Are My Jeans Too Tight?
I’m tired of reading media talking about Australian Politicians dodging rape and assault allegations.
I’m tired of watching them get away with it.
I’m tired of watching their reputations maintained. Nothing but an awkward moment we won’t talk about in a few weeks.
And so the wheels keep spinning.
I’m tired of the ways this reminds me of Christianity — Carl Lentz and Ravi Zacharias and Mosaic Church. Hillsong and C3 and all the others being called to attention.
I tried to ignore those stories, you know. I tried to ignore it. I tried to let it go. I tried to let other voices speak about it. I tried to sit back.
I can’t fucking sit back.
I’m tired of hearing about prominent people, and especially prominent Christians, getting negative publicity for their abusive relationships and predatory behaviour towards women.
I’m tired of watching the same response again and again — the shock, the raised eyebrows and widened eyes and mouth slightly ajar. A hand flutters to the chest as the audience sighs in all the right places and can’t help but ask — how did they get to that point? How did they fall so far from grace?
Babe, we are doing circles. Again and again.
This is not an issue of certain people in leadership, falling due to the pressure they are put under. This is not an issue of their wives must not have put out enough. This is not an issue of “accidents happen” and god “forgives all sin”. This is not even an issue of individuals.
This is an issue of men.
This is an issue of culture in the West.
This is an issue that Christianity shares.
This is an issue of Christianity.
It is Christianity that has continued and enabled men to be predators and women to be unheard. Stories of abuse are swept under the rug and victims of rape, sexual assault, grooming, and abuse of all kinds are ignored, discredited, and quite frankly — forgotten. The rug is thrown out as soon as possible. The evidence of knowledge is destroyed.
Much like Scott Morrison’s “I never read the letter”.
I’m tired of asking the church to do better. I’m tired of wishing it would do better. I don’t even know why I asked. I don’t have time for that space anymore.
I am no longer just asking the church to “do better”. I’m asking you to break apart the whole fucking system.
Let me tell you a story.
I remember this moment like it was yesterday. I worked for a Christian College, aspiring to be a Christian university. I had been working there for somewhere around the two-year mark. The perfect amount of time to have me connected. The perfect amount of time to have me planning every possible pathway forward with the organisation. I saw no other future except one where I was absolutely and irrevocably part of the college.
I’ve always been ambitious.
It was Sunday morning, and the second church service had just begun. I’d been there since 7:30, setting up, and had taken off during the first service to sneak in a coffee and a breather. 10:00 AM rolled in and so did I. I stood beside a co-worker in the seats and listened in to the worship. At this stage, I was still heavily Christian, attending church on Sundays, and intricately a part of the theology world. I adored it. I thought there were significant issues in the church, particularly in the theology taught and the culture that was being spread… but still, I wanted to fix it. I wanted to help. I wanted to be the better.
The guest speaker was the president of the college I worked for, a prominent man in his 60’s (?) who had quite a lot of say in the Christian movement I was working within. The MC introduced him. He walked up on the stage. He introduced that he was here for the college. He introduced me, said I would be at the back of the church afterwards so that anyone who had questions about the college could come and ask. So far, so good.
Then, he asked me to stand.
Not an entirely abnormal thing to ask a person, when they are representing your organisation for you. Totally fair. Here for it. I stood. What is entirely abnormal, is what he said next.
“There she is boys.”
There… she is… boys?
Suddenly I had gone from being a volunteer helping you promote your college to a sex object. There she is, boys. As though pointing me out to the throngs of men in the church was as normal as anything. He laughed. Mentioned I was unavailable. I sat down, shaking. Eyes on me. All eyes were on me.
My immediate reaction was to look down at my outfit. Black skinny jeans and a fun oversized striped long sleeve top. I asked myself, over and over… Are my jeans too tight? Did I look too sexy? Was I inappropriate?
I was not.
There is no excuse to call out a woman more than 40 years your junior and make a “joke” and say “there she is, boys” as though she is available for the eyes of men because she is an object to you and nothing more.
Never mind I was very much unavailable, at the time. Ring and all.
Some men will read this and think it is an innocent joke. Some will not see the reaction I had as rational. The fear that instantly moved through my body. The way I tensed up. The way I felt I could not look anyone in the eye for the rest of the day. Some people will think my reaction is irrational.
Those people have never experienced the social experience that is being a woman.
Those people have not been taught from a young age what to do is someone grabs you from behind. Those people have not been taught that their body is inherently sinful because it has breasts and a vulva. Those people have not been taught that they are bad, that what they wear will make them into a sex object and cause men to lust. Those people have not been taught that sometimes when you say no, a man will take it to mean “convince me” and if he forces you it’s your fault, you should have just said yes. Those people have not had people say “I can’t text you because you’re a woman”. Those people who think my reaction is irrational have not seen the micro-aggressions that exist in society towards women.
Those people who think my reaction is irrational do not see this for what it is:
It’s sexual harrassment.
Sexual harassment still exists in society, reminding women that our bodies are not our own. Sexist language is a joke to most men, as they laugh together about “not being pussy’s” as though they could handle half of what a vagina does.
The point of my story was to say this — this is not the only story I have. It’s not the only thing I have seen in Christian spaces reminiscent of the stories coming to light now regarding pastor “celebrities” and mega churches. This issue of abuse by these leaders is not a product of these individuals alone. It is a product of the church. It is a product of the culture that gives leaders power. It is the product of a culture that excludes women’s voices from being heard. It is the product of a culture that polices everything from women’s clothing to the way we speak (actually, though. I have heard men say that women should only speak a certain way if we want them to listen).
Because of the culture around leadership, leadership often goes unchecked. You can have all the accountability systems you like but if you keep teaching that womens bodies are bad and tempt men into lust, then you’re going to keep having men abusing women and pursuing them despite accountability structures.
I’m tired of watching women continue to be vilified because men are incapable of recognising they are wrong.
I am tired of people defending churches that are incapable of recognising that it is time to change.
I am tired of people defending a theology that does not support women, but ostracises them.
I am tired of telling story after story for people to consume, and for nothing to change.
But god, I am so tired of seeing the cycles of abuse go unchecked.