Smart people saying smart things (6.22.23)

Smart people saying smart things (6.22.23) June 22, 2023

Laura Robinson, “Misogyny, the SBC, and Beth Moore”

It is incredibly dicey for a woman, in a patriarchal space, to accuse a man of something. Accusations against men disrupt patriarchal spaces. If women owe men admiration and respect – if men desire support for their comforting belief that they are good people doing a good job – then a woman saying that a man has done something wrong is a serious problem. She is not providing the goods and services that men expect from her.

This is even worse in a situation where a woman accuses a man of serious wrongdoing against her. By claiming to have been wronged, a woman is actually insisting on her own right to moral care and attention. She is asking for people – usually men – to give her attention, empathy, a redress of wrongs, and justice to be done on her behalf. Not only is she not providing care for men anymore – she is demanding it for herself.

These feelings are not necessarily conscious. But these beliefs about what women owe men (particularly powerful men) cannot be separated from the consequences women can expect if they don’t provide. This logic – that women owe non-competition to men, owe men support in patriarchal causes, owe admiration and care, must affirm men’s assessment of themselves as decent individuals, and if women don’t do it, we’ll attack them – is shot through not just abuse cases in the church, but even just prominent women’s stories. And it is misogyny.

Eleanor Janega, “On the 11,000 virgin martyrs, iconography, and beauty standards”

Truth be told, we haven’t really grown a whole lot in our expectations of women or our attitudes towards beauty over the past eight hundred or so years. Is that disappointing? Yes, it certainly is. However, if we take the time to critique why 11,000 or so women are all expected to look the same, it can help us critique these same ideals when we are told that it’s time to completely remake our own bodies because a new beauty standard has come along. These ideals are simply ideals, and as such we cannot actually live up to them. We may never escape these pressures from within this culture, but at least we can examine them when they are thrust at us. You don’t need to be one identical reliquary at the bottom of an altar. You are you. That’s great. I promise.

Olivia A. Cole, “Your Children Want to Break the First Rule of White Club”

As their teacher, I’m here to tell you: your children don’t feel innocent, but they don’t exactly feel guilty either. They feel suspicious. I have taught your white children. I have stood at the front of a classroom or sat across a conference table with them and talked about white supremacy and cultural conditioning and the stages of socialization that occur from birth which make white people forget we are human and decide to be White. I have talked to them about intergroup theory, how children may learn prejudice explicitly from parents, but also implicitly from interactions within the environment the parents create — I’ve watched their eyes light up with recognition. They’ve told me about the silence in your homes, the explaining away of racist violence, the way you never use slurs but you tell them to ignore it when other people do. I’ve stayed after class when they’ve asked me to because they say no one has ever talked about what it means to be white outside the context of the rebel flag sticker on their dad’s bumper. They are cautious, uncomfortable, awkward, tense. But they are curious. If you’re honest, you remember the times you’ve agreed to the terms of the contract. Your children are only sixteen and the Internet has taken some of the control out of the hands of the institutions that shape them. They have seen the curtain rippling — your children are not stupid, even if white supremacy begs them to be.

Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, “Don’t let them fool you”

This aversion to ‘special treatment’ is a form of prejudice that relies on an automatic reaction: perceive a scam, repudiate the scammers. If members of a marginalized social group are seen as genuinely asking for equality, then they are making a deep moral claim that’s hard to dismiss. Morally and intuitively, the right response to inequality is solidarity and cooperation. But if those people are instead perceived as asking for ‘special favors’, then it seems morally optional to grant what they want. And if they are thought to be asking for special treatment but pretending they only want equality, that just seems like a scam, a reason to reject them out of hand.

It can be hard to perceive the force of this ‘special favors’ discourse, but the social science around feeling like a sucker helps make it clearer. Sugrophobia has a hair trigger, and the ‘special treatment’ framing sets it off, making the aversion to feeling suckered an underappreciated but powerful brake on social progress.

David Bentley Hart, “Agenda, Notanda, et Quaerenda”

This entire issue of eternal damnation, no matter how intense the existential anxiety it provokes, is objectively ludicrous. There is no way in which the traditional doctrine of eternal hell can be defended either logically or morally; it is sheer moral insanity allied to sheer dialectical incoherence, and absolutely nothing else. It could be true in no possible world, and every argument in its defense, viewed impartially, is risible at best, monstrous at worst. The only reason that a good number of bright and good persons attempt so ardently to make themselves and others believe it to be true is that they have been conditioned by misplaced piety and unresolved emotional abuse to think they must. And, so long as they remain in thrall to that conditioning, they can convince themselves that it all makes eminent good sense. Conversely, however, one need only set terror and superstition aside long enough to confront the teaching lucidly and honestly, in the full range of its implications, to discover all at once just how incoherent and evil it is. Once the trance is broken, the whole intricate structure of rationalizations collapses into the abyss of absurdity underlying it. Thereafter, it becomes impossible ever again to take the idea of an eternal hell seriously, or to be impressed by very old and very bad arguments in its favor.


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