their hyper-sexualized, exaggerated features and more locked into rigid fashion-obsessed roleplay.

So in response to my 4-YO's sweat-girl logic-bomb, I sat her in my lap and we had a seriously intense chat about what it means to be "pretty." I told her that there are good ways of being pretty and bad ways of being pretty. I told her that using makeup to be pretty can be good, or bad. I told her that I wanted her to know that she is pretty everyday, just exactly how she is, and that I want her to feel good about how she looks and what she wears, but that anytime being pretty means making an ouchie on your body (like wearing ouchie shoes), that's a bad kind of pretty. Or anytime choosing something because of what someone else likes instead of what she likes, that's a bad kind of pretty. Or anytime wearing something "pretty" means she can't do something she likes to do (climb trees, or run fast), that's a bad kind of pretty.

I'm not exactly sure how much of it got through. But she did stop talking about sweat girls. Praise God.

Friday, September 03, 2010

fun with data visualization!

The best resource for getting acquainted with the complicated terrain of transhumanism and its permutations, and the various oppositions to transhumanism or the idea of human enhancement technologies generally, is Dr. James Hughes' "Overview of Biopolitics" chart, a version of which is in his book Citizen Cyborg and a version of which is published on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) website. It's so useful, in fact, that I wrote to get permission to include it as an illustration in my dissertation text, which he was gracious enough to grant.

I have some quibbles with certain categories, but any sort of typology will generate those sorts of questions--that's part of why typologies are useful, as they force you to think "why would I do this differently, here?" And for the last couple days, I've been experimenting with an increasingly adapted form of Dr. Hughes' original typology, through a very fun little website called Many Eyes, a data visualization site. Ya uploads yer data, and out comes a purty picture. Very very nice for someone like me who often feels visually challenged, but wants to incorporate visuals into her pedagogy as often as possible (as a text-based and auditory learner, I can respect that not everyone learns best just by reading and listening and scribing).

So here's an in-progress look at what I've been putting together: the JTB Matrix Chart version of the Hughes/IEET Overview of Biopolitics:

Overview of Biopolitics Matrix Chart (adapted)
If you go to the manyeyes site, you can interact with this chart--there are five variables represented by the color blocks (views on citizenship/personhood is shown here, but in the full chart you can click between views on personhood, humanism, accessibility, technological risk, and environment).

I'll be tinkering with this more in the weeks to come, and possibly constructing a separate biopolitics and religion typology (one of my quibbles with the Hughes/IEET typology is that all religious views are "religious right" type Christian literalism/conservatism, so that I don't quite fit the typology...but then again, I like floating between categories, existentially speaking...).