- Writer Shawna Benson examined patterns of fandom growth and activity that she'd observed while moderating social media for The 100's Writers’ Room, as well as social media lessons learned. "Yes, we sell the US shows to other countries, but what do we do to accommodate those fanbases which spring up in other countries? Suddenly, the 'official' accounts feel less useful. They don’t get the CW in the UK, Australia, Brazil, France or Spain, or even Canada — the main countries which outside of the U.S. watch The 100. How do we accommodate those fans? The official accounts are restricted in this. Guess what? Writers’ rooms are not."
- As part of International Fanworks Day, LiveJournal community Mari di Challenge interviewed OTW Translation Committee chairs Hele Braunstein and Priscilla del Cima about the committee's work (article in Italian). Both spoke about their fannish backgrounds, how AO3 fits together with the OTW and its other projects, how the organization sustains those projects financially and personnel-wise, what the OTW's vision of fandom is, and what changes might happen in the next five years.
- Book review blogger Traci began a series of posts about the OTW. "I was recently reading an article and it was mentioned that media seems to 'see bronies as far more newsworthy that Organization for Transformative Works or the Vlogbrothers' Nerdfighter movement.' Now, I see a lot of things about Nerfighters, and the Green brothers in particular, but have not seen much on OTW outside of those in the know. So I decided to fangirl all over one of my favorite organizations for a post. Then I realized that I would need at least a couple posts to fully share my love and appreciation."
- The Verge's Entertainment Editor Emily Yoshida discussed her discovery of fanfiction on the StarWarsChicks.com posting board. "One of the first things I was drawn to besides the message board was...The Library, it was a fanfic archive of the stories everyone in the community had written." She was asked to speculate about why fanfic writers seemed to be mostly by female writers. She suggested that the medium of writing was better suited to women. "It's non-visual, it takes a long time to read somebody's whole novel...and that's the payoff is this expectation and this waiting and this buildup...but it gets that same kind of following and addictive aspect to it." (No transcript available).
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Imagine a space where feminism and family intersect. Where people from all walks of life get together to discuss—productively—the changing face of what constitutes a family, how they’re “made,” what they need to thrive and succeed and the various obstacles in their way. Where the topics tackled move beyond the work/life balance trope that, while certainly important, is trotted out way too frequently, and delve into more nuanced ones such as stigma, teen pregnancy/parenthood, birth equity, incarcerated motherhood, infertility, mental illness, loss and so much more. Imagine hearing from voices not normally given space and platforms in mainstream outlets. And imagine free childcare, delicious food and connecting with a bunch of fabulous people.
I’ve been imagining something like this for a long time. And now, it’s a reality. Along with a handful of other fabulous feminists, I’m proud and excited to present the (un)Conference on Feminist Families, Equity and Experiences aka COFFEE, April 9-10 at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. From policies to grassroots activism, from pregnancy/birth to birth control and abortion, from the changing face of what it means to make a family to bringing more diverse voices to the forefront, COFFEE will be the space and place where all things family, feminism, experience and activism intersect.
As someone who speaks occasionally at feminist conferences, I’ve found that while there’s always some space to discuss issues impacting families, it’s never really the focus. Feminism in general has also always struggled with how best to address issues related to families, especially in the shadow of fighting for a woman’s right to separate herself from identifying solely as a mother or wife. But with so many parents fighting for feminism and claiming the identity, it’s clear that for many, feminism and family are inextricably interlinked and that there can be so much progress if we devote some time, energy and attention to working together to support families.
I’ve been a longtime attendee and speaker at Hampshire College’s Civil Liberties and Public Policy’s (CLPP) annual conference, “From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom.” The last few years, my panels and workshops have centered around—what else?—issues related to the family. From the representation of teen mothers in mainstream media to how to bring social justice to the dinner table, I always wondered how my topics would be received. And yet, year after year, we packed in classrooms and lecture halls, sometimes with folks squished up against windows, standing in the back and possibly breaking a fire code or two. There were always a few people who stayed behind, wanting to keep the conversation going well beyond when our time was up. And so, with COFFEE, we’ve decided to keep the conversation going.
We have looked toward CLPP as our mentor and have accepted their support in helping us host our inaugural event. Registration is now open, but attendance is limited. And yes, we’ll have free childcare, delicious food, and provide the opportunity for folks passionate about families to come together to brainstorm ways to make things more equitable and accessible for all.
Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work–which places a feminist lens on a variety of topics including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights–has been featured in Bitch, Cosmopolitan, Every Mother Counts, The New York Times, CNN and more. Avital writes the weekly feminist parenting column, “Mommie Dearest,” for The Frisky and The Mamafesto column for SheKnows.com. Her first book, The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood To Fit Reality, came out in January 2014 from Seal Press. She is currently working on her second book, on the “Perfect Birth Myth.” Follow her on Twitter @TheMamafesto.
This is one of the best things you’ll see this week. In addition to being funny, Stephen Colbert talks poignantly about how he finds joy in life by following something he heard about Mother Teresa.
The post Stephen Colbert Quotes the Bible, Dune, and Sings Hymns appeared first on Tony Jones.
This March, for Women’s History Month, the Ms. Blog is profiling Wonder Women who have made history—and those who are making history right now. Join us each day as we bring you the stories of iconic and soon-to-be-famous feminist change-makers.
Zoila Aurora Cáceres Moreno was a Peruvian feminist writer who dove deep into sensitive topics such as a woman’s right to sexual pleasure, the intellectual liberation of women and gender inequality. She was a part of the Spanish literary movement “modernismo,” a blend of romanticism, symbolism and French parnassianism that lasted from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Cáceres established feminist organizations in Peru, wrote of her travels with her father, the president of Peru, and wrote feminist and modernista books that were recognized by the most well-known modernismo writer Rubén Darío—yet she is overlooked in history.
Born in Lima, Peru on March 29, 1877 to the general and president of Peru, Andrés Avelino Cáceres and his wife, Antonia Moreno, Aurora Cáceres traveled often due to her father’s position and because of the wars that were intertwined with her personal life. The War of the Pacific began two years after her birth and lasted until 1883. Later, in 1895, her sister died while her family was attempting to flee the Chileans during the Peruvian Civil War. That same year, her father was exiled from Peru.
After the exile of her father, Cáceres was educated by nuns in Germany and later attended college at Paris’ Sorbonne for social studies. She learned French, German and Quechua and received the best education for a woman of her era. The combination of her traditional yet liberal education and broad travels with her father inspired her feminist views, which she incorporated into her work in traditional Peru in the 1900s.
In 1906, she married a bohemian, liberal and floozy Guatemalan writer, Enrique Gómez Carrillo. When Cáceres met Carrillo, she was familiar with his writings because he was considered among the most widely read writers in Latin America and was also known in Spain and France. They divorced a year later because of their incompatible lifestyles, with Cáceres requesting and receiving an annulment. In her book, Mi Vida con Enrique Gómez Carrillo, she describes how Carrillo was a free spirit who loved attending parties and traveling, but often fell into depression and expected her to stay home to assume the heteronormative social duties of a married woman.
In 1905, she opened a center for women called the Centro Social de Señoras in Lima to promote the intellectual liberation of women. While educating women to grow a social consciousness and to demand equal rights with men domestically and politically, she fought for women’s right to vote and to gain access to education and employment. Her feminist activism was a leading factor in gaining the vote for Peruvian women in the 1950 municipal elections.
In Paloma Jiménez del Campo’s “La crónica de viajes en la obra de Aurora Cáceres” she highlights a quote from Aurora Cáceres’ book “Una visita a Evangelina” when Cáceres says: “The woman cannot be a queen of happiness in a place where there is hunger. Women should be able to fight and provide and gain knowledge so they can provide for the family as well.”
In this period of history, women sewed for the majority of the day, so Cáceres advocated to “free [women] from the needle” and encouraged women to get involved in social, cultural and political issues just like men. (She also thought sewing would damage women’s eyesight).
She believed the cost of living needed to be lowered for the working-class, so she organized a feminist strike for food in April of 1919. Five years later, she created the organization Peruvian Feminism. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, Cáceres worked with feminist Peruvian journalist Ángela Ramos and the anti-fascist organization Feminine Action.
Aurora Cáceres’ essays and books were another way she raised awareness of gender inequality. She’s best known for her medical drama, La rosa muerta, which was seen as scandalous for 1914 and was only published in Paris. It wasn’t re-published elsewhere until 2007 by Thomas Ward.
In the drama, the lead character, a Parisian widow, discovers she has a life-threatening sexually transmitted illness received from her deceased husband. Even after treatment, she cannot have sex or else she will die. During treatment, she falls in love with her gynecologist, and convinces him to have sex with her, leading to her death. Her death is dramatic but creates the necessary shock by depicting a woman in her time acting on her sexual desires.
Cáceres also wrote the gynocolgist as a a new kind of man who was more equal to his lover. In her era, “man” semantically meant one that intimidates, dominates and shames. Cáceres gave him nurturing, feminine traits by portraying him as being OK with performing the jobs of both doctor and nurse.
La rosa muerta purposefully references her ex-husband Carillo’s novel, Del amor, del dolor y del vicio, because she wrote about a similar topic with an alternate message. She had read Carillo’s book before they met in secret after her brother-in-law told her it was “dangerous for señoritas and even señoras” to read. Both plots feature rich Parisian widows who find out their deceased husbands had affairs with other women and begin an erotic journey to rediscover themselves. However, Carillo’s novel explores a woman’s sexuality but ends with the typical hedonistic heteronormative balance, while Cáceres’s novel ends dramatically with the death of a woman who chose sexual power over her life.
The book makes a “bold statement in favor of women’s self-empowerment and against misogynistic social codes.”
Aurora Cáceres dared to delve into sensitive topics and issues of feminism through the organizations she founded and the writings she published and should be recognized as a leading figure of the modernismo movement. She died at the age of 81 on February 14, 1958 in Madrid, Spain.
Shannen Roberts is a yoga instructor, musician and founder of The Strange is Beautiful, a movement on alternative self-care for mental obstacles. Support her mental health campaign at gofundme.com/tsibzine.
Just over a year ago, three individuals representing various community causes gave presentations at my Unitarian Universalist church. Each year the church chooses one community cause to partner with financially, and these individuals were vying for that position. The first presenter introduced herself as Susan Miller, the social worker for Lynnwood Elementary School*, and I sat up a little bit straighter and began to listen more attentively. My daughter Sally was still in preschool at the time, but this was the school she would be attending in the fall as a kindergarten student.
Susan explained that 75% of students at Lynnwood qualify for free school lunches, and that in the last year 10% of the school’s children had experienced homelessness. She explained that the school gives each child a snack before sending the home at the end of the day, because they know that for some of them—perhaps many of them—this will be the last food they eat all day. She explained that the grant they’d been given to cover snacks was almost up, and that they were looking for new funding.
After listening to the other two presentations, however, Susan stood up and took the podium again, this time to withdraw her application. She explained that she had been so moved by the other applicants’ appeals—both were local charities working with families in poverty—that she could not in good conscience ask for the church’s money when she had other funding avenues yet to be explored. “We will find a way to feed our children,” she said, with a voice firm yet full of emotion. After the service, several parishioners approached her with offers to help in whatever way they could.
This was how I learned that my daughter’s elementary school has its own social worker. And you know what? I’m very glad it does.
[West Virginia] House Bill 2842: Social workers in elementary schoolsSummary:
This bill would establish a four-year pilot program to have social workers in public schools, from prekindergarten through the elementary school.HSLDA’s Position:
As regular readers will know, HSLDA—the Home School Legal Defense Association—involves itself in bills that have nothing to do with homeschooling (like this one) and (to all appearances) views social workers as the enemy of the family. But while some social workers work for child protective services, not all do—and even those who work for child protective services spend more time working to give families support than they do “snatching” kids.
§18-5-18f. Social worker pilot programs; reports. (a) County boards shall, by July 1, 2015, establish four year social worker pilot programs for all children in prekindergarten though elementary school. (b) For purposes of this section, “social worker” means a non teaching school employee who, at a minimum:
(1) Possesses a license in social work with the West Virginia Board of Social Work;
(2) Has a minimum of five years experience working with children and families; and
(3) Has experience conducting home visits, providing parent education, crisis intervention and advocacy and support services, with school based social work experience being preferred.
(c) Abuse and neglect, poor nutrition and health care, behavior problems, homelessness, poor academic performance, lack of parent evolvement and substance abuse are areas of concern facing public education. Teachers and support staff are called upon to address these issues to the detriment of their educational responsibilities. Having a trained social worker available to students, staff and parents is beneficial in the following ways:
(1) Permit problems to be addressed by professionals trained to deal with those issues and guide teachers and staff on child protective laws;
(2) Unburden teachers and support staff so they can focus on performing their educational responsibilities to the students;
(3) The social worker’s role will be to work with the guidance counselor with a team approach. The social worker would not only work with the child at the school but conduct home visits as necessary to address parent issues, provide parenting education, address social and emotional issues, address physical and mental health issues and advocate for the family linking them to necessary community resources; and
(4) Assist in ensuring an atmosphere in the classroom where learning can be achieved to ensure the child’s success in school and life.
(d) Pilot programs implemented by the county boards shall provide for a minimum of one social worker for one Title 1, prekindergarten through elementary school, in each county. If more than one Title 1 elementary school exists in the county that qualifies, the Title 1 school with the lowest test scores should be given preference. This will ensure the social worker is placed in a high poverty school where students are most in need. Addressing issues of concern in a child’s early educational experience can prevent future problems from occurring.
This is what HSLDA opposes.
Remember when I said that HSLDA opposes allowing parents a wider range of options when it disagrees with those options? My daughter goes to a Title 1 elementary school that has its own social worker—and I’m glad it does. But if HSLDA had its way, they would take that away. In other words, HSLDA is less interested in what I, a parent affected by this kind of legislation, want than in pursuing their agenda.
But then, I’m not longer surprised by this.
* All names and titles changed for privacy.
In the story the Israelites are attacking their perennial enemies, the Moabites. And the Israelites get the upper hand:
2 Kings 3.24-27 (NRSV)Facing defeat the Moabite king does something desperate. He offers a child sacrifice--To whom?--and that sacrifice saves Moab. After the sacrifice the NRSV reads "and a great wrath came upon Israel" causing them to retreat:
But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and attacked the Moabites, who fled before them; as they entered Moab they continued the attack. The cities they overturned, and on every good piece of land everyone threw a stone, until it was covered; every spring of water they stopped up, and every good tree they felled. Only at Kir-hareseth did the stone walls remain, until the slingers surrounded and attacked it.
When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom; but they could not. Then he took his firstborn son who was to succeed him, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And great wrath came upon Israel, so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.Where did this wrath come from? The text doesn't really say. Some translations leave in the ambiguity while others tilt toward a human origin:
ESV:The ASV, NRSV, and the ESV keep the source of the wrath vague. The KJV and the NIV seem to suggest that the wrath comes from the onlooking Moabites. That is, seeing their king sacrifice his son fills the Moabites with "fury" and "indignation" which rekindles their fighting spirit to throw back the Israelite advance.
And there came great wrath against Israel
And there was great indignation against Israel
And there was great wrath against Israel
The fury against Israel was great
But the text doesn't actually say that. It doesn't say that the Moabites got angry or that they rose up against the Israelites in anger. It simply says that in response to the child sacrifice a "wrath came up against Israel" and that "Israel withdrew."
Basically, if you read between the lines the god of Moab--Chemosh (Num. 21.29; Jer. 48.7, 13, 46)--seems to be implicated. First, a child sacrifice is made by the king of Moab. This wouldn't have been to YHWH but to Chemosh. And after the sacrifice to Chemosh a "great wrath" comes upon the Israelites, causing them to withdraw. It seems reasonable to assume that Chemosh found the sacrifice acceptable and moved against Israel.
Of course, Chemosh isn't directly mentioned. One wonders if a direct mention of the Moabite god was removed from the original story in light of the developing monotheism of Israel.
If this story contains a trace of Chemosh it is one of the few stories, and the only one I'm aware of as I consult my memory, where a god other than YHWH has a causal impact on human events in the Old Testament.
While the Department of Justice has chosen not to bring criminal charges against Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson—who fatally shot black teenager Michael Brown last year—the DOJ has found evidence of rampant racial bias on that city’s police force.
The DOJ spent the last six months investigating Ferguson’s police department, examining arrest and ticketing records and reading emails sent within the department. Investigators found that while African Americans make up 67 percent of the city’s population, they account for 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests.
Plus, according to a report in The New York Times, emails showed an attitude of casual racism among department staff:
In a November 2008 email, a city official said Barack Obama would not be president long because ‘what black man holds a steady job for four years?’ Another email included a cartoon depicting African Americans as monkeys. A third described black women having abortions as a way to curb crime.
“I’ve known it all my life about living out here,” said Angel Goree, a Ferguson resident who lives in an apartment building near where Brown was killed. Commenting on the DOJ’s decision not to charge Wilson, she added, “If the Justice Department doesn’t take it to the full extent of the law, it’s not going to be one iota of a change.”
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, city officials claimed in a court filing that 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot to death by a police officer, was at fault for his own death because he failed to “to exercise due care to avoid injury” while playing with a toy gun in a park. A local resident had called authorities to report that the boy was in the park with a gun, though the caller said it was likely a toy. An officer shot Rice mere moments after arriving at the park without making any attempt to defuse the situation.
In the current issue of Ms., executive editor Kathy Spillar offers up one way to potentially reduce police violence like that seen in Ferguson and Cleveland: Hire more women officers. Spillar writes that decades of research has shown women are significantly less likely to use excessive or deadly force than male officers, though they encounter “similar proportions of citizens who [are] dangerous, angry, upset, drunk or violent.”
In her op-ed, Spillar implores the DOJ to look not only at racism in police hiring practices but also gender discrimination, and to push for policies that would remove barriers to women’s employment in law enforcement.
To read more about the need for women in law enforcement pick up our Winter 2015 issue.
Photo via Shutterstock
The following is a guest post by Graham Katz. It makes an interesting point (which I haven't seen elsewhere) about the phrase that's at the center of King v. Burwell: "an Exchange established by the State".
Today the Supreme Court hears argument on the King v. Burwell case challenging the subsidies for health insurance put in place by the Affordable Care Act (or "Obamacare"). At issue in today's argument is the interpretation of a part of the law which specifies the premium subsidies that are crucial to making health insurance affordable to lower income Americans. This part is section 1401(b):
In General- In the case of an applicable taxpayer, there shall be allowed as a credit against the tax imposed by this subtitle for any taxable year an amount equal to the premium assistance credit amount of the taxpayer for the taxable year.
(2) PREMIUM ASSISTANCE AMOUNT- The premium assistance amount determined under this subsection with respect to any coverage month is the amount equal to the lesser of–
(A) the monthly premiums for such month for 1 or more qualified health plans offered in the individual market within a State which cover the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, or any dependent (as defined in section 152) of the taxpayer and which were enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State under 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or
(B) the excess (if any) of–
(i) the adjusted monthly premium for such month for the applicable second lowest cost silver plan with respect to the taxpayer, over
(ii) an amount equal to 1/12 of the product of the applicable percentage and the taxpayer’s household income for the taxable year.
Although states are required by the law to establish an Exchange for residents to use, many did not. The law anticipates this and allows for the federal government to set up and run an exchange in its stead.
The plaintiffs argue that subsidies are restricted by the phrase "an Exchange established by the State" to taxpayers in those states that set up their own exchange (California, New York, …) and are not available to taxpayers who use the HealthCare.gov exchanges run by the federal government. Why else would Congress use this phrase, argue the plaintiffs, if not to distinguish federal from state exchanges?
There are many legal issues at play in this argument, but there are also important linguistic issues. For example, does a state "establish" an exchange by failing to act and thereby triggering the creation of the exchange by the federal government?
While the lexical semantics of this verb can be debated, there is little room for debate over the meaning of the definite article "the." Semanticists agree that definites are used in one of two ways: to specify the (contextually restricted) uniqueness of a referent (there is presumed to be exactly one PPACA, exactly one applicable second lowest cost silver plan, etc.) OR to anaphorically to refer back to a previously introduced discourse element. (Some have argued that these are two aspects of a univocal meaning, but the present point is only that there are two interpretations, whatever their source.)
In the phrase "an Exchange established by the State under 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" the definite expression "the State" is used anaphorically. Its antecedent is the phrase "a State" in "health plans offered in the individual market within a State." The anaphoric relation enforces a legal requirement that the state that the health plans plans are offered in be the same state as that which set up the enrolling Exchange. These are the kind of anaphoric uses of definites that launched the Discourse Representation revolution of the early '80s, which provided an compelling account of both anaphoric interpretations of defnite expressions and the contextual variability of interpretation of indefinites. In short, indefinites introduce novel discourse referents which may be bound by discourse-level operators, while definites refer to already introduced discourse referents.
The anaphoric relation induced by the use of the definite creates an important requirement. If an indefinite had been used instead (or, as some have suggested, the disjunct "…or the federal government"), the required relationship between the health-plan offering State and constraints on its Exchange would be broken. A plan could be offered in one state and (theoretically) enrolled in by an exchange set up by another. In fact, each of the eight uses of the phrase "an Exchange established by the State…" in the ACA involves such an anphoric use
— this is clearly the idiom favored by Congress to set up this kind of linked requirement. Here are some (simplified) examples:
"In the event that allotments .. are insufficient to provide coverage to all children who are eligible to be targeted low-income children under the State child health plan … a State shall establish procedures to ensure that such children are provided coverage through an Exchange established by the State …"
"A State shall establish procedures for … enrolling, without any further determination by the State ,.. individuals who are identified by an Exchange established by the State … as being eligible for … assistance"
"With respect to each State, the Secretary … shall review the benefits offered for children … offered through an Exchange established by the State …and shall certify those plans .. offer benefits … at least comparable to the benefits offered .. under the State child health plan."
This required anaphoric relation — specifying, for example, that the state establishing procedures for ensuring childhood coverage is the state whose exchange is providing coverage – makes a crucial contribution to the meaning of the statute, and provides a rationale for the inclusion of the phrase "…established by the State…" in these eight passages in the statute. The phrase "an Exchange established by the the State under section 1311 " is not contrasted with "an Exchange established by the Federal Government under section 1321" but in contrast to the bare "an Exchange established under section 1311…", which would have failed to make explicit the link between the Exchange and the State. Leaving out "the State" would have allowed for situations in which, for example, New Mexico could claim to satisfy the child health benefits requirement by pointing to benefits offered on the California exchange.
The participle "established" came along for the ride. But the crucial thing was that a relation should be set up between an Exchange and a (previously mentioned) State.
The above is a guest post by Graham Katz.
The White House launched an initiative Tuesday aimed at combating girls’ reduced access to education around the globe. Let Girls Learn will use $250 million from the federal government and other sources, including private-sector donations, to fund programs dedicated to improving girls’ educational opportunities.
Said President Obama in announcing the initiative:
Wherever they live, whoever they are, every girl on this planet has value. Every girl on this planet deserves to be treated with dignity and equality. And that includes the chance to develop her mind and her talents, and to live a life of her own choosing, to chart her own destiny. That may be obvious to us, but we know it’s not obvious to everyone. Sixty-two million girls around the world who should be in school are not. That’s not by accident. It’s the direct result of barriers, large and small, that stand in the way of girls who want to learn.
Let Girls Learn is effectively an umbrella program for existing federal government initiatives focused on girls’ education. However, through First Lady Michelle Obama, Let Girls Learn is also partnering with the Peace Corps to work on the ground in communities where girls are too often denied an education.
The Peace Corps program will do three things: over the next six years, train community leaders in 11 countries to be advocates for girls’ education; fund projects that expand girls’ learning opportunities, such as building schools and launching technology camps; and train new Peace Corps Volunteers to champion girls’ learning initiatives around the world.
Other federal gender-related programs will receive new funding under Let Girls Learn, such as USAID’s Ethiopia initiative to end early, child and forced marriage. (See this blog post and the latest issue of Ms. magazine for more about child marriage in Ethiopia and elsewhere.) From the White House fact sheet on Let Girls Learn:
USAID is facilitating ‘community conversations’ with girls, their families and their community members [in Ethiopia] to discuss the effects of child, early and forced marriage and encourage them to build adolescent girls’ social, health and economic assets. Families are offered school supplies to help overcome the economic barriers to sending girls to school. And families who keep girls unmarried during the two-year program are awarded a sheep or a goat. An early evaluation of the project found that girls aged 10–14 in the experimental site were 90 percent less likely to be married at the end of the two-year program.
I come to this issue as a concerned citizen, but also as the leader of the world’s largest economy, and the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military. And I’m convinced that a world in which girls are educated is a safer, more stable, more prosperous place.
Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 296-299
As Chapter 14 wraps up, readers are, like Hattie Durham, exhausted and disgusted, but also relieved that Rayford Steele’s abortion sermon is finally whimpering to an end.
Rayford seems a bit relieved himself. He clearly didn’t enjoy this either. Rayford seems to think of lecturing pregnant women about abortion the same way he thinks about evangelism — it’s an unpleasant duty he is obliged to perform in order to exempt himself from the guilt of others’ damnation. That’s how he approached his awkward attempt to “witness” at Hattie back in the first book and it’s how he approached his anti-abortion sermon here.
This approach didn’t help his cause in either case. In both conversations, it was abundantly clear to Hattie (and to the reader) that he wasn’t primarily interested in her. His main motive was to exculpate himself from any liability for her damnation or baby-killing. Unfortunately, Rayford isn’t unique in this regard. Such guilt-avoidance is a rather widespread motivation for a great deal of the evangelism practiced by American evangelicals.
If you’ve spent any time within the white evangelical subculture, you’ve probably heard several sermons urging you to witness to your unsaved friends and co-workers for exactly this reason. You have the “gospel” message that can save such people from an eternity of torment in Hell. You know the magic words of the sinner’s prayer that can save them from certain damnation. You are therefore obliged to share this secret knowledge — this salvific gnosis — with them. If you don’t, you will be guilty of allowing them to be damned.
A particularly vivid example of this argument for evangelism went viral a few years ago in the form of a “Letter From a Friend in Hell.” Maybe you saw a version of this on Facebook or watched the “dramatic presentation” of it on YouTube. The letter purports to be from a newly dead sinner named Josh, addressed to his still-living Christian friend Zack and mailed, apparently, just before avenging angels cast him into Hell for eternity.
“You say you are my friend, but if you really were you would have told me about this Jesus and told me how to escape this terrible place that I’m headed for,” Josh writes. The letter ends with this:
We’re coming closer, closer, closer. My heart is bursting with fear. They’re holding me over the flames. I am damned forever.
This is it. They are throwing me in. Fire, Pain, HELL.
Why Zack? Why didn’t you ever tell me about Jesus?
The intent here is to motivate Christian high school students like “Zack” to tell their friends about Jesus before it’s too late. If you don’t do that, then you will have to bear the guilt of being partly responsible for their eternal suffering in Hell. You may as well have set fire to them yourself.
The emotional appeal of this “argument” tends to outweigh its theological incoherence,* but my main point here is the way this motivation of avoiding guilt tends to change the character of the evangelism it promotes. Rayford wasn’t trying to help Hattie “get saved” as much as he was trying to fulfill his obligation so that he would not be complicit in her damnation.
Hattie could tell that was what he was doing. People can always tell when that is what you are doing.
And since that was the main thing Rayford was trying to do, that was what he did. And that was all he did. He fulfilled his obligation. Now it’s on her, not on him. His work here is done.
The same thing happens here in the third book with Rayford’s lecture on abortion. He wasn’t so much trying to persuade her to bring her pregnancy to term as he was trying to fulfill his duty to present her with the obligatory anti-abortion message, thereby ensuring that he will not be culpable for or complicit in any baby-murdering that may follow.
In both cases, this motivation shapes what Rayford says. He doesn’t attempt to engage or to persuade, but he’s obliged to recite certain assertions and to ask her to accept them. He’s not obliged to provide any reason or argument for why she should accept them, and it doesn’t much matter to him whether or not she does. What matters to him is that he fulfills his duty to say the required phrases.
And, again, Hattie can tell this is what he is doing. And she again displays remarkable patience in allowing him to do this at her.
Rayford completes his obligatory lecture, and:
With that, she had wrenched fully away from him and had buried her face in her hands and wept.
That same sentence reads like it belongs in some other context. It reads like the next sentences should tell us about Rayford getting up, getting dressed, and tossing some crumpled bills on her nightstand.
Rayford had been angry with himself. Why couldn’t he learn? How could he sit there spouting all that? He believed it, and he was convinced it was God’s view. It made sense to him.
Like his evangelistic soliloquy back in the first book, it made sense to him, but not to Hattie.
In both of these cases, Rayford is playing his usual role in these books as the authors’ mouthpiece. His lecture on abortion, like his earlier evangelistic lecture, represents Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ idea of What Good Christians Should Say.** They present both monologues as templates for their Christian readers to imitate when talking to the unsaved or to “fallen” women.
Yet Rayford is still speaking on behalf of the authors when he acknowledges that none of what he says seems to be persuasive. They believe it. They are convinced they are presenting “God’s view.” It makes sense to them. But yet the unsaved people and/or fallen women they target with these lectures don’t often seem convinced.
This baffles the authors, and thus it baffles Rayford on their behalf. Rayford thus begins to form some theories as to why his presentation of “God’s view” isn’t as compelling to Hattie as it is to him.
He believed it, and he was convinced it was God’s view. It made sense to him. But he also knew she could reject it out of hand simply because he was a man.
That’s theory No. 1: Sometimes women just won’t listen when a man explains God’s view to them. He ponders this for a few hours, apparently, before he decides to give it one more try.
Hattie had not spoken to him for hours. … “Hattie,” he had said. She hadn’t looked at him. “Hattie, please let me just express one more thing to you.”
She turned slightly, not looking fully at him, but he had the impression she would at least listen.
“I want you to forgive me for anything I said that hurt you personally or insulted you. I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I would not do that intentionally. More important, I want you to know that I am one of a few friends you have in the Chicago area who loves you and wants only the best for you. I wish you’d think about stopping in and seeing us in Mt. Prospect on your way back. Even if I’m not there, even if I have to go back to New Babylon before you, stop in and see Chloe and Buck. Talk to Amanda. Would you do that?”
Now she had looked at him. She had pressed her lips together and shook her head apologetically. “Probably not. I appreciate your sentiments, and I accept your apology. But no, probably not.”
Someday you may try to write a scene in which a hideously abusive man mansplains, sprinkling in all kinds of insidious condescension and contempt. Give it your best shot, but you’ll be hard-pressed to outdo the paragraphs above.
Hattie, for some reason, doesn’t leap at the invitation to hear an identical lecture presented three more times by Chloe, Buck and Amanda. And she remains unpersuaded by the things that Rayford believes — that his intentions are all good, that she is unloved apart from him and his circle of friends, and that he knows what is best for her better than she knows herself.
This prompts Rayford to form Theory No. 2 for why his attempts to evangelize Hattie continue to fail:
And that’s the way it had been left. Rayford was angry with himself. His motives were pure, and he believed his logic was right. But maybe he had counted too much on his own personality and style and not enough on God himself to work in Hattie’s heart. All he could do now was pray for her.
It seems, at first glance, that Rayford is piously blaming himself for his failure to persuade Hattie. “He had counted too much on his own personality and style and not enough on God.” But note that this explanation offers only one possible path to the desired outcome: God working “in Hattie’s heart.”
And if that is the only path to the desired outcome, then there can be only one explanation for an unsatisfactory outcome: God failing to work in Hattie’s heart.
And this, ultimately, is the reason the authors provide for why their recommended template speeches on evangelism and abortion are usually not persuasive. It’s God’s fault. The Lord works in mysterious ways, after all.
When the plane finally stopped at the gate, Rayford helped Hattie pull her bag from the overhead rack. She thanked him. He didn’t trust himself to say anything more. He had apologized enough.
Rayford has done enough. He fulfilled his obligation. He dutifully recited the speech, so he was no longer culpable. Now the blame for Hattie’s damnation and baby-killing couldn’t be laid at his feet. From here on, it’s all God’s fault.
- – - – - – - – - – - -
* The logic here is that I can incur guilt by failing to tell others how to be saved. Specifically, I incur the guilt of their suffering in Hell. I become complicit in the suffering of the damned.
That only makes sense if the eternal suffering of the damned is evil and unjust. One cannot incur guilt by being complicit in something that is good and just and desirable. The argument here, in other words, is that “Zack” and I, as Christians, have a duty to prevent God from doing evil to people like “Josh.”
Again, the emotional weight of this dramatic appeal tends to overshadow that logic, but the seed of that idea remains tucked away inside all such guilt-based appeals for evangelism. They all depend on — and thus, at some level, teach — the idea that any God who sentenced “Josh” et. al. to eternal, conscious torture would be an unjust, evil God. This is why many of the Christians who are saturated in these guilt-based appeals for evangelism eventually come to reject this idea of a cruelly unjust God — either by rejecting belief in God entirely or by learning to separate their idea of God from this sadistic folklore of Hell.
This is also why many of the Christians who are saturated in these guilt-based appeals for evangelism eventually come to embrace this idea of a cruelly unjust God. Thus, Calvinism.
** Such templates — whether for evangelism or for “crisis pregnancy counseling” — are also abstract. They are one-size-fits-all lectures that are presumed to be appropriate and sufficient for any and all would-be converts or fallen women. No consideration of any potential target’s particular circumstances is necessary.
This is particularly strange when it comes to Rayford’s anti-abortion lecture here. It’s an abstract “argument” that never engages Hattie’s particular situation. That’s extraordinary because Hattie’s situation is extraordinary. Her boyfriend is the Antichrist — the epitome of superlative evil. And she has become pregnant near the end of the second year of the Great Tribulation, meaning that the best-case scenario for any child born nine months hence would be four and a half years of suffering from divine torment and/or beastly persecution, followed by certain death.
Whether or not you think that such extraordinary circumstances have any bearing on Hattie’s situation – whether or not you think any of that makes any difference — it seems like these things ought to be at least acknowledged in any discussion with her.
One of the hardest parts of being a young person who is creative or ambitious is getting people to pay attention to your goals and take you seriously—and sometimes that includes yourself! I remember being 17 and embarrassed to utter the sentence, “I am a writer,” even when I was alone in my room. I was sure that when I tried to send my work out into the universe, the universe would laugh. Or worse, I would hear radio silence, and feel that something so important to me didn’t matter to anyone else.
Instead of taking on the entire universe at once, it helps to find a mentor or sponsor. Good mentors are knowledgeable, accomplished professionals who do admirable work, and who offer advice and guidance without asking for anything in return. They can help bolster your confidence and champion your work, or even advocate for you and help you find opportunities to grow. They are generally awesome people.
My mentor in high school was Mrs. H., my English teacher. From the first day of class, I admired her commitment to making her students better writers. Other English teachers I had corrected comma placement or left ☺ on the margins of the page; Mrs. H. taught us how to structure arguments, understand and analyze complex literary devices like metonymy and synecdoche, and left long commentaries on our essays about how to improve our writing. She also offered us the opportunity to come to her with drafts and get her feedback during the writing process. I went into every meeting with her eager to spend more time with this person who was changing my whole understanding of writing. The more I came in to see her, the more I could tell Mrs. H. respected my efforts to grow as a writer. Once, she picked my essay as an example to share with the class. She didn’t say who the writer was, but I was probably so red with pride and embarrassment that everyone knew the paper was mine.
With her support, I could feel myself reaching toward that unattainable thing: being a “real” writer. I felt that someone I respected was taking my aspiration seriously, and helping me develop my abilities, and that meant everything to me! She was a notoriously tough teacher—one comma out of place in your works cited page, and she’d drop you a letter grade. But she was also fair (you could always ask her to check everything before you handed it in). Once I proved myself to her, she became more than just a teacher I could come to for support and encouragement—she became a sponsor of my work. She nominated me for the regional writing competition, and when I won, she was as excited as I was, and I realized how far she had helped me come.
There’s no reason why you can’t do whatever you want to do on your own, but having someone to support and motivate you can make a huge difference. The tricky part is that it’s pretty hard to go up to someone, tug on their sleeve, and say, “Will you be my mentor?”—especially because most mentor-mentee relationships are built over time, and with mutual effort. With Mrs. H., she knew I wanted her guidance and support because I sought it out, and she reciprocated, without me ever having to ask her to mentor me. But there’s also nothing wrong with asking someone to be your mentor! Here’s how Hazel and Jamia do it:
Hazel: I’ve collected mentors since high school in one way or another, and it always comes down to shared interests. For me it’s always been, “Hey, you’re really into X. I am young and want to know more about that: Where should I start learning about X?” I think older people, especially writers, are tired of being approached for blanket “writing advice” or “career advice.” There’s nothing wrong with emailing someone, or approaching them in person, for advice about specific things you know they can offer as the person they are—and not just as a person who has the career you want.
Jamia: I used to seek out older or more experienced women of color or women in mostly male environments for advice and support, and in most cases they were open to starting a relationship with me. People always respond to sincere recognition of their work and deeds.
The other challenge: Finding someone you’d want to have as a mentor in the first place! It helps to start by thinking of someone you admire, and what you find inspiring about them. Is it their work ethic, leadership abilities, or artistic skill? Getting specific like that might sound obvious, but there are people I look up to for their whole being—from the way they write to their haircuts—so it can be helpful to try to figure out what it is, specifically, that draws you to them. That way, you’ll know what you want to ask them about when you reach out.
When you email this person, be specific about why you’re contacting them: It shows you have a clear reason for asking them for their time. Most people are super busy with their own careers and lives, and will probably respond better to a stranger asking for precise information or guidance, rather than for 30 minutes to “pick their brain,” which is not only a vague way of asking for advice but also a kinda creepy phrase. Tell them what makes you an admirer of their book, art, business, organization, what have you, and that you’re hoping to join their field. Then, like Hazel said, ask them a specific question or two: What books were they reading when they developed their project? Whose work do they look up to? If this person lives in your town or city, you could ask if they have time for you to treat them to a coffee at a public place, like a café. If they don’t live nearby, you could ask if they have time for a short call. Thank them sincerely, and end! You’ve established that you know their work, would like to connect, and that, by being brief, you respect their time.
Hopefully, if they are kind and generous, they will get back to you. This might take a while, as growing a relationship with a potential mentor will, and it might flop.
Tova: I really loved [one professor’s] classes and took all of them, and then just began to email him for more book recommendations or readings because he had the greatest taste in literature. Then I would start borrowing books from his office, emailing him to talk about some of the stuff he had lent me or ask about events happening in the city. So in that sense we got close very naturally but also as a result of my persistence, which doesn’t always happen. I have a professor at my new school whom I really admire and tried to do a similar thing–email for recommendations, stop by her office to talk–but she was busy AND disinterested.
You might discover you don’t have as much in common with the person as you thought you did, or they don’t have time for you, which is OK, because it’s their time to give. Either way, keep doing your thing. Great people who want to help you could start coming your way:
Arabelle: Luckily, my mentors kind of came to me, actually? I put myself and my work out there, and the people I looked up to hit ME up. I observed their work ethic, and followed suit. Now, I know that there’s no one way to success: They’re all just tireless and hungry and being around them helps me continue to be the same.