sexualization

Abuse, Forgiveness, and Casting Stones

Content note: sexual abuse, power, privilege, abuse in the news, abuse narratives

This is my third piece triggered by and simultaneously about and not about the most current sexual abuse scandal in the news. This topic grieves me and angers me. Even though I am not from the same faith tradition as the current focus du jour, I have seen this play out across Christian denominations. I have friends who have been abused and friends who have been sexually assaulted, and well meaning church people who have handled the information in ways that perpetuate abusive thinking and center the abuser rather than the victim.

In Abuse and the Use of Power, I wrote

Sexual abuse is not about sex. Sexual assault is not about sex. Talk to victims, survivors, crisis center professionals, the people working in this field. Sexual assault is about power; it is about the abuse of power, trust, and authority. And the kind of social inclusion that could possibly mitigate this kind of damage didn’t, because the victims and the perpetrator were embedded into the same exclusive, tightly knit group.

In Abuse and What Forgiveness Isn’t, I added

Forgiveness is not neat and tidy. But it is also not a transaction, or an automatic response to “I’m sorry.” If it is forced, required, or coerced, it becomes an extension of the original abuse. “Moving on” is an illusion that ignores real issues and maintains the power structures that facilitate abuses of authority.

One of the most disturbing trends I’ve seen in regard to sexual abuse, sexual assault, and the conversations surrounding it, is in the same vein as the forgiveness post. But I was so troubled by it I needed to write a whole separate essay and take a few extra days to process.

“A sin is a sin is a sin.”

I am not going to get into a theological discussion about the nature of sin, or why the Catholic tradition has mortal sins and venal sins, or the irony/hypocrisy of the evangelical church putting so much emphasis on sexual sins and purity as though fornication is the ultimate sin until one of their own men is in the spotlight for just that.

Sexual assault is a CRIME.

This is not just a conversation about sin and the church. This has implications beyond our physical church walls, or the arbitrary boundaries between denominations. Molesting children is against the law. Delicate language recasting it as a mistake, a misstep, an indiscretion, a sin is carefully dodging the consequences of acknowledging the criminal nature of sexual abuse.

My pastor is the executive director of a year-long, faith-based recovery home for women. The vast majority of the women who enter the program have broken the law, often multiple times. I have witnessed these women walk out incredible transformations in their lives. When they give their testimonies at the end of their program, they pull no punches as they share their old lives of addiction and pain. They don’t use soft language or try to dodge consequences. In fact, even as they acknowledge their forgiveness, part of their program is to fulfill all consequences, restitution, etc., that is part of their criminal sentences. But as they name it, they do so because it takes away the shame of secrecy, and establishes a habit of accepting the consequences of their actions.

By dismissing the serious, violating nature of sexual abuse by quipping, “A sin is a sin is a sin,” in a misguided invocation of forgiveness, bloggers and supporters of the perpetrator uphold the code of secrecy that allow perpetrators to escape the consequences of their crimes. And completely ignoring the victims.

“Let he among us without sin be the first to cast a stone.”

I read a really awful blog post, based on a really awful tweet, all based on a gross misuse of that concept. All hash-tagged with support to forgive the perpetrator.

I wrote on Thursday: it is not for any of us, the general public to forgive him. We were not wronged, molested, or abused by him. If we repeatedly avoid hard conversations about abuse, assault, and the systems that facilitate the molestation of children–all under the misguided call for “forgiveness”–these crimes will continue unabated and the bodies and lives of children and women will continue to be attacked.

Now, let me tell you what it can be like to be a female victim of a sexual crime in the church. Elizabeth Smart speaks about her captivity, and the lessons she learned about sex a la the “chewed gum” analogy  significantly impacted her perception of herself as a rape victim/survivor. When I attended church camp in middle school and high I went to a small-group lesson on boundaries in dating. We signed True Love Waits cards. I remember learning that once we passed boundaries there was “no going back,” and that it was my responsibility (as a female) to keep the physical side of the relationship in check. During college, a group of friends were talking when someone opened up that she had been raped freshman year. One well-meaning but misguided friend’s first instinct was to ask if her boyfriend knew she wasn’t a virgin.

This pervasive fixation is aimed at girls remaining pure. And in all those lessons I learned–directly and indirectly–there was no grace.

The full context of the casting stones verse involves a woman about to be stoned for adultery. She is about to become a victim of the male-dominated purity code. She is marginalized, just like every person for whom Jesus went to bat. When people trot this verse out, lacking context, in defense of an abuser, they miss the point entirely. When high-profile men lose positions of power and authority because of sexual abuse or sexual assault allegations, they are not victims. Their victims are victims.

On Thursday, I said I feel no nuance about standing on the side of the marginalized. These girls–now in their teens–don’t have hash tags or social media campaigns. But I’m guessing they have a lot of hurt and misunderstanding. Maybe they feel like chewed up gum. Maybe they only now understand the full extent of what happened to them as young children. Maybe they are horrified by the support offered to their abuser while they feel ignored or revictimized.

The church has done a terrible, terrible job of standing up for abuse victims/survivors/overcomers. It rushes “forgiveness” and “reconciliation” and centers the abusers instead of uplifting and surrounding the hurt and abused. Is it any wonder the rest of the country stares back, agog?

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Abuse and What Forgiveness Isn’t

Content note: sexual abuse, power, privilege, abuse in the news, abuse narratives

Most of the blog posts I’ve read that defend a Christian accused of a sexual crime against another person (or persons) get the concept of forgiveness really, really wrong.

In Abuse and the Use of Power, I wrote briefly about the difficulty I experience writing about religion. I currently attend a Christian peace church that turns the mainstream idea of church hierarchy on its head, but I have attended and witnessed churches and church relationships that cause a great deal of hurt to individuals and groups. I am conscious of the contributions the church has made to historical and modern constructions of racism, misogyny and sexism, privilege, power, and the language and action of oppression. I have also seen the church participate in reconciliation and liberation.

It’s safe to say I have a complex relationship with the church. It’s full of wrestling and nuance, which is something that often gets lost as soon as tempers flare and parties start shouting past each other.

Granted, there are some things about which I feel no nuance. Deconstructing power. Sexual abuse. Standing on the side of the marginalized.

And in that vein, I have read some very troubling things over the last week. I am not going to link them, because page hits. Also because I ended up in a very angry rabbit hole last night following the push behind a specific blog post. It was ugly and confounding, and I decided not to go the route of a detailed illustration of the parallels between featuring a blog post on forgiving abusers while simultaneously featuring specific language that has been called out as being sexist and damaging… the more I dug into it the more I realized my emotional health couldn’t handle it. Especially not before bed.

Forgiveness.

Through the lens of power, here are my responses to points of conversation as I have read it to date, and what I assert has been missing from nearly every conversation involving a high-profile sexual assault:

“We should forgive him!” That is not within our power; forgiveness is not ours to give. Unless we are the target or victim or God Himself, it is not our responsibility to forgive.

“He confessed and apologized, so the victims need to forgive him.” There are many variations of “The perpetrator did X, so the victims should do Y,” and they are problematic. First, an apology is not an equation. It does not guarantee forgiveness. In my 12-Step group, when we reach Step 9 and make amends we do so with the full understanding that forgiveness may not be proffered in return. When my students get an apology, they say “Thank you;” I have taught them not to say “It’s okay.” Because usually it is not okay. Second, forgiveness cannot be demanded, required, or coerced as part of a conditional agreement or system. “He confessed and apologized, so the victims need to forgive him” is an expression of the exact same abuse of power and authority that manifested as the sexual assault. The hierarchy of perpetrator over victim remains in place, and the authority remains in hands of the assaulter.

“Move on.” A lot–and I mean a lot— of blogs and articles and opinion pieces have mentioned and paid lip service to the victims. The amount of ink they get compared to the perpetrator is a dismal ratio, and maybe that’s to ensure they’re privacy. Then again, maybe not. In this specific case, we’re told the victims got counseling. We don’t know what kind. We’re told they moved on. Or, we’re told they should move on. Empty cries to “move on” ignore very real issues that happen in churches and families around us. One woman wrote about her similar molestation, and that she was counseled (by a lay member of the church, a non-professional) that forgiveness was required, and that moving on was the only thing that would glorify God. And a five-year-old child cannot complete counseling. For one, counseling is an ongoing process. Furthermore, if a child cannot fully process what happened to her body, she cannot understand the implications of forgiving that sin against her. It’s distinctly possible that if/when she chooses to forgive her assailant, she will need to re-forgive him every time the memory of abuse reemerges as a power in her life. A victim/survivor of sexual abuse is the only person who can decide when she can move on, forgive, let go of some of the hurt. As far as us moving on? If we do not have real conversations about child sexual abuse, the systems that facilitate its commission, and the barriers to intervention, it will keep happening. We need to have conversations about how to best separate victims from their abusers, how to help victims recover and heal, and how to rehabilitate abusers so they do not abuse again.

Forgiveness is not neat and tidy. But it is also not a transaction, or an automatic response to “I’m sorry.” If it is forced, required, or coerced, it becomes an extension of the original abuse. “Moving on” is an illusion that ignores real issues and maintains the power structures that facilitate abuses of authority.

Abuse and the Use of Power

Content note: sexual abuse, power, privilege, abuse in the news, abuse narratives

I’ve stared at this blank blog post for a while.

My heart is heavy and more than a little frustrated. I do not want to jump into the fray regarding the latest high-profile abuse scandal to capture our attention. The coverage of such stories bothers me, the way we center the narrative on the perpetrator and fixate on how and why he did it, on whether his consequences were served in the right time and manner, and on whether the appropriate public response should be outrage or forgiveness. Although my heaviness and frustration have been triggered by this latest event, it is by no means limited to this incident, nor is it centered on the tradition or the adherents from which the abuse sprang. There are well-written pieces on that, and that is not my area. Moreover, I have found this happens across traditions.

To date, I have written about the intersections of gender, race, social class, and language. I have written comparatively little on the topic of or intersection with religion. It’s a difficult topic for me. I grew up in the Lutheran tradition, got my B.A. from a liberal Lutheran college, spent a lot of energy not fitting in to the Evangelical circle during college, and currently wrestle at a Brethren church. I know a lot of people who have been hurt in and by the church, regardless of tradition. I have been hurt by the church and by well-meaning church people.

It’s hard to write about something to which I am still so closely tied. But that’s why I attend a church that decides most things by consensus. Where the pastors defer to the congregation, rather than the other way around. Where the pastors are a husband-and-wife team with equally strong voices. It’s not perfect, but once when a pastor said something in a sermon that caused me to become visibly uncomfortable, I got a text message later (because I prefer texts) so we could hash out the intent, how I heard it, and why I was bothered.

It has become abundantly clear when there is an imbalance of power, there exists the potential for abuse. I learned this from the church. My graduate work has confirmed it. And the current media firestorm illustrates this even further.

Allow me to elaborate:

I am currently preparing a manuscript with two additional authors on the abuse of women and girls with disability. The paper covers twenty years of research studies into the topic, and finds that across all age bands and across all categories of abuse, women and girls with disability experience abuse at higher rates than women and girls without disabilities. The single most common theme that emerged? Victims were more vulnerable to abuse as a consequence of power being used inappropriately. We also wrote:

[The] difficulty in achieving justice in the court system for women with disabilities who have been sexually assaulted stems from the failure to recognize the abuses of trust, power, and authority in the relationships of these women.

Further factors that conveyed risk or protective factors were isolation vs. social inclusion; that source indicated the degree to which a woman was socially embedded mitigated the likelihood she would experience partner violence.

So how does this relate to the current news cycle? Everything.

The pieces I’ve read have fit into two categories: those that have used carefully selected language, and those that have called out the careful words for softening and whitewashing what was an act of sexual abuse and violence against the bodies of young girls. But both categories seem to be so caught up in the politicization of the scandal that they miss some really important information.

Sexual abuse is not about sex. Sexual assault is not about sex. Talk to victims, survivors, crisis center professionals, the people working in this field. Sexual assault is about power; it is about the abuse of power, trust, and authority. And the kind of social inclusion that could possibly mitigate this kind of damage didn’t, because the victims and the perpetrator were embedded into the same exclusive, tightly knit group.

And it is this part of the narrative that bothers me so much, that most conversations are missing: however it was (or wasn’t) handled, after whatever counseling did (or did not) occur, the person in question still went on to achieve positions of power and authority. 

Most of the pieces I’ve read in the Forgiveness camp demonstrate some simplistic and/or disturbing misconceptions of what forgiveness means. I’ll get to that later this week. But the amount of power, authority, and leverage ascribed to his (former) position with the Family Research Council is troubling, snarky and/or frustrated comments about anti-LGBT campaigns aside (those are worth discussion, but not in this blog post).

The way we center our coverage on perpetrators is disturbing. Our concern for victims/survivors’ wellbeing rarely seems to match our morbid curiosity for the details of their violation. We need a new lens: power, and why give it back to the perpetrators.

Fit Friday: Tank Tops and Taking Up Space

It’s May, and Idaho has made that quick and awkward transition from cool-and-almost-springy to my-kids-come-in-from-recess-hot-and-smelly. I have third-graders who needed to start wearing deodorant this spring, which is a new one for me. My second year of teaching, I had that fun conversation with my fifth-grade boys about DEODOROANT>AXE**. Their big takeaway was, Ms. Danielle taught us how to get chicks in middle school! But, it got them to start showering daily and give up the Axe in favor of pit stick, so I marked it a success. I’ve had fourth grade girls start their periods before. But third grade… I was just not expecting it this year.

That first group of students I taught? They’re sophomores now, for three more weeks. Most of them are taller than I am. You can insert any number of cliches here about how they’ve grown, and how old I feel. It’s been fun, though, to watch them. That’s one of the perks of working in a small school–I can see them every day, if I make a point to be in the hallways between classes or after lunch. We have high school students who have transferred to our school, too, over the past seven years who have added to the mix of personalities. And to the dating pool. I bring up this last point  because that’s a Big Deal in the middle school and high school. When I taught these students, boys and girls played together and were friends. Now, it seems everything is viewed through the lens of dating and pairing up and sex. This is not just the perspective of the students, but also the staff. When you are teaching students who are preoccupied with who is dating whom and the tangled webs thereof, it’s important to pay attention and to be proactive and involved.

Here is my disclaimer: I am not in these classrooms. I don’t interact with these students much. And there is a lot I’m missing.

What I see is this (in the hallways, staff meetings, and handbook revisions every spring): Girls have been chastised for wearing tank tops; boys are not. Girls’ clothing is sexualized; boys’ is not. Girls try to take up less space; boys try to take up more.

Toxic body image affects girls and boys. Girls see one version of the ideal body, and learn to lose pounds and inches and to take up less space. Boys see one image of the ideal body, and learn to build certain muscle in certain places. Self-perception and self-worth often hinges on these limited definitions of acceptable physical femininity and masculinity. (I’ll expand these more in the future, and provide more nuance).

In my anti-diet support and resource group, we talk a lot about giving ourselves permission to Take Up Space. To wear tank tops, even if our arms are not toned. To wear the clothes we want before we reach our goal weight. To wear the clothes we want without allowing our body parts to be scrutinized or sexualized. Do you know why we have to consciously give ourselves permission to do this, at the age of 20, 30, or even 60?

Because this kind of body shaming and sexualization starts in high school. When we talk about the dress code, we talk about girls wearing tank tops, and the boys getting distracted. We talk about the girls not having enough “self-respect,” about the girls using their clothes to get attention, about it detracting from the learning environment. When we talk about the boys wearing tank tops… we don’t. We have not, in my recollection, talked about boys wearing tank tops. A former student wears tank tops and sleeveless muscle shirts almost daily. I have never seen nor heard him told to cover up or change shirts during the day. I have seen multiple girls forced to wear t-shirts or hoodies or zip-ups over tank tops that were deemed inappropriate.

It starts before high school, when I am expected to tell a second grade girl that she cannot wear a tank top on a 90ºF day because of the dress code. Second grade girls (generally) do not have bra straps or breasts, and they definitely do not have sexy shoulders. Second grade children do not think about their own bodies in that manner, unless the adults in their lives create environments where those aspects are amplified.

Are there adult men and women who find shoulders, breasts, cleavage, or clavicles attractive? Yes. Are there adult men and women who find well-defined biceps, triceps, and pectorals attractive? Yes. Do we objectify every adult human that walks past us in a tank top? I sure hope not. Why can’t we teach our high school students to do the same?

Why can’t we teach our high school students to do the same? I might raise a stink if the dress code comes up again. I might bring it up myself. Our girls should be allowed to take up space; they should not have to “hide” their bodies. The boys should not have free reign to take up as much space as they want by wearing shirts that reveal their entire torsos from a profile view, especially if we’re using the idea of “professionalism” as the rationale behind other pieces of the dress code. Melissa Atkins Wardy at Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies had a pointed piece about reframing dresscodes as “Don’t Wear Saturday on a Wednesday.” It strikes a sensible balance between allowing girls to retain agency of their bodies and clothing, respecting boys’ ability to control themselves and treat girls as humans, and teaching students to dress for the situation and venue.

Happy Spring! I’ma go garden in a T-Shirt while it’s still cool enough to do so. Once it’s mid-June…sports bra. Lots of sunblock. Not because it’s sexy, but because it’s just too hot. Also I have six-foot fences, soooo..

**I have to credit my sister Katrina with the approach to this one. This was said in a very kind manner. I am not the Takes No Prisoners teacher with my kids.

When you rub an onion and an orange together, it doesn’t make the onion smell better, it just makes everything smell kinda gross. Trust me, you don’t smell good. I used to be a middle school girl, and the people around you would much prefer you to shower daily and wash your hair than to smell like a can from a commercial. This is your homework for the next two weeks: Shower every day, wash your hair, wear deodorant. There will be a test, and it will be the asthma of the para across the hall who cannot breathe after you spray that stuff in the boys’ bathroom.

Women, Sex, and Cars (Part II)

Content Note: sexual assault in the news, rape culture, sexism, misogyny, sexual symbolism

My blog post about buying a car was only going to be one blog post. But as often happens with conversations, it begets further conversation. Which springs forth into further reflection, deconstruction, reconstruction, keyboard smashing, synthesis.

And today I read about Patricia, the most recent in a group of over 30 women who have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault, and between comments on that story, and conversations and comments on my first post about buying my car, I’m up to my earholes in rape culture and power dynamics. So here’s the alternate title to this post:

How I Learned to Drive a Stick (that’s what she said)

Right off the bat, I am going to issue this clarification: at no point am I issuing an indictment of individual persons, with the exception of Bill Cosby. It’s pretty clear he’s guilty of some horrible acts against women. My other commentary is “aimed up” at the culture and systems and not “aimed down” at the people forced to navigate the resulting marginalization.

When I bought my car, I left feeling adequate. I felt not completely empowered, but not disempowered either. I left with enough of my autonomy intact to feel I had done a good job negotiating and purchasing my car, my first big ticket item since my divorce. A discussion happened among some women acquaintances about our experiences buying and servicing cars. We were split into two groups: those who had been traumatized, ripped off, or otherwise dehumanized, and those who had survived mostly unscathed. Those in the latter group cited strategies for the successes: bringing a male partner to the dealership, doing extra research, choosing a female salesperson, calling a male friend on the phone for back-up. A few of the women in the latter group made suggestions to the women in the former group for a more positive experience next time: Seek out a saleswoman, or Well, I know to bring a man with me.

My problem isn’t that these women gave these suggestions, but that the automotive culture is such that this conversation exists at all. Why do we have to “know to bring a man”? Why should buying a car feel like reporting a sexual assault on a college campus (a lived experience a friend of mine used during the aforementioned conversation)?

Why did all of this remind me of the “how to avoid getting raped” college presentations for freshman women?

The same society that produced our current rape culture produced the boys’ club that is the automotive show room.

When I got my butt grabbed at the Old Broadway in Fargo, there were those who might have told me to take it as a compliment. When someone touched me unexpectedly and without my consent and called me sweetheart at the car dealership, one of my friends did tell me to take it as a compliment. Neither of these is a compliment; both of these are about power.

Salespeople generally assume that women don’t know anything about cars. Legislators generally assume that women don’t know anything about what constitutes sexual assault, too.

I’ve been writing about my car a lot on my personal Facebook page. I’m sure some people are looking forward to the end of my overly emotional good-bye to my car. But it’s my narrative. I get to decide when to move on.

I know some people are tired of how drawn out the Bill Cosby story has become. The allegations first came to light in a 2005 civil case and were effectively silenced in 2006. This latest viral resurgence of victims stepping forward began in October 2014; to date over 30 women have publicly accused him of drugging and assaulting them, seven of whom are from the 2005 civil case. As far as Hollywood news is concerned, this story seems like it has gone on forever.

But this isn’t just Hollywood news. And five months is nothing compared to years of silence and internalized shame. You want the media to move on? This isn’t your narrative. This isn’t Cosby’s narrative, either. Finally–yes, finally–this narrative belongs to the women. The women who felt partially responsible for their own assaults. The ones who looked up to a man as a mentor, only to have that power used against them.

The statute of limitations has passed on these cases. This isn’t about going to court, or getting money. This is about power. And from where I sit (and I could be wrong), it’s not even about the victims/survivors getting power over Cosby, but about getting some of their power back.

When I was in rehearsals for How I Learned to Drive, the hardest scene for me was the hotel room scene, when Li’l Bit finally confronts her uncle for the years of inappropriate interactions and abuse of power and “grooming” that led up to that night, her 18th birthday. Li’l Bit runs through a huge range of emotions, and anger is one of them. I am still learning how to let myself experience my own anger, so portraying such a raw and visceral emotion on stage was challenging. The director could see my struggle because, let’s face it, I was sucking. She told me that scene was for the women who never got to face their abusers, and that I needed to be angry for them. I didn’t want that burden, really, and I don’t mean to imply that I fixed the abuse of the world by performing that role for three nights in July. But that was what I needed to hear, as part of my own journey as Danielle and as Li’l Bit.

I got good and angry. Li’l Bit took her power back. Everything is about power.

And if you think it isn’t about power, ask yourself this question: Why are there people who express more worry for Cosby’s legacy than they do for the damaged lives of these 30+ women?

Women, Sex, and Cars

Content Note: sexism, sexual symbolism in theatre

I bought a car this weekend.

The experience was fraught. Little Purple, my trusty steed for the last dozen years, had been ailing for the last year. I had spent close to $1000 on three major repairs since school started, and then she choked out in my driveway on a recent Friday. I cried several times. I tried all the tricks I’d used on her glitchy electrical system over the years, but she was down for the count. Even before I got the call from Cody in the Service Department, even before the tow truck brought her there, even before I called the towing company, I knew she’d driven her last mile. I knew it the same way I knew my grandmother had died when the phone rang on that July morning. I knew it the same way I knew I was pregnant that December evening before I took a pregnancy test. Sometimes a body just knows things.

Nostalgia kicked in. Hard. All the frustration of the last year of breakdowns quieted, and I managed to crank out a few thousand words on a new chapter for April Showers

Twice she crossed the mountains on eastwardly all-nighters. During the first, my sister and I traded driving duties every four hours while our mother sat in the back seat in variations of annoyance and anger with us. We entertained ourselves with music and a rapping sock monkey named Maurice; mother was not amused. Eventually she fell asleep; so did Katrina. When it was Katrina’s turn to drive, mother woke, briefly, and then she slept some more. I nodded off quickly. After two hours, Katrina woke me, wracked with anxiety: it was dark, we were crossing mountains, mother was snoring. She begged me to take over. I took the wheel and Little Purple whispered through the invisible Montana landscape, the mountains parting to accept her and swallowing her up as the pass quietly zippered up behind us.

I am well aware that I refer to my car with feminine pronouns. Last summer, I performed the role of Li’l Bit in Paula Vogel’s play How I Learned to Drive. One of the (many) themes running through the play is the connection among cars, women, and sex. The sexualization-of-cars metaphor seems clear in the text and subtext of the script, but in case anyone has missed it, there is one scene when Uncle Peck is teaching Li’l Bit to drive and classic 50s and 60s pin-up style shots of women with cars are projected on the back wall of the stage; cut into the the slide show are era-style pin-up shots of Li’l Bit (a.k.a. me). Li’l Bit asks her uncle why the car is a she. He brings the metaphor to its full by spelling it out for us. For me, Little Purple as a she carried sexual implications, but in a mutually empowering way, rather than in unidirectional objectifying way. We carried each other, we ailed together, we soared together. There’s a reason the call from the Service Department reminded me of finding out I was pregnant.

I accompanied my sister when she bought her Jeep last summer, and I saw how the salesman treated her. He did not take her seriously or see her as an equal until she got a (male) friend on the phone, one who happens to be a successful car salesman. She passed her cellphone off to HotShot McWranglerpants and I could hear him swallow his heart. To hear that smarmy voice change to one of young man knocked down a few pegs infuriated me. Why did it take a man in his mid-forties to get this hot-shot prick to actually listen to my sister? Why are women treated this way when it comes to purchasing and servicing cars? How did one man on a cell phone elicit more respect than two women in person?

Why does Jiffy Lube have a “Ladies’ Day”?

The dynamics of power between men and women are quite plain in the automotive world. The only women I’ve seen employed at the dealership where I purchased my car work at the coffee counter and in the payments department. I’ve co-hosted a few remote broadcasts from that dealership with my radio job, so I’m acquainted with a few employees. As I waited in the payments department to make my down payment, a salesperson I’d previously met walked by, patted my back (hooray for unsolicited bodily contact!), and said, Congratulations, sweetheart! I replied non-noncommittally. It’s a nice car! he reassured me as he walked away (hooray for drive-by nonversations!). I turned to my salesperson (who is, by the way, my sister’s friend from the other end of that phone call with HotShot McWranglerpants) and said, I know it’s a nice car. I bought it. I just don’t like being called sweetheart.

Anyone who thinks we live in a post-feminist society has not purchased a car recently. Or if they did, they are probably a man who purchased a car from a man. I’m not a car person, but I am a person. This whole men-sex-women-cars thing looks as dated as the 50s pin-up pictures we took as publicity shots for How I Learned to Drive, which were, by the way, intentionally vintage. Buying a car as a woman should not take extra strategies or back-up plans or friends on-call if the deal goes south.

So again, I ask: why does Jiffy Lube have a Ladies’ Day?

Wanted

For a post about why I later reconsidered and retracted the cuteness of this post, please click here.

Description: A black frame with the words WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE printed on the edges. In the middle is a doll of the My Little Pony/Equestria Girl named Fluttershy, held by an out-of-frame child.

This happened. It’s cute. It’s actually tied to my broader thoughts on obedience, compliance, and playing the long game. Also about sexualized dolls targeted at elementary school aged children.

But for now, just enjoy a cute picture of Fluttershy, the baddest criminal in the school.