How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke

If you have ears, you’ve heard Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines.” If you’ve had any amount of spare time in the past few days and have access to the internets, you’ve heard about Thicke’s performance at the VMA’s with Miley Cyrus. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations! You must have looked past the headlines on CNN’s main page in order to read about “secondary” news like Egypt or Syria. You can find a video of the performance here.

If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter with any kind of regularity over the past few days, you’ve probably heard countless friends or followers sounding off on any number of objectionable things about the performance. Undoubtedly, 99% of things written about it throw around words like “obscene”, “offensive”, and the like.

There have been a number of different parenting websites or blog posts who have come up with good ways to talk to your daughter about Miley. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about parents talking to their daughters about sexuality.

But is no one going to hold anyone else on stage or behind the scenes accountable for that performance? Are we really going to have another one-sided conversation where we only talk to the girls about their sexuality while we completely ignore the boys in the room about their standards of behavior too?

There are next to no commentaries, articles, or blog posts that talk about how Robin Thicke was on stage with a woman young enough to be his daughter while thrusting his pelvis and repeating the line “I know you want it” while T.I. non-chalantly raps about much more graphic stuff. As Shelli Latham astutely points out:

Girls’ sexuality is so much the focus of our ire. Women who have sex are dirty. Men who have sex are men. Girls who dress to be ogled are hoes. Men who ogle are just doing what comes naturally. This is the kind of reinforced behavior that makes it perfectly acceptable to legislate a woman’s access to birth control and reproductive health care without engaging in balanced conversations about covering Viagra and vasectomies. Our girls cannot win in this environment, not when they are tots in tiaras, not in their teens or when they are coming into adulthood.

Issues of misogynistic attitudes and acts of violence toward women aren’t going anywhere until us men make some very intentional decisions about our behavior and about the way we act toward women. There are certain things that Robin Thicke and “Blurred Lines” re-inforce in our culture.

For instance… Studies have shown that viewing images of objectified women gives men “greater tolerance for sexual harassment and greater rape myth acceptance,” and helps them view women as “less competent” and “less human“. Certainly singing about “blurred lines” will at the very least reinforce a culture that already trivializes the importance of consent.*

There’s nothing blurry about Robin Thicke’s role in the VMA debacle. Even though he’s come out and defended his song, going so far as to call it a “feminist movement,” it’s pretty plain to see that’s far from the case.

Here’s where it starts

So what can we do? In order to change the way we view women culturally, we need to change the way we view women individually. We need to call bullshit on attempts to end domestic violence and misogyny towards women by only talking to our daughters. We need to talk to our sons and our brothers about respecting women and respecting themselves.

It starts in homes. It starts in small conversations that treat all people as worthy and equal. It starts with having the courage to speak out against the wide variety of forces in our society that objectify women.

It starts with understanding that as men, our value does not come from how much power we hold over women. Our value comes from being respected and being loved as we respect and love the people who matter to us.

Be brave enough to tell a different story. Be courageous enough to rise above the lies that our culture tells you about how to treat women. In doing so, you’ll help create a better world for your sons. And for your sons’ sons. And that’s something to which we should all aspire.

Cheers,
Eric

* = Thank you to policymic.com for these links

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Why Talking About Bullying Doesn’t Work

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that
we belong to each other.” – Mother Theresa

When I was younger, I used to get bullied quite a bit. In elementary school I was taller than most, bigger than many. I stuck out. And when you stick out, you become a target. And it sucked. But there wasn’t much I could do to stop it. I told one of the moms on the playground that these kids were making fun of me and I wish they’d stop and she said I should “grow a thicker skin.”

I was 8 years old.

Flash forward a few years and here we are. We see anti-bullying campaigns left and right. Too many teenagers have decided they couldn’t stand being bullied and so they decided it would be better to be dead than alive, and they killed themselves. It’s tragic. So we keep talking about bullying. We tell teenagers they shouldn’t be bullies. We also tell them that if they’re being bullied, the solution to that problem is to tell an adult. But here’s the problem…

Nobody uses the term “bully” inside a high school.

In the high school social setting, nobody uses the term bully and bullied. Once someone is tagged with that label, they stick out. And when you stick out, you become a target. No matter what people do, one thing they will refuse to accept is the title of bully. Listen to a high schooler talk about all the “drama” going on in their school day. Often times it’ll be trivialized. As in, “Oh don’t worry about that. It’s just some drama.”

By using the term “drama” the people involved are exempt from moving up or down the social ladder as would surely happen if they were stuck with the label “bully” or “bullied”.

This is why all kinds of anti-bullying efforts don’t work. Nobody is willing to stop being something that nobody will own up to being in the first place. You can tell me to stop being a bully all you want, but if I don’t see myself as a bully, your pleas will fall on deaf ears. This is why anti-bullying doesn’t work.

Instead…

Don’t focus on what people shouldn’t be. Focus on what they should be.

Instead of telling people to not be a bully, it would be much more effective to teach respect. Mother Theresa was once asked why she never participates in anti-war rallies. Her response was telling. She said she would keep her promise to never participate in an anti-war rally, but as soon as someone hosted a pro-peace rally, she’d be the first to sign up. It’s an interesting way to tilt the conversation.

Another contributor to this conversation was the “It Gets Better” campaign. Check this link out for more info about that campaign. It is specifically geared toward GLBTQ youth who have been/are being bullied. The more I thought about “It Gets Better”, I liked the initiative, but something was lacking. It essentially tells people who are being bullied to weather the storm and trust that it gets better. That doesn’t sit well with me.

Enter the Make It Better project. This is the “pro-peace” alternative to It Gets Better’s “anti-war” stance. Don’t get me wrong, both campaigns have great goals and strategies to work toward. But there’s a disconnect.

Instead of going back and forth on the topic of bullying, why don’t we tackle these “dramatic” situations, name what is actually happening, and then promote a move toward empathy and compassion? Is this overly-simplistic? Perhaps. But when we are so dead set against bullying, we miss out on all the things we can be encouraging and promoting in our schools, churches, and neighborhoods.

Talking about bullying doesn’t work because nobody recognizes their behavior [or identity for that matter] as falling in line with the “bully” or “bullied”. We need to empower people to speak out and name what is happening in their own experience before it’s too late.

It might also be helpful for adults to abolish the suggestion to “grow a thicker skin”. But that might just be a personal preference.

Cheers,
Eric

Devotions from New Orleans: “Eyes Wide Open”

Well, today is our last day of the Gathering. We’re getting ready to receive our benediction back to our everyday lives — whether that’s school or work. The hard part about leaving a place like New Orleans and experiences like the Gathering is keeping the momentum going. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had some considerable highs this week when it comes to our faith and our time together as friends and as children of God. So how do we keep that momentum going? Today’s song can hopefully help us with that.
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The line that continually sticks out to me in this song — and it’s the prayer I have for us as we come home — is this:

“God, bruise the heels we’ve dug in the ground, that we might move closer to love.” 

I think our everyday lives can be so polarized by who we are and who we want to be. We live in a very dualistic society. Democrat or Republican. Christian or non-Christian. Cool or uncool. Rich or poor. Gay or straight. The list goes on and on. But the prayer that keeps echoing for me as we prepare to leave this place and go home is that God would bruise the heels that we’ve dug in the ground against each other. Against our neighbors and against our friends.

Because the only thing worth moving toward is love.

What are the things that keep your heels dug in? What are those issues or those things that keep us from loving people? How can we loosen the grip our heels have and move closer to love?

These are the questions we’re pondering today. May it be so.

Cheers,
Eric

Devotions from the Big Easy: “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place”

Today is our peacemaking day at Gathering. We get to spend some time in the interaction center and do a bunch of different activities. It’ll be a bit more low key than our previous couple days, but I’m sure it’ll be just as great of an experience. Our song for today might be a bit of an unusual choice, but I think the message is so significant for us as we explore more of New Orleans, as well as exploring more about the Biblical story. Check out today’s song.

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That refrain of “we found love in a hopeless place” is, I think, the ultimate Easter refrain. I think that if the gospel were re-made into a hip-hop musical (can we all just take a second to dwell on how awesome that would be?) this song should warrant strong consideration for what the two Marys sing as they run away from the empty tomb. We found love in a hopeless place is the ultimate proclamation of Easter morning.

It’s also a spotty proclamation of a place like New Orleans. For a period of time after Katrina, New Orleans, as almost any disaster area, was a relatively hopeless place. People were starving. Homes and lives were destroyed. But in the midst of this chaos and disaster, there are small glimpses of love in these disasters. We find stories of neighbors — strangers even — helping each other.

The proclamation of our time in New Orleans is the same as the entrance to the tomb.

We found love in a hopeless place.

Cheers,
Eric

Devotions from the Big Easy: “Some Nights”

 

“Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for — Oh, what do I stand for?”

Yesterday was our justice day out in the communities around New Orleans and now today we are getting set for a day of discipleship with the churches from our synod and then out and around the city. The devotion we had this morning was the newest of the songs that we are using. It’s a really catchy song and has some good food for thought for us as we are down here in New Orleans… But I think it asks some good questions wherever you are. Take a listen to it.
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 How freaking catchy is that song? I thought it was a revamped version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia”. Sounds a bit like it. I think this idea that some nights we feel like we’re going one way and others we’re going another.

Some nights we feel really good about ourselves. Some nights we don’t.

Some nights we believe. Some nights we doubt.

Some nights we feel like we can take on the world. Some nights we feel really beaten down and vulnerable.

Some nights we’re saints. Some nights we’re sinners.

We’ve all felt that pull. We’ve all felt those feelings. This is part of life as a disciple. If we think about some of God’s last nights on Earth — gathering with his friends around the table, laughing, joking, being with each other. That was a great night. The very next night would be something completely different. The life of being a disciple is about taking the good nights with the bad nights and still following all the more.

There’s a line in the end of the song that, I think, marks the proclamation of a disciple.

you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from some terrible lies

That’s what we proclaim today on discipleship day in New Orleans. That’s what we stand for. What do you stand for?

Cheers,
Eric

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