Post-it burkas and the ongoing anti-Pentecost backlash

Seventh-day Adventists are standing athwart Pentecost, yelling Stop.

The Adventists have reaffirmed their opposition to women’s equality. By voting to continue denying women’s ordination, denominational officials said, Adventists were avoiding the “dangers of disunity” — restoring the peace after that outside agitator, the Holy Spirit, had sown division by calling and gifting women to preach and teach and minister. Gotta quench that sort of thing before it spreads any further.

At their General Conference this month, the Adventists also:

… tweaked their Fundamental Beliefs statements, including taking the word “partners” out of its section on “Marriage and the Family.”

The word “partners” is often used by same-sex couples, said [Adventist spokesman Garrett] Caldwell, and that’s not the meaning Adventists wanted to convey.

That’s a nifty oppressive intersectionality two-for-one deal — simultaneously reminding LGBT people they’re not welcome while making sure wives don’t get any ideas about being equal to their husbands.

Meanwhile, from the mean streets of Chicago comes news, via Emily Joy on Twitter, of an odd bit of guerrilla-style culture war at Moody Bible Institute. A bus-stop advertisement on the street outside of one of Moody’s boys’ dorms was perceived as tawdry and lascivious due to the Chanel model’s barely perceptible hint of the shadow of a side-boob. Side-boob is the devil’s playground, but the righteous men of Moody stood fast against the wiles of the evil one, quickly constructing a makeshift burka out of Post-it notes.

Here’s the original ad, side-by-side with the Moody-approved alteration:


I have to give the Moody Modesty Police partial credit for style points —  their makeshift Post-it flesh-concealer doesn’t look any worse than that frufy pink thing the Chanel people themselves buried poor Nicole Kidman in for another of their advertisements for No. 5 eau premiere. (Survival tip: If you should fall into a pit of quicktulle, try not to thrash around or make sudden movements — that will only cause you to sink further into the fluffy morass.)

“Post-it notes? Genius! Why didn’t I think of that?”

After initialing celebrating their Triumph for Decency on social media as an example of “keeping it clean,” our friends at Moody didn’t take kindly to the suggestion that they were championing a modesty culture that dehumanizes both women (as objects and possessions) and men (as a-moral beasts incapable of moral responsibility). So they changed tacks and began defending the Post-it burka as a blow for feminism — a protest against the objectification of women by Madison Avenue.

That didn’t quite work. It never quite works when folks like that try to defend their position by randomly latching onto words they’ve heard feminists say without ever understanding them, even when, as in this case, they’re very nearly, by accident, using one of those words correctly. Advertisers like Chanel can, indeed, “objectify” women, treating them as sex-objects in an attempt to sell expensive perfume. But this concern about such objectification is a bit hard to take from men who are also celebrating their “keeping it clean” by covering up women’s dirty, filthy skin with Post-it notes.

Their complaint wasn’t really about objectification per se, but about who controls those dirty objects. These are men picking a fight with other men over which group of men gets to control the bodies of women.

Sara J. Moslener describes what’s going on with these Post-it burkas in an interview with Religion Dispatches about her new book Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence, “Evangelical ‘Sexual Purity’ Is Not About Sex — It’s About Power“:

Sexual purity movements, past and present, are not ultimately about promoting a biblical view of sexuality. They are about explaining large-scale culture crises (e.g. Anglo-Saxon decline, the Cold War, changing gender roles and sexual mores) and providing a formula for overcoming those crises. …

Purity work and rhetoric has emerged at moments when socially conservative evangelicals seek to assert and maintain their political power. Sexual purity isn’t about what Abby and Brendan do on a Friday night, it’s about constructing a view of the United States as a nation in distress and claiming that evangelical Christianity can not only best explain the crisis, but save us from our demise.

Moody’s response to the Side-boob Menace isn’t about sexual purity any more than the Adventists’ rejection of women’s equality is about exegetical purity based on a handful of clobber texts from the pastoral epistles. They’re both about power and control.




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