Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stuff Christians Like (to argue about)

I'm a big fan of self-deprecating humor, and a big fan of Christians not taking themselves too seriously. So when I first heard of the blog Stuff Christians Like, written by a guy named Jon Acuff, I knew I would love it. He writes about the culture that Evangelical Christianity has created in America, and he writes with wit and insight about things like judging a church's quality by its website, or saying one thing and really meaning another. I don't read it all the time, but when I do, I really enjoy it.

So on Friday, when I saw people on Twitter abuzz over a new guest post by Jon Crist, I headed on over to take a look. The post was called "Stuff Christian (Guys) Like: Girls with a Past," and the gist of it is that most good, Christian guys are more attracted to girls with a past or a rebellious streak than they are to the 'good girls' who were homeschooled or wear praying hands jewelry.  In fact, the post
awards or subtracts points to girls based on their (relatively tame) 'bad girl' behavior. Late to church? Plus one. Had a crush on kirk cameron? Sorry, minus ten. Wear hoop earrings? Plus two. (everyone knows that girls who wear hoop earrings are sluts.)

It was, unsurprisingly, a fairly polarizing post. There were two common reactions among the female readership: 1, I'm a girl with a past and I think this is really funny and 2, I'm one of the girls without a past and this is pretty hurtful.

Jon Acuff wrote an introduction to the original post and added another series of thoughts when it became clear how much response this was eliciting. And they are thoughtful pieces, but largely stand by the decision to run the piece, while offering apologies to those who may have been hurt. I think it's great that he did that.


Here's the thing: It's true. A lot of it, anyhow. I remember thinking in high school that I was too much of a 'good girl' to really get the attention of the guys I was interested in.

Here's the other thing: The truth of it can hurt, can perpetuate stereotypes,

Women are used to being judged -- to a system of points, pluses and minuses. We do it to each other and to ourselves all the time. The shitty thing about this post, even though it contains seeds of truth, is that it promulgates yet another system of point-awarding, this time from the guys whose opinion of us we already worry about. It's a little bit like being the only girl at a guy's night out, getting an front-row seat to how they think, what they talk about, what they want. And the result of that can make you feel insufficient.

I don't think that this is anyone's fault, in particular. Should Jon Crist have thought more about its implications for women who have been made to feel bad about themselves as a result of this way of thinking? Should Jon Acuff have made a different decision about posting it on his website, even though it fits the mission in many ways? Probably, on both counts. But bigger mistakes have been made, and I don't believe that there was any intention to harm on either Jon's part.

But the awarding/subtracting of points by men to women . . . even in jest, that is an abhorrent and immature practice, but in the Christian community? Crist's point may have been to demonstrate how shallow Christian men can be (or, as Acuff says, 'This post is about the foolishness of men,') but it doesn't stop there. The lighthearted manner in which this post is written suggests to readers male and female alike that this is a fairly harmless way of thinking about women. And it is not.

I'm really grateful to people like Jon Acuff and Jon Crist for what they do, for their desire to approach faith with humor and engage in conversations that the church hasn't been great at doing. That is something to celebrate. But when it comes to women and the point system . . . let's let that be a thing of the past, for everyone's sake.

9 comments:

WanderingellimaC said...

i whole-heartedly second that.

Sarah Moon said...

well said!

Thomas said...

Laura,

I took another look at Jon's post, mainly to make sure I had not missed anything.

I will be honest, I am a little confused on why people are offended by this, but also to be honest, people can be offended by just about anything.

I guess my confusion was rooted in the fact that Jon wasn't affirming the "checklist" as something guys "should" do. I think that Jon's first 5 points (that were posted when the guest post went live), clarified the fact that: #1 It's true (I am a guy, and my experience with some of my friends and myself were similar) #2 It's a problem (especially for men that perpetuate it) and #3 It needed to be called out.

If anything, I thought the post's premise was "this is the wrong way to go about it", and for that, I think it is a very good thing that it was posted. Am I sad that some people took it the wrong way, or had a response that was sensitive to the topic? Absolutely. But the post wasn't about women. It was about how sometimes Christian guys can assess young women the wrong way. He was calling out the guys, not encouraging the negative behavior. Shouldn't women want more posts like this? Guys calling out other guys for how they treat women? I would think so.

Sometimes I think we are just too sensitive, and take ourselves way too seriously.

Drew Brown said...

Very much appreciate your thoughts on this, Laura. There's a radio show that I listen to just about every day and I cringe every time they refer to a woman as "a seven" or whatever number they decide to assign.

I will admit I've been guilty of it in the past, but I think people have a responsibility to stop dehumanizing each other. I don't understand why we (especially guys) have such an inherent need to rank, compare, and qualify.

Besides, the silly point system is rendered meaningless when you're exposed to someone's true self. A "ten" does you no good if they're selfish, stupid, or cold.

Points are pointless. SWIDT?

Laura Ortberg Turner said...

Thomas,

Thanks for your thoughts -- I really appreciate them, and agree with a lot of what you have to say.

First of all, I want to make really clear that I am in no way offended by the post. I have some thoughts about it, sure, but 'offense' is a pretty strong word and does not apply to how I feel about it.
Jon's premise(s) were really helpful, and prefaced the post with some great information, and certainly made clear that he is against this way of thinking. I love that!

It gets harder when you post something that seems to make light of what is a really serious burden for most women. If the list had been accompanied by a serious reflection of just how this contributes to tearing down the women around them, perhaps, or if it Crist had written about the deep brokenness this reveals in men -- that would have made a difference to me. But seeing none such thoughts, I wanted to add my own.

Again, I think we all (mostly) agree here . . . this really isn't about being too sensitive or taking myself too seriously.

Sarah@EmergingMummy said...

Great post, Laura. Thanks for giving me a head's up on Twitter. I am with you on many points here and you've articulated my own issues with the post. I suppose I do feel that some anger is justified though. It was hurtful, offensive and sexist in every way. And then, when women pointed this out, there was the standard response in the comment section that, because women were angry, they were being "emotional" (code for "now we can dismiss you"). (Plus let's be honest: it just wasn't funny. It failed mightily as satire.) I think there is place for anger because if one were to substitute any other group - be they an ethnicity or religion - people would understand why it was offensive to dredge up stereotypes no matter how "true" to other groups. And yet, again, women are told to get a sense of humour and get over our "hurt feelings" on these types of things. It just sucks. I totally agree with you, it's downright shitty. I love to laugh, love satire and usually love Jon's blog but on this point, it crossed some lines and gave wound. Thanks for articulating it so well.

John Crist said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinions. I was surprised to see that you weren't bashing me. thanks for saying this.

Laura said...

Sarah, I'm really with you on pretty much all that you've said. It failed as satire, was thoughtless in many ways, etc. Mostly, it's that I want to save my anger for the real misogynists and hate-spewers, neither of which apply to these authors. Can we point out where they went wrong? Absolutely! I think criticism is my spiritual gift :) But then I'd like to set it aside and hope that they have learned something important. Because God knows I've hurt plenty of people by my own thoughtlessness.

Jon - glad it wasn't what you expected it to be. I think that's a good thing.

Laura Ortberg Turner said...

Sarah, I'm really with you on pretty much all that you've said. It failed as satire, was thoughtless in many ways, etc. Mostly, it's that I want to save my anger for the real misogynists and hate-spewers, neither of which apply to these authors. Can we point out where they went wrong? Absolutely! I think criticism is my spiritual gift :) But then I'd like to set it aside and hope that they have learned something important. Because God knows I've hurt plenty of people by my own thoughtlessness.

Jon - glad it wasn't what you expected it to be. I think that's a good thing.