Sluts, Hos, and Church pews.

women bible

I’ve been reading a hashtag on twitter today called #WhyIDidn’tReport. It’s about rape. More than one woman (and a few men) tweeted the myriad reasons why they didn’t report their sexual assaults to the police. More than one is one too much. I was left on the verge of tears – shocked and dismayed that so many have been silenced, emotionally abused, manipulated, and violated in every possible way, not only by their rapists, but by police, family members, and those who are supposed to care about them. I wanted to reach into the future and wrap my future daughter in a blanket of love and a blaze of terrifying anger that would be soft enough to cushion her and hot enough to sear those who would try to hurt her. I saw the pain, and I tried for a moment, to empathise, knowing that I will never fully understand. One tweet caught my eye in particular. A young lady mentioned that her abusers had been popular members of her youth group at church, and she didn’t report because she knew no one would believe her or they would try and protect her abusers.
I have a problem with the word ho. I take umbrage with the word slut. I haven’t always been this way. My 16 year old self would casually refer to other young women as ho’s. I could say the intent wasn’t malicious, that my teenage mind was regurgitating the waste I’d absorbed from rap (and rock) videos and conversations I’d heard on the double decker that took me to and from school. I don’t want to let my 16 year old self off that easily though. The intent was malicious, if only because it came from a place of elevating myself above these other young women – I was Christian and virginal and rigorous (probably not enough) with the criteria for the young men I allowed to so much as hold my hand. My Daddy was at home and very much involved in my life. My family wasn’t perfect but there was love there, and protection, and although I yearned for male approval the same way that any 16 year old dark skinned, kinky haired girl who isn’t sure that she’s not ugly does, there was love there. So many of the 16 year old girls who I mistakenly called hos didn’t have that love there.
But some of them did. They just made choices that were different to mine. I don’t know whether they thought they were the baddest thing out of South East London or whether they needed a man to tell them so, I just know that they made choices that were different to mine. They weren’t in my opinion, wise choices, or even morally good choices, but that didn’t give me the right to use derogatory language and define their whole personhood based on those choices.
I don’t like labeling myself as feminist. As a self described fairly conservative Christian, I definitely wouldn’t be called a sex-positive feminist by most. I do understand though, that they are somewhat correct when they accuse the church (and I want to differentiate between the church and Christianity) of having issues with women and sexuality. I do know that men in church are ‘allowed’ to be promiscuous and preach from pulpits. I know that women who are promiscuous are shamed in ways that men aren’t. I know that pastors sexually abuse women, and sleep with multiple women in their congregations and don’t get given the P45’s they deserve. I know that despite having awesome parents and a Dad who tells me that “a woman’s place is wherever she wants to be”, I still managed to absorb this strange notion that men were sexual, and I was kinda half sexual, and Jesus is little bit more ok with men sleeping with multiple women than me sleeping with multiple men.
This is part of the reason why women in church don’t report sexual abuse. Because we aren’t supposed to be sexual anyway. Because we’ve heard ridiculous things from the pulpit about ‘good men’ who became pastors and were somehow ‘trapped’ by short skirted Jezebels in church clothing who corrupted them, as if a man in a position of power has no agency. Because people in church will tell you that he is a ‘man of God’ and God is a God of forgiveness and so you shouldn’t report him(or her) to the police, but keep it ‘in house’. Because when I was 8 and one of the deacons at church sat me on his lap and began to touch my leg in a way that made me uncomfortable and I screamed and kicked him and ran to my mum I was asked by someone ‘why I kicked a poor old man?’.To which I say, to hell with that. Literally, I condemn it to hell. It’s hellish because it is a culture of evil that allows people to abuse power and abuse the name of God for their own sick gratification.
So in a rather incoherent way, I want to say that silence is deadly. Not the silence of victims who don’t speak up, because they have every right and reason to be silent if they so choose to be. The rest of us though, should be careful not to silence the voices of those who do want to speak. That’s all.
Peace.

8 Comments

  1. Shail
    April 17, 2014 / 8:55 pm

    thanks for this Shade

  2. J-O
    April 17, 2014 / 10:22 pm

    why don’t you want to be labelled a feminist

    • April 21, 2014 / 5:17 am

      Because it comes wit a lot of assumptions about what you believe in regards to gender roles, sexuality etc that don’t ring true for me. I would probably happily term myself a Christian feminist I suppose. I believe in the biblical differences between the sexes – i.e. I believe women and men are different, and that that should be celebrated. While all feminism doesn’t negate that, I think a lot of branches of feminism would consider some of my views of women, and sexuality (i.e. sex before marriage) regressive. Which is fine.

  3. April 24, 2014 / 12:18 pm

    I don’t really get this argument though, Shadz. You would no sooner renounce the title of “Christian”, despite all the problematic things that Christians believe, then why “feminist”? Showing the ignorant people that all feminists, just like all women, have differing views and beliefs, is what’s needed more within the movement, because the mainstream voice, with all its extremes, is over represented in popular culture & media imo xx

    • May 6, 2014 / 3:57 pm

      Hmm I see where you’re coming from Abz, but guess the difference is that I see feminism as a title as alienating to other Christians who I might want to share things with. I think most Christians are more receptive to feminist ideology when it’s not called feminism, if that makes sense? It’s something I’m not quite decided on yet, I’m just quite aware of how it’s perceived and don’t like to label myself with that perception..

      • June 13, 2014 / 10:04 am

        That’s a point, at times the label can be a stumbling block for others. I think the trick is to show people, is it really an issue with the ideology, or an issue with their own prejudices and problematic assumptions? Being confronted with these kinds of things are never easy, and people will feel isolated, but it’s something we all have to do at some point 🙂

  4. November 1, 2015 / 2:02 pm

    This is a very eye-opening post. Thanks for writing it.

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