Sunday, August 12, 2007

Island of the Uncles

I was recently imprisoned on a remote island with lots of relatives, including the men that my mother and her sisters married. Through an open window, I heard a conversation between two of these men, both ministers in different Protestant denominations. One of them described to the other a recent training session he had to attend for ministers to be aware of and sensitive to the issue of sexual harassment and to learn to recognize and avoid it in their churches. The conversation was very crude and involved ridicule of the very concept of sexual harassment. Apparently, that’s what women are for, and they (i.e., women) just have to realize that men will never see them as anything but [expletives deleted]. Soon after, we all gathered around the dinner table to eat the food the women had prepared -- perhaps proving that women are good for more than one thing? -- and I had to sit next to this man and hold his hand while he led the family in prayer. I felt so nauseous. This man is an apparently devoted husband, father, grandfather, minister. Even if the conversation was some sort of male ritual kind of thing, I think there is something twisted about a person who would say those things, even if there was a level of insincerity in the sexist posing.


Anonymous said...

That's disgusting.

I would at least send an anonymous note to the board of his church, indicating that these were comments overheard in a public area. Or even better: you should name and shame in a letter to the local paper!

Maybe you'll earn him the ire of pious old women. That's brutal stuff.

gs said...

It's good to see you posting again, FSP.

Anonymous said...

so glad to be an atheist.
while this would be bad for anybody, it is disgusting in ministers. I'd keep my kids away from them... and explain why.

ReadyReckoner said...

I wonder, is it a sign of the awesome power of religion that an atheist expects ministers to behave better than the rest of us?

AngryMan said...

You just realized that women are nothing but objects? Where have you been all these years?

Bro. Bartleby said...

The worst disapointment in life is when one discovers that someone that one holds special or in high esteem proves to be far less honorable. And when that person also holds a position of family or community trust, then disappointment is too mild a reaction, normally one would be disgusted and further, would want to make things right and hold that person accountable for their breaking of the trust. Trust is fragile yet necessary for we as humans to maintain community, be it a community of two or two million, as well trust granted and received maintains our sanity. Without trust one finds oneself in a very scary world, and then the only option is retreat, which is often the state of being for those homeless. Yes, the human condition is far too often messy, and we all find ways to deal with this messiness, often it is to ignore it, much harder is to attempt to understand it, and much much harder is to do something about it.

Anonymous said...

wow. I am throughly disturbed and disgusted.

couldn't you have confronted them? At least made it plain you had overheard?

sandy shoes said...

"Twisted" is putting it kindly.

Ministers. Don't get me started.

Welcome home, FSP.

jo(e) said...

Ugh. That would make me feel sick.

It's tough in a family situation to confront that sort of sexism.

Baba Doodlius said...

Men are pigs.

Birds are cool.

Get a bird and leave the menpigs alone with their menpiggishness.

Anonymous said...

I am very happy you are back. You have a life very much like most of us but you seem to perceive more of it and then be able to communicate essential things that make us pose and reflect. Thanks for this wonderful blog; I miss it when you are not writing.

Mouse said...

One of the benefits of walking my own, albeit lonely and stoney, path is that I now feel free to refuse to hold the hand of someone so obnoxious

and yes, men of faith SHOULD behave better than the rest of us

Isn't that their purpose?
To guide, lead and inspire the sinners?

bj said...

Ick. I tell folks that I'm teaching my daughter to be a sanctimonious feminist. And, I've just realized a hidden benefit -- it prevents anyone from saying this kind of stuff to you (on women, race, or religion).

Of course, you overheard the conversation, but I continue to be shocked by the number of racist/sexist things that are said to people I know. It's a benefit to being a visible minority that people are less likely to say those things to you. And, you can make yourself more visible by publicly declaiming your views. It has cost, but clearly not hearing this stuff is a great benefit.


Ms.PhD said...


What would Jesus say?

I agree with the people who say you "should" confront them and you "should" refuse to hold the hand of someone like that.

I understand, though, that it's easier said than done.

It might be worth some soul-searching, though. How much do you and your daughter really get out of interacting with these people? Are they only useful as an educational foil to show your daughter what's wrong with the world? Or is it just too much work to cut ties and explain why?

For all my family's problems, at least they believe in women's rights and would never tolerate such behavior.

Walt said...

Of course, the majority of us menpigs are the result of women's choices.

Stephanie said...

A group of male graduate students was making similar cracks about their sexual harassment training class in our large, graduate student office. I was the only woman around. And boy was I fuming. I was mad at myself because I was too upset to confront them. But I guess there's no point?

How can that attitude be ok in a group setting? Why don't any of the guys speak up and say, that's not ok? Are they all jerks? Do most guys think/feel this way, but not all of them are stupid enough to say that out loud in front of women. It only comes out when they think we aren't listening.

It reminds me of this episode of NPR's "This American Life" with the theme of Testosterone. I highly recommend it, though it is kind of disturbing. You'll see why.