If You Don’t Know, Just Ask

Anyone who’s read my blog before knows that being from a small town in the West has definitely shaped my view of the world. As yesterday was MLK Day, I’ve been doing some thinking about how my upbringing has shaped my views on race and diversity.

Coming from an area of the country with little diversity, I grew up with a deficit in cultural awareness. Obviously through television, the media, etc, I knew some about diversity, but I had yet to experience it firsthand. This led, admittedly, to a lack of understanding about what it means to truly be sensitive to cultures, beliefs, and races. By no means was I in any way biased against people on basis of any of these things, but when you don’t need the vocabulary to talk about diversity, you don’t acquire it.

Before I came to college, I was warned by a family member about cultural awareness. I was told that things would be different. This is again not to say that I had to stuff my racist beliefs inside (I don’t have any) or that I had to stop telling the offensive jokes which were so loved by Westerners (untrue) or anything like that. This is just to say that things would be different; when everyone is accustomed to, aware of, and immersed in diversity, the conversation looks different from that of people who have perhaps in their whole lives never experienced diversity at all.

Coming here, I was pretty cautious especially when dialogues were initiated on race, religion, or sex. I was worried about unknowingly saying something politically incorrect or offending someone. I found after awhile that the biggest problem is not cultural ignorance, but lack of awareness and admittance of one’s own ignorance.

What separates the people who offend and the people who do not is the awareness of such a deficit. I’ve learned that it is completely okay not to know if a certain racial term is acceptable to use or if what you know about different religions is biased. The error comes not in not knowing, but not asking. While it might be unavoidable that at some point I’ll put my foot in my mouth accidentally, I’ve found that the vast majority of those cases can be avoided by just asking the person to which you’re speaking, if appropriate. Don’t be afraid to ask them which term they’d prefer to describe their race, or which gender pronouns they’d prefer to go by, if you aren’t sure. If done with grace, most people will genuinely appreciate your willingness to be politically correct and view you as culturally aware yet uninformed, not socially ignorant.

I in no way fault my upbringing for not teaching me these things about diversity. It just so happens that my area of the country in a lot of ways is undiverse. This does mean, however, that those of us from those areas have the responsibility of educating ourselves by asking questions and initiating dialogues about topics like race, gender, and religion. It’s okay to be culturally uninformed, but it isn’t okay to remain culturally ignorant. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Sincerely, One of Many Guys Who Won’t Change Sexism

Recently a blog post called, “Sincerely, One of Many Girls Who Care” has been getting a lot of Facebook attention. I read it, and had mixed opinions. The author also posted a link to a young man who had written a reply, entitled “Sincerely, One of Many Guys Who Care.” And quite frankly, I was offended by some of what I read.

The format of both posts is the same. They start out by saying “I’m sorry, women(or men) for….” and then listing all of the ways in which women/men are disadvantaged in society romantically. After doing this for a couple paragraphs, they stop and say “ENOUGH with the pity party I’ve thrown you,” then go on to describe why these distractions or temptations shouldn’t keep you from pursuing a life of purity and integrity in romantic endeavors.

I’d like to start by saying that I see the point of both. They’re right that the pressures of the media shouldn’t be an excuse for acting in accordance with your beliefs if you’re a Christian and pursuing a pure and spiritually pleasing lifestyle.

But in presenting this, I found the author’s secondary point upsetting. Keep in mind as you read below that this is written by a man.

But enough with the pity party I have thrown for you.

ENOUGH to the lies that you are ugly or worthless.

ENOUGH to pretending like everything is okay and that you don’t struggle with anything, trying to keep up a facade so that men will be interested.

ENOUGH to being strung along by some jerk because you don’t have the confidence to end a relationship that you KNOW is not honoring to God.

Do any other women feel offended here? In a society which cannot, sadly, be described as devoid of sexism, a man ventures to tell me, a woman, that by complaining about how our culture objectifies women, I’m throwing a “pity party.” I have no words for this.

I agree that I shouldn’t limit my wardrobe to skin tight tops because the media favors scantily clad women. I agree that I shouldn’t become plastic to attract men, or date a man for the wrong reasons. I agree that the world is not responsible for the choices I make.

But what I don’t agree with is what I see as the author’s suggestion: these issues should be ignored. Our media constantly inundates women like me with messages that we’re not skinny enough, pretty enough, or don’t have the right body type. That is a clear problem. I would like the author to try going to a girl who has an eating disorder, or a girl who is made fun of because of her weight, and telling her to get over it, that that’s no excuse to not love yourself.

That will go over well, I’m sure.

These messages are so pervasive and constant that they aren’t something that are easy to ignore, even if you have the encouraging words of scripture on your side. And I shouldn’t have to. While I know life’s not fair and sometimes we have to accept that, ignoring the status quo completely is a cop-out. Men saying that the sexist media should just be ignored is like telling someone under a despotic government that if they’d keep quiet and stop trying to gain rights, they wouldn’t have a problem with the government.

Women shouldn’t have to ignore the barrage of messages. We shouldn’t have to feel objectified. We shouldn’t have to live in a world where we feel pressured to be perfect.

Looking over the comments on this young man’s blog post, it appears that my opinion lands me in the minority. While I agree with his ultimate point that godly women will be appreciated by godly men even if they are seemingly unappreciated by the media, I think that his delivery and implicit assumptions about the place of women in America are anything but inspiring.

Do you disagree? Agree? Comment with your opinions below! I’d love to hear them.

My Thoughts on Duck Dynasty

There’s an issue that’s recently divided our nation. It’s on Facebook, Twitter, the news. It has been the subject of heated debate nationwide. I’m not talking about gay marriage, abortion, or immigration, although some of those might be related. I’m talking about a couple bearded men who love ducks…and Jesus.

I usually shy away from anything controversial, but in the wake of the recent controversy surrounding Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty, I feel compelled to comment.

For those of you that haven’t followed the story, the initial controversy was regarding statements Robertson made to GQ magazine. He made several inflammatory comments. One comment made likened homosexuality to bestiality. In another, Robertson claimed that not only did he understand the plight of African-American slaves in the South, they were happy under slavery. Gay rights groups were infuriated by the homosexuality comment, and A&E briefly suspended filming of Duck Dynasty, before reinstating it a couple weeks later. More recently, Robertson has again been brought to the spotlight, as a 2009 video of him speaking about marriage to a group of young men has surfaced. In the video, Robertson advises men to marry women that are young, like “15 or 16,” because women who are older are a greater drain on one’s finances. This has again stirred the pot of the DD debate.

I have a couple thoughts about the whole incident. First, A&E is a business, and as such, they can make decisions on what to air in the same way that employers choose who to hire or fire. So, by A&E initially suspending filming, they were not in in any way violating first amendment rights. They were simply choosing to make a business decision. I find it sad that A&E chose to put profits before defending its company values (by reinstating filming shortly after suspending it), but regardless, A&E gets to make that decision.

Second, I’m personally upset by the claims that the men of DD are “bringing Christ back to America.” It may be just my perspective on it, but the Bible states that all of the glory should go to Him, not oneself. I feel like Robertson’s attempts to make a spectacle of the situation don’t really fall under that edict. I suppose it’s up for interpretation where the line should be drawn between sharing your beliefs and using Christ to promote yourself, but I don’t know that getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to raise TV ratings through making such inflammatory statements counts as giving glory to God instead of oneself.

I also feel that many of the things he and other cast members have said aren’t biblically based. Statements such as that African-Americans in the South were happy under slavery and that things were “godly” during the pre-civil rights era or that men should marry young women who are 15 or 16 so they cost less and can do more of the man’s dirty work don’t seem Christ-inspired to me. They seem uninformed and offensive.

I’m all for freedom of speech, but I think we should question how much attention we’ve paid to Robertson and the other DD stars. Phil Robertson has been quoted as saying, “If I can’t speak my mind, this isn’t America.” Well, Phil, you can certainly speak your mind, we just don’t have to give you airtime to do it.