Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jeremiah 27-29 and An Opinion Piece

The Facts (Chapter number: Verse)

Jeremiah 27 - No mention of any women.

Jeremiah 28 - No mention of any women.

29:2 - "This was after King Jeconiah, and the queen mother, the court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem."
29:6 - "Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage; that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease."
29:23 - "[The people who leave the king of Babylon shall be cursed] because they have perpetuated outrage in Israel and have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them; I am the one who knows and bears witness, says the Lord."

My Comments

Nothing new here. So instead, I bring you something that is completely priceless. From the Christian Science Monitor: "For girls who hate their bodies: a spiritual crisis."

It's so good, I feel like breaking it down piece by piece, just so there's no real need to actually go and read the laugh/barf fest yourself. :D

Worried talk about the next generation of high-achieving, health-neglecting "perfect girls" is everywhere.

Girls Inc. just published the results of its depressing, nationwide survey called "The Supergirl Dilemma," which reveals that girls' obsession with thinness has gotten significantly worse in the past six years. Despite the efforts of the Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty – well-intentioned, though undeniably market-driven – and Love Your Body Day events sweeping every school from San Francisco to Syracuse, 90 percent of teenage girls think they are overweight today, compared with 24 percent in 1995, according to a recent ELLEgirl survey.

So what gives? Is it our celebrity-obsessed, extreme makeover culture? Is it the newest version of the age-old story of dysfunctional family relationships? Is it peer pressure – mean girls critiquing one another's every lunchtime indiscretion? Is it the $30 billion a year diet industry?

Okay, so far it's okay. We've acknowledged the fact that society as a whole is constantly telling girls that they are not pretty enough and we need an ever increasing amount of damage control (plastic surgery, makeups, creams, Spanks) in order to make ourselves look human and to not make others want to vomit every time they look at us. Nevermind there's no real mention of MEN (or patriarchy) in this section, seeing as it's usually MEN women are doing this for. MEN whom we want to date, MEN whom we want to hire us, MEN whom basically hold the power in the world and if we want to survive or thrive in it we need to tow the line to please them. The extreme make up culture, diet industry, and female peer pressure when it comes to eating is all a symptom of the patriarchy which makes us women constantly feel like less than, like we HAVE to conform and spend our income on items to get us ahead in the world.

But, like I said, it's an OKAY look at what makes girls hate their bodies from a Christian (and very non feminist) website. But, of course, the author is about to tell us what the REAL problem is with girls' body image. Let's listen and learn, shall we?

It is, in truth, all of the above. But there is also another profoundly important – yet little noticed – dynamic at work in the anxious, achievement-oriented lives of America's perfect girls: They have a sometimes deadly, often destructive, lack of faith.

Oh, Dog! My entire frame for viewing the world has just been shattered! It all makes sense now! My constant critiquing of my not so slim stomach, the slight guilt I feel anytime I grab a second helping of cake (sometimes even with the first helping), the fear I sometimes feel that if I don't start wearing makeup right now my boyfriend of 6 years will suddenly leave me, the shame I feel because I haven't gone to the gym or done any "exercise" (we all know just walking doesn't count as real exercise) in 2 months. It's all because I just don't believe in an invisible sky daddy! It's not because of the patriarchy, which only values me based on my willingness to conform to impossible beauty standards (even if it's to a deadly degree) and my ability to tow the line and remember my lower status as female, at all! It's all about church and God and faith you guys!

Shoot, does it mean that when I felt like a weirdo and outcast for being a tomboy when I was young and believed and went to church every Sunday I was doing it wrong? Was I really not being faithful enough? And does this mean that you won't find a Christian anorexic or a Christian girl/woman who slathers themselves with makeup every morning? Are Christian women immune from the patriarchy? Or do such disorders and beauty regimens prove that they are not the believers that they think they are? Such wondrous secrets! We must read on so we can learn how to cast off our body shame shackles!

So many perfect girls were raised entirely without organized religion, and the majority of the rest of us – I reluctantly admit to my own membership in the perfect girl club – experienced "spirituality" only in the form of mandatory holiday services with a big-haired grandmother or unconscionably elaborate and expensive bat mitvah parties, where everything but the Torah is emphasized.

Overlay our dearth of spiritual exploration with our excess of training in ambition – never mind SAT prep courses; today, even community service is linked to college application brownie points – and you have a generation of godless girls. We were raised largely without a fundamental sense of divinity. In fact, our worth in the world has always been tied to our looks, grades, and gifts – not the amazing miracle of mere existence.

In this climate, we feel perpetually called to perfect our own "body projects" – the term used by historian Joan Jacob Brumberg. Thinness and achievement stand in for the qualities of kindness and humility. We think that our perfect bodies – not God's grace or good works – will get us into heaven. We have no deeply held sense of our own divinity, so we chase after some unattainable ideal. Perfect girls, as a result, feel they are never enough. Never disciplined enough. Never accomplished enough. Never thin enough.

Notice how the blame and emphasis is put on the girls themselves? THEY are the ones who care more about their looks than about God. THEY are the ones who half-ass faith and only go to service on major holidays. THEY are the ones who care more about SAT scores and community service (seriously, this author just said community service was not a GOOD or ALTRUISTIC activity, wtf?). THEY are the ones who let thinness and achievement stand in for kindness and humility (nevermind that it is often others who associate thinness with positive traits, ie. kindness, healthy, active, and fatness with negative traits, ie. lazy, dirty, unhealthy).

"Perfect girls, as a result, feel they are never enough. Never disciplined enough. Never accomplished enough. Never thin enough." That sentence is the truest one I've read in this entire article. Girls never feel like that are good enough for anything because, in essence, they really are never good enough for anything. We're always too fat, too skinny, too big chested, too flat chested, too short, too tall, too ugly, too pretty, too learned, too stupid, too blonde, too brunette, too accomplished, too unsuccessful. In the eyes of society and the patriarchy we are NEVER exactly what it wants us to be. Being ourselves isn't enough, we have to constantly be something different. Constantly changing and willing (and happy) to do so.

And I'm sorry, so many perfect girls were raised without religion? In a world where the overall majority of the people in it are religious in one way or another how the fuck can you say that with a straight face? Apparently she doesn't count people who only go to service "sometimes" as REAL believers, so that means now most of the world isn't actually religious? A no true Scotsman fallacy being used as a major foundation of the article? Really? So, I guess, the reason so many "perfect" girls are so messed up is because they may THINK they have faith and believe in God but really they are just fooling themselves. Look at them doing their community service. We ALL know they only do it for the college brownie points, am I right? This woman is basically right there saying that no girl can ever be altruistic because, presumably, she is ALWAYS doing it for her image! Holy woman-hating, Batgirl! Notice how this article now basically becomes one long piece about how girls just aren't doing good enough and need to change in order to be better people.

Wait, isn't that the exact kind of thinking that the article is supposedly speaking against, that girls need to stop thinking about how they need to change and be better and should instead just be thinking about loving themselves? Have I stumbled into opposite land? No? Wait, does that no mean yes? Wait, does that yes mean no? Oh, my poor brain!

The worst of this can be seen in the frightening websites that purport to be support groups for girls with anorexia and bulimia. Such sites claim that these two disorders are a religion, not a disease, and pray to false gods named after them: Ana and Mia. Though highly deluded and dangerously ill, girls who frequent these sites have taken the black hole at their centers and filled it with an obsessive faith in the power and purity of thinness. In essence, they are crying out to our godless culture, showing us just how damaged a child can be who is thrown to the wolves of advertising and amoral media without any spiritual armor.

I want to nominate this has possibly the worst paragraph to ever exist, ever.

First, I just want to do a general scoff at the author's claims that we live in a godless culture. Typical religious persecution complex there. We are not even CLOSE to being a godless culture. Should I go outside and count the churches I can see just from my front door? Well, I can try, though I may need to take an abacus with me for fear of losing count. Our media and advertising may be godless, I may concede to that, but there really is nothing godless about our culture (Note I speak for the US, I don't know enough about other countries to try and make claims about them).

Also, the whole paragraph confuses me. She begins by talking about support websites for girls and women suffering from anorexia and bulimia but then mentions how they turn these diseases into a religion and give the "goddess" diseases names like Mia and Ana? Is she actually talking about Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites? Because those are NOT support websites for these girls. Those are inspiration sites used to continue the desire to starve yourself, the inspiration usually gained through pictures of thin women and girls. I have never once heard of an actual support group for these women refer to their conditions as anything other than a disease, and definitely NOT as a religion. Did this woman even do any research here?

So let's assume that she is actually talking about these Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites (Google these if you want to see them, I don't want to link to any of them since I do think they are very unhealthy and they are really very easy to find through a simple Google search), since that seems to be what her tone implies, even if her actual words don't. Where does she get the idea that what these girls need is religion to cure them? Is there some sort of research she found that states this? Does she know any girls battling with an eating disorder that she talked to? Did she watch any shows about eating disorders or even just a documentary? I'm gonna assume no, because even with the limited amount of documentaries and shows and articles I've read about eating disorders I can see that this is just pure unmitigated bullshit. Plus, in her entire opinion piece she sites ZERO articles. An opinion piece, indeed.

Yes, some eating disorders develop because a girl/woman wants to look like the pictures in the magazine and so she takes on an extreme diet in order to try and become that ideal. But eating disorders can be the result of a girl or woman trying to gain some control over her life, or a response to trauma or abuse in her life (note: sexual and physical abuse of girls and women happens often in religious homes, so I fail to see how religion is supposed to HELP here). Eating disorders can even be a result of or a part of an anxiety disorder (or in small part to genetics). I don't know if they run the show anymore, but A&E had a show called Obsessed which looked into the lives of people with OCD and other anxiety disorders. I noticed during these shows that some of the women had anxiety disorders that would impact their relationship with food and how much they ate or exercised (Also note I love this show, it's very moving and such a personal look into someone's life and hardships. Just letting people know that I highly recommend it if you're looking for some interesting documentaries to watch). Hell, even MTV did a True Life episode on eating disorders which can tell you more about the disease than this article can, which I'm starting to think is more and more based on the author's stereotypical view of women/girls with eating disorders as vain and completely self involved people.

You know what's great about that? That took me less than 15 minutes to find all those links and information on eating disorders. In that 15 minutes I learned that eating disorders can be caused by body shame, past sexual or physical abuse, anxiety disorders, lack of control, or even simply genetics may have a small influence on the possibility of you developing the disorder (like alcoholism). I've learned that people who actually HAVE eating disorders describe their eating disorder in terms of control of their bodies or body shame, but the one thing they NEVER say is that it's 100% their choice and that they LOVE to be afraid/anxious about food or love to vomit after every time they eat. And once they do realize they have a problem they can't just stop having an eating disorder, it takes time and therapy and a lot of work to overcome it. Of course even one who suffers from it is different and has different reasons and life stories, but there are patterns and studies that can be used to at least inform people who know nothing about the illness so they have at least some understanding of what is going on. None of this information seems to even remotely inform this paragraph or any of this article. Anorexia and bulimia is a serious disease that can often result in death and treating it as if it's just the whim and choice some self obsessed teenage girls is wrong and does way more harm than good.

Amazingly enough religion isn't what cures their eating disorder nor is religion a reason for someone to NOT have an eating disorder or body shame. At least, it isn't mentioned in most of the articles or documentaries or personal stories I've ever come across. It may play a factor for some people, but it is definitely not the penultimate cure all for anorexia and bulimia. It's actually insulting to not only treat eating disorders as if they are a choice made flippantly by a girl/woman that one should be admonished for having (and that these diseases are WORSHIPED, no less), but to also insinuate that these people are this way because they have a lack of faith in God. I bet that just makes the girls and women who suffer from anorexia/bulimia and consider themselves religious and faithful feel really good about themselves.

Again, I ask, do religious people never suffer from anorexia or bulimia? Or, in her mind, if someone is anorexic or bulimic does that automatically mean that they were never faithful or religious to begin with (kind of like how religious people say those atheists who used to be religious just never had faith in the first place)?

Anyway, let's move past that. Onwards to the end!

I'm not calling for a return to conservative religion or restricting dogma. I'm envisioning an inspired movement toward community where girls are nourished with dinner-table conversations about the values of kindness and charity; where girls undergoing puberty are encouraged to embrace the miraculous, complex, and perfectly imperfect bodies they possess; and where girls can find inspiration – not condemnation – in religious texts.

Again, the fact that this woman so easily equates body shame with a lack of kindness or charity is astounding to me. Body shame is not a choice! Body shame is pounded into girls from the second we are born until the second we die! We are constantly told over and over and over again by EVERYONE that how we look affects how we are treated and what people think of us! How the fuck does reacting to that reality mean that women and girls who care about their looks can't be kind or charitable?! HOW?! Oh, I'm sorry, this is the woman who apparently believes that any girl/woman who gets a manicure and then goes out to the soup kitchen to feed the poor is a fucking ditz who is only feeding the hungry to make herself look good. My bad, I forgot logic does not exist here. Carry on.

For starters, the Bible has something to teach the perfect girl who calculates beauty in terms of pounds and dress sizes: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (I Peter 3:3,4). (New International Version)

And Buddha, the man often portrayed as blissful with his belly, has a paradigm-shifting message for the average American woman accustomed to self-hate: "You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."

In the age of the skeletal celebrity-filled US Weekly and shrill sound bite commentators such as Ann Coulter, these are the kinds of deep reflections and recommendations we perfect girls need most.

The Bible also says that women and girls should physically hide themselves from everyone when they have their monthly period, that girls are worth MUCH less than boys, that first born girls do not count as first borns and are not valued by God, that pregnancy and birth is an unclean act that also requires being sequestered from society at large, and that girl children DOUBLE the unclean period (as compared to boy children). The Bible also says that women and girls are free to be taken by men as spoils of war, to be raped and married by the same men who just came through and slaughtered their families and loved ones. The Bible also says the only value a girl has is in her virginity and she is, quite literally, not worth as much if she has had sex with a man (and also that sex with a man that isn't her husband will pretty much result in her violent and gruesome death). For reference please see the blog sections on uncleanliness, spoils of battle, rape, men rule, and property. I'm sure these sections will really uplift your spirits and see just how valued you are as a woman to God.

Yes, I can TOTALLY absolutely see how the Bible would definitely work to increase self esteem and decrease body shame in girls and women. -_- Not that the verse she picked isn't just as insulting. God is basically saying girls and women are stupid and focusing on the unimportant because they dare to let societies pressures alter their behaviors; that women and girls dare to tow the line when it comes to the beauty standard because doing otherwise is very likely to leave them jobless and penniless; that women and girls may focus more on the outside than what is on the inside because, for the most part, the world could care less who we are on the inside since we will be mostly be judges based on the outward and no on the inward. Would she advocate going to a job interview (or to a current job) wearing no makeup, in an ill-fitting button down shirt and hair haphazardly put up in a pony tail? Because, you know, if I really didn't have to care about how I looked and could just be myself (focus on the inward more than the outward, as God would want me to) I would pretty much be lectured to shape up (or sent home or fired) and be guaranteed to never get another job or keep my current one unless I went back to the nice hair, makeup and pencil skirts with tailored shirts. What exactly is the message here, because I think it's safe to assume that she wears makeup and heels and nice business attire to the office. If so, is she even qualified to give this kind of advice? Does she actually understand that the outward IS important in society, but she wants to make black and white statements without regard for the complexity of the real world so it's just easier to ignore stuff like we have to care about our appearances in order to function in the world as it is right now? It's all so complicated and complex and yet the author waves it off as if it's just a given that one should stop caring about the outward, as if this would have no real life consequences so of course everyone should do it if they want to be a selfless person.

I do agree with Buddha, we do have to learn to love ourselves. Loving yourself is pretty much the base for happiness in your life. But, there is a difference between learning to love who I am and dressing myself up to go outside into the world. Women and girls will not be able to fully cast off the need to constantly police our dress and eating behaviors until we disassemble the patriarchy and society as a whole learns to love women for whom they are. I can love myself every which way, but until the patriarchy is gone and the constant reinforced message that I am never good enough is silenced, there will always be that body shame there and there will always be a need to tow the line to some extent in order to survive.

A supermom of an elite college hopeful told New York Times reporter Sara Rimer, "You just hope your child doesn't have anorexia of the soul." While she is spot on in her fears, she seems woefully shortsighted about her responsibilities. It is we, all of us, who have the power to resurrect a society that values spirit above skinniness. We have to start doing it – one prayer, one family hike, one heart-to-heart discussion about what really matters – at a time.

Oh good, we didn't leave out the mom blaming either. This article just has everything, doesn't it?

So, story time. The other day my mom was regaling my little brother and I with stories of our childhood. As background, we lived in a home where my mom was the bread winner and my dad stayed at home and cooked and cleaned and took care of my brother and I. You would think, living in such an environment, that my brother and I as children would be very egalitarian in our view of the sexes, if not have it completely backwards from the societal norms. If people like the author are to be believed, all you need is the correct home environment and voila, perfect children who have learned all the right things and will never be influenced by the ugly sexism or racism or classism of the world outside the home. And yet, almost as a perfect example of how this is completely not true, we have one evening at our house long ago and far away. We were all watching TV and I (maybe 10 at the time, making my brother around 6) went to the kitchen to get something. When I came back, my brother ordered me to grab him a drink. When I refused he exclaimed, "But your place is in the kitchen." much to my parents displeasure and my rage. My mom and dad corrected my brother and chastised him for saying that. I love this story because it is pretty obvious proof that no matter what the home environment is like, we cannot escape the forced of our culture and society. We will be taught how a woman is a woman and how a man is a man no matter what, the best we can hope is that we are at least taught to question it so we can hope to escape as much of it as we can. Hell, even I, as a small child, noticed that girls were supposed to be one way and boys were supposed to be another. I HATED what girls were expected to be so I did my best to shun anything girly (going so far as to always insist my favorite color was blue, even though it was yellow). My home life never taught me that I couldn't be sporty and active, but I heard loud and clear what the rest of the world wanted me to be, even though most people would assume I was too young to really understand it. My brother and I have since grown up and learned to question the sexist thinking we learned as children, but we were still influenced by it all the same. No one person is an island. By all means, try to make home environments more egalitarian and warm and loving. Have parents teach and show kids how the world SHOULD be. But never for a second think that that is all it takes or that the culture will never undo the wonderful things taught at home.

But, to point out, religion would make that a fairly useless endeavor since religion almost always teaches separate roles of submission and dominance for a wife and husband (respectively) and that is very non conducive to a well balanced and woman-loving home. Can't build up a girl's self esteem and self image if she's learning from an early age that she is always less than men and always will be, no matter what she does. So again, I fail to see how religion will help in this situation as well. For an article that is meant to show me how religion is supposed to help girls' body image issues it REALLY doesn't ever state exactly HOW it's supposed to help. The article could have basically been one sentence, "Religion and faith is what girls need to get over their body image issues." and it would have been just as helpful. Telling me that it is true doesn't make it true. You need logic and reason and some evidence or facts to back up your assertions. Just saying.

So there you have it. A wonderful piece about hoe all girls need to get over themselves is one hour of church every Sunday and a few family meals a week. No, really, that's it! Take two of those and tomorrow body shame will be gone for good!

Or maybe I'll just present this article with the *facepalm* award, presented by Patrick Stewart:

Presented for having an entire article about body shame and eating disorders without ONCE mentioning the patriarchy or men. Also for having an entire article about body shame wherein girls are constantly shamed for even caring about how they look (or perform on the SATs?) and told that because they dress up or put on makeup that they are selfish, selfish people who really need to learn how to be kind and charitable to other around them. Yes, even those girls who do community service should really learn to stop being so selfish and just think about someone other than themselves for once. Also for managing to have this entire article where opinions are stated as fact with not one single outside source linked or quoted to back any of the author's bullshit up.

So there you have it, the Christian Science Monitor is clearly the leader in feminist discord. All you feminists just need to turn your minds to God and surely all of our sexism problems will be solved! The article is never really very clear on exactly HOW faith is supposed to help but I'm sure this person obviously learned in the realm of body shame and feminism could NEVER be wrong! The article is also not very specific on exactly how you are supposed to be a REAL believer and not one of those fake ones or weak ones that she talks about at the beginning of her piece. Do I have to go to church every Sunday to get best results? Every other day? Is this going to require constant prayer or can I just get my praying done and church and then have the rest of the week off... and do I need to pick a specific religion and god or will pretty much any do? Oh! Except for Ana and Mia, I totally can't worship those, right. Almost forgot about that. Should I just shoot off an email asking to make sure I do this right because I would hate for my body shame to spiral out of control simply because I'm not practicing faith and religion EXACTLY how I need to to battle off the evils of advertising and media... hello? No? Not gonna get anything specific here? Is it possible you just pulled all this out of your ass?

Hm, maybe I'll pass on the whole religion and faith thing. I think I'll just stay where I am and use actual data and actual reality to inform my discussions and continue working my ass off to break down the patriarchy as best I can because, as any good feminist knows, the patriarchy is the root cause of sexism and woman-hate in the world, not a lack of faith in a god. I'm fairly certain I'll be doing more for those girls you claim to care so much about than you ever will. But thanks for the laugh! XD

(H/T to my friend on Facebook who posted this article and I'm sure was expecting a different kind of response to it)

Friday: More Jeremiah

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