Meet #stegersrus

This is Erich, my hubby of three weeks and best friend of three years. We love each other a lot, we’re total goofballs, and our couple hashtag is #stegersrus. You can pronounce it Stegers R Us like the toy store, or stegersaurus, like the nickname my siblings gave him while we were dating.

We thought it’d be fun to demonstrate some date night activities, starting with a showdown between Catholic and Protestant upbringings. We bring you…Bible trivia, #stegersrus style.

A Tip for Cutting Down on Dishes

dishes

When I was growing up, my sister and I washed the dishes. We played a game where we’d pile all the dishes into the dishwasher at lightning speed. Even though we were washing up for around nine people every single night, dishes weren’t so bad when we played the speed wash game.

Now that the speed washing days are over, I’ve lost my enthusiasm for dishes. Gloriously, Erich and I made this deal long before marriage that whoever cooks gets off the hook for dishes. Not so gloriously, I don’t cook much — so I do the dishes. By hand. Every day. Twice a day.

But right at the beginning of our marriage, we established this great hack for dishwashing: we use only one plate, bowl, cup, and set of utensils per person. This eliminates piles of dirty dishes festering in the sink, which makes dish duty much shorter. Plus, with only item per person, I have to wash the dishes if I want to serve up Erich’s home cooking on clean plates. It’s fast, and it’s lazy proof — the adult version of speed washing.

How do you feel about dish duty?

Something to Talk About

LightDomes

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with small talk. Every Friday, I’m putting together a bunch of different things to talk about as you head into your weekend. Hopefully they’ll spare you a few awkward silences!

For sporty friends: Have you heard of kick volleyball? The acrobatics are incredible!

For your dad who loves politics: Since Trump earned enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination, what does he think of J.K. Rowling’s defense of his free speech? Or her comparison between him and Voldemort? Or maybe the more interesting question: Does your dad know who J.K. Rowling is?

For the social activist: What do you think of the #giveelsaagirlfriend and #givecaptainamericaaboyfriend campaigns?

For your girlfriends: Is there a kind of Christian guy you wouldn’t date?

For your techie friends: Check out the artist who paints light.

And if all else fails, read aloud the Wikipedia entry for Guam retold as a YA novel.

Enjoy your weekend!

PC: Eric Staller, “Light Domes”

Excuse Me, Sir — Your Sex Drive Is Showing

Excuse me, sir. Your sex driveis showing.

A guy once gently chastised me for showing him a picture of women in 1940’s swimsuits. Their bare legs were showing, and he needed to avert his eyes. I was shocked. They were legs! Everybody has legs. What’s sexual about legs?

It’s taken me several years to process why that encounter made me feel disturbed, uncomfortable, and a little grossed out: his sex drive was showing, and I was supposed to be okay with it.

During those several years, I discovered porn was a thing even among men I loved and trusted. I learned 1 in 4 girls are sexually assaulted, that I knew many of them, and that the most unlikely men (and boys) could be the perpetrators — and I knew those men too. Those personal experiences triggered memories of Christian anecdotes I read: For Women Only retold how a man came upon a napping woman, caught a glimpse of her underwear, and (helplessly, it seemed) went into dark, inappropriate places in his mind. “What Guys Think About Modesty” proclaimed that the temptation to lust never stops and that “this is not an aberration, this is the norm.” And there were various personal testimonies of men who couldn’t hold a conversation with a woman if her cleavage was showing.

I projected this male “norm” onto all of my guy friends. When they complimented my outfit, I thought, “Great, I must look like a slut.” When they told me I was beautiful, I checked to make sure their gaze hadn’t wandered to my breasts. Whenever a guy looked into my eyes as we discussed some asexual, academic thing, I felt that he must be keenly aware that I had a vagina.

For a time, every man I passed on the sidewalk was a potential predator who had just come from watching porn in his dorm room. I developed a fear of men. The world was full of them, oversexed and out-of-control. One bare leg could doom us all.

This fear started affecting my relationship with my then-fiancé. The only thing he could possibly want from me was sex. He was marrying me for the wedding night. I asked him bizarre questions for no reason other than he was male: “Did you ever sexually abuse someone? Are you able to look at a woman in a bikini? How often do you think about sex?”

“No, I would never abuse someone. Bikinis don’t bother me at all. I don’t think about sex that often, Bailey, but it sounds like you do.”

Those words sounded too good to be true. I was told my whole life that my body is primarily sexual and that all men, by virtue of being male, would have automatic sexual responses to the female form, even in the contexts of art, anatomy, dance, or sports. All men would have automatic sexual responses to my body, and there was nothing they could do about it. My only defense was wearing whatever the majority of Christian men deemed appropriate.

That is a degrading and disturbing reality.

I’m starting to question that reality, even though I’ve encountered more sexual abuse and pornography among my male acquaintances than I ever did. I’ve married a good man who overcomes his temptations, sexual or otherwise, and values me as more than a sexual partner. I’ve befriended men who notice my beauty and clothes with no motive other than complimenting my sense of fashion. I’ve chatted with men — professors and students alike — about sex, modesty, and human anatomy without ever sensing they were undressing me in their minds. The thought would never occur to them to objectify me, much less act on it.

Their sex drive never came untucked in my presence. And if, in the future or the past, it ever came untucked, I’m sure they would be the first to apologize, take responsibility for it, and make some changes in their lives.

These responsible and respectful men have given me the courage to curb my fear of men. While I would never make light of a man’s real struggle with lust, I do hold men to a higher standard of self-control. I don’t believe men are hopelessly entangled in their sex drives. I don’t believe men cannot look at a naked female body without entertaining a sexual fantasy. I don’t believe all men are sexual predators waiting to happen. If a man abuses another person, looks at porn, or struggles with lust 24/7, it’s not because he’s male but because he’s fallen.

Men are better than that. It’s unfair to men’s dignity to teach a modesty and a sexual ethic that affirms an out-of-control sex drive as something unchangeable and unique to men. Plus, it’s just not accurate.

A Novel That Gets Conversion Right

Graham-Greene_medium

To be honest, “Christian fiction” is the last genre I want to spend my summer reading. I don’t want to read another book whose back cover asks, “Will Sarah be able to trust God in the midst of this trial?” I don’t want another stereotypical atheist character who ends up converting in a predictable way. I’m a little tired of how these books use God as Christmas ribbon: He wraps everything up with a neat little bow on top. I’m especially embarrassed for Christian books who do all these things but think they don’t. (You know the type.)

This past semester, I took a modern British novel class, and we read Catholic authors who wrestled with Christian themes and Christianity itself in the most beautiful, realistic way. My favorite novel was The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene. Spoilers: it has atheists, immorality, Jesus, a conversion, and even a character called Sarah. But it’s a conversion story that will resonate with anybody who’s actually struggled with Christianity — no neat little bows, no easy answers, and sometimes, no answers at all. I’ve never read such good literature that’s short, truly Christian, and perfect for a satisfying weekend read. I’m re-reading this one!

Can you recommend any other Christian books that get the Christian life right?

PC: Penguin Classics

Don’t #giveelsaagirlfriend

elsa and annaA few days ago, I stumbled across the #giveelsaagirlfriend campaign. Yesterday, I found out #givecaptainamericaaboyfriend was a thing. Like most of the angry tweeters, I thought the campaigns were well-intentioned but wrong. (Actually, most of the angry tweeters wouldn’t grant that it’s well-intentioned, but whatever.) I think it’s wrong not because it promotes “the gay agenda” but because it undermines it.

Last time I checked, being gay was a part of who you are. That’s why the gay rights movement is gaining traction: people are getting the hint that being gay isn’t a choice. It’s a reality. It’s an identity. It’s not something you can add on or take away, no matter how noisy the twittersphere gets.

How does giving Elsa a girlfriend affirm her identity? Elsa, the one and only princess who hasn’t ended up in a romantic relationship (singles represent!)? Elsa, the girl who learned that a sister can show the truest love?

How does giving Captain America a boyfriend affirm his identity, when his love interests have been women, saving America, and staying loyal to his friends in a totally bro way? (Maybe he appears gay in his latest movies, and that’s where the hype’s coming from? I’m still catching up with the culture after four years of undergrad.)

If Disney wants to affirm that sexual orientation is a fixed thing, giving Captain America a boyfriend or Elsa a girlfriend is the last thing Disney ought to do. Tacking on a new sexual orientation to an already established character won’t be saying anything substantial except that Disney capitalizes on the LGBT+ movement. I think that’s giving the wrong message about personhood, and gay persons in particular.

Where do you stand on #giveelsaagirlfriend and #givecaptainamericaaboyfriend? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

PC: Disney

3 Alternatives to Dinnertime Conversation for Introverts

coloring bookI always thought the measure of a successful marriage was being married forever but still chatting up a storm over dinner. Then I married an introvert who without fail says, “Good,” whenever I ask how his day went. Instead of forcing a conversation that doesn’t want to happen, we use these three conversation substitutes.

Color the same picture together. This happened accidentally, but we left our adult coloring books and pencils scattered on the table. After a low-conversation dinner, Erich said, “Let’s color” — and we did. We planned out our color scheme and spent a good hour working the same picture together. We still keep our coloring books out on the table for some unplanned, post-dinner together-time.

Watch a show together. Erich and I are watching Avatar: The Last Air Bender together over meal times. I’m obnoxiously vocal during TV shows, poking Erich’s ribs when a character reminds me of him or pausing the show to make some comment, so it’s not like we’re vegging out in silence. Plus, I think laughing together — like actual, side-splitting laughing — is the best sort of “conversation.”

Sit in silence. It took me a while to stop using that happy elderly couple chatting away over dinner as the standard for my relationship’s success. When Erich and I sit in silence, we’re still attuned to each other. It’s still a form of togetherness. We haven’t failed marriage; we’re just being ourselves — and that’s okay. Silence is great too. If you don’t have anything to say, why say anything?

What does conversation look like at your dinner table? Would you try any of these three alternatives?

Are All Complementarian Women Oppressed?

Are all complementarian women oppressed-

My friend asks a question every egalitarian woman should know how to answer:

How can you, as an egalitarian, affirm the personhood of a woman who embraces complementarianism? I’m just wondering whether you can, or if you see complementarians as being enslaved to the patriarchy (strong language, and exaggeration to convey my sentiment)? Because I would view myself as a complementarian and feel extremely comfortable with my femininity/my role/relationship with men. Would you affirm this as valid, or just view this as me just blind to my ignorance/conditioned to my oppression?

Yes, of course I would affirm the personhood of a complementarian woman! I affirm a woman’s right and ability to ascribe to certain views on gender and to believe, live, and promote those views without facing dismissal or strawman attacks. I would try to understand what she means by complementarianism in light of her other beliefs and her life story.

In fact, I’m fine with a woman personally holding to complementarian beliefs as long as she’s comfortable with them and does not try to limit other women. Part of that’s practicality; egalitarianism is not going to win over every woman, and I’m not going to let this argument hinder fruitful conversations and friendships formed around other issues.

For one thing, complementarianism as a word covers a broad spectrum of beliefs. On one end, it merely embraces the idea that men and women are different, and those differences ought to be celebrated and preserved. It encourages men and women to fulfill their natural roles within marriage and church. This sort of complementarianism is descriptive, rather than proscriptive: it’s trying to grasp observable differences between men and women and find the roles and lifestyle suitable to each sex and in line with Scripture. I think many of these complementarians are egalitarians at heart; they’ve just never been exposed to egalitarian interpretations of Scripture and/or egalitarian women.

The other end of the spectrum is far more proscriptive and hardnosed, often borrowing ideas from patriarchy. Instead of talking about who women are, this side of complementarianism talks about who women must and should be. It emphasizes male-dominated hierarchy and structure — unconditional leadership of men over women, unconditional submission of women under men — in all circumstances. It tends to promote a more one-size-fits-all womanhood: women must be this kind of wife, this kind of mother, and this kind of woman (i.e., a married, stay-at-home mom with no career but a home business). The first kind of complementarians are horrified that this second sort exists, and yes, I will say from personal experience that this sort of complementarianism is often spiritually abusive and oppressive.

It’s important to recognize the differences among the complementarian spectrum in general, and the individual nuances each complementarian gives of her own definition of complementarian. Complementarianism is a not a uniform belief system. (That’s one of my biggest problems with it; it tries to interpret Scripture in black and white ways but ends up applying it in any color but.)

It’s also important to recognize that many complementarian women will never have a reason to question complementarianism. Many women express the feminine stereotypes complementarianism preserves: they would rather stay home with children than pursue a career; they would rather help out with the church potluck rather than preach a sermon; they tend to be the peacemaker rather than the leader in their relationships with men. These women aren’t at all oppressed, because complementarianism fits their personality types and gifts. Complementarianism explains their relationships and womanhood, so there’s never an intuition to question it.

Here’s where the disconnect between egalitarians and complementarians occurs. Many complementarians-turned-egalitarians didn’t fit into any of the complementarian definitions of womanhood. Right now, egalitarians tend to be more choleric and gifted with preaching and teaching. We ran up against the inconsistencies of complementarianism. We were told, “No, you can’t, because you’re a girl.” By virtue of our personalities and gifts, we had more reason to question complementarianism.

Likewise, many egalitarians faced spiritual, emotional, and even physical and sexual abuse covered up or excused by complementarian teaching. That’s why many egalitarians are angry, wounded, and questioning — we experienced firsthand the need to question why our kind of womanhood wasn’t affirmed.

Does this mean complementarian women are oppressed without knowing it? In my experience as a former complementarian woman, complementarian women are not blind to their own oppression or unknowingly enslaved to the patriarchy — but they’re often blind to other women’s oppression and the influence patriarchy exerts over other women. Similarly, egalitarians can be so attuned to their own oppression that they project their experiences onto all complementarian women who have never and will never face oppression due to their personality, gifts, and circumstances.

All of this to say, most of the complementarian women I know are free-thinkers who fully embrace the equality of men and women and would balk at female oppression. I wouldn’t dream of calling them oppressed. So yes, I gladly affirm any woman comfortable with her views of femininity, roles, and relationships, with one caveat — she must make room within her belief system for women with different giftings and personalities who have been oppressed by the patriarchy.

My Morning Routine

morning routine

I’m not a morning person, but I love my mornings. During college, I would use up my mornings to sleep in until the last second before throwing my books into my backpack and seeing how fast it was humanly possible to brush my teeth. Now that it’s summer, I’m enjoying my mornings again.

My body wakes me up early, around 7:30 AM, but between my husband’s good morning kisses and the weird dreams that kept me up last night, I stay in bed until around 9 AM. Normally I don’t eat breakfast, but we’ve been baking and refrigerating large batches of breakfast pizza. It requires only a zap in the microwave each morning to feed my working man. If I’m feeling embodied by 9 AM, I’ll eat something too. (You know what I mean by “embodied,” right — hunger starts pinching your stomach, your face feels awake, and you begin to notice other things exist besides your thought world?)

Erich goes off to work (a.k.a. walks down to the lakeshore to catch turtles), and I look at the dishes on the table, the dishes in the sink, and the dishes in the dish strainer, and decide to check Facebook.

It’s a terrible habit, I know, but it takes me forever to wake up and feel any internal motivation for chores. The bed’s still unmade, the blinds are shut, and I’m still in pjs, but I curl up on the couch, check Facebook, and write while the cabin is quiet and the light is soft.

As sleepy as my body is, my mind does its best work in the morning. It’s when I answer emails, start blog posts, and read inflammatory articles online. I’d probably sit there all day, reading, writing, and thinking, if Erich didn’t show up around noon. While he preps lunch, I do all the morning things normal people do — get ready for the day, tidy up a bit, and finally wash the dishes.

This routine isn’t the most efficient, but I love it. It’s simple, natural, and guilt-free. It’s nice to put off busyness when I’m feeling introverted and sleepy, and it feels amazing, after years of frantic getting ready, to just be human — minor Facebook addiction and all.

What would be your preferred morning routine?

Welcome to Ezer

When I first used “egalitarian” in reference to myself, I looked around and saw almost no Christian willing to give an amen. I’m pretty sure only 2 out of my 691 Facebook friends identify as egalitarian. I might have been the first person in my circle of friends to say “feminist” without rolling my eyes.

Some issues, questions, and jokes don’t need the common ground of egalitarianism. But some do, especially when I’m wondering how marriage is supposed to work after reading only Created to Be His Helpmate spin-offs, or where to find an affordable swimsuit, or what happens if a female pastor gets pregnant. It gets exhausting and discouraging to drag myself back to the beginning and explain why Ephesians 5 doesn’t support complementarianism, how women’s bodies aren’t purely sexual, and that there’s historical and Biblical precedent for women leading and teaching men.

Sometimes, I need an egalitarian perspective on a practical issue. And sometimes, I want to discuss things other than gender, like theology, relationships, and what radio station to listen to on my morning commute. Now that I know what it means to be egalitarian, I want to live what it means to be human — body, heart, mind, and soul, make-up, heartbreak, news, and prayer.

That’s why I’m starting Ezer. There are many quality sites making the historical and exegetical argument for women’s full inclusion in the church and home (like this one, this one, this one, and this one). I read every post, and I’m going to write a few posts of my own on egalitarianism. But here, I want to also talk about meal planning and making friends, wake-up routines and prayer corners, bestsellers and personality types, with women who share similar views on what it means to be Christian and feminine.

Since the egalitarian community is small in my corner of the world, I’d love to create that community here, on this blog. Maybe you’re looking for an egalitarian community too? I’d love to hear about your search for an egalitarian community and what you’d be interested in discussing when you found one.

// Learn a little bit about me here and about the Ezer community here.