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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual abuse’

Crossposted from Kiery at Bridging The Gap

Everyone is told, no crushes are allowed to happen at TeenPact (because you can “allow” a crush to begin with).

Boys are told, to open doors for women, to let them go first in line, and to treat them like they’re delicate little flowers. Essentially, boys are taught to treat women like objects who are helpless and can’t take care of themselves. Girls are told to accept these gestures, always, even if they’re unwanted. Never turn them down.

Some of this is Tim Echols forcing southern manners down everyone’s throat, and some of it is perpetuating the idea that women are “the weaker vessel”. It’s hard, as a courteous person, because, having boobs means I can’t practice common courtesy on a human level. I’m not allowed to open a door, trade my place, give up my seat for someone who’s a boy because then it is interpreted as a slap in the face to them and their efforts at (forced) chivalry. This tells women to expect “special” treatment because they’e seen was weaker, and teaches men that women are weaker and need help to do basic things.

We’re supposed to let the men take command in setting things up, in making decisions, and whatever even if we disagree or have a better one. We can’t just assert ourselves and say no like normal people, because we need to learn submission.

In what I like to call the 2007 Speech From Hell, Tim Echols started by going on a raging tirade about “effeminate men” and I’m pretty sure he worked in how homosexuals were evil too. He said that it was an abomination to god and he was really angry with any man he saw who didn’t act manly enough for his liking. He listed specific examples (that I thought were ridiculous) but I can’t remember what they were now.

Then, he turned his attention to women, he singled us out and spent far too long on another tirade.

He talked about how we need to grow up and get married (fast! young!) so we can start breeding an army, because that is what we women are supposed to do. Our job in life, our job to further the cause, is to create more people and train THEM to make the changes that (hopefully) our husbands will have started to make. If we did that, god would be happy, we would be fulfilling our roles as women – because that’s just how it is. Women are not supposed to actually lead, women’s place is in the home, behind a man, who is supposed to be bringing the nation back to it’s christ-centered roots (don’t get me started).

Well before that point I had sworn off marriage, because a life of doing nothing but being pregnant and teaching children with the HOPE that they would be passionate about the thing I was and want to do the same thing just sounded horrible and unlikely. When he singled out all the women in the audience I felt embarrassed, ashamed, sad, horrified, and broken.

Because I had been told by my parents that what Mr. Echols was conveying was indeed my purpose, but I didn’t want that. I never had. It sounded like hell to me, though I would never have used those terms. It sounded just….the thought of it crushed my soul, and I was hoping TeenPact would be the place I didn’t have to fit that mold, but I was so wrong. I knew that once I got married I would have to go into that box – so I swore it off, and in case that didn’t work, I resolved to do all the things I wanted to do before I got married. Remembering that speech still devastates me and kills that thing that it killed before over and over again. I think maybe it was hope.

I felt completely broken, like a failure, because while every other girl was sitting there, raptured, already sold on the idea of getting married and having kids and getting permission to get married young, I was devastated, because that was just not the life I wanted – not the life I felt I was supposed to live.

I was supposed to do what they wanted me to do, without question, because a guy said it, I was never supposed to think.

And yet, thinking is what saved me from that fate, so, Thank you, TeenPact, for introducing me to my thinker-husband, my thinker-friends, and our sense of knowing we can indeed change the world, and reverse the lies and beliefs you perpetuated that only serve to enable the abusive environments we escaped from. Because of you, maybe we can make that change.


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Crossposted from Kiery at Bridging The Gap

To my knowledge, there have only been two female governors in Maine, and none (to my knowledge) in GA. Maine is seen by the staff as the more liberal/wildcard state where things happen there that don’t (or aren’t allowed?) happen in other states. Maine and Hawaii I suppose, because there’s surfing there and every staffer wants to staff those two states.

I know both of the female governors closely. Women taking on a high leadership position that isn’t somehow under a male is almost unheard of. I was shocked when I won “president” at Back To DC in 2007, but I think that was because the dude who was running before was an obnoxious 13 year old who wasn’t even going to stay the whole time and I had previously attended the class and the one other alumni there was on my campaign. I may have won favor with the staff when I shared that I was struggling with running for the position (because *gasp* I can’t LEAD), instead of running the campaign (because that was completely different).

At National Convention, Women are allowed (I wouldn’t necessarily say encouraged) to run for Representative and Senator, and even Vice President. In my time there, I only ever saw Boy/Girl Pres/VP teams, because women running for president, while not directly prohibited was just known to be taboo. I ran for representative but never made it past primaries – although some women definitely are elected, the majority of the faux positions are still filled by males. I know this parallels real life, but here it’s encouraged. Women in leadership positions is allowed, but sketchily, always under men.

In fact, we are told, many times, in no uncertain terms that we (women) are supposed to just go along with whatever the men say – even if we disagree with it, and to not speak up if we do. They’re supposed to lead, after all, and we’re supposed to submit.

In “girl talks” a session where the guys go out (to talk about opening doors) and the women stay inside we learn that modesty is on us. completely. It is our job to cause our “brothers” to not stumble while we’re at class. We’re told exactly how to wear and to not wear items of clothing. In State Classes we must wear skirts, and they must be over the knee when you sit, never too tight when you move or bend over. All clothing must be able to hang or give at least an inch from your body, but simultaneously, should also be cute/professional and not frumpy. Just to be safe, I wore several layers – in the middle of summer, in the hot GA sun – just in case I got wet, or the sun caught something and my one-size-up tshirt were suddenly opaque.

We must be vigilant, and tell our “sisters” if they’re wearing something we think is too tight or revealing. Lady-Staff will confront girls to change their outfit if they feel it’s inappropriate. Because, again, it is our responsibility to show ourselves as non-human-shapeless-forms so our “brothers” don’t accidentally see our bodies and think something bad.

Boys aren’t told how many fingers width a neckline is allowed to be before it’s “too much”. They don’t have to reach up, and bend down to check and see if any skin shows.

But we, we seductresses in our pubescent awkwardness, we must never show any more skin than necessary to avoid heat exhaustion – and even then, pants must be loose!

I hate using the phrase “rape culture” but the more I think about it, the more this perpetuates it – because regardless, it is ALWAYS the women who are at fault. We are essentially told as much, and this is coupled with “don’t tell a man no” is just a setup for abusive environments and relationships to thrive.


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To any TeenPacter, there are three words that represent ultimate ruling at any event – Teen Pact Appropriate. Oft abbreviated to the acronym TPA, it was bandied about concerning clothing, actions, and topics of discussion. It was the vague final standard that floated over attendees, replacing a popular evangelical choice of WWJD with, “Is that TPA?”

It was easy to tout it as well as ay other… during my first year. TPA was presented as hip, cool, and in to a sect of the population who often made their friends and had the most socialisation at TeenPact. I saw no problem deeming ankle length skirts and blouses a size or two too large as professional attire to wear to the capitol when I started out. I listened intently to the “girl talk” about causing en to lust. I very carefully kept any talk of Lord of the Rings or other such subjects to nothing more than hushed whispers.

My second year, I ran for governor of TeenPact Maine on the slogan “Vote AJK, She’s TPA.” Even so, there were tendrils of doubt forming in my mind. There were rebukes given to women who dared hold the door open instead of waiting–or letting–a man do it. I wondered what really happened during the “guy talk,” and why all the responsibility for men’s lust was being placed on the women. I had spent more time at the capitol between the two state classes, and didn’t understand why pantsuits for women were not allowed — something that came up again later in my TeenPact history. Then, of course, came the comments that shook my faith in my gubernatorial victory: the number of people who remarked that they didn’t know how I could have won, when they all voted for the other candidate. I tried not to worry about it, but, for an organisation that promotes integrity above all else, there should never needbe any doubt.

I tried not to let my concerns shake my faith in the organisation, and proud of my newfound determination to prove the equality of women, I set off for my second National Convention on the presidential campaign trail. The historical inauguration of the first female governor of TeenPact Maine was fresh in my memory, and I was determined to make TeenPact history once more. My running mate and I knew we had our work cut out for us as the first girl/girl team, but, we were more than willing to embrace it.

What I was not prepared for ere the incredulous looks on the faces of boys and girls as they stopped by our campaign booth. Riding in a van with Mr. Echols on the way to a church service was not the first time, nor the last, that a fellow TeenPacter asked me how a girl running for president was TPA. After all, women should never be in positions of leadership over men! The first time I was asked if it was TPA, I was flabbergasted. Still, my answer did not change. If Deborah could do it, so could I. Besides, I was just as capable as every other guy there, at the very least – why shouldn’t I run? In the end, though, I was the one with questions. The popular vote recorded for my state did not match the number of votes from my supporters. I wasn’t the only one with doubts that election, but, who were we running against? Popular vote doesn’t matter when determining whether someone is TPA enough.

That same year I had an interview for staffing state classes the following year. I was very excited about the chance to do it, and was counting down the time until my interview. Things seemed to go well, up until my interviewer put her pencil down and looked me straight in the face. “How do you reconcile the TeenPact statement of faith with being Orthodox?” I blinked. I wasn’t sure if she was concerned because I had been running for president, or she just didn’t know what being an Orthodox Christian meant. The result of the interview was that I could staff the one-day class for 8-13 year olds, but that they weren’t comfortable with me staffing the four-day class.

From there, however, I turned to another side of TeenPact, and the hypocrisy therein: TeenPact Judicial…

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Crossposted from Kiery’s blog Bridging The Gap

TeenPact is a christian conservative/evangelical organization that organizes government and civics classes and camps throughout the country. Their goal is to raise a generation of christian leaders (teens) to go and bring the country back “for christ” by encouraging activism and male leadership.

When I think about TeenPact and my time there, I don’t feel anger – like I do with most of my other past experiences. I feel confusion. Because I have so many good memories and experiences that are entrenched in environments that perpetuated the lies that enabled an abusive environment to thrive.

The thing about organizations like TeenPact and NCFCA is that their goal is to raise a new generation of leaders – thinkers, even – to do one specific thing: Take the nation back (for god!). What they don’t count on, is that by giving us the tools and resources to think critically, we’ll actually, you know, think critically and carry that on throughout our adulthood. Which is awesome and I’m really happy that I was allowed to learn that, because it’s served me well and enabled me to become the person I am today. Funny thing though, our parents and the people who head up these organizations get extremely grumpy and upset when we do what they taught us to do (or at least you know, the thinking part of that) without doing the rest of what they wanted us to do.

They teach us how to think, but then, they don’t actually want us to think, they want us to do their bidding.

And this, in a nutshell, is my beef with TeenPact. I’m going to be splitting this into parts instead of writing a book of a blogpost – because some things need to be fleshed out more, so for today, I’m going to concentrate on one particular event that happened while I was staffing.

I staffed one of the GA State classes in 2007. As staff, I helped oversee the voting process – a process which is designed to teach students about how elections work (assuming everyone is honest). The votes were tallied and my friend was a clear winner. I was pleased with this, and a little proud because he had really gone out of his comfort zone to even run. I was appalled, confused, and maybe a little angry when in that back room the Program Director turned to us and said, well, I don’t think he’d make a good governor, we should choose someone else. The founder was there and the high ranking staff wanted to impress him (by discarding the process?) and decided that my friend wouldn’t do it.

So in that back room, the Program Director, and the higher ranking staff decided to choose someone else from the 3 candidates to be governor and told us to be quiet about it. I was 15 (2 weeks before my birthday) and I had no idea how to respond – I was too shocked to say anything and too surprised to complain or dissent, so I stood there quietly, feeling as though my mouth was gaping. When we left the room with the new results, and with the Program Director deciding that his vote overruled all, I was full of shame and guilt. We announced who won and there were many questions – because in the other room, everyone tells everyone who they voted for, so everyone actually knows who won. People asked me questions and I couldn’t respond, my friend asked me and I was crushed and had to give him the same line I had given everyone else “it’s just what the votes were”.

I felt helpless because everyone who I would have talked to about it, was in that room and made that decision. They didn’t expect dissent – honestly, I don’t even think dissent is allowed, though it’s never directly stated – it’s a very homogenous group and anyone who does dissent is instantly cast as weird/strange/anything you don’t really want to associate with.

The staff did what they did because they didn’t want to get in trouble with Mr. Echols. I don’t know what the staff meetings are like, but I imagine that choosing a good face was enough of a requirement to strike fear into the hearts of the interns.

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by Starfury

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There are few words that can stir conservatives and liberals alike to the extent of “abortion.” Each side tries desperately to fit their view on abortion into a black and white mentality. The liberals focus on the woman. The conservatives focus on the child. Each claim a blanket answer to every situation. Each touts the moral high ground.

Neither embrace reality.

It is one thing to tell a woman what she can or cannot choose.

It is an entirely different thing to be that woman.

There is nothing glamorous about abortion. There is nothing about it to make someone joyous at the occasion of requiring one. There is nothing supportive about those who would say they support you, whilst they tout you as an example of a woman exercising her right to choose. There is nothing supportive about those who claim to love you whilst protesting your right to choose.

If you have not been in those shoes, you cannot understand.

Society tells us that women should be overjoyed when they see the little coloured line(s) on a pregnancy test. Society implies guilt when a woman reacts with screams, tears, and abject terror. Society raises us to congratulate a woman upon finding out she’s pregnant. Society doesn’t tell you that your congratulations could cause a breakdown.

We are raised to believe that you’re supposed to want a child. You wrap your belly with your hands in a gesture of comfort and safety and promise, even when there is no obvious sign of pregnancy. You feel a connection to a being that is not yet fully formed.

Except… you don’t always. There can be a disconnect. There can be horror. There can be disgust.

Society likes to tell us that if you wait until you’re financially prepared to have a child, you will never have one. They are correct. A more important measure is whether you are mentally or emotionally prepared, or even able.

And if a woman is not? Do we tell her, have it any way, we care not for your mental and emotional state? If you’re physically capable, that’s good enough. You made the choice to get pregnant.

We fail to remember that not everyone does! Some people try to use birth control. It’s not perfect. Or maybe a condom broke.

Don’t judge the woman entering the abortion clinic. Don’t view her as a check on a ballot, against one box or another. Don’t presume you know what she is thinking or how she is feeling. Don’t cast her as a woman proud to exercise her choice or as a champion of life.

Love her.

She needs it the most, when she’s faced with an unexpected pregnancy. She needs it when her body’s hormones have turned on their head and she knows she’s not functioning as she might otherwise. She needs it when she realises there is the potentiality for life within her, and it is up to her to try and help it survive, or to end it, for her own good. It is up to her to wrestle with her conscience and decide what is an acceptable choice.

It doesn’t have to be the same two year down the road, as it is now. It doesn’t have to be the same as yours, or your neighbour’s, or your friend down the road’s. It just has to be hers.

It has to be mine.

I don’t need your shouting at me when I leave the clinic. You don’t know what my decision was. It shouldn’t affect how you treat me.

Even so, I need your love in the aftermath of my abortion, just as another girl needs your love throughout her pregnancy.

It’s not black and white.

It’s not about you.

It’s not something you can ever understand until you walk in my shoes. Until you see the pregnancy test that you weren’t expecting. I need the choice, but only I can make it, and only when it is set before me. The decision is never easy, even if there is no doubt as to what it will be.

Trust me.

I tried. I tried saying I would never get one, even though I supported the right to choose.

You know nothing until you are faced with it. Hope that you never are faced with it.

Love and cherish those who are.

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By Starfury

“I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 (KJV)

I grew up in the midst of the “purity culture.” Joshua Harris’ “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” had been out for five years when I first read it. Encouraged by my parents, I latched on to this. It seemed to be the ideal way to achieve “Beautiful Girlhood” and “Godly Womanhood.” I received my first purity ring at 13. That year also saw the release of Leslie Ludy’s “Authentic Beauty.”

I was very eager to follow the strictures set forth by Harris, Ludy, and others—along with my father—when the time for my own courtship came around. After all, if I did this, then I would be sure to have a beautiful relationship and a fairytale marriage.

There was a rough start between February and June of 2006 and it all occurred online. However, in June 2006, official permission was received by “R” from my father. He called me “Miss” and used my last name when he asked me to court me, and sealed my “yes” with a kiss on my hand. We held hands, and I gave him a brief hug at the airport before he left for the other side of the country. Yes. We held hands. We were so very liberal.

As our relationship went on, and I went off to college, however, I realised that someone was trying to dictate my relationship, when they weren’t actively involved in it, and did not know how we interacted, or what went on between  my “beau” and myself.

Disaster struck in the form of an all too helpful family at the church I intended. Concerned for my spiritual growth, they contacted my parents and urged them to end our relationship, because they were concerned we were moving to a “physical” level. I came home in May, and my parents informed us of the one year moratorium they were placing on our relationship.

Nevermind that I was eighteen. Nevermind that they never asked us for our side of the story, or for our input, or tried to discuss things with us like the adults we were. Nevermind that a year earlier when he asked for permission, my mother had told me that they would say yes in part because I wanted them to, because I was almost an adult and should make my own decisions.

Playing the dutiful daughter, I—and he—agreed. I transferred to a different college and moved in with friends. The entire summer and early fall I was very depressed and stressed. I was angry over the forced restriction on my relationship—especially because it was due to false accusations. I missed the man I was in love with (so much for guarding my heart’s emotional purity, though I tried, and felt like a failure when I realised I did care for him).

The one decent thing that occurred was that the priest I spoke with told me that marriage was between the man, the woman, and god. Latching onto that, I took matters into my own hands, and resumed communication with my “beau,” informing my parents of my choice and the reasoning behind it. This ultimately resulted in our wedding in 2008.

My fairytale marriage did not occur, however. Things were awkward and hard. There was anger and yelling and controlling. It was far from the picture perfect marriage I had been promised by Leslie Ludy and Joshua Harris. In early 2010, however, we realised that it could no longer continue. I was miserable, I was hurting, and he had no great happiness, either. I, at least, felt obligated to remain married:

“For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” Malachi 2:16 (KJV)
“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Matthew 19:9 (KJV)

And so I tried my best. I tried to make it work, and the harder I tried, the more strain that was put on. It was a rare day that passed without shed tears or harsh words. I didn’t know what to do. I knew that divorce was a sin. I knew there was only one way out of marriage.

“The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:39 (KJV)

I tried to fight the realisation that it couldn’t work anymore, and for my own sanity–let alone other factors–I needed to get out. I remember that morning I told “R” that I wanted a divorce. I remember going into work and crying in the back room. I remember being terrified to call my parents and tell them.

I had failed.

I was a month shy of turning 21, and I had made the decision to get divorced. I was a failure as a daughter, as a wife, and certainly as a woman. I had a stigma, a black mark, my own version of a scarlet letter. I was certain that no one would go out with me again — I was divorced, after all.
Even today, several years later, I find myself doubting. It is hard to accept that anyone could love me, when I am a broken and failed divorcee. Rationally, I know I am not. Rationally, I know I am a strong woman who stood up for myself and did what was right for me, and what I had to do. Rationally, I know that the disdain upon which fundamentalism shows those who get a divorce is wrong.

But, that’s the thing about fundamentalism. It doesn’t speak to the rational mind.

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Two of the most common fears are being alone and failure. There’s a great big world out there, and it can be a scary place, even for those who didn’t grow up in a sheltered environment. Combine the unknown with a lifetime of black and white standards, and it’s no wonder that transitioning out of a fundamentalist worldview can be one of the hardest experiences one faces.

 

It is sometimes difficult for those who have not encountered similar situations to relate. Often, questions are asked as to why someone would stay, why they would put up with it, how they could have lived like that for so long. It can be hard for those who have lived it to explain.

 

It’s not easy.

 

We won’t pretend it is.

 

But, knowing that you’re not alone can help. It’s good to have a support group built up, especially when you’re slowly discovering all the colours (and grey-ness) of the world.

 

This is for you, to tell your story. To share your hopes and your dreams, and to bring all those who are hurting, and those who want to support, together. After all, when Willow told Tara she couldn’t do this, Tara’s response was “We can do this.” We’re strong like Amazons after all… it just sometimes takes some sifting to find that inner strength.

 

 

Let’s move past the black and the white.

 

We’re rooting for you.

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