What is respect?

I have a vague memory of being a tween and having an authority figure snap at me, “Don’t disrespect me!”

I remember that I wasn’t sure what they meant. I didn’t see anything wrong with my respect for them, but they obviously did. I tried to ask what I was doing that was disrespectful, and they couldn’t articulate it to me. I just resolved to avoid this adult authority figure who didn’t have clear expectations for my behavior.

It wasn’t until I embarked on a style project that I found a definition of respect that made sense. The lesson was about attitude, self-esteem, and self-respect.

Respect comes from being personally and socially responsible. You build respect for yourself by behaving well. Behave well at work, with your spouse and children, with strangers and when no one us looking and people will respect you, and you will respect yourself. Part of behaving well is listening to others, and being polite.

Though this was a style project, about helping me dress better to be professional at my internship, it became an important marriage lesson. I began to realize that when I got angry at my partner, I did not behave well. I behaved badly. I tended to have a temper tantrum.

This was an embarrassing realization. I was not doing my part to bring respect to my marriage in the face of conflict. In fact, I usually place all the blame on him and whine about how I was wronged while throwing said hissyfit. Wow, that is hard to admit. This kind of behavior made it hard for my husband to look at my hurt honestly and help me heal

Respect is not throwing a hissyfit when your husband signs a card in a different space then you anticipated. (Just did that one…sigh, lesson not yet fully learned.) Respect is picking up trash even when it isn’t yours, our wiping down the wall where your toddler smeared ice cream. Respect is responsibility to yourself and others, socially and professionally, and behaving well.

What do you think? Do you have a better actionable definition of respect? This new found definition of respect connects to other things I have been thinking about.

Advertisements

Thinking About Communication: We Should

How many times do you turn to your friends, family, and partner and say something along the lines of, “We should have a party”?

Tim and I have been saying it a lot to each other, as we try to navigate having a small child. “We should do the dishes.” “We should change her diaper.” “We should get food.”

It’s a really interesting statement, if you think about it. First, it identifies a need between two people or a group, or a desire. Second, it completely abdicates responsibility for that need or desire by the person making the statement. “We should” do something often means “you should” do it. (Sometimes, it really does mean “we” — but that requires someone taking a leadership role and taking point on collaborating.) And because no one is taking responsibility, whatever need or desire that is aired doesn’t happen.

Listen to yourself as you talk about household responsibilities with your partners. How often do you say “we should” do something, instead of asking your partner directly? How often does the thing you say “we should” about not happen at all?

Feminists can be Christians, too

Lot's Wife - medieval stained glass detail, Ca...

Image of Lot's Wife by chrisjohnbeckett via Flickr

I am a Christian. I believe that following Jesus is about kindness, compassion, for meeting people where they are, for practicing empathy. I think the Bible contains metaphorical truth, historical truth, and that it’s a record of human struggle with faith and the human story of encounters with the divine.

As a feminist, I am afraid to admit that I am a Christian, because I’m afraid you won’t take me seriously anymore. That you’ll think that I live my life and govern my relationships with legalism (i.e., using the Bible to make “rules”). Sometimes, those who are also struggling to follow Jesus as a path to following God act in ways that are intolerant, uncompassionate, and inhospitable. These fellow believers make people uncomfortable, claiming to speak for God, claiming to know when another person is sinning, claiming the Bible as incontrovertible truth with a capital T. They use this belief to say that love between two people of the same sex is a sin, to reduce women to objects and servants, and to consume the Earth’s resources.

These people, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are using God’s name in vain. They are speaking for Him without the humility to admit that they may be wrong. I have recently been made aware that silence on the issue of faith and belief may also be using God’s name in vain, because I am part of God’s voice in this world. Silence implies shame.

Here’s what I want to make the liberal, feminist blogosphere aware of — the Bible is open to interpretation, and when it is being used as a tool of bigotry, literacy is the only way to educate those whose minds are open, those who are not using God’s name in vain.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis chapter 19, verses 1 through 19, narrates the story of Lot inviting two strangers, angels, into his home in the city of Sodom. The bigoted citizens of the city, who already do not like Lot, because he is also a foreigner, demand him to hand over his guests. Most translations I’ve read demand that the guests be turned over to the mob so that they can “have sex” with them. Lot pleads with them not to do this wicked thing, and offers his virgin daughters to the mob instead. Before this can happen, the angels strike the mob blind, and ultimately, as a result, the city of Sodom is destroyed.

This passage is the source of the word sodomy, which is less judgementally known as anal sex. Those who believe that homosexuality is a sin cite this passage as a proof that God hates sodomites – i.e. those who have anal sex, i.e. gay men.

But, feminist readers, does this not also sound like attempted gang rape?  Complete with rape apologist language of “have sex”? Could this passage be a story about how rape is not to be tolerated? Instead of teaching how a certain kind of sex is wicked, could the passage be teaching that a lack of consent, that force in a sex act is wicked?

As feminists, it is easy to get up in arms and distracted with the way that Lot offered his daughters to be raped to protect his guests. It is not nice to think about, but in the historical context, women were objects — and we must acknowledge this. To apply our current values on historical circumstance is futile — we will always be disappointed. The knowledge that women’s value used to be different can be a source of strength, too. How far women have come, and yet how far we have to go. Just as life is now, the Bible is a mixed bag. There are both wins and losses, victories and defeats.

What I take heart in is that God did not allow Lot’s daughters to be raped either (at this juncture of the story, at least. The ultimate fate of Lot’s daughters is a different story). God through his angels intervened, and did not allow anyone to be raped that day; the city was destroyed for that attempted act of violence.

At least, that’s how I read the passage as a feminist.

The Church is still a human institution, I get it.  Sometimes the acts of Christians are incredibly hard to defend. The Bible is a human work. Not all passages are easy to explain in a way that makes us feel good.  Sometimes humans use God’s name to legitimize their bigotry and privilege. Sometimes people who believe in justice, in tearing down privilege, and are Christians forget to invoke God. Both are wrong.

My mission here is to record my activism. Sometimes that activism occurs in the context of Church. I shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.

You’re Wiser than That

A black and white icon of a teacher in front o...

Image via Wikipedia

My little brother didn’t have school yesterday because they shut down the school for a security threat. Apparently, one teacher made a threat against another teacher, and after he was asked to leave the building returned the next day for work. Third or fourth hand knowledge of the event (because the gossip mill in suburbia is surprisingly rapid) says that what he said was this:  “If you [believe that? argue that? say that?] I may as well shoot everyone and then kill myself.”

This particular teacher (if you know the school district, you can google and find a name — it’s made the national news) was a mentor of mine, especially as a newly transplanted freshman who hated all the “dumb people” she had to deal with day in and day out. He challenged me, encouraged me, and most of all was there for me — as any good teacher would be.

He is prone to hyperbole, and I know he had some frustrations with school bureaucracy. With the budget cuts, with the political climate, with some of the pedagogy, I can imagine him uttering the phrase that was interpreted as a threat as a way of expressing his extreme frustration. However, I can’t imagine him actually perpetrating that violence.  He once kept my freshman history class on lockdown because of rumored threats — not even ones that the administration was taking seriously. He was one of the teachers who told us what he would do to protect us in the case of school violence. He was also the kind of guy who would blithely tell anyone who would listen how he could kill a guy with a wrapped twinkie.

I can’t say for certain what happened. But as I was doing dishes I couldn’t help but think that it’s sad that most of our analogies for extreme disappointment and hopelessness are violent. “I felt like a little part of me died.” “I am dead inside.” “This institution is dying!” “You’re going to destroy everything we stand for!”

It reminds me that violence is the language of the voiceless — it is their last resort, as democracy or the lack there of, as bureaucracy, as the mental health care system, as the economy, as international relations and international trade have failed them.

I trusted my mentor to be wiser than that, to find other discourses and other ways. Be wiser than violence.

#reverb10 – December 7, Community

Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris, reverb10.com)

I think for me to fully talk about the idea of community, I have to back to a community that I haven’t fully let go of — I don’t think I’m bitter anymore, but I think that I haven’t let go because to me, the community I built the first semester freshman year of college, and that continued for about a year’s time, that community is still, in many ways, something I wish to emulate.

We called ourselves “The Midnight Society,” ironically after a television show from our youth. We did meet up at midnights on Thursdays into Friday mornings, a time where we all knew would be relatively free of interruptions. We all sat around in a circle, eating pokeystix and talking about “intellectual” questions. We all lived in the same dorm, shared most of the same classes, and as a result, we learned to take care of one another. I know that I personally benefited the morning I slept through a class where I was supposed to turn in a paper — and they came and woke me up at the end of it, so that I wouldn’t be penalized. I broke up with my boyfriend in sophomore year, and let him have my friends in the break up — but the rest of the group turned rather insular, and it seemed that I was not as important to them as they were to me.

I understand that this kind of community is hard to replicate for a lot of reasons. One, we aren’t always so lucky to live in such close proximity. Two, we aren’t always so lucky to have so much in common. Three, there are always going to be division points, as I found — but they don’t always have to be so permanent.

In 2010, I had made community one of my goals. Perhaps you embiggified the giant list that I brain dumped last January, the one I included on my “letting go” prompt, and you saw that community was one of the things I listed — or perhaps I lamented the lack of community. I didn’t look too closely at the picture before I posted it.

I think my attempts at finding and building community in 2010 were mixed. 2010 was much more about becoming comfortable in my own skin, in my own home, in finding routine, about fixing myself before attempting to support others. And 2011 may turn out that way too, with a baby arriving about a quarter of the way in. But that is not to say that community did not turn up.

Actually, I’m having a much harder time writing about community than I thought I would. I think I hold community in too high a regard, set too high standards on it. I think, perhaps, that perfectionism is rearing it’s ugly head again. Maybe I’m thinking about community as spontaneous displays of affection or getting together, or always hanging out. But maybe I can lower my standard here — connect, always connect.

I connected with my old classmate Katie F nee J in 2010. We ran into each other at a conference in 2009, and again in 2010 and for a few months, we were doing lunch every month. She invited my husband and I to her wedding, and I think that we built a small community to talk about the stressors of being twenty-something and seeing the big picture of how the world is imperfect and broken and wanting desperately to fix it — and knowing that we only had so much power individually.

I connected with a writing group, which originated in NaNo2009, particularly with Sarah, and her husband Matt. It hasn’t been the easiest connection to make, as both Sarah and I are more the introverted types, who worry constantly about if someone wants to be friends with us, really, or if we’re being too pushy, or etc. But we’ve slowly been building up a rapport. Sarah takes care of me on Saturdays when Tim is off playing D&D with his friends, and we chat online. As writers, we can cover a lot of different topics — from awesome movies and TV shows, to awful books, to questions about existence and religion and church. I’m going to be part of her group blog, come January, and we’re going to be awesome Geeky Wives together. 😀

I reconnected with my friend from college, Alex, who introduced me to the people she grew up with at her childhood church: now, young adults, spiritual seekers, people willing to become our friends and be understanding of our plights. These young adults, in turn, introduced us to the wider church community at Central Woodward, and as a result, Tim and I joined the church this past Sunday. It seems like a good place to learn, and grow, to explore my relationship with God — and to continue to have supportive people surrounding us, including two other couples expecting children in the first half of next year.

In 2011, I want to reconnect with Katie F. Even if we only get together every other month, I think we can be good buddies about career stuff.

I want to spend more time cultivating the fraternity community — my husband’s fraternity and those men’s wives, and their children. They’re great people, a lot of fun, and they seem to accept kids just fine.

I want to become a contributing member of CWCC, and for the Young Adult group to take off and become really community oriented. I’ve volunteered to become the “point person” for the community, so hopefully I can use that unofficial position to my advantage in making sure the community continues and gets stronger.

Do Fun Stuff

I love blogs that are honest about their family’s lives. One of my favorites is Marshall’s at Pacing the Panic Room.

Marshall has a stepson he calls Littlest Buddy or LB. LB has a genetic condition called Smith Magenis Syndrome, and he’s had a dream to raise a bunch of money to study SMS, to get more information out there — so that what happened to Cole, his wife, where she was given the news coldly on the phone, doesn’t happen to any other families.

Check out http://www.dofunstuff.net/ and preview the awesome children’s album that is pleasing to adults, too. Buy it from itunes. All profits go to funding grad students who choose to study SMS as their degree.

Third Places and Consumerism

Tim and I went on a little roadtrip this weekend, down to Ohio. I was inspired by a blog I read to investigate and then download TEDtalk audio podcasts to play in our car. We ended up listening to one about retrofitting suburbia. It was a really interesting talk, and she mentioned that there are many ways to make suburbia more inhabitable, more walkable, more appealing to the younger generations, including the Millennial Generation which is growing up and buying houses and finding entry-level jobs and career paths right now.

She introduced a concept of a “third place.” A first place is your home. A second place is your place of work. A third place is where the community gathers.

This morning, Tim went into work early, as he often does on Wednesdays. He tried to call me and text me to help me wake up, but the ringer on my phone was turned down too far. When I finally woke up, I read some less-than-appealing pronouncement on facebook (sleepy minds are impressionable), and grumped through my morning routine. As I headed out the door, I was struck by a craving for a grande awake tea latte from Starbucks.

In my car, I debated with myself. What is the purpose of this purchase in 10 minutes? Well, I would have a tasty hot beverage. What is the purpose of this purchase in 10 months? 10 years? In both cases, the money would just be gone. I turned left, heading both towards the Starbucks and my freeway on-ramp.

Sitting at the light where I would make the decision between going straight to work and going to Starbucks, I realized that what I was really craving from a trip to Starbucks was interaction with the Barista, someone positive in my day, a conversation.

That was a craving that I could honor without reservation.

I went to the Starbucks, where I had a very nice conversation with Dory, who is the older woman who works in the mornings. She recognizes me, and she knows my favorite drink, and how to make it just right. She asked on this Wednesday morning, what my husband and I were going to be doing with our weekend. I told her about our decluttering project, and she was supportive and impressed. I thanked her for my tea latte, she wished me luck with our project, and I went on my way.

Starbucks, more specifically the Starbucks inside of Target, in Fenton, Michigan, has become a third place for me. I’m a regular there; they great me with recognition, they ask about me, they ask about my husband, they tell me if their day is going good or bad. There are four or five Baristas, and they all seem to recognize me and my order.

My friend Patti pointed out to me that Starbucks explicitly builds its marketing scheme about being the third place in a community, and that they’re clearly succeeding because many people agree with me. I would prefer that my third place wasn’t a Starbucks, but was rather a local coffee shop, but where I live right now doesn’t have that kind of commerce.  Some day, we’ll get to move, and we’ll see out those local businesses; those will become third places, above the local Starbucks.

As for right now, it’s a start. It’s not exactly what I am looking for in a “third place” — it’s not in walking distance, it is not exactly cheap. But I think it’s revelatory that sometimes I realize that what I really want is not so much the coffee, as it is the conversation. It also helps me resist Starbucks as a whole — there is only one Starbucks where they know my order, and it is only in my town.