Men, Women, and Bathrooms

Men, Women, and Bathrooms

egalitarian-coupleI am very passionate about the subject I’m about to approach. I’ve often felt insecure voicing my opinions but underneath it all, I’m following my own beliefs more today and feel at peace with the integrity that this brings to my life.

I’ve always felt a certain kind of empathy for women. I heard conversations between men that made me squeamish. There was often talk that put women in an inferior position and a lot of references to women as sex objects. I was uncomfortable about those conversations. As I got older I could see the impact that had on women in general. I saw some women had become subservient to men in their lives. But I also saw the way this impacted men and how it encouraged an elitism that I could see within the male population.

When I entered the culture of modern evangelicalism I was taught that women were to be in a lesser position regarding leadership and they needed to be careful when voicing their opinions. For many years I was in a church that taught emphatically that women were not allowed to preach in front of men, they weren’t allowed to be leaders or pastors. There were a few occasions where women were allowed to “share” things on specific subjects because only women could have thoughts significant for the subject matter.

I went along with this teaching for many years believing that what I was taught was coming from the Bible and who could argue with the Bible? Right? But underneath it all I was growing uncertain about those teachings and the impact I could see that it had on women, children, and the family. I could also see how this line of thinking brought an underlying bravado to men and an outflow of arrogance in many men’s lives.

male female pink blueOver time I changed my views to align more with what my heart was telling me. There was a female pastor that I grew to appreciate and respect. As I heard her speak, it was obvious to me that her wisdom and knowledge were good and necessary for all people regardless of their gender. I was challenged to change my viewpoint largely through what I began to see with my own eyes. I came to see that women are equal. Women have a significant voice, a significant place in culture, relationships and families, but this place was not static. I no longer believe that there is one certain role that women should play. I began to accept that I was really egalitarian with regards to men and women, roles, and society. I could even see how the images of “pink vs. blue” were stereotypes that kept boys and girls bound into gender roles that were legalistic and caused fear in the case of a boy liking pink. There are so many other stereotypes that bring the same types of developmental barriers to the uniqueness of individuals regardless of their gender.

I also saw something deeper. I could see that women were subjected to the potential of being sexually abused from their childhoods on up into adulthood. I could see that many women were sexually abused even in marriage when there was a dominant position of authority taught to be held by men. I heard discussions that women needed to provide for men sexually, that women should not be sexually dominant and that women needed to keep up their appearance so as to please the men they were married to. Also, teachings within conservative circles where women were responsible for tempting men with their bodies and they needed to “cover-up” and dress conservatively in order to help men not be drawn to them sexually. I’ve virtually never heard this same kind of teaching regarding men. I could see that many women believed they needed to always be pleasing and attractive when so many men are actually not clean, not well kept, and have no concern for being sexually pleasing to their wives! It’s so easy for me to see the double standard.

Please understand, I believe there is some truth to people being careful so as to not cause one another to stumble and there is a responsibility we all have to watch ourselves so as to not draw someone to us for inappropriate attraction. But, women are not solely responsible for these things.

As I moved into a gay relationship I was challenged personally by these former teachings. I talked with my husband about how we should consider roles in our relationship, our home and in our sexuality. I was troubled as I felt at times like I was more like a female than a male. As we talked, I discovered that I was bound by a strict code of male / female roles, and superiority. I once believed that women needed to care for the home, that men needed to be the providers, and that those were the best for our homes and our culture. I was challenged to look deeper into what I really believed.

As I thought about these things I realized they were not what my heart was telling me to follow. I began to see strengths and desires that transcended those former ways of believing about gender and roles. I could see that people could thrive through living and functioning in their strengths without attachment to cultural norms. I could see women leading, teaching, earning, and protecting, and men nurturing, managing the home, raising children and receiving from women things that were helpful. I can also see how men and women can go back and forth in between these roles. At times leading and providing, other times subjecting themselves to others and receiving provision. I found more freedom and encouragement to express myself in a variety of ways as was best for the time and for my own wellbeing.

Most significantly, I can also see how all of this effects our culture and our relationships and sexuality. With a strong teaching of women being subjected to men and the role of men always being the leaders, in my opinion, it plays far too easily into the temptation of men to dominate and to expect things that they deem rightfully theirs such as always respecting men and their leadership roles, and sexual provision. I can also see how often women forgo their own needs and desires in deference for the desires of the men around them. This leads me to see the underlying anger and discouragement that so many women live with. Sometimes this goes on for their entire lifetime.

So, as I think about the recent bathroom dilemma and trans-sexuality, I can see this play out. Most of the vocal opposition concerning the reality of transsexuality and the need for respecting and providing for the needs of those impacted by this, come from those who hold to a strong male dominant, leadership position. I also see there is a vocal presence from women who have been harmed by male sexual dominance and the need to protect girls from sexual predators.

In these matters, women’s voices are important to expose what has been hidden behind the patriarchal system. One such voice is Kasey Rose-Hodge….a brave woman who has written some things from her viewpoint that align very well with my thoughts:

Dear creepy heterosexual men guarding our bathrooms,

My entire life, I’ve been told to fear you in one way or another. I’ve been told to cover my body as to not distract you in school, to cover my body to help avoid unwanted advances or comments, to cover my body as to not tempt you to sexually assault me, to reject your unwanted advances politely as to not anger you. I’ve been taught to never walk alone at night, to hold my keys in my fist while walking in parking lots, to check the backseat of my car, to not drink too much because you might take advantage of me. I’ve been told what I should and shouldn’t do with my body as to not jeopardize my relationships with you.

I’ve been warned not to emasculate you, to let “boys be boys”, to protect your fragile ego and to not tread on your even more fragile masculinity. I’ve been taught to keep my emotions in check, to let you be the unit of measure for how much emotion is appropriate and to adjust my emotions accordingly. I’ve been taught that you’re allowed to categorize women into mothers/ sisters/ girlfriends/ wives/ daughters but any woman outside of your protected categories is fair game.

So to those of you who think you’re being helpful by “protecting” me, and my fellow women, you’re like a shark sitting in the Lifeguard chair. I wasn’t uncomfortable until you showed up at the pool and the only potential predator I see is you.

Your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters don’t need you to walk them to the bathroom for safety. Your fathers, brothers, friends and sons need to walk themselves away from their own double standards. Women are sexually harassed and sexually assaulted on school campuses, on the street, at their jobs, on the Internet, in their own homes, in ANY public place. And it has been excused or ignored for so long because of what you and I are taught from the first years of our interactions with each other: You, as a male, are not accountable for your own actions. It’s MY responsibility, as a female, to not “provoke” you. But then you get to Knight-In-Shining-Armor your way through life for those in your protected categories and I am expected to applaud you. Why the outrage now over bathrooms? Why aren’t you outraged every single day?

If you’re telling me that there are high volumes of boys and men out there, in schools or in general, who are just waiting for a “loop hole” to sexually assault girls and women, we have bigger problems on our hands than bathrooms. The first problem would be your apparent lack of knowledge of how often it happens OUTSIDE of bathrooms, with no “loop holes” needed.

This isn’t about Transgender bathroom access. This is about you not trusting the boys and men in your communities and/or fearing that they’re all secretly predators. Why do you have this fear? How many fathers have panicked when their daughters started dating because they “know how teenaged boys can be because they used to be one”? How many times have girls been warned, “Boys are only after one thing”? A mother can bring her young son into the women’s restroom and that’s fine but a father bringing his young daughter into the men’s restroom is disturbing because men are assumed to be predators and “little girls” shouldn’t be exposed to that.

So instead of picking up your sword and heading to Target or the girls’ locker room to defend our “rights”, why don’t you start somewhere that could actually make a difference? Challenge your children’s schools to end sexist dress codes and dress codes that sexualize girls as young as age 5. Advocate for proper (or any) sex education classes in all public schools by a certain grade level. Focus more on teaching your sons not to rape vs. teaching your daughters how to avoid being raped. Stop asking, “How would you feel if that was your mother or sister?” It shouldn’t take the comparison to clue you in to what’s right or wrong. Question why you’re more worried about your daughter being around men than your son being around women in bathrooms and dressing rooms. Stop walking by Victoria’s Secret with no problem but covering your son’s eyes if a woman is breastfeeding in public. Stop treating your daughter’s body as some fortress you’re sworn to protect as if that’s all she’s got to offer the world.

Kasey’s words have become viral over the Internet. I’m not surprised. She had the courage to speak her truth and it resonates with many women, as well as men who have listened to the true heart of women who have become honest with themselves.

I would love to see a major transformation in our culture to see people as equals and to move away from traditional roles that have been dysfunctional for many, many years. What may have worked at one time is no longer functional and is causing harm.

We all need to do some soul searching.

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2 Responses to “Men, Women, and Bathrooms”

  1. Ed Rachels says:

    John, Your words and Kasey’s are very powerful n poignant. I had read her post yesterday and was struck by her observations and how double standards play into our society. I wish her well and hope she opens the eyes of both men and women.

  2. John Smid says:

    Thank you, Ed. This is a very important matter and does need conversation and change.

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