Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” video has some problems

If you haven’t seen Taylor Swift’s new music video “Shake it Off,” I’ve embedded it above. I don’t think you need to watch it for my commentary to make sense, and there’s no reason to listen to the song since I won’t be critiquing the lyrics extensively– so, if you really don’t like Taylor Swift as an artist, feel free to skip it.

Before we get started, I need to admit to some bias: I’m not a Taylor Swift fan. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid her ever since she released “You Belong to Me,” which practically screamed I’m not one of those girls. She also believe[s/d] that the definition of feminism is “women who are against men and also want everything without working for it.

Because of all that, I was happy to hear this:

I go on too many dates
But I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright

Taylor Swift, unfortunately, has faced a lot of slut-shaming for her supposedly “high number” of relationships– I googled, and apparently that number is six. In my personal life, I’ve been in serious long-term committed relationships twice, have had short-term relationships twice, and have been out on a few dates with one other person, bringing my “number” to five. I’m pretty sure six relationships is pretty normal, which makes me a little baffled why she’s drawn so much criticism. Anyway, I’m delighted that she’s confronted this perception of her head-on.

There’s a few other things going on in the video that I think are positive– I appreciate that she’s not taking herself too seriously, and my overall impression is that it’s supposed to be fun and lighthearted.

However, I want y’all to notice something:

taylor swift ballerinataylor swift contemporarytaylor swift cheerleader

Now, this:

taylor swift stereotaylor swift hip hop

I just want to ask you some questions: which set of costuming decisions could be taken seriously, and which ones are a joke? Which set of clothing, makeup, and other styling decisions are overblown and ridiculous exaggerations of a particular culture? And of these two sets, which are typically associated with black culture in America?

Mm-hmm.

But, we have to move on.

taylor swift ballerinas white

taylor swift hip hop black

Question round #2!

In which picture can you see the women’s faces? Which picture is Taylor Swift not in? In the course of the music video, we only get to see one woman’s face in the booty-shaking-leapard-print-blinged-out segment, and she’s possibly white, maybe Hispanic. I couldn’t tell, and I think that was probably intentional, since the woman they chose was “racially ambiguous.”

Ok, next:

Here’s photoset A:

taylor swift ballerina leapingtaylor swift contemporary leaping

taylor swift gymnast leapingtaylor swift pop lock

And photoset B:

taylor swift booty shaking

Which set demonstrates stunning beauty, grace, athleticism, and breathtaking physical abilities? And which one doesn’t? Which one is, again, associated with black culture, and which ones are considered serious art forms or have entire Olympic events organized around its existence?

And then there’s this:

taylor swift white guy hip hop

That last one is the one that frustrates me the most. There’s whole sections of the video dedicated to breakdancing, which is a style of dance that was created in New York by black people and Puerto Ricans in the 70s. Since I became utterly obsessed with dancing when I was in college, I’ve thought of traditionally black styles as . . . well, they’re beyond description, and I love all of them. Krumping, in particular, is my favorite, but I also think that hip-hop is pretty spectacular, as well. But here, in this video, the person shown doing the most breakdancing is a white guy. They show a black man breakdancing for a few half-seconds, but this white dude gets maybe 10 seconds total through the whole video, doing a bunch of really impressive moves, while I think the black man is only shown doing not even a full rotation of a headspin.

But here’s the icing on the cake:

taylor swift staring

This shot comes at the end of a segment when Taylor has been crawling under and through the legs of twerking black women, and she’s turning and staring at their rear ends the entire time, then comes out on the other side and laughs.

Okie.

If it’s not obvious by now, I think this music video is incredibly racist. What I noticed were the following:

  • the video erases the existence and individuality of black women
  • When black women are shown in the racist and stereotypical identifiers of “black culture,” they are nothing more than sex objects. The other black women in the video who are depicted as gymnasts, cheerleaders, and contemporary dancers escape this. That is horrifically racist, and is part of the larger culture that makes black women’s bodies inherently and overtly sexual. The promise of this video is that black women, you can escape being sexually objectified as long as you conform to white/suburban/European standards. It is respectability politics in a music video.
  • it portrays traditionally white/European art forms as serious, beautiful, athletic, stunning, and difficult; but traditionally black art forms are shown as laughable, overtly sexual, and reduces the style to a single movement: “booty shaking.”
  • The one form of black dance shown in the video is almost completely taken over (appropriated) by white people.
  • White expressions of fashion and style are credible and treated as aesthetically pleasing; black styles are painted in caricature, are exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness, and the intended result seems to be amusement, not appreciation.

If you are a person of color and noticed something else, or you’d like to add (or correct!) something here, please feel free. I very much would appreciation your voices and thoughts in the comments.

I think we also need to have a conversation about cultural appropriation. I’m still educating myself on what that is and how to identify it when I see it happen, so I’d appreciate all of you sharing your thoughts on that aspect of what’s happening in the video. For example, I know that the fact that Taylor Swift has dressed up in these “costumes” is problematic because of the appropriation element, but I’m not informed enough to fully articulate why that is.

Anyway, I didn’t want this to go without comment: too often white feminists are completely silent when a white female artist does something like this (Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, anyone?), and I didn’t want that to happen again. If I see any good articles written by women of color about this, I’ll link them at the bottom here.

the facts are these

I am a man

I haven’t said anything about what happened and is still happening in Ferguson, Missouri for the primary reason that if I did say something, someone else has already said it better, and I’ll be linking to what I think are some important articles at the end of this post. I also haven’t blogged about it because I incorrectly assumed that if I knew about it, then everyone I know and have the opportunity to reach would also already know, would already have seen the same posts and articles and tweets and pictures that I have.

But over this weekend I found out how untrue that was. So, I’m taking a break from my review series to hopefully contribute something helpful.

So, if you have no idea what anyone is talking about when you see “#Ferguson” or hear someone mention Michael Brown, this is what you absolutely need to know.

On Saturday, August 9th, Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, and some of these shots appeared to have created multiple entrance and exit wounds. It is possible that the first four or five shots were not fatal, that it was only the sixth shot– which seems, to some experts, to have been delivered “execution style” to the back of the head. He was killed by a man named Darren Wilson.

Wilson was a white police officer. Michael Brown was a black teenager.

The Ferguson police department has a history of civil rights violations and also were so inept in their duties that their records were rejected for “major errors in data” by the Missouri Department of Public Safety; they also criminally charged a man for bleeding on an officer’s uniform after they beat him. The officers involved in that situation also appear to have committed perjury in open court.

Because of what Wilson did to Michael, and because of this history, the Ferguson community, which is almost 70% black, began protesting– a right protected by the Bill of Rights, and a right which is under literal, physical, brutal attack. American citizens are guaranteed the right to peaceably assemble, to petition their government for a redress of grievances. The people of Ferguson are embracing their duty as citizens to make it known that they will no longer tolerate such reckless disregard for human life and a completely out-of-control police department.

Since Saturday, many citizens have been tear-gassed, including senators, children, and news crews. After tear-gassing the Al Jazeera news crew, the police took down the video equipment and then approached the KSDK news crew with guns drawn. Multiple journalists have been arrested. Wesley Lowery, who was assaulted during his arrest, said that he was not given any names of arresting officers, would not be given badge numbers, was not told what he was being arrested for, and was released without knowing anything and without having any paperwork whatsoever. Multiple reporters have been threatened, detained and imprisoned under similar circumstances, and many have beguan wearing gas masks and bullet-proof vests because the area is so dangerous.

The police have been firing rubber bullets and tear-gassing peaceful protestors all week. These methods are technically considered non-lethal, but they are capable of doing horrific damage, like what they did to pastor Renita Lamkin and Mya Aaten-White:

rubber bullet 1mya aaton white

And the situation is continuing to deteriorate. After two nights of trying to enforce a curfew, the governor has opted to summon the National Guard to Ferguson. President Obama has sent the Attorney General to co-operate with the Department of Justice and the FBI, who are conducting investigations into Michael’s murder and civil rights violations.

At this point, it would be easy to get caught up into all of the rights being openly attacked by our own police force– violation of the right to free speech, unlawful seizure, to peaceably assemble . . . but that would not just be a mistake, it would be wrong.

We cannot forget what the community of Ferguson is protesting, and why all of this is happening. They are protesting because their police officer, a man sworn to protect and defend their community, murdered one of their children. We also must not be distracted by the smoke-and-mirrors show that the police and much of mass media has to offer.

Those are the facts.

I would highly recommend you read the following articles. I think they would be valuable to read, as they offer an important perspective on the reality of systemic racial oppression in America. For what are hopefully obvious reasons, I’ve decided to include only articles written by black people.

Things to Stop Being Distracted by when a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police,” by Mia McKenzie.

Black Bodies, White Souls,” by Austin Channing Brown.

Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder,” by Janee Woods

10 Ways Racism Killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner” by Chauncey DeVega

For accurate, up-to-date information, I recommend you follow this list on Twitter.

 

the church won’t rein in misogyny, but bloggers will

misogyny

I’m guest posting at Convergent Books today about the Acts 29 Network’s decision to remove Mars Hill from its membership.

My friend, like the evangelical community at large, was captured by Driscoll’s apparently genuine and forthright style. The outspoken pastor rocketed to an extremely influential position among evangelicals, at least partly because he comes across as ballsy. It is said that he is willing to say out loud what the rest of us are thinking.

And that is exactly the problem.

Recently, the board of the Acts 29 Network—an organization founded by Driscoll—removed Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the group’s membership. Acts 29 said Driscoll had become a “distraction.” A message from the board members, made public by Acts 29, went even further in asking Driscoll to “please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.” Such an action, when taken by an established evangelical church-planting network, attracts attention.

Further, LifeWay Christian Resources has—at least temporarily—removed Driscoll’s books from its stores’ shelves in order to “assess the situation regarding his ministry.” But, like others, I am left to wonder about the timing of this move. Was it merely the only PR move left to a major Christian retailer that had been selling Driscoll’s books for years—apparently without reservation?

You can read the rest here.

when life is really, really hard

shark week
[content note: depression]

I found that picture about a year ago. I’m not sure why, but searching for period-related humor when blood is coursing like a river out of my vagina makes me feel better. I try not to laugh too hard, because laughing hurts– instead I keep it to “dour chuckle” level. But, it’s coming again next week, and like always I’m running around simultaneously trying to ignore it while doing everything I can to prepare for it. It takes a lot of preparation– I have to write three posts and schedule them (I usually post things the day I write them), cook a few things that will keep me and my partner fed, and make sure that I have food I can eat while laying down. The house has to be spick-and-span because it turns into a nightmare that makes me feel even worse because I’m wandering around making messes that I don’t have the ability to clean up, and the night before it starts I put ginger ale, painkillers, poptarts, heating pads, books, headphones, and laptop next to the bed.

Every month, it feels like such a stupid thing to get stressed out over, but I do. I have to plan to be a bed-ridden invalid every month, and it drives me nuts. When the notification pops up on my phone that it’s time to take my NuvaRing out, the first thought that crosses my mind every time is shit that’s NOW how did it happen this fast?!

And then there’s also the itsy-bitsy part of it all that I’m going to be in literally mind-blowing amounts of pain. I am in so much pain there are moments when I cannot see, when I cannot hear, when I cannot breathe. And every month, everything inside of my brain starts screaming at me how in the world can you stand this every month, this hurts so goddamn fucking much. And I’m laying in bed, screaming, and all I can think is dear ever-loving fuck this is never going to end, is it.

~~~~~~~~~~

This winter I was diagnosed with costochondritis. I’d been experiencing low-level chest pain for about a year, but it finally got to the point where I couldn’t walk or sit up for extended periods of time without it getting more than just annoying. My doctor handed me the diagnosis and the only treatment: take ungodly amounts of Advil and lie still until the pain goes away. It’s gotten back down to manageable levels, but the past few weeks have really done a number on it– I’ve been traveling pretty constantly, and my chest is letting me know that it is done. I spent all day on the couch yesterday, alternating between heat and ice and playing Hearthstone, and when my husband came home I had to ask him to do every single little thing for me. Honey can you get me some water honey can you move this laptop honey can you . . .

And everything inside of my brain starts screaming you are a burden you are weak you don’t contribute anything you just take and take and take and take.

~~~~~~~~~

My mother, my maternal and paternal grandmothers, and my great-grandmother all have fibromyalgia. My mother was first diagnosed with it when she was about the age I am now, and I’m starting to notice things. Little things, like waking up in the morning feeling like I haven’t slept and I’ve been run over by a truck. Feeling like random spots on me are bone-deep bruised, although there’s nothing there and I haven’t done anything to it. Intense, vivid dreams. Mental fogs. This weekend I did all the makeup for the bridesmaids in my sister’s wedding, and that night I couldn’t move and could barely breathe– after doing nothing, or what should have been nothing, but is apparently now a big deal for me.

I’m laying on my parent’s couch, hating every second of feeling so weak, and now I’m staring at a lifetime of constant, never-ending pain, and my brain starts screaming you will never escape this.

~~~~~~~~

While I deal with triggers and times that I refer to being in a “funk,” I’ve been extremely fortunate not to have struggled with serious depression. I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but not suicidal impulses, and those times have been brief and related to periods of extreme stress or emotional trauma. I’ve never had to fight a constant never-ending daily battle with mental illness, and I am extremely grateful for that; but because of everything I’ve just described I feel that I can understand what it could be like.

Every day I have to make a monumental choice about something that seems like it should be relatively simple for normal people. Because I have chronic pain and illness, I have to fight every day not to give in to it, not to let the FM and the costo control everything about my life. I do things, even knowing that they will hurt, because the alternative is do nothing. And I go about my life every day knowing that the same will still be true tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will hurt. Tomorrow, I will be tired. Tomorrow, I will not want to get out of bed. Tomorrow, there will be pain. Always.

And, I have to fight all the mental baggage that comes with it. I have to acknowledge things like you don’t contribute or you’re a burden as the lies they are, lies that have been given to me both by my culture and by a jerk-brain fed by insecurities and doubts. Lies that feel so true.

What I can’t imagine is going through something so painful while also having to fight the lie that suicide would be a release– a lie that my own brain is convinced is absolutely true. Those among us who fight severe depression– and if they are breathing, then they are fighting with all of their might– are dealing with the same things as I am, in a different way. But, I’m lucky. I wake up in the morning and even when I am in breath-taking pain I can feel my partner wrap his arms around me and I am happy. My friend comes over and we watch Rizzoli and Isles together while I’m curled up under a fuzzy blanket and high on painkillers, and I’m laughing because even with the pain, life is good.

I can’t even imagine going through life experiencing all the pain I do and not having those touchstones to latch on to.

Which is why I’ve been crying and shouting off and on for the past two days. When I heard that Robin Williams had passed . . . I’m not sure why his death has affected me so deeply, but I can’t help but think of all the ways his art has changed my life and then start crying. And then when I hear some of the stupid things that have been floating around the internet, I just want to scream.

My pains, because they are physical, would never be treated that way. I would never be called a coward, or selfish. If one day a cyst ruptures and it causes a systemic infection and I die, no one is going to hear about it and think what a selfish thing to do, dying like that.

 

“Captivating” review: 204-220, “An Irreplaceable Role”

clapboard

The patriarchy is strong with this one.

I think I might have broken a record for how many times I threw the book across the room during a single chapter, but I suppose that should have been expected considering this is the last chapter and John and Stasi have to really start nailing everything home– we only have the epilogue left.

They start off this chapter by making me laugh, because they frame the story of Cinderella as “a beautiful parable.” I’m sorry, y’all, but Cinderella is a character from a fairy tale. I’m not going to argue that fairy tales can’t communicate deep and abiding truths, questions, morals, and ideas (since the title of this blog is a reference to the argument that they can and do), but fairy tales and parables aren’t the same thing. At this point, though, I’m not surprised that they’ve conflated the two– they’re twisted and manipulated various forms of art all through their book.

At the end of the chapter, they pull from Anna and the King, the non-musical (and slightly less racist) version of The King and I, and uncritically present the end of the film thusly:

[King Mangkut] wants to show the British that his country is ready to enter into the affairs of the world, so the dinner is given in the English style– silverware, tablecloths, candlelight, and, at the end of the meal, ballroom dancing.

This comes after two hundred pages of John and Stasi insisting, repeatedly, that all women and all men in all countries in all times have believed and acted out the same exact things that the they, living in 21st century America, believe about gender. They have completely erased any other possibility that not every culture in every time has agreed with them about their sexist stereotypes, and then they take something that was supposed to indicate the imperialistic and colonialist oppression of the East by Britain and portray it as if it is a positive thing. They are utterly tone deaf, and seem completely incapable of getting outside of their white middle-class American privilege bubble.

Also, just two random observations: even though they refer to Junia as a woman, they use the almost-successful-attempt-to-erase-her-womanhood version of her name, using “Junias” on page 206. On page 214, they relegate Deborah, who is described as a “prophet” and who was “leading Israel” or “judging Israel” (depending on translation) in Judges 4:4, to a mere “advisor.” They take a woman who stands with Ehud, Gideon, and Samson and make her an advisor. ARG GABLARG.

Anyway, the argument of this chapter is that women are desperately necessary, and that we are meant to be “ezer.” Which, this is a beautiful thought, and on a superficial level I’d agree with them. They assert that “women in God’s story are as diverse and unique as wildflowers in a field. No two quite look the same,” and I think they’ve chosen an appropriate image for what they’ve spent three pages describing:

Field Of Mountain Wildflowers HD Desktop Background

While it’s certainly true that no two wildflowers are going to be exactly the same, when staring at a field full of them, what gets communicated is an overwhelming sense homogeneity. We might have subtle differences, but if women are collectively supposed to be as “diverse as a field of wildflowers,” then we’re not actually diverse at all, and that’s what comes bursting through in their description. They share a half-dozen different stories of women they admire, and they’re all either mothers or completely devoted to “spiritual” tasks (missionaries, etc)– and each one is painted as being sacrificial in the extreme. That is a problem, because women– especially Christian women– are required by patriarchy to be sacrificial to the point of degradation.

And then they talk about “spheres of influence,” blithely skipping over how horrifically damaging the Victorian doctrine of “separate spheres” was for women. If you’re not familiar with the term spheres of influence, it’s fundie-speak, adopted from Cold War-era political and militaristic rhetoric, although it’s simply another phrase for the “separate spheres” nonsense: men are to be in public, women are to be in private (example: men should vote, women cannot). It’s oppressive and sexist language, but they don’t even stop there:

We haven’t time here to address the issues surrounding the ‘proper role of women’ in the church … However, we do believe it is far more helpful to start with Design– with what God designed a woman to be and to offer … A woman is not the same as a man (thank God!)

Furthermore, many of the Scriptures on the Role of women in the church are a reflection of God’s concern for a woman’s protection and spiritual covering. We live in a dangerous world … It follows that God would want to ensure that woman helping to advance his Kingdom would be offered the covering and protection of good men. Issues of headship and authority are intended for the benefit of women, not their suppression.

God desires that wherever and however you offer yourself to the Body of Christ, you’ll have the protection of good men over you. Not to hold you back, but to set you free as a woman.

This is called benevolent sexism.

John and Stasi have done everything they can to convince their female readers that being relegated to passivity, beauty, placidity, restfulness, inaction, and weakness is actually a good thing, but what they’re really doing is nothing more than a bait-and-switch. You’re a powerful person! You’re the ezer kenegdo! You’re needed! But only if you stay within your proper sphere and let the big strong man protect you. Do anything else, and in their words you are Fallen, Strident, Dominating, or Desolate. If we think we just might be able to be something besides a beautiful muse, we better check ourselves, because that’s Satan trying to destroy what you can do for the church.

do you have to be pro-choice to be feminist?

mother and baby

One of the reasons why I write here is to attempt to convince people that feminism isn’t the movement a lot of people think that it is– we’re not a bunch of bitter, vengeful, ugly hags. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to hate men, or burn your bra, or you can’t shave your legs, or you’ll never be able to wear makeup again. There’s a lot of stereotypes out there, stereotypes intentionally created by those who fought (and fight) against gender equality, but hopefully if you’ve been here long enough you’ll realize that I definitely don’t fit those molds.

I read a lot of feminist writers who are trying to do the same thing– we consider ourselves advocates and educators, and we put ourselves into that position of being the person willing to explain the obvious over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over . . . and something that we end up saying, ad nauseum, is:

“The definition of feminism is ‘a) the belief that all genders should be politically, economically, and socially equal, and b) the organized movement to bring this about.'”

Some of us have argued that this is all you need to be a feminist, that there’s nothing more to it than that. If you believe that men and women should be equal, than wham bam thank you ma’am you’re a feminist.

I’m not one of those people. I think there’s a whole lot more to feminism than that, and I think it’s far too easy for someone to claim that they believe in gender equality on paper and then be a patriarchal misogynist in real life. And while I hope that someday we’ll live in a world where everyone believes in the ideals of feminism, that world is a long way away, and in the mean time, there are a lot of people walking around calling themselves a feminist who are not and they’re able to do it because they/we think the above definition is all there is to it.

And it’s not as though feminism is a monolithic movement and every feminist thinks and believes and wants the same thing. I identify as an intersectional feminist because it seems obvious to me that every person can be both oppressed and privileged based on different parts of our identity. But there’s also trans-exclusionary radical feminism (as much as I’d prefer that they’d stop calling themselves feminists, I’m not going to start shouting “No True Scotsman!”); there’s also the problem of white feminism (which is one of the reasons why I don’t push the feminist label on those who don’t want to claim it. Feminists have a history of being racist as fuck, people); and then there’s all sorts of other disagreements– can porn be feminist? Can you be a sex worker and be feminist? Is lipstick feminism a thing?

But, probably one of the more divisive issues is reproductive rights.

Do you have to be pro-choice to be a feminist? I’ve explained, at length, why I am pro-choice. However, becoming pro-choice took me years and I don’t think it’s a position that a lot of people can adopt. So, do I want to put an insurmountable roadblock in place for those who can’t accept the pro-choice position? Can you be a pro-life feminist?

Well, in my opinion… yes and no.

It all depends on how you define pro-life.

If you want to make all abortion illegal (like it is in Ireland and some Latin American nations), then no. Absolutely not. If you think that “partial-birth abortion” is a medical term and want to ban any abortion after 20 weeks, then no. If you want to make it impossible for international aid organizations to offer women in developing nations hormonal contraception, then no. If you think that a company has the right to dictate to their employees what medicine they are allowed to use, then no. If you think that legalizing rape by use of a medical instrument in the context of a doctor’s office is ok, then no. If you think that women who don’t want to keep their babies should just give them up for adoption but you aren’t ever going to adopt a baby, then no. If you think that women who have abortions are just lazy sluts who have been brainwashed by money-hungry doctors, then no.

However, if you have personal moral and/or spiritual reservations about the life of the unborn and you don’t think you’d ever get an abortion no matter how desperate you were, but you are aware that all making abortion illegal does is kill women, then yes. If you believe that life is a beautiful, sacred mystery and deserves to be valued, but you also acknowledge that woman are people, too, then yes. If you want to do all you can to reduce the abortion rate through education, through access to effective contraception, through pursuing policies that will help working mothers keep their jobs (like subsidized day care, either through employers or government-sponsored programs), if you believe that life outside of the womb is just as important as life inside of it, then hell yes.

In short, if you believe that abortion should be illegal: I’m sorry, but no. I don’t think you should consider yourself a feminist. Keep on fighting for gender equality in whatever circumstances your find yourself in, absolutely, but I don’t think that it’s possible to pursue policies that would endanger the lives of countless women and be a feminist.

But, if you don’t want to make abortion illegal, but you’d like to see it become scarce (through pursuing realistic and proven-to-be-effective methods) and you’d never have an abortion yourself, then yes. I think you could be a feminist.

“Captivating” review: 188-203, “Warrior Princesses”

xena

With a chapter titled “Warrior Princesses,” I only had one option for the picture today. I don’t think it’s what Stasi had in mind when she wrote it, but I have to make up for this trainwreck of a chapter somehow.

First off, there are some good things about this chapter, my favorite being this:

Antidepressants are stigmatized in the church. Some call them “happy pills.” Others say that if you are filled with the Holy Spirit and walking with God in faith, you will not need them. They shame those who are responsibly taking them. But we don’t shame diabetics who take insulin. Why do we shame people with a chemical imbalance who need to take something to help them?

Honestly, I was sad I was a little surprised that Stasi wrote this. I wouldn’t have expected it from her, but I’m glad that she went out of her way to make this clear in her section on “emotional attacks.” This is one of those times when I understand why so many women have read this book and found it encouraging.

I do have a couple problems with this chapter. The first one appears in this passage:

Women are called to join in the Greatest Battle of all time– the battle being waged for the hearts of those around us … The war is a deadly one; the results devastating or glorious, but always eternal. We are needed … But we will only be victorious when we enter in with our feminine hearts– when we battle as women.

She explains what she means by this here:

Women warriors are strong, yes, and they are also tender. There is mercy in them. There is vulnerability … Offering our hearts wisely, living in the freedom of God’s love, inviting others to rest, alluring those in our lives to the heart of God, and responding to the heart of God in worship are some of the most powerful ways that a woman wars for her world.

Let’s take a second to evaluate what Stasi is claiming:

  • Women are needed to fight.
  • If we lose the “battle,” the consequences are devastating and fatal.
  • We can only win the battle when we fight “as women.”
  • Fighting as a woman means being tender, vulnerable, passive, and alluring.

This is a much nicer version of all the threats Helen Andelin made in Fascinating Womanhood. It doesn’t come across as a threat, but it’s what it is. Be the sort of woman Stasi thinks is godly– feminine, vulnerable, tender, passive– or you’ll be the reason why “The Enemy” destroys your life, your marriage, your children’s lives, your church . . . This is why people like the Eldredges push gender essentialism as hard as they do: they literally believe that if women aren’t their version of feminine and men aren’t their version of masculine that Satan will actually destroy the world.

I also dislike how Stasi paints Christianity as inherently violent. She says that “Christianity is not a passive religion. It is an invasion of a Kingdom. We who are on the Lord’s side must wield his victory. We must learn to enforce it.”

I understand that we’re in the middle of a chapter Stasi’s decided to call “Warrior Princesses” so all the war and battle metaphors are an outgrowth of that, but it’s pretty apparent that Stasi has never taken the time to read about things like imperialism or colonialism, and especially how American Christianity has been deeply affected by those ideologies. Talking about Christianity as an “invasion” and thinking of our purpose as believers in terms of “conquerors” and “rulers” is dangerous and damaging.

But, my biggest issue with this chapter is something that Stasi went very far out of her way to cloak. She spends a great deal of time emphasizing how women are part of the “Greatest Battle of all time,” and she is doing this on purpose because she desperately needs to convince all of her female readers to be the kind of woman she thinks is godly– beautiful, passive, and existing primarily to inspire men/others. She knows that a lot of us will read this and think “wow, that sounds really pointless and a total waste of my abilities,” so this chapter is about giving us an alternative. No really, she’s shouting, being feminine means that you’ll be super duper important I swear.

Except … it’s all fake.

She goes to extreme lengths trying to persuade us of how important we’ll be, and she includes a lot of stories about “spiritual warfare,” some of which are disturbing and involve a woman almost dying. No, seriously– a woman is asphyxiating to death, turning blue, and the reaction of the women around her isn’t “wow, maybe we should call 911″ but let us pray over her and command the evil spirit assaulting her in the name of Jesus! Thankfully, the woman doesn’t die, but this is why I find the kind of Christianity advocated by people like the Eldredges so disturbing.

The problem is that because we’re women we’re not supposed to do things that are actually meaningful. Running companies, being take-charge women, being independent and dedicating ourselves to the areas that we are gifted in– none of that is possible for Stasi’s woman. She must be passive and beautiful, and dedicate her life to “arousing Adam” so that men can go on to do all of the physically, real-lived-life meaningful things. Instead, we get to be . . . spiritual warriors. We’re allowed to shout things into the air in empty rooms. And spend a lot of time praying.