Friday, March 14, 2014

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Of beaches and bikinis

I tried to post the following as a comment to an article on someone's blog, but I kept getting an error message. Since I didn't want to waste my rant, I'm posting it here.

You know it's summer when article after article appears about "the bikini question". Not to insult the author, but this article is really no different than the hundreds, if not thousands, of others already out there.

Let me get to the point. If the author truly wanted to "sacrifice" for men easily drawn to lust [by wearing a cute tankini instead of a bikini] she should stay home and pray that they would have the sense to do the same. Because that's the solution I've never seen addressed in an article. I'll be so bold as to say it here:

DUDES! If you are so easily tempted by the sight of a woman in a bikini, DON'T GO TO PLACES WHERE YOU MIGHT SEE ONE! Don't go to the beach, or to swimming pools. Don't watch TV. Stay off the Internet. IT'S THAT SIMPLE.

Chocolate cake analogy [several commenters used the analogy of someone following you around, offering you tempting chocolate cake]: since I don't want to eat chocolate cake, when my willpower was weak, I avoided places a chocolate cake was likely to be. Why torment myself? Now I've been without it for so long, and have such compelling reasons to avoid it, that it doesn't bother me if everyone around me is eating some. It would bother me if someone followed me around offering me a slice all the time, because I'm creeped out and annoyed by coercive people who disregard my "no thank you". (So, ladies, even if you are wearing a burka at the beach, don't follow guys around offering yourself to them when they don't want what you're offering. Respect their boundaries. Take a hint: the lack of an enthusiastic "yes!" should be taken as a "no".) At the same time that I am no longer overly tempted by chocolate cake, I see no reason to hang around bakeries, checking out what chocolate cake might be there. What's the point?

I can hear the menfolk whining about the unfairness of staying home so the women can wear what they want. I can hear the mothers complaining, "Are you saying I can't take my boys swimming or to the beach?" Let me put it this way. I have five sons, ages 16 - 27. There is no way that I would ever knowingly expose them to a temptation they are not spiritually mature enough to handle. I don't expect the world to arrange itself to be less tempting to my sons or to me. To use an old cliche, if we can't take the heat, we stay out of the kitchen.

If the sight of anything — chocolate cake, an athletic man in a speedo, your neighbor's new sports car, the latest cool techno-gadget from Apple, a scantily clad woman — whatever it might be, if you are easily provoked to sins of covetousness and lust, do whatever it takes to avoid the temptation! Jesus had some pretty extreme things to say about avoiding sin. He went so far as to talk about gouging out your eyes. What he didn't say is to tell your girlfriend how to dress or to blame other people for "stumbling" you. It's not what goes into you that defiles you, whether it's food or the sight of a body you find sexually attractive. It's what is already inside you, and inside me. We are responsible for our own lust and covetousness.

Yes, this article was written to the women. As are so many countless others repeating the same tired old theme. I guess I had hoped, because someone I know linked to this one, that it was something a bit better than same old, same old. Sigh...

My lucky 3 readers get more of my ranting:

You know what else? As an "older woman", I'm just about ready to start teaching me some of these young bloggerettes! Which is my funny way of saying that someone needs to take some of these young women to task for their pride. I mean, I'm all for healthy body image and all that, but that hardly means you have to jump on the Internet and brag about how men everywhere would be driven to lust at the mere sight of you if you weren't so loving, godly, and sacrificial as to clothe yourself modestly. I knew a woman who used to ask, whenever another woman online bragged about how her modesty kept men from stumbling, "Really? You're that hot? That tempting? Men can't help wanting you — they are driven to sin — by a glimpse of too much of you? Wow." Then we'd hear some hasty "I'm really not prideful or vain" comments about how God created all women to be beautiful, alluring, blah blah blah. Yeah, right. If we are all physically "beautiful", that renders the word meaningless. ("Darling, you look beautiful!" "Well, duh, all women do!" "No, I mean it." "I'd hope you think I look like a woman, since I am one." "Of course you look like a woman, dear — a beautiful woman." "Isn't that redundant? And I'm getting kinda tired of you constantly telling me I look like a woman! So what?")

Maybe beaches have changed since my beach days, and now they only allow women to wear bikinis if they look sexy in them — but back in the day, guys I hung around with admitted that most of the women and girls in bikinis were not that appealing and often more of a turn-off than a turn-on. It reminds me about my long-ago joke about speedos: men should not wear speedos lest they stumble me. Either I'll stumble over my own feet because I'm looking at the guy and thinking, "Whoa! That dude looks good in his speedo!" or I'll stumble because I'm gagging, "What possessed that guy to go out in public like that? Ugh! Dude, cover up! We're all about to lose our lunch!" (It seems like, back in the day, average guys in America didn't wear speedos.)

The other thing I find silly in these articles is that the young "I respect men too much to stumble them with my sexiness!" authors will hasten to tell us, in case we were worried, that their modest attire is still "attractive". Because heaven forbid this young lady lose her ability to attract the guys! Supposedly now her bathing suit attracts a better sort of guy, who is drawn to her personality and mind. Because, you know, men are able to discern that just by how we are dressed. ("Oh, her bikini just sucked me into its lust vortex, so she must be slutty. But that other woman is wearing a tankini and I am suddenly attracted to her sweet, fun-loving, wholesome personality and her interest in philosophy, because I can tell all that just by her bathing suit.") Even more ridiculous is when the author chirps, "Modest is hottest!" At least now we know her real agenda. She wants to be "hotter" than all those other girls! She doesn't want men to lust after her body parts; she wants them to lust after her modesty. Otherwise, if she thought she was such a huge temptation, she really would stay home from the beach.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Protecting our daughters, part 1

Recently I read an article wherein a father told a disturbing story about allowing his daughter to be subjected to continual harassment by a drunk man on a plane. Ironically, even though the father let this man persist in his unacceptable behavior, he actually believes he was protecting his daughter!

The father is Scott Brown. His daughter is Kelly Bradrick. (She was not yet married at the time this took place.) The article appears on the Vision Forum website.

"In 2003, I took my daughter with me on a mission trip to Romania. On the plane, there was a drunken man flirting with her in a very aggressive way. Unfortunately for him, there were 535 pounds of manhood in our party ready to protect her. Believe me, we were exercising much Christian patience with this man who persisted throughout the entire flight. He did not realize that he was facing deadly force, if he persisted. He actually touched her once and was making bold advances. He even continued the pursuit after the plane landed. I am convinced that, if we had not been with her to protect her, she would have been in serious danger." (Read it in context.)
Really? This creep was "facing deadly force, if he persisted"? But this guy DID persist - even after the plane landed - and absolutely nothing happened! Are we really to believe that men who are too cowardly to intervene and protect a woman from such obnoxious behavior are suddenly going to use deadly force? After sitting there passively and allowing his daughter to be mistreated in this way, does Scott Brown honestly think he is capable of manning up if things exceeded even his tolerance? And what were these men patiently waiting for? For the man to get physically violent?

"Unfortunately for him, there were 535 pounds of manhood in our party..." Don't make me laugh. Fortunately for him (from his perspective) these men gave him full permission to persist in his harassment of this young woman. I'm sure he had a wonderful time at Kelly's expense. I can only imagine what sort of awful ordeal the flight was for her.

From this account, I cannot help but conclude the following:

1. Mr. Brown sees no need to protect his daughter from "very aggressive" drunken flirting.

2. He saw nothing wrong with allowing this behavior to continue for the entire flight.

3. He saw no reason to intervene even when this man touched his daughter.

4. His daughter's feelings in this matter were of no concern to him. Can you imagine having to endure this while your father watched passively?

5. It was more important to exercise Christian patience with a man than protect a daughter.

6. He never taught his daughter how to behave in such situations. But, wait - maybe he did: "Exercise Christian patience and do nothing. Let the man's horrible behavior continue without challenge or protest. Here, observe my example."

7. Kelly would have been no less protected if she were traveling alone. She may actually have been safer. Perhaps, in the absence of the passive "manhood" accompanying her, someone else might have intervened - offering to trade seats with her, calling the flight attendant, and/or insisting, "Back off, buddy, and leave the young lady alone!" I know we can't count on being rescued by bystanders; at the same time, in my younger years, I benefitted from men who wouldn't tolerate a woman being treated disrespectfully. In Kelly's case, onlookers must have thought, "Well, if her father is perfectly OK with how she's being treated, why should I jump in?"

The huge irony is that Mr. Brown follows his story with these words:

"Where do we get the idea of protection from the Bible? We could make a long list, but here is a short one. Godly behavior is defined by shepherds who protect their flocks. The strong should support the weak. Women are the weaker vessels. And daughters should be protected by their fathers who are commanded to give 24/7 watch care over their children (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). This is enough for me to be convinced that women should be protected by men."
Let me respond: Please spare young women from your notions of "protection". I can't imagine any man I know allowing me to be treated as your daughter was. And if they did - out of fear perhaps - they would be ashamed. And, if they wrote of it, they would describe it truthfully - not pretending it was an example of the very thing they had so grievously failed to do.

Here are my alternate I wish things had played out...

Version 1:

In 2003, I took my daughter with me on a mission trip to Romania. On the plane, there was a drunken man flirting with her in a very aggressive way. Unfortunately for him, there were 535 pounds of manhood in our party ready to protect her. Believe me, we were exercising much Christian patience with this man - apparently too much, because an elderly woman seated nearby took matters into her own hands.

"Young man!" she addressed the drunk, even though he was much older than my daughter. "I will not sit back and allow you to treat a young lady in that way. You need to stop immediately or I will ring for the stewardess! Young ladies have the right to travel alone without being molested by strangers!"

I was shamed out of my passivity. Frankly, I'd been afraid to say anything. I didn't want to cause any trouble and I'd been hoping that, if my daughter continued trying to ignore this man's bold advances, he would give up and leave her alone.

"Um..." I said, feeling my face redden, "I'm her father."

"And you see nothing wrong with this man's behavior?" The elderly woman was incredulous. "In my day, fathers protected their daughters!" She then insisted on trading seats with my daughter. The rest of the flight was me plenty of time to repent and to promise to treat my daughter with far more respect in the future.

Where do we get the idea of protection from the Bible? We could make a long list, but here is a short one. Godly behavior is defined by shepherds who protect their flocks. The strong should support the weak. Women are the weaker vessels. And daughters should be protected by their fathers who are commanded to give 24/7 watch care over their children (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). This is enough for me to be convinced that women should be protected by men.

My failure to protect my daughter on the airplane was without excuse. Thank God for an old-fashioned, elderly woman who taught me by her example.

Version 2:

In 2003, I took my daughter with me on a mission trip to Romania. On the plane, there was a drunken man flirting with her in a very aggressive way. Unfortunately for him, there were 535 pounds of manhood in our party ready to protect her. Even more unfortunately for him, he had no idea who he was dealing with. Kelly turned to face him and said, calmly but firmly, "I will say this once. Leave me alone. Do not speak to me. I am not interested in anything you have to say. Stop harassing me."

He responded with something I will not repeat. Mistake number one. Then he made an even more foolish mistake: he touched my daughter.

We knew what was coming next. Only he had no idea.

She caught his hand. Her hands were moving in a subtle but effective way - we could tell by his gasp of surprise and his grimace - and she kept applying pressure while saying, at twice the volume as before, "DON'T...YOU...DARE...EVER...TOUCH...ME...AGAIN!"

Then she summoned the flight attendant and explained the situation. The man was immediately moved - and this time he was seated by another man.

"You know we were ready to jump in," I assured my daughter.

She grinned. "Yeah, but I had it under control."

"That you did," I agreed.

Sometimes the best way a father can protect his daughter is by making sure she gets excellent self-defense training. Her lessons paid off. So did the hours I let her practice on me. Remembering, I rubbed my wrists, knowing exactly what the drunken man had felt, but I didn't feel sorry for him at all.

Version 3:

In 2003, I took my daughter with me on a mission trip to Romania. On the plane, there was a drunken man flirting with her in a very aggressive way. Unfortunately for him, there were 535 pounds of manhood in our party ready to protect her. We love her too much to allow any man to treat her like that. In addition, we would have intervened even if she had been a complete stranger. But, since she is my daughter, I had zero patience with this man.

"Sir," I said. Once I got his attention, I went on, "That's my daughter. See these other guys here? We are going to make sure you leave her alone."

He sputtered something unrepeatable and I motioned to Kelly to change places with me. Once I was seated next to him, I turned to the drunk and said, "Listen carefully. You have a choice. Either you sit next to me the entire flight or I call the flight attendant and have her find you another seat. After the way you dared speak to my daughter, I think you would be much more comfortable sitting next to anyone but me."

He opted to change seats. I let the flight attendant know why.

Kelly thanked me. Honestly, until she told me how this guy had made her feel, and how much my protection meant to her, I'd been on auto-pilot and my actions seemed like no big deal. Really, all I'd done was trade seats with my daughter and ask some creep to leave her alone. Hardly worth mentioning...but that's not how Kelly saw it.

I learned something that day. It's the simple acts of fatherly protection, the things we do automatically without even thinking, that speak volumes to our daughters. When we are faithful in the little things, they have the confidence to trust us in the big things.

Obviously I prefer happy endings...especially when evil has been thwarted rather than tolerated.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

World's Cutest Baby

Here she is, my adorable first grandchild, right after she was born in November:

A few weeks later, we briefly placed her in the travel bed/playpen we used with her mother and uncles. In protest, this amazingly brilliant child uttered her first words:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 13, 2012


Recently one of my Facebook friends made some posts about feminine beauty and how women perceive themselves. If I understood him correctly, he was saddened by the fact that not every woman thinks of herself as physically beautiful, and he had an admittedly romantic notion that each woman should/could find a husband who would affirm our beauty and find us drop-dead gorgeous. We had a bit of a dialogue back and forth, and I've found myself thinking some more about the topic since then.

The truth is that we are not all physically beautiful. If we claim all women are, we render the word "beautiful" absolutely meaningless. By insisting that, no matter what a woman sees in the mirror, it is some sort of tragedy if she does not "feel beautiful", we are making plain women believe they now have two problems: their physical plainness and their inability to conjure up feelings based on wishful thinking or pretense.

Over the years, I've read a few books and articles on dealing with a poor body image. Over and over again, the solution is some variation of, "Look in the mirror, preferrably naked. Admire all your wonderful features and say out loud everything you like about your body. Embrace those extra pounds...remember, real women have curves!"

This ignores and invalidates women who cannot bear to look in the mirror because of hideous scars from trauma, because of deformities, because the sight of their body triggers painful memories and feelings. It ignores those of us lacking in the curve department. But who cares? Apparently we are not real women.

Real women, it seems, are all beautiful. If we don't think we are, we should pretend otherwise and "feel beautiful". If we can't do that -- because we're too realistic and honest, or because what faces us in the mirror is too broken and scarred, or because we are not "womanly" enough -- we are basically invisible, as if we don't exist. We don't matter, and it's our own fault.

On the one hand, we are told that our worth is not determined by our beauty or lack thereof. On the other hand, we are told that we need to "feel beautiful". We are told that, if we are not confident in our beauty, we may never attract a husband and, if married, we will never be able to fully please him sexually. As wives, we are duty bound to be uninhibited and to act as if we were incredibly beautiful and sexy...and then somehow we will convince him.

The underlying message seems to be: It's bad enough if we are not beautiful. It's even worse if we can't pretend otherwise so convincingly that we fool ourselves and almost make people forget our crime of not being beautiful.

Christian books repeat this message. They tell us men NEED (not just want) us to be beautiful, that they need a "beautiful woman to rescue" and that we need to "reveal our beauty".

When you're not beautiful, all of this is like yet another cruel taunting reminder, a slap in the face. "Oh, but all women are beautiful," some men will blithely say...and yet these same men will make disparaging remarks like, "Even an ugly woman can find some guy somewhere if she is confident enough in her beauty and femininity." Don't they see the glaring contradiction there?

It's become somewhat popular in certain Christian circles to bemoan our society's standards of beauty. "Don't fall for the media's false messages!" we are told. We are reminded that we shouldn't feel inadequate and should not compare ourselves to media images of surgically-enhanced and airbrushed professional models and actresses. "That's not real!" we are urged to remember. We are told how tragic it is that, because of these false images and messages, teenage girls are growing up thinking they are worthless because they don't realize how beautiful they are.

At the same time, we are told that our beauty is dangerous and that we need to conceal it carefully lest we cause great damage to our brothers in Christ. Besides, "modest is hottest", so if we really want to be sexually attractive, we should wear modest yet feminine clothes that will make Christian men admire our beauty.

We are told that our value is not determined by what men think of us, yet we are urged, every time we get dressed, to prayerfully consider what every man we might encounter that day might possibly think when he sees us. How we appear to men, how they think and feel about us, is of the utmost importance. We are urged to read books and "study" men so that we can learn exactly how they think. One man might be "stumbled" by this, another by something else, and we need to keep all that in mind. A godly woman, apparently, somehow manages to walk that fine line: she is modestly hot, feminine, confident in her beauty, and appropriately attractive in every way -- yet not too sexually alluring to anyone but her husband.

The real problem is not our culture's standards of beauty. It's not that women are refusing to recognize their own beauty. It's not that women aren't realizing that, if they really want to be "hot", they should dress to appeal to certain conservative Christian men. The problem is that even Christians in America can't get it through their thick heads that a woman's worth has nothing to do with her beauty or lack thereof, or what men think of her, or whether her husband thinks she's gorgeous, or even whether she has a husband.

A woman's worth is determined in exactly the same way as a man's: she is created in the image of God, and that has nothing to do with her appearance. [Yes, I know there are some wackos who teach women were NOT created in the image of God. Read Genesis1: 27. "Man" doesn't always mean just males.]

Our worth as women is determined by God, and he doesn't look at our outward appearance the way shallow humans do. He sees the real us, who we are inside. There is no Scripture that admonishes us to be or feel beautiful. That is all a distraction, a diversion from what really matters to God.

I am as much a child of the King as any male...or as any beautiful woman. There aren't any ugly ducklings in His Kingdom. When He bought me with a price, it wasn't at some discount because of my flaws and blemishes.

When I stand before Him someday, my appearance will not matter. I doubt He will say, "If only you would have had a better body image! If only you had determined to feel beautiful!"

In fact, I prefer to think I will be so hidden in Christ that, for the very first time ever, I will be really beautiful -- because all that anyone will see is Him.

That is what really gives us our worth: Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. The only beauty that really matters -- really and truly matters because it is the only beauty that will last for eternity -- is His.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rape Prevention

I've been preparing to teach some classes on personal safety and self-defense for young women. As a martial arts and self-defense instructor, I have read my fair share of material on this subject. I can honestly say that the following rape prevention tips, if followed, would be enormously successful, far more so than any other tips I've read.

Please pass them on to everyone you know.

-- Posted from my iPhone