What to Do With an Anti-Choice Gift Card

hobby-lobby-1I’m pretty sure my mom wasn’t thinking about politics while Christmas shopping, but she gave me a gift card to Hobby Lobby in combination with some other knitting related gifts. It was really sweet of her because I do enjoy arts and crafts but um–this is Hobby Lobby we’re talking about.

Yeah, that Hobby Lobby.

Since the money has already been spent at this business I’m not super fond of, my plan now is to use the gift card but make an equal or greater donation to Planned Parenthood or some other organization that supports reproductive rights, sex ed, and sex positivity.

hobby-lobby-2

If you know of any good organizations, let me know in the comments.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Dear Searcher part 3: “purity and secondary virginity”

person, couple, love

This is my third post responding to search terms that have led people to my blog. You can read the first post here, and you can read the second post here.

The premise of these Dear Searcher posts is that I write an open letter to a person who found my blog using search terms that I find thought provoking or unsettling.

On March 14th 2016, someone found my blog using the search term “purity and secondary virginity.”

Dear searcher,

Virginity is one of the most ill-defined concepts we have in this world. Ever notice that? There’s a myriad of sexual things we can do and still be technically “virgins.” Then again, it depends on who you ask. One of my earliest memories of learning this was at a pool party in high school. I was fourteen, maybe fifteen, and one of my friends said, “If I let a guy do it in my butt, am I still a virgin?”

One friend said “Heck no!”

Another one said, “Maybe. Did he go all the way in?”

Sure, there are clinical definitions of sex, and a doctor once told me the definition of “sexually active” was “physical contact with any body parts covered by a bikini.” By that definition, I was sexually active by the end of high school, even though I didn’t have sex until I was almost done with college. But “sexually active” is different from “virginity.” Virginity is much harder to define.

Some people define losing one’s virginity as a person’s first time having penis-in-vagina sex, but by that definition, gay and lesbian people who never experiment with straight people will remain virgins their entire lives. That doesn’t make any sense. I’m sorry to anyone who was using this as a sneaky way to cheat the “rules” and remain a virgin, but  oral and anal sex are included in the umbrella of acts that can remove one’s virginity, no matter what your friend Tara says. As clear as this is to me now, I considered myself a virgin for a while after I’d had oral sex. Our culture is very heteronormative, and still views sex largely from a straight male perspective. Even though penis-in-vagina sex doesn’t really do a whole lot for many women as far as pleasure is concerned, it’s still considered the gold standard.

With all that being said, at the end of the day you’re the one who needs to decide how you personally feel about sex. The question to ask yourself is, does any of this really matter? Does whether or not you are a virgin affect your value as an individual? Does it affect your identity positively or negatively? Does it affect your self esteem?.

Virginity is not always given up willingly, but it is still considered gone if it is lost in rape. If you do believe a person’s value is tarnished by sex, do you consider it just as bad for a victim as for a person who’s doing it of their own volition?

What about gender differences? If you find out that a female friend has had sex, how do you judge her? Now imagine that instead of a female friend, it is a male friend. How do you judge him? If there is a difference? Why is that?

You may have noticed that there is one, or any other number of unsettling things about the way you view virginity by asking yourself these questions, and there’s a reason why they’re unsettling: virginity is a concept that society made up: a social construct. It’s not actually important at all. I really mean that. Virginity is as much a social construct as the way we assume video games are for boys, the way someone invented dresses and said “these will be women’s clothing, not men’s.” It could have gone the other way. There’s no biological reason for women to wear dresses, or for video games to be marketed heavily to boys. It’s not the way things have to be, just the way our culture is. “Virgin” is a label applied to people who have not had sex, but sex is, at the end of the day, an experience, not necessarily a terrible or life-altering event.

Imagine if we had a label for people who had never eaten sushi, and although we judged people for never having eaten it, we also judged people who have. Imagine if people also claimed that there was a biological difference between people who ate it and those who didn’t–a sushi barrier that broke as soon as the delicious fish slid down your throat. Ridiculous right? That’s exactly what sex is though.

It’s an experience, just like eating sushi, or going sky diving, or going to work for the first time. It’s something many people do, and while the first time may be a milestone for you, it doesn’t make you a better or worse person than you were the day before. Yes, even in women, there is NO PHYSICAL DIFFERENCE between those who are virgins and those who are not. (FYI, hymens DO NOT POP, please click the link and educate yourself. And this one while you’re at it. Trust me on this, I’m a cisgender female with a hymen who’s having sex. And yes, those are both YouTube videos. Sadly, YouTube has frequently been a more reliable sex ed resource than traditional resources.)

But your search term included “secondary” virginity, which tells me that you’ve been sky diving. You’ve had figurative sushi before, and you’re interested in becoming a virgin again. I was raised Catholic, and taught that this could be done spiritually, through an appeal to God and a promise to follow Catholic teaching on sex (abstaining till marriage) in the future. I’m not going to lie to you. This is a complete waste of your time and energy. If you’ve eaten sushi, you’ve eaten sushi. If you’ve gone on an international vacation, you’ve gone on an international vacation. If you’ve been sky diving, you’ve been sky diving. Sex is part of your life experience now, just like every job you’ve had, every friendship, every lesson, every skill. Maybe you aren’t happy with how it happened. Maybe it was the wrong person. Maybe you were a victim. Whatever the circumstances, you can’t change the past. You can only move forward. Pretending the past didn’t happen is not a healthy way to do that.

You have to come to terms with the fact that you are no longer what society labels a “virgin,” just like I am no longer a college student. The transition from one label to another is difficult because it can become a huge part of your identity if it matters to you. I loved being a college student. But I was ready to move on to the next part of my life. Try to think of sex like that. You don’t have to do it again if you don’t want to. But you’ve done it now. You know what it’s like, at least in one circumstance, and now you can learn from it just like you can with any other experience. What you take away from it is up to you.
Has anyone else encountered this idea of secondary virginity? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Gender Roles and Chores: Reading Recommendation

A friend of mine shared this post on Facebook, and it really reflected my own experiences in my family, so I couldn’t wait to share it with you. The title is a bit weird, but don’t be put off by it. It’s actually a post expanding on a previous article by the same writer, which you can read here if you’re interested, but you can get the idea from the quotes in the first link. It’s about relationships, chores, and gender roles, and the author makes some points that I think help to explain at least some of the contributing factors to the fact that my mother runs my family’s house with little to no assistance unless she begs us to help her. And that’s not healthy for family life.

When people in a long term relationship–like a marriage–live together, they have to keep the magic alive. But they also have to go about their routines, and look after their home, and take care of the kids. This person argues that the way we unevenly split the duties of taking care of a household, leaving the woman (or to not be heteronormative, one partner) with most of the tasks, eventually drains the relationship. This is because essentially one person ends up managing all of the household chores and deciding when they will get done, leading to them having to nag the other person to help out, just like our moms did when we were kids.

As he explains,

…no matter how many times you sarcastically remind your wife that she’s not your mother and you wish she’d stop acting like it, she often feels like your mother.

This is bad for your sex life.

I think the reasoning behind this idea is pretty obvious, but his understanding of this issue goes much deeper than “making your wife feel like your parent is gross and stupid.” It is. But it’s also lazy, irresponsible, and not what you do in an equal relationship.

He goes on to write about how he would always tell his wife to ask him to help her when she needed it, never taking initiative himself to learn the regular activities that are necessary for the house to function and help do them as needed. If these were tasks he’d been assigned at work, he would figure out when to do them on his own, but at home? Never. He expected her to plan out when these things would need to get done, leaving her to manage everything from the chores to the schedules for everyone in the household, which is a lot for one person to manage. He writes:

I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is “I got this,” and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

I always reasoned: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

But she didn’t want to be my mother.

She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.

 

I’m not gonna lie guys. I’m very guilty of this at home myself. Most days I don’t want to do chores, and as much as I love my mom, I have to really push myself to do them.

But here’s the thing. If I see dishes that are dirty, or a dishwasher full of clean dishes, I don’t need to be told “wash the dishes” or “empty the dishwasher.” I just need to kick myself in the pants and go do it.

Most of my family members–and by that I mean the 3 males in my family–are not like that. My dad literally asks my mom (and me now, for some reason) for step by step instructions on how to do simple everyday tasks like cooking pasta or reheating chicken from two days ago. It actually drives me crazy, because I’m in my early twenties. If anything, he’s way better at all of this than I am. But I have a vagina, so I need to be prepared to run a household someday, right?

I need to be prepared to delegate chores, and manage everyone’s schedule by myself, like my mom does, right?

I seriously hope not.

I’ve never known anyone more overwhelmed than she often is. She technically works 4 jobs (part time), 3 of which involve significant preparation beforehand (teaching music and being a musician). She is no longer physically capable of keeping the house tidy AND working all her jobs. She’s just too busy all the fucking time. And nobody helps her. Because my family’s very old fashioned. And a bit patriarchal. So it’s my mother’s job to tell everyone else what their jobs are. We’re all adults here (all except my youngest brother, who’s a high school sophomore. Where did the time go?) We’re all capable of pitching in without being told. So why is it so hard?

Maybe we take my mom for granted. Maybe we don’t respect her enough. Maybe she’s stuck between the lives of different generations, having the career that women today can have, but also juggling the tasks of a full time homemaker. She’s also the one who makes sure the bills get paid each month. (Apparently when they were just married, my mom had my dad pay the bills one month, and NOTHING GOT PAID. So she took over.)

Just as she took over the dishes when they didn’t get washed. And cleaning the bathrooms and the floors and dusting and de-cluttering the house. Our house is a fucking mess, I’m not going to lie to you. My family’s relationship with chores is not a healthy one. I’m part of the problem. But I’m the second most productive chore-doer in the house. There’s a pretty clear correlation between gender and chore-doing in this family. I try not to let it bother me, but it really does. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’m looking forward to moving out, to getting married, and to having a place with my fiance, in whatever order that occurs. It’ll be nice for us to work out our own system of divying up the chores fairly. I hope we can avoid settling into the roles my parents have assumed. I want us to be co breadwinners and co homemakers. I don’t think that’s a ridiculous thing to want. But we both grew up in a very gendered world. We’ll see with time how successful we can be at defying those old expectations.

What do you think about these articles? Have any of you had experiences relating to gender and chore completion in your lives? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Recommended Reading: Is Hell Even Biblical?

fire

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s been a little while since I made a post and I don’t have a lot of time right this minute to put into one, so instead, here’s an article I found a while back that I think is worth a read. It delves into the idea that maybe the hell Christians believe in isn’t even in the Bible. If it’s true, that would certainly change a lot of things. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the arguments herein because it gets into things like translations and frankly I just haven’t studied any of the languages involved. Having said that, I think this article presents some very interesting ideas and a new perspective on hell–that place people are always telling me I’m going to if I don’t become super religious. If hell isn’t Biblical, huge portions of Christian teaching become moot. So much for Pascal’s wager…

What are your thoughts on this article? Or on hell in general as an idea? Or both? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

Handling Stressful News as an Atheist

praying hands and bible

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When one is religious, as I used to be, the first thing to do when something goes wrong is to pray. It’s almost a reflex. When you see an ambulance drive by, you bow your head. When you get bad news, you fold your hands. When you’re anxious about something, you lay your troubles at the feet of Jesus.

I’ll admit that I haven’t had many difficult situations to deal with since deconverting. Aside from some test anxiety and performance anxiety before giving some solos for my school’s music program, my life had been pretty calm, until a few months ago. I wrote this post long before the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino shooting reawakened our nation’s fears of terrorism, but I think now’s as good a time as any to further add to the discussion about prayer and what it really does for both the person praying, and the person the intentions are for.

My fiance, who is a generally healthy person, caught a bad sinus infection over the summer. He has a pretty strong immune system, so when he gets sick it typically doesn’t last long. I’ve seen him have a fever for a day and wake up the next morning healthy, so I wasn’t too worried. Then a few days later, I woke up to a phone call from his parents. He had been hospitalized during the night, complaining of chest pains. It turns out, the infection he had was viral, not bacterial, and it moved to his heart. His heart had been significantly weakened, but it was still going. He didn’t have a heart attack, thank goodness. I went to visit him the next day, and he just wanted to go home. He was worried about his health, and significantly weakened, but he was still himself, and that put me at ease more than anything.

Medical situations are some of the worst to face. I’m seeking work now, but that’s an issue I can resolve with clear steps. I know I’m contributing to a solution even if it takes a while. That simply is not the case when a loved one is in the hospital. Nothing I could do myself would make the problem go away, and when you’re religious, that’s a time when prayer is a particularly accessible source of comfort.

Even as an atheist, I was tempted to pray, given the situation, but I resisted that urge; I knew it wouldn’t do any good. I worried about him almost constantly until I saw him. I was still worried up until the moment he was finally discharged, but once I’d visited him, I felt significantly better. It’s a bit like the way I would feel better after praying. I felt like I did the right thing, and like it was a helpful thing to do. I used to think I’d never feel that relief again, but I felt it when I visited him, doing something tangible. In fact, I felt it more strongly than I ever felt with prayer. I knew I was getting personally involved, not simply asking for someone else to do something. Besides, being in a hospital waiting for test results or for an illness to go away is a slow process filled with periods of anxiety and boredom. While it may not have affected the final outcome–he would have gotten well regardless of whether or not I’d showed up–I was able to sit with him for a couple of hours and keep him company, helping the time to pass and at least alleviating some boredom.

Some people argue that prayer makes people feel better, and I’ll admit that it does. I’ve experienced it myself. But now I know that finding some small helpful thing to do–like visiting a sick friend, cooking dinner for a struggling family, or helping someone change a tire–is by far more rewarding to both the person helped AND the do-gooder than prayer. I don’t just feel like I’ve fulfilled an obligation as I would in the case of prayer. I feel like I’ve done what I can do to help. I feel helpful. And I know that feeling is justified because it’s accompanied with action. When something bad happens, whether it’s headline news or something more personal, I hope that as a community of human beings we can all come together and find tangible ways to help.

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

“Women are Special Because They Can Have Babies”: A Sexist “Pro-Women” Argument

 

madonna with child statue

Image courtesy of sritangphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are many reasons why the Catholic Church is not the best when it comes to women’s rights. I’ve definitely hit on the big ones on this blog before: banning women from the priesthood, refusing to acknowledge divorce, and of course fighting constantly against women’s reproductive rights. But there’s another way in which the Catholic Church is pretty darn sexist, and it’s less about a position on a major political issue than it is about the church’s overall view of women and the language many of its adherents use to describe us.

A point I often heard growing up in the conservative Catholic homeschooling community was that women were special. That we were a beautiful, wonderful part of God’s creation. I can get behind that sentiment minus the whole God thing–until they would give their favorite example of why women are so special: they can create life. Don’t get me wrong, the whole babies thing is cool, and it is part of what makes me female, but this is often used as the only point to support this idea that women are beloved by God, and when one combines it with the things women are forbidden from doing by the Catholic church, keeping us from holding the top leadership roles in the church and controlling us on matters of reproduction, it’s easy to see why a woman might come to the conclusion that we’re only valuable as vessels for human life, not as individual human beings ourselves.

This idea wasn’t just spoken by the homeschooling families around me. It abounded in our educational materials, especially the religious ones. In a lecture that was part of a tangential talk on a Bible Study DVD, the speaker expressed this idea in the context of the Adam and Eve story: (I’m paraphrasing from memory here.)

“The woman is God’s most complex, beautiful creation. She can create life. Think about how incredible that is. I’m a guy. I can’t do that! You know, God created women after man like she’s a second draft. Like how your new phone can do more than your old phone. She’s so much better.”

On the surface, this sounds totally benign and kind of pleasant. I loved the particular lecture this one came from at the time. But it’s doing it again–placing women’s value in their uteri, in their reproductive organs. And talking this way, describing women as the second draft after men, makes it seem like our reproductive abilities are a new feature like a front facing camera or something. They’re not. Our reproductive organs are just a fact of our existence just like men’s reproductive organs are. I don’t see Catholics praising men for their magical baby-making semen (though if you have, let me know in the comments.)

Talking about women this way does a few things

  1. It boils us down to literally a single biological fact about our bodies. That doesn’t elevate us at all. If anything, it diminishes us to a single role: that of a mother. It’s a beautiful, wonderful role, and a very difficult, extraordinary, and important job. I hope to be a mother some day. But that’s NOT my only goal or dream, and there are plenty of women for whom motherhood is not appealing at all. Which brings me to my next point.
  2. It undermines women’s reproductive choices. If the best thing about being a woman is having children, then it’s not a stretch to argue that women who don’t want children should still be having them.
  3. It’s seriously offensive to infertile women, or women with medical conditions that make pregnancy dangerous. It implies that women who can’t have children are broken, or missing something that’s supposed to come with this “new model.”

Women have fought for a long time to be able to vote, to enter the workforce, to have equal access to education, and to have control over reproduction so that we can choose the life we want to live. Perpetuating this idea marginalizes us.

Furthermore, in Catholicism, this idea is often further perpetuated by the myth of the virgin Mary, who is celebrated for her “yes” to God, agreeing to be a mother to Jesus. She is held up as the ideal woman: the perfect example of how Christian woman should live, because she agreed to carry a baby to term. She is the Catholic mascot for “siding with God” on matters of reproductive rights. If it’s good enough for Mary, it should be good enough for the rest of us, right? But Mary is just the teacher’s pet. She’s the student whose A+ ruined the curve for everyone else. She’s a fictional character. She doesn’t represent all women. Even if we knew her to have definitely existed, she’d only be one person in one time period with one set of experiences.

I realize that the example of the talk that brought up this idea came completely from my own memory. To supplement that, here’s a Catholic Answers page straight from the horse’s mouth in which a Catholic describes Catholic teaching on men and women. Notice how the primary difference they list is that women “give physical life” and men “give spiritual life” (the priesthood. An arbitrary rule they impose.) Furthermore, as I mentioned was their tendency earlier, they also bring up Mary who, let’s face it, is revered more for her ovaries than anything else.

Have any of you encountered this idea that women are special because of their reproductive abilities in your own church communities, former or current, (regardless of denomination)? What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful to others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Christian Radio Station Asks for Money in a Dirty Way

99point1FMad

A friend of mine from college who lives in New Jersey saw this on her parents’ kitchen table a couple of weeks ago and sent this picture my way. She says it’s a post card advertisement for Star 99.1 FM, a Christian radio station in New Jersey. I really don’t have a problem with this radio station existing, or with them asking for donations from their listeners. I do, however, have a serious issue with what they’re implying through their word choice in this ad. It says:

“I was without a job for over a year and that was a very difficult time for our family of 4.

We really didn’t have extra to give, but God was tugging at our hearts to support Star 99.1 . Just two weeks later I found the job of my dreams.

God is good, faithful, and He keeps His promises. Thank you Star 99.1 for doing His work and for being His voice, hands and feet in the community.”

-Ivan

Look familiar? It reminds me an awful lot of something John Oliver talked about in his video on televangelists and their tendency to go after desperate people for monetary gain. Here’s that video in case you’re curious.

This is really despicable. I’m currently doing mundane temp work to make ends meet (in other words, not default on my student loans) and someone else in my position or a worse one might read this and think, well, I’m struggling financially but how about I make that worse by donating money! Clearly donating to the right place will get me the job I need.

I mentioned this to my mother, who’s a devout Catholic and a fan of our local Christian radio station, and even she thought this was making an inappropriate suggestion. Donating to a Christian radio station is NOT the same as looking for a job. It’s not the same as filling out applications and networking and revamping your resume and writing cover letters galore. I sincerely hope that no one, upon seeing this ad, thought “Well, I’ll have to skip dinner a few times but maybe God will fix my financial woes if I donate money!”

I know that’s not what the station means for its mail recipients to get from this ad. I also realize that the person making the statement in the ad about finding his dream job is supposed to be a listener, not a representative of the radio station. However, I’m also positive that someone who works for the station still had to look at the ad and approve it. Someone affiliated with them saw this and thought, “Yep. In today’s job market and economy, this is an appropriate way to ask for money.” That’s not OK.

If this had been an organization that wasn’t religious, I don’t think anyone would just stand by and consider this normal. But for too many people, this makes total sense. Of course God is waiting for you to donate to His radio station before giving you that dream job you’re looking for!

Have any of you seen similar examples of religious organizations appealing to desperate people for monetary gain? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy