Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Jill Filipovic’s steady boil

Here’s a bit of frothing nonsense from Cosmopolitan former “senior political writer,” Jill Filipovic. See if you can spot the lifestyle insecurity as she tries really hard to convince you how terrible it is to be a Bible thumper, to know God’s grace is infinitely greater than what the flesh yearns for (James 4:5-6).

With sound and fury, Filipovic unloads everything she’s got against the conservative Christian sexual ethos, a smorgasbord of ignorance, simplifications, and hearsay that obfuscates the reality that the restrained life is pretty good, because it harmonizes with how God made man. What she doesn’t get is the less you make your life about you, the better off you are.

I’ll comment in brackets so as not to interrupt Filipovic’s free-styling hysterics:

Duggar family values are as follows: While they don’t necessarily use the term themselves, they are loosely part of the Quiverfull and Christian patriarchy movements, where the man is the head of the household and has ultimate authority over his wife and children. Women are helpmeets, finding their ultimate calling in submitting to their husbands [see Ephesians 5:22] as wives and mothers. Girls are treated differently than boys [that’s bad because they’re the same?]. Women’s bodies don’t belong to them [see 1 Corinthians 7:4], and are also inherently sinful and tempting and must be covered up lest they cause an otherwise good man to slip up. Women shouldn’t ever say no to sex with their husbands. Birth control is tantamount to abortion and is a sin against God. Women should not work outside the home or get much in the way of higher education. Because a woman’s fundamental purpose is not to live her own life but to have children, she should have as many children as God gives, even if it means she dies in the process.

“There’s an emphasis on sex as a woman’s obligation to her husband and also to God,” Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement told Cosmopolitan.com. “Any sort of previous experience or even fantasizing or masturbation is infidelity [see Matthew 5:28] against either your current husband or your future husband. Anything that would make a woman feel more independent in that realm and would separate sexuality from her marriage, even in ways that a lot of people would consider very healthy and very normal, are seen as things that would make her too independent, and that wouldn’t be good.” [despite declining marriage rates and rising out-of-wedlock birth rates, the opposite of healthy and normal]

In other words, they’re extreme misogynists. But treating women like second-class citizens and breeding machines [she’s masking a lot of pain, I think] wasn’t just A-OK for TLC and just about every Republican presidential contender, but part and parcel to the family’s “morality.” In a civilized society where women are considered equal players, families like the Duggars would be marginalized. In our actual society, the Duggers were applauded, invited to political events, handed checks to star in a reality television show, and covered extensively and often glowingly by celebrity media. What is wrong with us? [we’re uncivilized, get it?]

“Extreme misogynists”? “Second-class citizens”? “Breeding machines”? Are these serious feminist ideas or stealth anti-feminist straw men? The former, unfortunately. This prejudice is mainstream. Filipovic takes it to the next level because she has to to maintain the illusion of righteousness. Her god has failed, but, unlike Arthur Koestler, she hasn’t faced the consequences yet. The calumnies keep the rage at a steady boil, lest soothing truth calm the waters. Soothing truth, such as that written by Solomon:

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:25-29)

It’s not all roses all the time, of course. But compare it to what Filipovic is selling: a freedom limited to oneself, the myth of fulfillment in utilitarian satisfaction.

She’s not done. The contradictions start to pile on:

We are a society so schizophrenic about sex that we use images of half-naked girls barely out of their teens to sell everything from Internet service to hamburgers [prudes are not to blame for this] while we also spend millions on abstinence-only sex education. We have one of the highest unintended pregnancy rates in the developed world [sex has consequences] but fight legal battles over whether bosses should be able to decide what forms of birth control their employees can access. We live in a country where 1 in 5 women will be raped [debunked] and where we also have politicians who see fit to publicly philosophize over what makes a rape “legitimate.” [i.e., it’s not rape unless she says it is]

The Duggars, who are simultaneously obsessed with sex [who’s obsessed?] and also trying to spread a message of shame around female sexuality in particular, are a reality TV family perfectly befitting us. The outcome of their worldview — the sexual trauma, the humiliation, the misogyny [trauma comes from experience, not chastity] — we knew it was all part of the equation. We tuned in anyway. We bought the magazines with them on the cover. We allowed them platforms as spokespeople for morality and family values. We knew about their deep, entrenched misogyny, and we rewarded it.

For someone who celebrates the benefits of free and open sexuality, she’s oddly opposed to its commoditization. You can’t have it both ways. Either sex is reserved for marriage, or it’s exchanged on the open market, whether people’s ends be pleasure, profit, or empowerment. The Carl’s Jr. girls, for example, aren’t victims of exploitation, they’re consenting partners. They lend Carl’s Jr. their images, and Carl’s Jr. compensates them. If that’s not consent, then I don’t what is. If Filipovic condemns it, she should be consistent and condemn consent as the center of sexual morality, and honestly consider alternatives.

It’s people like the Duggars who have the answer to a society that is “schizophrenic about sex.” The Duggars recognize sex’s power and nip it in the bud. They know more often sex masters people than people master it. This is hardly backwards thinking. Our mastery of nature does not directly correlate with our mastery of human nature, although pride and hubris delude us into thinking so. Edward R. Dougherty writes at Public Discourse:

With a never-ending expansion of technology seemingly lying before him, it is not surprising that a person can envision changing both his environment and himself to suit his every whim and find any limitation to be an unjust constraint of his freedom.

No matter how technologically advanced we are, we are not above sin. Only God is above sin, and in Him we trust. The Duggars are the least “obsessed with sex” as possible, far less obsessed than Filipovic.

Related: “Here’s What ‘Submissive Wives’ Gets Right.” And more on Filipovic here, here, here, and here.

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