On Swearing

I didn’t grow up hearing a lot of swear words.
The strongest expletives in our house were bloody, darn, and crap.

These were discouraged and only used in dire circumstances.
The preferred expletives were jeepers creepers, cheez whiz, gosh golly gee, heck, and any vegetable (Brussels sprouts and green beans for example)

I am realizing that my relationship to swear words might be unusual.

Shit. If crap was bad, this was worse. Except that we were in a Mennonite-rich rural area. The ‘clean’ word for poop in low German sounded exactly like shit. When you hear your friends’ devoutly religious grandmothers using this word while talking about the chicken coop, it loses some of its edge.

Oh my god! Obviously we were never never to say this – the 10 Commandments don’t mention child abuse, but they do mention ‘taking the lord’s name in vain’. ‘Oh my gosh’ was pushing it. Of course, the extremely faithful Christian woman who ran the orphanage said “oh my god” all the time. All the time. She liked to keep up her English by watching English TV and movies and I assume she learned it from them.

Fuck. Didn’t know this was a verb. It was so taboo I actually don’t remember much about it until I read a writer friend’s erotic story where it was used in a very pleasure-positive affirming way.

Cunt. Didn’t hear this one at all. I first came across a book at the University library called “Cunt, A Declaration of Independence” by Inga Muscio. I like the word. It sounds strong, guttural and powerful.

The first time I used a swear word was in Mexico.* I was 16 and taking part in our highschool’s Model United Nations Conference. I was Israel, back in the time of the Balfour Declaration pleading to the Arab nations not to attack me.** During a discussion, I felt one of the members was getting too many ad hominum attacks and politely asked if the others would stop pestering him and show a little more respect.
There was a shocked silence. Then someone asked me to say it again in English.
Everyone started laughing, apparently what I thought was ‘pester’ was really the Spanish equivalent of ‘fuck’.
Then I realized that my new friends used swear words casually in every day conversation. I had made my point, and the sky didn’t fall.

** Later, I ended up dating the guy who was representing Palestine or maybe Syria, so I think we won in some way.

* The second time was also in Mexico. I asked Palestine (or Syria) for a bite of his icecream. I conjugated ‘morder’ very badly.

Questionable Motives for Virginity

The evangelical literature I read before I married made it very clear that there were dishonorable reasons for virginity.  I was very critical of my motives.  After I deconverted, I was also critical and worried I had unacceptable reasons.

Fear was dishonorable.  God knew it was because you were scared of hell so no bonus points.

Wanting peer acceptance was an inferior reason, and close to sin.

Actually being asexual was perfectly fine if you were a girl because female sexuality is supposed to be less.  Cue the misogyny against asexual boys.

Believing the lies that abstaining from sex was the best way to have a satisfying sex life later was fine, but ultimately selfish.

Love was reason you were supposed to give.  Love for your partner for not ‘degrading’ them with your sexual attraction.  And love for God, which was best exemplified by blind obedience to the rules attributed to him.

Looking back, I was influenced by all of these reasons and have felt bad about it. 
I was mad that I believed the lies, but I know being naive and trusting is not the same as being stupid. Its just a lack of critical thinking skills.

I really did curb my sexual appetites because I loved my fiance.  I thought he would feel truly loved by having his affection rejected, like I was looking out for him.  (ahaha)  We did get over the idea that physical attraction is degrading.  

I’m ok with, although sad about, the fear that kept me back.  STIs exist.  Unplanned pregnancies happen.  It is tricky to navigate consent and coercion.  I didn’t have the proper tools to deal with that which I am sad about.  But, I don’t regret not learning by making mistakes.

The reason I struggled with the most was social acceptance.  I really didn’t understand the value of doing something to be socially accepted.  (I will not wear clothes that aren’t comfortable, trends be damned.)  If anything, I valued doing things to rebel against social pressures.  I don’t know how much of my decisions were based on wanting to be an accepted member of my church, but that was the result, and I felt bad about that.

Looking back, social acceptance is important.  It is a valid reason.  Not everyone has the resources to live without it.  Social acceptance affects health, both physical and mental, and has long-term impacts.  I will always be inspired by the people who can live beyond this pressure to do what seems right, whether it be working against oppressive regimes or loving your imperfect body when society demands you feel shame.  Its ok.

In conclusion, there are many good reasons to not be sexually active. Its easy to say personal desire is the most acceptable reason, but I’m learning that it is ok to do things to fit in. Circumstance, fear, lack of accurate information, personal desire, and social acceptance are all valid.  It is the misinformation and prejudice that deserve scorn, not the people who are victims of it.  

 

And what image better to show acceptance of virginity than an able-bodied white girl in a white dress :)  Yes, I’m making fun of the conflation of ‘pure’ and ‘white’. 

dance

Appropriately, I found this photo on a blog that seems to promote virginity. beyond-rubies.com

How I lost my illiteracy

I lost my illiteracy as a young age.

I cannot remember a single experience. It happened gradually, bit by bit.

I do know my first attempts were awkward. Not painful, but not graceful.

After the initial awkwardness, I progressed rapidly, and soon couldn’t get enough. I read everything! I couldn’t help myself. Everywhere their were letters, my brain interpreted them, almost against my will.

I remember the sad day I realized what I had lost when I picked up a book intending to make up a fantastical tale of derringdo and found myself reading genealogies in Genesis. No longer could I hold any book with the English alphabet and keep my innocence. The endless possibilities were forever gone for me. Losing my illiteracy had cost me.

Nor did I remain faithful to the first types of books I ever read. In a few years I moved on from grade 1 readers to mystery novels like Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys. My naïve parents kept their antique bookshelf in my room, assuming their cherubic grade 4 child would fail to notice Shakespeare, Roots, and Gone with the Wind. I devoured them at night, making sure no one would know. Once my illiteracy was gone, there was no boundary protecting me from classical literature.

I still consume books in secret. I confess, I am not faithful to any one genre. I do have my preferences and will always have a soft spot for Young Adult novels, but they are not enough to satisfy me. I read about the natural world, about histories lost and deliberately obfuscated, fairy tales, research of neuroscience and psychology, how-to books, graphic novels, political comics, political commentary, politically incorrect sexualities, textbooks and more. I am insatiable.

I can never get my illiteracy back unless I suffer a stroke or move to a place that doesn’t use the English alphabet. Even then, I would still have to live with losing my illiteracy. Lost. Forever.

Reading Outside of School: How Much is Enough?

photo credit: http://www.redapplereading.com/blog/2012/10/reading-outside-of-school-how-much-is-enough/

Slavery

I’ve always found it easy to identify with my Irish roots. That branch of the family values keeping in touch and has the perks of quirky characters and good story-telling.

 That some of my ancestors were Americans and once had connections and land never really interested me. Apart from an NHL player or two, there weren’t many black sheep or other interesting characters spoken about in the family. Hearing about people known for following the rules and not getting into trouble over it is as fascinating as you would expect.

 Which is maybe why I didn’t find out that these same ancestors were slave owners until now.

 I was always perplexed by people on that side of the family who would defend slavery.

 “Slavery wasn’t always so bad” I would hear. “It all depended on who owned them.”

 “If the slave owners were true Christians, they would treat the slaves so well that the slaves would prefer to stay with them than have their freedom.”

 Now I finally understand where this naive slavery apology stems from. It was my ancestors whose slaves, after being freed by law, asked if they could stay and continue working for them.

I hardly think it was the Christian conduct of the slave owners that accounted for this but the systemic racism that limited their opportunities and ballooned into a storm of violence against the recently freed peoples in the broader community. Lynchings after slavery was abolished became endemic and served not only to punish African-Americans for being free, but to keep the entire communities in check lest they demand fair wages or even the assurance they would be paid for their work. The white poor, such as Irish immigrants, had at one time seen themselves as allied with the African-Americans and the Aboriginals. However, they came to identify more and more with the white elite who also mistreated and extorted them but slightly less than their darker-skinned compatriots. The white poor began to see the black people as dangerous (and less human) competition in the game of survival and reacted accordingly.

A decent farm with a safe community would seem appealing in those circumstances.

 

Could the desire to justify one’s ancestors account for the notion that a Christian theocracy could be the best form of government? Or the authoritarian ideal of benevolent dictatorship cause people to justify slavery?

 Can I have compassion or at least understanding towards those who owned or participated willingly in the slave trade without apologizing for such a horrendous disaster?

 I think it is necessary to humanize the oppressors. Not to say that what they did was not so bad, but to remind us that most humans have the capacity to harm. That we can’t take refuge in our ideals or motives. To allow space for condemning an action without alienating the one who has the ability to change their own behaviour.

 

Much easier to continue to identify as Irish Canadian and punch people metaphorically when they justify slavery.

 

 

Narratives: Sex

These are the main stories about sex that I grew up with.

Boy and girl fall in love.  
Because it is real love, they don’t have sex.
They get married.  
They have sex.
It is awesome.

Boy and girl fall in love.
Because it is lust, they have sex.
They get married. 
They have sex.
It is awful.

I never realized what stories were missing from my repertoire.  

Some of what is missing:

Boy and girl fall in love.
They don’t have sex.
They get married.
They have sex.
It is awful.
They work on it and it gets much better  OR
they realize they are better not in a sexual relationship.
They are still awesome.

Boy and boy fall in love. (Or girl and girl or queer person and queer person)
They have a deep emotional and sexual relationship.
It is awesome.

 

Two fall in love.

They don’t have sex because they are asexual.

It is awesome.

Three people fall in love.
They have a communication-intensive emotional and sexual relationship.
Their kids are awesome.

 

Did you grow up with different narratives?  
Please feel free to add more.

Narrative: Persecuted Saviour Internalized

I really did internalize the narrative of Persecuted Saviour.  

When I was first allowing myself to think about gender equity, I realized how persecuted I was a female.  I’ve written about this quite a bit.  That was real.  It perhaps affected me more than it did other people who had a greater hold on the culture at large and didn’t really believe everything they were told.  

During this time,  I thought I could be the gender Savior to my church.  I could teach them what gender was.  We could talk about the narrow cultural confines of popular femininities and masculinities.  Trans people could be seen as legitimate men, women, or whoever they identified as.  Homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality would be understood and welcomed.  
Women would then be free to be as human as men and given the same respect.  I could preach.  My daughters would never be taught they were more prone to sin, or less able to lead.  Then we could work on our relationship to Third World churches.  Yes, I could save them.  Ha ha.

After I deconverted, I was going to save friends and family from fundamentalist Christianity. Then I rediscovered prejudices towards atheists as they were directed at me. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging this, but I was making it part of my identity.
I’ve realized that I am carrying this narrative of Persecuted Savior with me.  

Previously, I thought that feminists were all sorts of horrible things, including the personification of the Persecuted Saviour. However, through taking Women’s and Gender courses, I’ve learned that feminism is not all about whining how women are treated unfairly. What I am learning about is the study of privileges and oppressions. Much of the critical thinking we are encouraged to do is towards ourselves and our own attitudes. Gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, age and many other categories are used as shortcuts to make judgments about people, and I benefit from some prejudices. I am constantly challenged to acknowledge my own privileges and to learn to listen better to others especially when it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Surprisingly to me, it has been feminist critiques that are helping me work through my internalized Persecuted Saviour complex.
I am ridiculously privileged.  There are some ways in which I am not, true, but that doesn’t change how privileged I am in so many other aspects.  

I am not anyone’s Saviour.  Except maybe my own. Not sure about that yet.

Aside

Narrative: Persecuted Saviour

I am learning a little about cultural narratives and cultural imaginaries from listening to some of my friends talk.  Narratives can be so powerful, especially when we are not aware of them.

One of the narratives I grew up with from my church background was that of rejected Savior.  Like our idol, we spoke of our movement in the same way.  Here is our story (according to us, mostly gleaned from prophesies and sermons):

We were great people.  Special people.  People Chosen by the Lord.  For Greatness.

        Because we were so humble and despicable.

Because we loved other people so so much.  

            We could save them.  

But they rejected us.  Rejected our message.  Rejected our Boss.

           Then they persecuted us.  

But we kept trying to save them.  Because we loved them.  And we loved our Boss.

          Since obedience to authority on fear of punishment is real love.

 

It wasn’t a large shock to know that there were other Special Chosen People.  We were so humble, and we knew that eventually all of humanity would see we were right all along.  There could be many Special Chosen Ones all working for the same goal.

It was not dismaying to learn that other people didn’t want us to save them.  They were blinded.  That is why we were persecuted.

It was unsettling to find out we weren’t actually being persecuted.  That was a major crack in my narrative.

Like the Focus on the Family homophobes who claim that not being allowed to bully is the real injustice, or anti-choice groups that say not being allowed to control women’s bodies is a human rights injustice, or mayors claiming that their lies and criminal activity are ‘keeping it real’ while asking questions about it is ‘hypocrisy’ – our group framed itself as the persecuted minority.

This is a very effective tool for group cohesion.  Not only does it posit others as more powerful, which causes the group to feel it needs each other more, but it creates fear which distances the group from others.  Unfortunately, portraying Others as more powerful also decreases compassion towards them and can be used to justify unethical behaviour.  It disguises real privilege which upholds real oppression.  Basically, it lets us be jerks and cry foul when people point it out.  Being a jerk was NOT part of our self narrative.

 

Things I didn’t know would be useful on a resume

I’ve found a part-time job that uses some of my underappreciated talents.

Like daydreaming.

Sitting still.

Telling stories with single expressions.

High pain tolerance.

Awareness of blocking and stage presence.  

Love of dress-up.

Acceptance of my body.

The one problem with this job is that it is only about three hours a month.

I am an art model.  Aside from learning from talented artists and enjoying their humorous and good-natured banter, sometimes I get other perks.  One artist gave me a half finished sketch of myself which I’ve been playing with.  You can still see her brushstrokes on the legs and belly, but I’ve added a face and am working on wings.

Image

 

The Pressure of Headship

I overheard two Christian women talking about their husbands. They were discussing how inadequate their men feel they are as the heads of the households. I’ve written a little on how dehumanizing subservience can be for women, but not so much on the other side of this equation.

 The two men discussed are quieter and more laid back than their wives. They are married to women who are natural leaders and planners. For someone who prefers to be in the background to be married to a woman of these skills who expects them, on account of their testicles, to not only exceed them in leadership, but to do so in a way that reflects their ideas of a supernatural perfect being, is a lot of pressure.

 Neither of these men feel they have biological fathers who were upstanding examples, even when they were present. That makes fatherhood and partnership difficult enough without the added pressure to be god’s stand-in for their family.

 I feel sorry for them. As an oldest, I know some of the pressure that comes with being given responsibility over other human beings slightly shorter than myself.   I once also led the worship band for a campus group and knew that I was the least musical and least organized person on the team.  Knowing that every other (of the three) people could do a better job did give me some performance anxiety and it was great when everyone finally found the role they were best suited for.  

A number of couples in my old church got around the gender roles of headship and submission by saying that both parties had to submit to the Holy Spirit working in the other.  This allowed the men to save face when their wives were better at something they felt was a ‘man’s role’ like balancing the chequebook or deciding when to visit hospitals (real examples from a sermon).  I hope these couples get there too.  Until then, I hope the wives don’t get too exasperated with their husbands trying to do a god-like job of something they aren’t naturally gifted at.

2013 Christmas List

2013 Christmas List

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