The SlutWalk came to D.C. Unfortunately I missed it. If I didn't have a conflict, I would have been there, not in a short skirt or highheels, but in my clergy collar.
Why? Because the Slutwalk is a protest against a rape culture. Women are speaking out against the understanding with which many of us live -- if you've been raped, molested, abused, or betrayed then you must have done something to deserve it.
Christianity has often perpetuated the myth of female condemnation which can include sexual violence, among many other things. From the genesis of time, the woman eats the fruit, the man follows, and the woman is marked as the temptress. Whether we are talking about Eve, Bathsheba, Jezebel, the woman at the well, or Mary Magdalene, we have dressed women up as tempters, and told stories of how women are not only responsible for their actions, but for the actions of men as well.
The curse we've lived under is real. I can picture women in my mind who have not only been victims of sexual violence or betrayal, but as they sorted out their circumstances, their churches have harmed them again by heaping blame upon them.
A woman got drunk, and a man raped her. She believed it was her fault because she shouldn't have had so much to drink. A woman who ended an evening out with a man, who forgot to tell her that he was married. She thought that she was to blame, because she shouldn't have gotten caught up in the romance of the evening. A woman's husband cheated on her. She assumed that she caused the infidelity because she was not attentive enough to her husband in the bedroom.
These messages are often communicated to us from the time we are in youth group, especially in the rise of chastity movements. We were taught to never wear anything suggestive, because we have a responsibility to keep men from thinking sexual thoughts. If something brutal happened to us, and we finally gained enough courage to tell our horror story, someone would ask us, "What were you wearing? Were you drinking?" In other words, "What were you doing to cause this to happen?" I have encountered far too many religious leaders who ask questions that have indicated that the culpability originates with the woman. She is somehow responsible for the action.
Even ten years after youth group, when I was in seminary, I was taught that I needed to wear a collar under my big black academic robe as I preached, or else men would not think about the sermon, they would imagine what was under my massive garb. The robe looks like something you would wear at your high school graduation. I basically wear a tent to preach. But that wasn't enough, because somehow, I should be responsible for the thoughts that someone might have when they see four inches of my neck.
It's time for our religious communities to acknowledge the ways in which we have contributed to a rape culture -- the ways in which we blame women as we proclaim our narratives, ask our questions, and teach our teenagers. And it's time for us to stand with women who have had enough.
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