Mutuality Week (and toothbrushing horror)

I would like to say that Rachel Held Evans’ remarkable Mutuality Week series is what made her the Slacktivixen’s new favorite blogger, but actually it was something more recent.

Specifically, it was this passage from Evans’ recent post on “Exercising in public and other methods of sanctification“:

Now, there are three things that I feel should never be done in public: nudity, teeth brushing, and exercise.

(Ask Dan about the teeth brushing thing. He thinks it’s weird that I can’t stand the sound of someone brushing their teeth, and claims that normal people don’t require their spouse to run the water and close the bathroom door when they brush, or have to cover their ears when a character in a movie has a lengthy conversation with a toothbrush sticking out of one side of his mouth…which happens WAY more often than it should, let me tell you.)

This precisely parallels a common conversation in our house. The ‘vixen was very happy to learn she’s not the only one who feels this way about the sound of a toothbrush. But she also really liked the Mutuality Week series.

So regardless of how you feel about public displays of dental hygiene, be sure to bookmark these as resources for future reference.

Here again is the big link to the index of all the posts for Mutuality 2012, which Evans describes as a series:

… dedicated to discussing an egalitarian view of gender — including relevant biblical texts and practical applications. The goal is to show how scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all support a posture of equality toward women, one that favors mutuality rather than hierarchy, in the home, Church, and society.

And here’s a complementary post (ahem),Want to learn more about mutuality? A list of resources.”

This link — “The Mutuality Syncroblog 2012” — collects most of the excellent contributions to this series by a host of other smart writers around the Web.

These are all excellent references for anyone interested in learning more about gender equality in the church. They’re also the sort of links that often come in handy for responding to emails from religious friends who want to tell you that God or the Bible “say” that women must be subordinate.

I hesitate to highlight only some of the other contributions to Evans’ “synchroblog,” but let me emphasize that I’m not only recommending these few, just particularly recommending them:

  • Jessica at Love Is What You Do takes a look at the many women ministering and leading in the Roman church (the original church in Rome, not the thing that became the anti-woman “Roman church”) — women whom Paul praised by name for their leadership in Romans 16.
  • Paul at Disoriented/Reoriented writes about “A Radical Feminist Rabbi Named Jesus.”
  • Richard Beck writes about the patriarchal “argument that has been used to hide the power-play by dressing it up in pragmatic clothing.”
  • Dianna Anderson notes that “complementarians” have a patriarchal — and, thus, heretical — understanding of the Trinity.
  • And do not miss Rachel Held Evans’ own knockout punch: “Is patriarchy really God’s dream for the world?


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  • I feel the same way about nail-clipping. 

  • Well, this post made my night. :-) Thank you. 

    Be sure to tell Slacktivixen she is not alone. There are dozens of us! Dozens! 

  • Exercise shouldn’t be done in public? Great, I’ll just let everybody who exercises know they need to build their very own Pilates gym in their apartment/house/condo just so this person isn’t inconvenienced, okay? It’s not like sidewalks are some peoples’ only recourse for economic reasons or anything.

    The sheer asininity of that statement about exercise, to me, undercuts the effectiveness of the point that Rachel Held Evans is trying to make.

  • Monala

     Thank you! I totally agree.

  • Kellandros

     If you read the rest of the article, she states that was just her own opinion(not exercising in public). In addition, she also ends up changing her mind after the experience of working out in a gym in public. The point of the article is not “shame on you” for exercising publicly, but on overcoming personal biases.

    Yes it requires more resources to be able to exercise in private that not everyone can afford. But there are ways you can exercise at home without expensive things- pushups, situps, squats, hand weights, etc.

  • Lori


    I feel the same way about nail-clipping.  

    Me too. Also nail filing. I can deal with a few swipes to deal with a rough edge, but beyond that I really don’t want to hear it. 

  • Please do not floss in public.  I do not want to be pelted by your tooth crud. I do not want your tooth crud landing anywhere near me. If you insist on flossing in public, please  dispose of your floss properly. The ground or floor is not your wastebasket. Violators of etiquette are subject to…well, I dunno. But cut it out. It’s gross.

  • Ursula L

    Not exercising in public?

    I’d settle for not forcing people to exercise in public. 

    I was put off of exercise, for life, by the experience of gym class.  I’m not particularly athletic, fast, agile, coordinated or graceful.  And at least three times a week, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, plus another four semesters in undergrad, my lack of physical coordination was forcibly put on public display to my peers in the context of phys ed. 

    Last in every race.  Never got a basketball in a net.  Never hit a softball.  (One gym teacher thought it would help to give me unlimited tries instead of “three strikes you’re out” thus making the situation even more obvious, having my classmates accuse me of cheating, wasting the rest of the class’s time and essentially ending the game once it was my turn to hit.)  Never managed to successfully hit an approaching tennis ball.  Never hit anyone out at dodgeball.  Never managed to climb a rope.  Tripped over my own feet in aerobics. 

    I did get very good at cheating in gym class.  Forgetting my place in line, and moving to the end.  Asking to leave for the restroom just before my turn.  Staying in the back of the gym during dodgeball, hiding behind equipment stored at the edge of the gym, never throwing a ball back, until I was the last one left, with all the balls on my side, and the other team upset because the game wasn’t over but I’d manipulated the situation so no one could play.  Running once around the track when we were told to run around it twice, so that while I was the last one done I didn’t have to run an entire lap on my own.  Not going in to the game when teams were rotated and I was supposed to go play.  Hiding in the trees at the edge of the school’s soccer field.   Pretty much anything I could think of to avoid being blamed for my team loosing, getting hurt by flying objects coming out of nowhere, and otherwise having to deal with unpleasantness. 

    For most classes, other students aren’t allowed to watch you as you work (no copying or cheating!), tests and homework papers are handed back to you without having your score announced to the entire class.  In gym, not only is your skill level obvious to the entire class, you have to complete your assigned tasks as they watch.  

    There should be at least as much available privacy for your work in gym class as there is for your work in math class when you’re sitting quietly at your desk filling out your test, and not only can no one see how you’re doing, they’re not even allowed to look.  

    If you enjoy public exercise, that’s fine.  But that isn’t a reason to force it on others.  Or to have a classroom setup where a preference for keeping your work private can’t be respected, where  public display of your work brings on ridicule and stigma, and the only way to avoid public humiliation is to cheat. 

  • I think it was clear from what she wrote that her objection was not to seeing other people exercise in public, but to having other people see her exercise in public. The post wasn’t at all about rules for other people, rather about the rules she had been setting for herself.

  • For my wife it is clipping my fingernails.

  • JRoth95

    My sister and I both had the toothbrushing thing as kids. We’d run out of the room if there was a toothpaste commercial on the TV. But my commitment to conservation outweighed my (weird) instincts, and I forced myself to brush with the water not running, and now it doesn’t bother me at all (unless I think about it too much; my hairs are standing up right now). I think my sister still gets it sometimes.

  • Tonio

    As much as I appreciate Evans, I say even if patriarchy was “God’s dream for the world,” it would still be immoral. 

  • Tonio

     To clarify, I’m not accusing Evans or others who agree with her of operating on an authoritarian concept of morality where they simply do whatever they believe their god says. Instead, she’s raising a question that is fundamentally theological and not moral, dealing with the nature of gods and the nature of their relationship with humanity as her religion sees these things. I would much prefer that people like Evans tackle patriarchy as strictly a moral question on a theology-neutral basis. Or, using “patriarchy is cruel and immoral” as a basis for rejecting patriarchal varieties of theology.

  • TheFaithfulStone

    I get real suspicious over anybody who opens their cake hole about “natural hierarchy” because I get flashbacks to Mussolini.   Not to Godwin the thread, because the conversation has already been Godwinned – by you accidentally quoting Mussolini.

  • Kellandros

    To me it looks like you are asking for a non-Christian-centric response on Patriarchy; I don’t think that was their intent. It isn’t a bad way to approach the topic, but unfortunately I think it would be less effective an argument against people prone to proof-quoting the Christian Bible.

    The writings I read were more a response to the claims that Patriarchy is Christian and follows scripture; they gave a rather in depth look at the places where the text supports equality and pushing Patriarchy to be a human failing rather than a God-given policy. I think that last bit does fit what you are looking for, but not in the approach you wished.

  • I loved RHE’s series! The saddest thing about them was the complementarians in the comments section (commentarians?). “I’m just concerned that you’re falling away from Christ by loving other people” repeated over and over in different language. Comments sections tend to do a great job of representing the problem that the article discusses.

  • Tonio

    Thanks for the explanation. I think I’m really interested in seeing the morality drive the theology and interpretation, and not the other way around.