One Man’s Feminine Discomfort

How my Readings In Feminist Theory are Challenging me

The scenario: At some point in the last year I decided that I would fill a gaping hole in my education by spending this summer studying feminist theory and women’s spirituality. This is a full-blown independent study, not a grad student’s typical “oh-yeah-I-think-I’ll-do-that”-and-then-not-really-do-it passing summer fancy (of which I have had my share).

My reasons: My dissertation research will require me to use tools that I do not yet have (assessing the leader of a women’s movement as a woman and, potentially, as a feminist, after having defined “what is a feminist?” and “on what basis can I make that assertion?”). To boot, I was becoming increasingly convinced that, as a responsible theologian hoping to dialog with the broader culture and the discipline of religious studies, I simply needed to know this stuff. Bonus: it looks good on my resumé.

External results: strange looks from my classmates, including one member of a women’s religious order; stranger looks from right-leaning Bible study members; and heated debates raging on my FaceBook status comments sparked between my most left- and right-leaning acquaintances responding to a simple status update: “I feel like I’m eavesdropping as I continue to catch up on feminist theory.”

Internal results: I really do feel like I’m listening in on someone else’s conversation. I am an outsider. I do not belong. For a man who essentially reads for a living, this is an unaccustomed feeling when behind a book. My concepts, my language, my faith in every form of its expression — all are subject to question and to suspicion. Any why not? A deep hurt runs through the world. In all likelihood, I am both part of the problem and part of the solution. I cannot take the status quo for granted as a manifest good. There is a big f-ing difference between Biblical gender ideals and 1950s roles.

Conclusion: Feminism challenges me, if not in my masculinity, in how I see the world. A lot of people have been hurt by men wielding their power and authority as men. We who are men should listen, whether we understand ourselves to be directly culpable or not.

Breaking the Silence

It is good to wait to speak until, one hopes, one has something worth saying. It has been a nice wait.

Published in: on June 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

And your fantasy is… football?

Reflections on the phenomenon of fantasy football.

It’s that time of year again.  A crisp breeze is in the air after even the balmiest of days.  It’s almost football season, time for the people of America (but especially the men) to celebrate the act of brutal, strategic team ass-kicking.

I appreciate football, but I do not enjoy football.  There are many reasons for this.  Much of it has to do with the fact that, in my rootless youth,  I never had a home team to cheer for and now I am a man without NFL loyalties.  But the bottom line is I’m a man, I’m not afraid of the dark, I eat red meat, and I’m one of the most athletic people I know.  While I have a multitude of ways I’d rather spend my time than watching other people being athletic, I certainly understand those who appreciate a good game, especially in such Olympic times as these.

What I do not understand are the men, many of them my friends, who devote countless hours to the crafting of imaginary teams.  Real players.  Fake teams.  You’re the owner/coach.  This is your opportunity to play God… and this is how you’re going to spend it?  Really???

Sex vs. Batman

Once upon a time there was a man named Batman. He had lots of money, lots of skills, and kicked some major booty. He fought injustice. He ruled minds of many men, young and old. But one thing he lacked: he did not rule their hearts.

Now sex does not equal love, but when a man and a woman do pledge their love to each other in marriage, sex is a physical expression of that love.

Batman is imaginary. Sex is concrete. Batman is about me. Sex is about us. Batman evokes my inner child. Sex evokes my inner and outer man. Batman is an expression of untamed masculine striving. Sex is an expression of my masculinity meeting my wife’s femininity (as we tame each other?).

I might not see the new movie any time soon and that’s okay. Married life is grand.

House-Husband

Newly-married, my wife and I figuring out how to make our household work. Since I am a full-time student and she is a full-time graphic designer, our typical days look very different.

She wakes at 6:30am and works from 9am-5pm.

I wake at 8am, in time to eat breakfast with her, and do “whatever I want” for much of the rest of the day. There are times when I have a lot that I must do… and there is always a lot that I should be doing.

The bottom line is that she has 40 hours of scheduled work each week and I have 10 scheduled hours with 10-60 very flexible, very variable hours. This means that I am the one who is shopping for groceries, washing the dishes, cooking dinner, and doing the laundry much of the time. We attempt to share these duties whenever possible, but it’s more possible for me than it is for her most of the time.

How has this affected me?

It’s not like I’m a stay-at-home Dad and home stuff is all that I’m doing. That would bring with it its own challenges. We dream of the day when — should we be so blessed as to have children — we will have the flexibility to both spend time at home on alternating days, managing childcare/working from home. We’ll see.

The biggest difference I have noticed is that I goof off less than before. If I’m not doing “housework” (can include “fixing” things), I should be doing “schoolwork,” even if that tangentally includes such interfaith-dialog/prose-style-honing pastimes as blogging. No time for free cell or mid-day movies.

At the end of the day, she comes home and I clock out. That’s the best part. This is far from being thankless work.

St. Louis vs. L.A.

On our honeymoon, my wife and I ended up stranded in L.A.  We didn’t see many sights, but we saw the hundreds of miles of sprawl on the way in.  The numbers don’t lie.  There are a lot of people living in L.A.  Roughly 10 million people.  That’s almost 1/4 of the people living in California and 10x as many as live in St. Louis.  A lot of people either choose to live in L.A. or choose not to leave L.A.  But how many are trapped either by circumstance or by ignorance?

It part it was the pushing and shoving, the five-hours stranded in line, but ultimately it was the L.A.P.D. bomb squad evacuating our terminal that forced our conclusion: we hate L.A.  Seeing celebrities and eating expensive food wouldn’t change our minds.  My best friend from 5th grade lives in L.A.  He hates it too.  Yet he stays.  Hollywood has a stranglehold on many innocent lives.  L.A. is big and busy without being the great city that New York is and possessing a certain sun-burnt superficiality that the Big Apple lacks.

And then there’s St. Louis, our some-time home.  It’s the biggest small town in America.  It’s small enough that I’m guaranteed to run into someone I know unexpectedly at most large-scale events.  It’s big enough to have a small, crappy version of whatever you want (as opposed to New York, which has the best version of whatever you want).  This is a great town with hidden glories.  The “City Museum” is an urban playground for grown-ups, with huge slides, a three-story outdoor jungle gym, and two sets of man-made caves.  Forest Park is larger than Central Park in NYC.  The art museum and zoo there are free.  So is the Shakespeare festival and the summer jazz festival.  The Cardinals and the Rams are worth cheering for.  And the gateway arch is the last great man-made monument.  St. Louis is one of America’s best kept secrets.

A friend returned to live in St. Louis after living in California.  He had decent job prospects and great wine, but there were two things that he especially lacked: a community of friends and places to think great thoughts.  Few things are more important in life and St. Louis provides a healthy context for both.

I don’t right this to convince you to leave L.A.  But if you’re already here, love where you are.

Published in: on August 5, 2008 at 9:14 am  Comments (6)  
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Faith vs. “Knowledge”

Post #1 in response to Avant Garde’s comments on All Roads Lead to Heaven?

“…how did you come to conclusion that jesus is ultimately right – was my question. I am not saying he is not right, all i am asking is how do YOU know that?”

Before I wax philosophical, let me give you the most personal answer I can give (the short version, at least). I came to the conclusion that Jesus was right because he saved me from myself. I was raised in a church-going, though not especially churchy family. During middle school, at the encouragement of the youth pastor, I began reading the Bible on my own. Convinced that, if God exists, he could and would use just such a means of conveying his truth, I became open to Christianity… and to the fact that I was an egotistical bastard (you know the type: the one who looks down on others for getting B’s). During this time, I had a vivid dream in which (abbridged) I was drawn through darkness into the light and warmth of God’s love in Christ. Since then, there have been many cogent moments of experiencing his presence, such as my near-death in a car crash and my one serious, multi-month bout of manic-depression. But, most importantly, he has transformed me into a more compassionate and loving person (though I still have a long way to go).

But that might not be what you’re asking. What I believe, I cannot prove. I can give you my reasons, my doubts, and my areas of relative certainty. Yet these bits of information are of a different quality than the fact that I exist today, depending on how you define “I” and “exist” and “today,” because Descartes can build a pretty-much air-tight case for the existence of me. No one can build an air-tight case for the need for Jesus. Such is the nature of faith. Many have tried. But this looks less like a science experiment, rooted in things tangible, and more like a court case with a preponderance of evidence, much of it circumstantial, from which you, the jury, must arrive at a verdict.

“Faith is the evidence of things unseen.”

People usually believe in Jesus first in a personal way and then grapple intellectually with the implications of this. In light of my personal faith, why have I concluded that Jesus is ultimately right? Because of the faith the he has planted in me. This is a circular argument, no doubt. But I don’t mind that, as long as you don’t. Circular arguments are only a problem if I’m trying to convince you… and I’m not. Only God can do that. But like any decent, anonymous cyber-friend I can shoot back attempted answers and counter-questions to your questions.

I apologize if this raises more questions than it answers. Faith is about the Person more than it is about the ideas of theology. Questions drive us closer to the truth and a good question is better than any half-assed answer.

Now I still need to address the elephant in the room. Avant Garde further exclaimed: “[you write] in the guise of questioning the denominations/churches of christianity, and saying “no religion but God leads to heaven”, you really meant your God the Son alone leads to heaven!” In my next post I will address the exclusive claims of Christianity.

Waiting for the Wedding….

…is like waiting for Christmas as a child plus waiting for the resurrection when I am old.

Published in: on July 16, 2008 at 10:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Raisins vs. Midwest Floods

My priorities are clear.  I know what they ought to be.  But I also see very clearly in my actions what is actually going on.  A sizable chunk of this and neighboring states are underwater.  Few lives have been lost, but many have been ruined.  And I want raisins.

Human suffering matters.  I care.  God cares.  People care.  But I do not care as much as I ought to.  At the end of the day, the only human suffering that really matters to me is my own.  My blood sugar is getting low and we are almost out of raisins.  This is a problem.

But there are two bigger problems.  1) Iowa is covered by waves of mud, not amber waves of grain right now.  And 2) I don’t really care.  Maybe it’s the distance, or the overstimulation of my senses, or the fact that my news source is CNN without audio while I’m at the gym.  I don’t know.  But the bottom line is that right now raisins are vying with the suffering of my neighbors for first-place in my consciousness… and the raisins are winning.  God, help me.

We Hate the Wedding

“Which do you hate more,” I asked, “the wedding or the jewelery store?”

She replied, “That’s like asking who was meaner, Hitler or Stalin?!?”

We’re 35 days away from the Big Day.  I now approach it with stoic resolve.  Then again, I don’t have to wear the dress.  Or go to the fittings.  Or suffer through the shower.  Or have my gender identity questioned because of failing to embrace glitter and glam, but that is exactly what jewelery stores do to women with simple tastes.   And so the love of my life now hates the day that everyone tells her should be the best day of her life.  Damn.  We should have eloped.