It is not often you see a cultural catastrophe working in two opposite directions at once—sort of a combination of volcano and giant sinkhole. But we are managing it. We have been blown sky high and are falling alive into Sheol, and all at the same time.
There are many areas where contradiction is now king, but the most glaring is the way in which we have taken common sense about the sexes and turned it into a frightful hash.
On the one hand, liberated women still want to be treated like responsible adults, that is, with dignity and respect. I would say that they want to be treated like ladies, but I think that way of putting it is illegal by now. At the same time, these woke women insist that parading their wares is entirely a personal choice, and none of it is anybody else’s business, and that no conclusions whatever may be drawn from whatever form of personal expression she decided to put on, or put on partially, this morning.
A tattoo that says “I’m easy, just ask,” must never ever be taken as an invitation to ask. And if someone who does ask multiplies his perfidy by saying that he did it because he thought she was easy, like the tattoo suggested, then we may be confident that pieces will be falling out of the sky for a while yet. Doesn’t he know anything?
Unless, of course, it is such an invitation, which, okay, let us be frank, it sometimes is. So how it will all be interpreted is a crapshoot, to be determined by the mood of the woman in question, and the social maladroitness of the hapless chump. And so it has come to pass that masculine initiative is now way over represented by high-stakes gamblers with not much to lose—which is to say, ex-cons, cons, and future-cons. This is balanced somewhat by a handful who came to assume that it was not possible for them to lose, to wit, creepy movie producers, and supercilious news guys at NBC.
And so it is that we are developing a culture of licentious prudery. We have given ourselves over to the puritanical debauch. We don’t know whether we are coming or going, and that is because we are attempting both at the same time. It is as though Ms. Grundy shushed you in the library, and then demanded that you refer to zir with those new-fangled pronouns, the kind that turn zir on. One doesn’t know which way one should look.
In other words, our culture is insisting that all women must be treated as reputable adults, while at the same time insisting that all women must be granted the right to present themselves as disreputable. Women must be treated with the utmost respect, except when they don’t want to be, which is sometimes. And, considered from another angle, which way the whole thing is going to go must not be considered by means of inference from her looks, dress, manners, speech, or any other visible sign. You bigot.
Not only so, but in some places the apparently disreputable is being required so that we might learn how unimportant it is. As I read recently in The Grace of Shame, wearing a burkini can get you a ticket for excessive modesty on a French beach. Can you imagine? Cops telling you to flash a little more skin, or else?
This disturbing pattern was first established by the shock troops of the feminist nonsense, i.e. the wymyn’s studies majors. From there it worked its way out into the general public, reinforced by the laugh tracks of any given hot new sitcom. After the agreed upon time, it affected even Christian women, who are persuaded that whatever they do with the contents of their closet is somehow not a publicly observable fact. What they have bought into is the idea that they can dress to be “cute,” which is measured by all the desired reactions, but that if there were any undesirable reactions, then rampant misogyny is somehow responsible. “We still have so far to go.” Shake head sadly.
So we live in a time when sweet Christian girls think it fully appropriate to wear tight slacks. How tight? Well, let’s just say that if she had a quarter in her back pocket, everybody would know if it were heads or tails. “Well,” an adversary might say. “What I find offensive is not so much the tight slacks, the contents of which were made by God. Rather what I find offensive are your rude observations about it.” In other words, how dare you notice the most noticeable thing in the room?
In other words, women must be feted and flattered, no matter what. And by that, I mean cozened, pampered, and lied to. This is now the air we breathe, including in the church. Sins of immodesty are now officially invisible.
By way of contrast, let us turn to one of our forefathers in the faith, the New England Puritan Nathaniel Ward. He was a man who had no problem with honoring the adornment of honorable women.
“I honor the woman that can honor herself with her attire; a good text always deserves a fair margin; I am not much offended if I see a trim far trimmer than she that wears it; in short, whatever Christianity or civility will allow, I can afford with London measure.”
But this praise was from an era when men were not required to lie to and about the activities of any given woman. When the truth was less . . . well, less illegal than it is now, Ward also spoke about those women who had just enough “squirrel brains” to chase after the latest fashions. Such women were “the epitome of nothing, fitter to be kicked, if she were of a kickable substance, than either honoured or humored.”
Just around this time, I have a light flashing on my internal brain dash, telling me that it is time to make a few qualifications. I need to caution my readers to remember that nothing whatever can justify rude, boorish, immoral, suggestive, or criminal behavior toward any women, not even if, according to some reactionary men, the woman was supposedly “asking for it.” This qualification would be quite true, but also self-evident, so I think I can just proceed on to my point. I think that would be safe, don’t you? Reasonable people will understand.
That we are dealing with the universal politicalization of any given alleged sexual encounter should be obvious. This kind of thing is one of the instruments being used in banning criticism of any woman whatever. For example, in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein dumpster fire (and it was a dumpster fire), someone urged women everywhere to go public with their tales of male misbehavior, and to hashtag it with #MeToo.
So let us say that 100 women do so, and they all show up in your Twitter feed, and you scroll through them. Like all hashtag activism, it feels like everybody is doing something important—a groundswell of sorts. We stand united against “bad things.” The problem is that, out of those 100, a certain percentage is made up of true reports, a certain percentage are lies, and the rest are a confused muddle. And you don’t know the percentages. You might want to play it safe and just “take the side of the victim,” but you do this not knowing who the victim actually is. You are making everything worse. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, It is folly and shame unto him” (Prov. 18:13).
Suppose a woman says #MeToo, referring to the time her boss tricked her into staying late at the office and made a number of unwanted advances. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and raped her. Before taking the side of the victim, you have to identify who the victim actually is. You have to ask if this account is true. If it is true, she is the victim. If it is not true, then he is the victim. By all means, take the side of the victim. But if you don’t find out who that is first, then you are simply part of a mob, out there creating more victims.
Now if you show a cavalier disregard for whether or not the accused man is actually innocent, then this shows me how deeply affected by the hard left feminists you have been. Disregard for whether a particular man is guilty cannot be justified in a Christian worldview—but notice that it can easily be justified in a feminist worldview. Why? Making sure the man is actually guilty is not that crucial if you know beforehand that all men are guilty. You don’t have to prove that he is a rapist if all men are rapists. In a Christian worldview, we want a trial because we want to know if this particular man did that particular thing or not. In the feminist worldview, this is not necessary—it is like hold a trial to find out if a particular fish is wet.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece about Potiphar’s Wife, Survivor, which got a huge reaction. The reason it got that reaction, even among Christians, is because it revealed the central reason for our evangelical confusions in trying to resist the sexual jihad. We are trying hard to accept all the premises, and then, with a sweet and winsome smile, denial the conclusion politely. But it doesn’t work that way, sister.
Back to the Observation Deck
So let us say that a young woman is operating under the mistaken view that leggings are able to perform all the same utilitarian functions as do a modest pair of slacks, which they don’t. Let us also say that she parades herself around in such a way as to invite queries from catcallers in hard hats as to whether those legs go all the way up, when the answer being offered to anyone with eyes in their head would appear to be yes.
“And that’s another thing!” an exasperated reader of this blog might exclaim piously. “Why does he do that on a Christian blog? Doesn’t he know that we come here to be edified? And doesn’t he know that edification means an ability to avert the gaze, all while pretending that our crazed culture is way more normal than it actually is? Doesn’t he know all we need are a couple of good presidential elections to turn things around?”
Well, no, I don’t know that. Evangelical heartland America is not a mildly disoriented Alice down the rabbit hole, but rather a drugged Alice down a wormhole. America’s seers, prophets, and big circuit conference speakers are all prophesying with a thick canvas bag over their heads.
“They are drunken, but not with wine; They stagger, but not with strong drink. For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: The prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered” (Is. 29:9–10).
Have I become your enemy just by telling you the truth? Well, yes, pretty much (Gal. 4:16).
A Most Reasonable Reticence
The way I operate in this cloistered fundamentalist world of mine is quite different. My daily conversation and manner of life is rated a squeaky clean G. But—you may have noticed–this blog is sometimes PG-13, or depending on how sequestered you are, sometimes R. I largely live in a Christian subculture that prizes public and defined reticence on certain topics, modesty and decorum from our womenfolk, decorum and manners from our menfolk, and certain topics just plain off limits for the sake of decency and good taste. I like it that we live like that, and want to do everything in my power to preserve the high tone, and teach others what it is like to live this way.
Some might call it a bubble, but I would actually compare it to a haven carved out of a wilderness. Let’s just call it Sherwood Forest. My standards for public life between the sexes come out of the world of Mike Pence, and not the world of Mark Halperin or Harvey Weinstein. But remember the brutal treatment of Pence from all the cool kids when it was discovered that he conducted himself in a way that could not plausibly be accused of certain kinds of vile behavior? The kind of behavior that apparently was an “open secret” in the kind of places that the cool kids who mocked Pence were accustomed to inhabit?
So fight for your right to live with your people in a way that honors decency, and that gives such decency an environment in which it can thrive. That means manners, it means chivalry, and it means a defined standard of decency. It means reticence.
And it means recognizing that men and women are different clean down to the bone. It means realizing that those differences are relevant in every field of human endeavor. The headship of the husband is relevant in more places than in breaking the tie vote between husband and wife. It is important in more areas than in just prohibiting women from pulpit ministry. Men and women are different everywhere. Common sense, man.
But part of this fight means speaking outside (to the world) in a way that you do not ever do inside. You wield your sword on the battlefield, and not in your living room. When it comes to fighting those whose agenda for our culture is fundamentally indecent, it is crucial that we do not fall for their old euphemism ploy. Here is Chesterton, on point as usual:
“When somebody wishes to wage a social war against what all normal people have regarded as a social decency, the very first thing he does is to find some artificial term that shall sound relatively decent.”
Marriage equality sounds so much better than solemnized poofterism. Amirite? Chesterton calls it “publicity experts picking pleasant expressions for unpleasant things; and I for one prefer the coarse language of our fathers” (Chesterton, On Evil Euphemisms). As he notes somewhere else, the blunt term is usually the honest one, while the effete term is a dainty cover for corruption.
In the aftermath of the Weinstein fireball, any number of actresses came forward to tell their stories, detailing the ways in which the former movie mogul tried to see them in the nude. This was silly of him, because all he needed to do is watch them in one of his own movies.
What I am saying I will say yet again. You can’t have it both ways. You cannot establish a culture that has institutionalized the abandonment of the unique dignity of women, and then, when the culture starts acting on that perverse premise, suddenly find some dignity to stand on. You don’t have any of that dignity anymore. You threw it away, remember? You mercilessly mocked those who objected to throwing it away. You laughed at their predictions.
They objected to discarding feminine dignity, and you mocked them. When the consequences of having lost that dignity start to manifest themselves—as they will continue to do with increasing regularity—you hate and despise them. You hate them for being right in the prediction, and you hate them because their “misogynist” subcultures are among the few remaining places where women are not treated like that. Everything you have been saying, doing, teaching, touching, filming, and litigating, for the last 40 years, is a lie. People are starting to notice.
Chesterton again, speaking through Father Brown: “The first effect of not believing in God, is that you lose your common sense.”