Every so often, I am slapped in the face with the reality of the elitist, sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic nature of the large network of fundamentalist Christians in our midst. I cannot lie and say that it doesn't disturb and, at times, enrage me, but I do know that I will probably run afoul of this despicable ignorance throughout the remainder of my life and I had best be able to shrug it off.
We just got back from a wonderful trip that included several nights in a rustic cabin on the side of a mountain in West Virginia. The nights and mornings were cool, the days were warm and balmy without the oppressive humidity of Florida and the scenery and wildlife were breathtakingly entrancing. Our cabin was one of a group off Hy19, north of the New River Bridge and close to a sweet little town called Summersville. Due to the abundance of Mountain Laurel that grew wild on that mountain, along with wild black raspberries, blackberries and wild red currants, sweet peas, daisies and Queen Anne's Lace, the spot was called Laurel Ridge Cabins. Deer shared the meadow with the owner's horses and let us get close enough to take pictures.
The only "off" moment of this idyllic situation was in the form of an agreement we were required to sign for the benefit of the owner, a former Texan turned WV mountain man, with a large brood of five children, and a very quiet wife, who was a leader in his local church. Said document stated that we agreed to no public drinking, no drunkenness, no consumption of spirits outside your cabin and no profanity. It also stated that we were to "dress modestly," which meant, no drooping pants or going shirtless for the guys, but, more emphatically, no tube tops, short shorts, spaghetti strap tops, backless tops or swimsuits without "street clothing" covering them for the female guests.
Now this is something with which my hubby and I had no problem. We are past the age to dress in that manner, though we would have when we were younger and had the bodies for it. But, on very hot days, and having struggled through Florida summers, I was compelled to tell Mr. G that, in our part of the country, such dress was common and, indeed, necessary in order to withstand the heat and humidity. His reply put my back up faster than a cat when cornered by a dog.
He first said that he sure was glad he didn't live in Florida. Then, he said that he didn't want any husbands being tempted to stray by the sight of these scantily-clad nymphs. I replied that we should hope that the husbands of which he spoke had the maturity and self-control to avoid infidelity. With his broad Texas accent and his stock delivery style of the fundamentalist Christian, he offered this "wisdom." "Well, to me, it's like taking a person who really loves to eat, sitting that person down at a banquet and then telling them that they can't eat any of the food."
"So," I countered, "it is your belief that infidelity is the fault of women in provocative dress, that she bears the total responsibility for the transgression and that the man is excused of responsibility because of his inherent appetites?" He started to quote scripture and invoke the image of Eve, the seductress and I had to stop him. I told him that we were paying guests and that his rules were easy enough for us to follow and that we would just agree to disagree. He said he would pray for me, which meant that he would pray that I would see things his way and the subject was dropped.
All this brought back the mindset of the EMS/BSE. We were the transgressors and the fathers of our children were just boys being boys with a wink and a nudge. It is unfortunate that this dusty, moldy, archaic attitude still exists. How convenient for the fathers of our children that we were seen as the ones who must control the lust and lack of self-control of the male gender. St. Paul did a really good job incorporating thinly disguised mysoginy and patriarchy into the early church. A predominately male clergy has taken his letters and run with them.
I watched Mrs. G, a very sweet, pretty and talented lady, as she quietly followed her husband's lead in everything. She baked me one of my favorites, a carrot cake, for my birthday which fell during the time we were there. Yet, it was Mr. G who graciously presented me with the cake as if he were totally responsible for its existence. I made it a point to express my thanks to Mrs. G and telling her that she was a formidable baker (which she is). I felt like, any minute, Mr. G was going to pat his wife on the head and talk about how well she followed his orders. This is a man who admits to being weak enough to let a bathing suit or a tube top tear his moral fiber and compel him to commit adultry, yet he is the leader over his wife in all things because he is a man. WHAT is wrong with that picture?
Now, our beef with the EMS is about coerced surrender, mandated secrecy, civil injustice and lack of access to information about our children, not sexual behavior, but I feel that we must address this whole "responsibility" thing. We still get that ignorant, self-righteous comment, "well, you were the one who spread your legs" from time to time...usually from an adopter or an angry adoptee. Don't forget, for a minute, that, from the fathers of our children, there was a lot of cajoling, begging, manipulating and even threats that went into our perhaps unwise, but normal and predictable encounters with the fathers of our children. With my first pregnancy, which I thought of as a tragic love story, I will acknowledge 50%, and no more than that, of the responsibility for the conception of my daughter. I give the responsibility of her subsequent surrender to the facilitators, social workers, tormenters, family members and her faithless father who pushed me into that horror.
The conception of my son is 100% the fault of his father. What I refused to give, he took. Even that trauma was blamed on me due to my previous behavior with the father of my daughter. I had been marked with a scarlet letter and the animal who fathered my son was ego-driven to not be turned down by someone with my "past." Even those in authority saw my sexual assault as something I had, more or less, "asked for."
So, these randy deacons and elders, patriarchs and judges feel that a woman who dresses in a certain manner, or is no longer a virgin is a Jezebel who will lure them to their doom. Ergo, they must see themselves as weak, sex-obsessed, drooling satyrs who can be led around by the foreskin by any decent-looking young woman showing cleavage. I wonder if Mr. G really thought about what he said and his reasoning.
And I wonder if Mrs. G heard what he said and thought the same thing I was thinking. I am going to light a candle for her. She needs it.