Monday, September 16, 2013

Your body is a temple, pt 1

One of the silliest ideas out there is protesting "blaming the victim" of sexual assaults by parading around dressed like floozies.

There is never, ever, ever, ever a justification for sexually assaulting another human being.  It is by far one of the most despicable, contemptible things that one person can do to another.  Often, the victims fit a very narrow type due to some particular pathology of the perpetrator.  All too often, victims are chosen for their proximity--far too frequently, girls and women are sexually abused or assaulted by family members.  But, unless we want our daughters to be victims, we need them to know that many victims are simply chosen randomly, based on whatever opportunities present themselves to the predators.

We tell our girls to be strong and smart, but then we teach them how to be victims.  We teach them that flaunting their sexuality in front of every Tom, Dick and Harry empowers them.  Sure, it gives them lots of attention--but mostly from Dicks.  The feeling of power that one gets from attention is mostly an illusion.  We don't need to have our girls shrouded in hijabs to protect their innocence, but we are doing them a disservice when we fail to teach them that, though showing a lot of cleavage or wearing shorts with a 2-inch inseam will get them noticed, it gets them noticed mostly by pigs.  Teach your girls that a man who only notices you in a short skirt and a low-cut shirt is a man whose attention is not worth having.

If you dress as though your body is free for the world to enjoy, there are sick jerks who will take the implication quite seriously.  Don't wear a short, tight, low-cut dress and then complain that no one is listening to you or taking you seriously.  When you see a guy parading around in a Speedo, are you thinking to yourself, "That looks like an intelligent guy who has interesting things to say."?  If you hang out in seedy bars, its likely that most of the men you come across will be seedy characters.  If you go to a lot of drunken parties, most of the men around you are likely to be drunk, and less in control of their thoughts and their hands.  If you're drinking, you are not responsible for someone assaulting you, but you are responsible for the poor decisions that might put you in a more vulnerable position.  Teaching our daughters that there are certain behaviors, manners of dress, or places where they are more likely to be victimized is not "slut shaming":  its facing reality and teaching them to take control of their lives in a responsible way, thus making them less likely to be in a situation where a predator even has the opportunity to make them a victim.

Teach your daughters that their bodies are temples: beautiful, tremendously powerful, and sacred. We don't shield the things of the temple from the world because we are ashamed of them, we shield them because they are too precious and important to give away like old pennies.  When we expose the sacred to the world, it loses virtue, and thus power.  You can be beautiful and feminine and strong without making yourself a sexual object.  Teach your daughters how much joy there is in being healthy and active and strong.

But also teach your daughters that they are more than their bodies--that they are eternal souls with infinite, eternal worth.  Teach them they are loved unconditionally for who they are, regardless of what they look like.  They don't need their appearance validated by men (or other women, for that matter) to be beautiful or powerful.  We shudder at Chinese foot-binding, but shrug at women paying thousands of dollars to have a man slice their flesh, removing things they deem unperfect, or inserting things they think will make them more perfect.  We shake our heads condescendingly at tribal women enduring great pain to gradually elongate their necks with braces, but think nothing of women (and men) injecting toxins into their faces to smooth out small wrinkles, or having surgeons slice, drill and grind away bits of bone, cartilage and flesh that they don't find to their liking.

Stop teaching girls to be owned by their bodies. As C.S. Lewis said, "You don't have a soul, you are a soul; you have a body."  Make sure they know that.  They are children of God, who has blessed them with a remarkable body with which to navigate this mortal sphere.  To show gratitude for this marvelous gift, they ought to care for it wisely, and not cast their pearls before swine.  After all, the swine will just gobble up and destroy the pearls, never knowing what they had.  But the loss of those pearls to the one who had possessed them is quite devastating.

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