The first half of Chapter 3, “The Landscape of Our Lives,” discussed HERE, talks about women’s hormones and the effect they have on our internal lives. The second half discusses misogyny and the effect it has on our external lives.
In my opinion, Stasi does a fairly good job of defining misogyny and summarizing how we are still bombarded with misogynistic messages throughout our culture, even in church. Too often especially in church. As Stasi writes it: “Some churches continue to teach that the fall of man came because of Eve’s wickedness and that she and all women after her are temptresses. … women can’t teach, women can speak in church, women can’t cut their hair. … cover their bodies, their faces, their heads. They should stay quiet, stay separate from men, and really should just stay home. Women can’t own property or vote or testify in court or travel alone. Women can’t go to school because they simply aren’t worth educating.” (p. 56)
I grew up in a conservative home. I thank God my mother had the opportunity to stay home to raise my sister and myself, and I’m grateful that my sister is staying home to raise and educate her children. They know that this is the frontline, the really hard job, and anyone who says otherwise is going to get “the look” and a stern talking to. But I remember during our college years when my sister spouted off something against feminists (I love my sister, and I have no wish to malign her, but it’s a great example of this deep-seated cultural battle). I looked at her and said, “If it weren’t for those feminists, you wouldn’t be studying for a Math degree. Math, according to men of the time, damaged a woman’s uterus.” Because, of course, the uterus is a woman’s only true worth. Ahem.
My husband and I were talking earlier this week about a particularly popular country music video in which the two young female singers make fun of the clothes that women in country music culture are expected to wear. I mentioned how ironic it was that the Women’s Lib Movement got women out of the house and got them naked. I think people slightly missed the point, there. To all those bare-breasted babes on the billboards I want to say, “You’re not free, you’re a sex object.” A tool to further the mindset that women are worth less than men, that their only worth is in how sexually alluring they are. It’s just oppression of a different color. Does this contribute to genuine respect for women? If not, throw it away.
Speaking of sex objects. Stasi discusses sexual assault in this chapter as the epitome of misogyny. Because of the experiences of a friend of mine, I was on the lookout for language indicating that Stasi might be caught in a web of victim blaming, her own sexual assault included. Those statements like “You shouldn’t have been wearing that,” or “You shouldn’t have been at that party,” or “You had too much to drink,” or “You knew better than to let him take you home” are all forms of victim-blaming. According to my friend, and I trust their judgment on this, Stasi writes in Captivating that she shouldn’t have been in a certain place, that she was an unwise young woman, and these things contributed to her being assaulted. But, thankfully, I didn’t detect any of that in the account of her experience as she writes it in Becoming Myself. On page 58, Stasi describes her assault in more detail than I expected. She ends the account with how the rapist blamed her for making him do this.
It’s my hope that Stasi has healed enough by now, become comfortable enough with her own worth, that these feelings of self-blame have disappeared from inside her.
What I did take issue with in this half of the chapter is where she places all the blame for abuse and assault on Satan. Yes, our Enemy is a detrimental influence in the world who seeks to “steal, kill, and destroy” us (John 10:10). He “prowls like a lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) But in these paragraphs, Stasi echoes Adam and Eve too closely, shunting responsibility off on someone else: “The woman gave me fruit, and I ate.” … “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13) This argument takes away the burden of choice that each and every human being has been given. It even seems to take away the responsibility from rapists and abusers for the times they choose to commit these atrocious acts against another human being. Eve chose to eat. Adam chose to eat. An abuser chooses to abuse. So, while Stasi does hit on the root of the issue, that all evil ultimately comes from our Enemy, she leaps over the fact that choice still remains with the abuser.
Apparently Captivating emphasizes “beauty” a great deal. May I venture to propose that Stasi was referring more to the beauty of the soul, of a whole, healed person rather than outward beauty? While reading Becoming Myself, I have been on the alert for this red flag as well, and when discussing why womanhood is under assault, to her credit Stasi doesn’t mention “beauty” at all, in any form.
“Women are image bearers of God. Women are coheirs with Christ. Women are valued, worthy, powerful, and needed. There is a reason the Enemy fears women and has poured his hatred onto our very existence. Let him be afraid, then.”
(Becoming Myself, 61)
This is far more in keeping with what I would expect Stasi to believe on the matter. What is physical beauty when compared to the effective weapon a woman’s prayer life can be for her family? Or her hands of selfless service? Or sharing her testimony with a hurting friend? Those are the aspects of womanhood—and humanity as a whole—that our Enemy fears because they echo Christ’s influence. Physical beauty is dust, in the end, and I’m glad Stasi didn’t make that argument.
“When Jesus came onto the scene he turned misogyny on its head. A rabbi at that time wouldn’t speak to a woman in public, not even his own wife…. Even today, an orthodox Jewish man is forbidden to touch or be touched by any woman who is not his wife or a close family relation. Jesus didn’t abide by those rules. During his ministry Jesus engaged with women many times. He spoke to them. He touched them. He taught them. He esteemed them. He had women minister to him physically, touching him, washing his feet, anointing him with oil and with their tears. He had women disciples traveling with him, supporting him, learning from him, and “sitting at his feet.” If we, the church, the body of Christ, had followed the example Jesus had set instead of the traditions of men held captive to sin and the fall, we would have a much higher history here.”
(Becoming Myself, 55)
“Turned misogyny on its head.” Of course he did. Ah, I love Jesus. Freedom from oppression, freedom from fear, freedom from self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. He wants all these things for me, and he demonstrated this to the women he encountered. What evidence do I have that this is true? I guess you’d have to know who I was ten years ago, five years ago, to see for yourself.