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“Calling gender violence against women a ‘women’s issue’ is part of the problem.” That’s Jackson Katz’s perspective and I think he is right. An excellent talk that highlights, in part, the way privilege and language exempts men from caring about and acting when abuse comes into view. I appreciate Katz’s mild rant here; it’s a much-needed rant. Consider Katz’s TEDS talk and, brothers, let’s own this thing.


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45 thoughts on “Violence Against Women Is a Men’s Issue”

  1. Rachael Starke says:

    I’m only ten minutes into this and I’m already in tears. THANK YOU, to him, and to you, from a sister in Christ who is a mother of three daughters.

    Thank you.

  2. So good. Thank you. I work for a sex-trafficking rescue & rehabilitation organization and this is something we talk about often as we communicate to donors and supporters. We want to change the conversation, or sentences, as Katz demonstrated, so show this is a heart problem and it is very much a heart of man problem. We can’t just rescue or rehabilitate the girls, we have to go after the root: the supply/demand of sin.

  3. Wendy Alsup says:

    This is wonderful!!

  4. Luma Simms says:

    Bless you for this.

  5. Dillon says:

    I’m sure I’m going to take my lashes for even asking, but something in me (probably a fallen heart) compels me to ask anyway. I genuinely do not intend to be divisive…so, my apologies in advance if this is found offensive.

    In calling the questions, “What was she wearing? Why was she drinking with those guys?” “victim-blaming,” it seems to me like an attempt to delegitimized those questions as factors in play. Do we really want to delegitimize them *exhaustively*?

    Of course, I too want to give a hardy “Amen” to encouraging men to step up to the plate and take greater ownership over issues of abuse and other x-issues, where “x” is stereotypically considered as some “minority” identity, whereby the privileged groups fancy themselves subconsciously excluded from self-reflection. I’m down with that. On the other hand, I’m not sure it follows that we therefore can’t/shouldn’t ask such questions regarding an individual’s choices made that have social consequences (such as a young woman wearing a bra and a short skirt–excuse my bluntness–to a frat party and insisting she is *not* looking for certain kinds of attention), it seems to me we may have to throw out a lot of rebukes earned in Scripture whereby the participant willingly put her/himself in the way of temptation or evil, and consequently sinned.

    Honestly, I’m happy to show my hand here. The heart of my concern is this: I’m always a bit leery of those paradigms coming out of academia that shift the focus away from individual responsibility. In material I come across, whether peer reviewed articles or books of the intelligentsia, I almost never, almost never, hear calls for individual responsibility. (So, in a recent book I came across by a chap named Dzur writing about the need for greater use of juries in America–blaming the American Justice System for its “hyperincarceration” without then inquiring as to what decisions the *individuals* made to bring about incarceration in the first place. Even though we must ask questions of systemic unfairness, we must ask questions about privilege, about the “school-to-prison pipelines”, about tax structures that disproportionately affect our urban areas, etc. None of those systemic issues withstanding, whence individual responsibility? I hear almost *none* of it in talks like these–in fact, just as Katz does here, such matters are shunned as illegitimate “victim-blaming.” Maybe we just have too many victims.

    I don’t mean to insert a tangent–I suppose my point isn’t about systemic matters, or to rush to the defense of our especially high incarceration rates as though systemic matters played no role. I’m simply asking, Where is the even-handedness of the academy and those participating in these kinds of conversations? Are those calling for individual responsibility/consequences not…marginalized as “victim-blamers”/bigots, or some other epithet?

    The examples are vast, but these types of paradigms seem to me to constitute such a kind of hegemony in the academy that when I hear them echoed (like what sounds to me like the complete delegitimizing of “victim-blaming”), even for the sake of a noble cause (calling men to take greater ownership over “women’s” issues), I get nervous that we are playing too happily into the hands of those disproportionately honing in on critical theory’s obsession with “systems” rather than individual responsibility (which, by the way, is why I feel convicted as a man–as an individual!–who is a participant in my society’s complacency in too many issues…)

    In summary: is there **no room at all** to ask what she was wearing? I’m ***NOT*** discounting the male’s individual responsibility to act rightly, I’m emphatically NOT saying that what a woman is wearing somehow makes violence of any sort OK. I’m not saying that at all. (It’s exhausting how forcefully I have to make that point clear when having this conversation…) I’m simply asking, Do we want to remove it as a factor in the discussion altogether? And can we do that Biblically, where individuals are rebuked for putting themselves in certain situations?

    1. LG says:

      You know, yes. I DO want to say that. There is no room at all to ask what she was wearing. None. None at all. Because that shifts some of the responsibility from the man who raped/assaulted a woman to the woman who was on the receiving end of the assault. The TIMING of the question is the problem — it’s like asking what angle the bell was sitting when someone came along and rang it. It doesn’t un-ring the bell.

      Does that mean that I think it’s wise for women to go traipsing tipsily around frat parties in itty-bitty skirts? No. Does that mean we shouldn’t teach our daughters to honor the bodies God made by dressing them with care and discretion? Of course not. Even the most radical victims advocate is certainly going to equip his/her daughters with the tools to avoid situations where sexual assault is likely. But again, the timing is key. Those are preparatory questions, preparatory teaching.

      A big part of the problem is that we teach men, both implicitly and explicitly, that Signals X, Y, and Z mean “yes,” no matter what. Your own comment implies that it’s at least somewhat reasonable for a man to think that a woman wearing certain clothes will have sex with him. We need to re-teach men in the most careful language possible, that those signals do not mean “yes.” Only the word “yes” means “yes.” It’s why I’m so emphatically against those sorts of questions — they absolutely perpetuate the “skimpy clothes = consent” myth, which in turn perpetuates a rape culture in many circles.

      Hope that makes sense! Blessings. :)

    2. Eric M says:

      Personal responsibility? This IS a call for personal responsibility. The only difference is we are asking men to take responsibility for their crimes instead of placing the onus on women to take responsibility for their wardrobe.

  6. SM says:

    I appreciate you posting this and for issuing the call to “own this thing.”

  7. anonymous says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have renewed my faith today. I have so often battled bitterness over the rejection of anything remotely feminist by Church leaders. Thank you for using your platform and influence to share this information. God bless you.

  8. Wendy Alsup says:

    Dillon, I can’t answer for Thabiti, but I will offer a few thoughts. I had a friend who had her house robbed recently. She sheepishly admitted afterwards that she had forgotten to lock her door that day. Before she was robbed, I would have encouraged her strongly to lock her door every day in our neighborhood. That’s just wisdom. But after she was robbed, I would never tell her she brought it on herself. She SHOULD, whether it’s a good idea or not, be able to leave every window open and door unlocked without someone thinking it gives them permission to rob her home. It’s not a good idea, but it doesn’t change the fact that the robber, not the homeowner, bears the full weight of his offense. I think the principle applies in sexual assault as well. I would strongly encourage any woman in wise actions that do not set her up to be seen as an easy target or someone asking for sexual attention. Nevertheless, even if a woman walks buck naked into a frat room, it still doesn’t give guys the right to abuse or assault her. They have the right to walk out of the room, but that’s it.

    On the flip side, every woman I personally know that was sexually assaulted WAS making mostly wise choices. They didn’t get into a situation because of gross negligence on their part.

    1. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

      Well said, Wendy. Sadly, a friend of mine recently posted on FB about a young women friend of his who is alleging her supervisor forced sex on her. Two of the first three responses on his post were some variation of how dare you assume your friend is telling the truth / maybe she’s lying / maybe she asked for it.

      The attitude that women deserve to be raped (based on X thing that they did or didn’t do) is deeply embedded in the minds of some men (and even some women). It is exactly that attitude which Katz & Pastor T are addressing.

      Many people automatically assume the worst about women who have the courage to name their abuser. As you point out, victims of robbery or non-sex based assault rarely have such stigma attached to their actions or such automatic doubt assigned to their testimony.

      Two of my friends have shared their own stories of recent sexual violation with me in the past year. I could not agree with you more. “What were you wearing? / doing?” is NEVER an appropriate question for a victim of sexual assault. Unless she said YES, she did NOT consent. Period. No matter her sexual history. No matter if the alleged perp bought her a drink or dinner. No matter if he could see her cleavage. No matter if she is young, vulnerable, has a history of substance abuse, etc…

      There is a time to talk about choices women can make to reduce their risk of being a victim. But a woman’s choices never “ask for it” or justify sexual assault.

      (men are victims too and the same parameters apply)

      http://www.rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-prevention

  9. Rachael Starke says:

    Dillon, I’ll take Wendy’s point one step further, beyond matters of mere wisdom and say that one person’s sin is never an excuse for another’s. The same argument could be applied to the so-called “unsubmissive/nagging” wife who is suffering physical or emotional abuse by her husband. A wife’s sinful attitude is never an excuse for a husband’s harsh, abusive response. Thanks for asking an uncomfortable question – hope our responses have ben helpful.

  10. I’d second Rachael’s point that one person’s sin never CAUSES another person’s sin. When Potipher’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, he fled. Certainly women must walk in charity toward one men, realizing that our actions can make it more difficult for them to resist temptation; but when Scripture calls women to modesty and sobriety, it is not motivated by self-preservation but a way to extend love and display a humble heart.

    Also, this kind of thinking seems to reduce men to animals who have no control over their physical impulses. Personally, I like to believe that men are more than their sex drives and calling them to protect the women around them goes hand in hand with a complementarian understanding of headship.

  11. Chris says:

    Really, really good. Should make any man think. Sadly, those who it does make think are probably the ones that don’t need to, but still we press on and hope!
    To Dillon. I think your points have been pretty well answered but let me add this. Thinking back to my days as a single guy (and before I came to Christ, I should add)…Yes we did tend to think that girls who for example, wore very revealing clothing, were “up for it”. In addition, despite giving them attention, we also thought they were (forgive me) “slutty”.
    BUT! And it is a HUGE point! BUT where does that then read as asking to be abused? Men, despite how they may sometimes seem are not programmed machines who once shown a bit of flesh “cannot help themselves”.
    How I act towards a woman (as in all areas of life) is my choice and I need to take responsibility for that.
    We need to stop hiding behind the terrible accusation that “she was asking for it”!

  12. Akash Charles says:

    while he makes some valid points

    I disagree with his ideas that men are not supposed to be a certain way- the bible is pretty clear how men ought to behave and what are their responsibilities- this includes protecting women and he seems to think being tough is a bad masculine quality (from
    his other articles) except don’t you want tough men to stand up for women

    so much contradictions- which makes sense he is a feminist

    it is better to look to the bible and
    thus God

  13. Dillon says:

    Hey all,

    Just as a brief follow-up, thank you for your helpful and thoughtful responses. I appreciate the patience and grace you’ve shown–I really do–and I hope not to provoke it much further, though I do hope to advance some discussion.

    I’ve been reading Kings in my personal devotion time over these past couple of weeks. One of the interesting cadences I’ve noticed is the repeated phrase, “so-and-so” being called a “good king.” In many places, Scripture still clarifies, “but they didn’t remove the high places,” or some such aside. (Aside?…) Of course, it does not then say that because of this lack of Godly resolve (to remove the high places), that they were therefore a bad king–but it’s just…noted. Were they inviting idol worship or not?

    I wonder if, in a similar sense, “what she wore” is at least worth…considering. *Never* excusing men, *never* excusing abuse–not one whit–and yet, worth mentioning–just as a police report would likely mention the door having been unlocked (or, more closely analogous–the door being left open?)

    If we say we must **completely, exhaustively** remove clothing from the conversation, it seems to me that at least two problems follow. 1) We are in danger of removing all communicative power from clothing. Do our clothes *not* say *anything* about who we are, or our own intentions? and 2) Where do we draw the line between “victim-blaming” and “victim-generating”? Where *is* the call for individual responsibility on the part of the woman? Is there none whatsoever? And if you say “No,” are we sure God would agree?

    Let me be perfectly clear: To my thinking, *responsibility is shared, and with Katz, I want to say the men bare the bigger brunt of that majority.* Hands-down. (I do not, at this juncture, hold that complementarianism is understood exclusively in the context of marriage–it seems to me that men and women’s differences have social implications as well.) And I have no problem whatsoever persecuting a frat guy who abuses a woman having walked buck naked into the frat house. I, like you, believe strongly he ought to be persecuted. The difference, I suppose, would not be a legal one but a moral one–I would still feel compelled to remind my dear sister–at a time, certainly, when emotions were not so high, of course not right after the event, but eventually–that having walked into the frat house naked **had communicative power in the first instance**, and therefore ought not to have been done. Or was it not a sin to enter the fraternity in her birthday suit?

    Having “wisdom” (as it is unwise to leave a door unlocked, wise to lock it), as Wendy helpfully put it, still strikes me not merely as a pragmatic category, but at some level, a moral one–especially moving from “door” to “person”.

    As I’m giving this issue thought, I’m wondering if what we’re touching on (that is, myself, Wendy, and other respondents) can be in any sense related to Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 8 (though of course, this may complicate matters a bit in distinguishing a Christian woman from a non-Christian woman). Or, at least related to “causing others to stumble,” as it were. Does a woman in Christ have a freedom in *some* sense to walk around in immodest clothing? I suppose so, in the sense that she is free from the law (**but is under Christ’s law!**).

    And legally speaking, a man can only walk out of the room. Morally speaking, a man *ought* to walk out of the room. (This is how Katz touches on something VERY powerful–Where are the men willing to step up and take primary responsibility for doing wrong–either by abuse or by complacency?) Similarly, morally speaking, food sacrificed to idols *really is* nothing–that it, in an absolute sense, we are free to eat it.

    And on the other hand, because Paul anticipates some men and women having weak consciences, he sets an example that the *morally right* thing to do is to be aware of how our decisions will impact others. It seems to me legitimate to now call eating meat sacrificed to idols in the presence of those with weak consciences “sinful.” Now, this is merely…related. It’s far from identical. (Not all men have weak consciences–and as Wendy pointed out, many women who are abused indeed *are* exercising wisdom in modesty. Thank you, Wendy–that truly is important o keep in mind.)

    Yet I ask–when God calls us to account and we only plead Christ–will our decisions causing others to stumble be among the countless sins for which Christ pays? And I should think the answer to that is “Yes,” and hence “what she wore” is, in **some** sense, a relevant category, though it by no means excuses anyone.

    I hope I am not coming across as too hard-headed–if I am wrong in my thinking on these matters, I stress: I am willing to be corrected.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Dillon,

      Thanks for dropping by and joining the conversation.

      And thanks to all the ladies who have already given excellent responses to your first post.

      Dillon, a few briefly stated points to your comments here:

      1. It is never right, okay, permissible, or even understandable that a man should put his hands on a woman in any way other than to communicate love, care, and protection. ALL abuse at ALL times is wrong, sin, damnable.

      2. A woman’s clothing is precisely that–the woman’s clothing. What it “communicates” is entirely a social construction, not something that exists in reality. A woman wearing a grass skirt in Hawaii or a native tribe isn’t viewed the same way that woman would be viewed on main street Oklahoma. We make meaning of things like clothes, and that’s part of the problem. A woman can wear what she wishes and that in no way gives rise to, justifies, or makes understandable any abuse whatsoever. Her clothes are her clothes and she can wear what she wishes. Period.

      3. We can’t put a Christian point of view on this entire discussion, recognizing as you do that a great many affected are not Christians or may even hold anti-Christian points of view. This problem must be solved on a more basic level, that of moral law, imo. The problem is made more dire with appeals to texts unrelated to the issue and unaccepted by the masses. But everyone understands that abuse is wrong because it’s written on the conscience. We don’t need to complicate it.

      4. Paul’s concern for use of freedom and causing others to stumble has nothing to do with a woman’s clothing and men abusing them. Nothing. The “stumbling” in question is a falling away from Christ into idolatry. That text has often been used to restrict a person’s freedom based on another person’s sense of morality. But that’s not Paul’s argument at all. He’s concerned with idolatry and the work of Christ being destroyed in a brother. That has nothing to do with men abusing women. Nothing. And we should not appeal to that text to once again shift the blame to the victims.

      5. The net effect of your comments is to once again shift the discussion from the issue of abuse as a men’s problem to blaming women. Stop it. Abuse would disappear almost completely if every man kept his hands to himself. It’s our problem; we’re the culprits. We need to be questioned, not the women we should be protecting even if and especially when we find something about them objectionable. Let’s stop looking for reasons to implicate women and start looking for reasons to implicate ourselves–whether because of actual guilt or because we’ve been complicit in our silence.

      6. In the final analysis, this is not an intellectually sophisticated issue. It’s simple: Men should not abuse women but take responsibility for them. If we keep it simple we might actually do something about it rather than hiding out behind evasions and pontifications.

      Let’s end this strand of the conversation and get on to owning the issue as men.

      T-

      1. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

        Thank you, Pastor T. These are excellent points. Especially what you say in the 5th point. You, brother, are being a true brother and a true neighbor to those who are more vulnerable. Please know your courage is appreciated. Especially from those sisters who have heard very different messages from Christian culture.

        Dillon, are you really saying that the victim and perpetrator SHARE RESPONSIBILITY for the rape of the victim?

        Do a murderer and a murder victim also share responsibility for a murder?

  14. Dillon says:

    I hate to be pesky and over-post, but it seems fitting to say just one more thing.

    What I am trying to think through here is not exactly pastoral, but moral–what the ethical matter *actually is*. My goodness–by God’s sheer mercy, I’ve never myself been sexually abused, and I dare not pretend as though I can feel or understand or identify with what a woman endures when she is sexually abused. (I do hope that this is *not* seen as a “feminist” issue in the Church!) If I were overseeing a church, please believe me–the last thing I would ask a woman sexually abused was what she was wearing! And yet if I were close to her and her family, in the course of a year or a few years time according to prudential wisdom, and especially if I had noticed certain patterns of dress along the way, I just might dare ask such a question and risk the offense, if it means helping to show how much more utterly beautiful Christ’s standards are than the world’s–how infinitely more valuable our bodies (men’s and women’s) are to Him than to our culture that would have us be exposed, used and discarded like tissues.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Dillon,

      While I welcome you to share your thoughts, I fail to see what was “fitting” in that last comment.

      There’s no useful reason for asking that question even in the family/friend scenario you pose. There are many other ways to make the case about how “more utterly beautiful Christ’s standards are than the world’s” than implicitly blaming the victim of abuse. What’s needed from a pastor, family member, or friend is protection and care. In my experience, abuse victims already spend a lot of time blaming themselves and second-guessing themselves for things that are not their fault. Your view only furthers that when, in fact, women need to be helped to place the blame where it belongs and to find their voice in such situations.

      This has nothing to do with feminism, unless by “feminism” you mean showing genuine love and care to women.

      Honestly, six commenters later, to cite your previous comment, I think you are being “too hard-headed” on this issue. This is our issue. Let’s own it.

      T-

  15. Dillon says:

    Thabiti, thank you for your response. But, I’m not quite sure I walk away from this discussion with questions answered or issues resolved. And I’m not entirely sure you’ve weighed my words fairly. (I was at pains to clarify almost everything you said in your first response–it’s honestly hurtful that you felt the need to even repeat those matters, as if I were somehow justifying laying hands on a woman–and your second response honed in on the family scenario–which wasn’t the main point there at all. But, that’s my fault for not communicating more clearly.)

    Yet I respect deeply your pastoral desire to protect and care for victims of abuse, from which (I am guessing?) arises your firm words with me. Thank you for that and for your service to the Church and your attention to its victims of abuse.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Dillon,

      I’m sorry you don’t walk away from this discussion with questions or issues resolved. I think that’s been evident in your responses to the ladies who, I thought, wrote very graciously to explain what I think is a correct point of view on the issue. Your admitting that you don’t have answers following such gracious replies from them is (a) what I meant by saying I do think you’re being “hard-headed” here and (b) why, in part, I’ve written with a far firmer tone than I prefer or tend to use.

      What I think you miss, despite your efforts to provide a lot of qualifications (which I happily acknowledge, though they have the ring of “protesting too much”), is that your question arises out of the very thinking that this speaker and others (myself included) would challenge as part of the problem. Your question grows out of an assumption that the woman has done something wrong (in this case, perhaps her dress) and it falls back into the privilege that men have (an ability to shift the focus and absolve ourselves of the more searching accountability we deserve). I accept your saying that’s not your intent. But I do think that’s the effect of your line of reasoning. It’s not clear to me how your assumptions and question shift the responsibility to men.

      I do believe this conversations has very devastating consequences on women. Thus my firmness. I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m trying to be clear for everyone’s sake.

      Thanks for posting and the Lord make His face to shine upon you,
      T-

    2. I wonder if you have a different understanding of the word “victim.” By definition, a “victim” must be someone who bears no responsibility for the crime perpetuated against her.

      If you insist on questioning how a woman may have contributed to her abuse, BY DEFINITION, you are saying that she is not a victim. It is logically impossible to say on the one hand that a man should *never* harm a woman and then continue in the same breath and ask what may have contributed to that victimization.

      I too am not trying to be antagonistic, but I think we have to agree on the most basic terminology before this conversation can continue–we have be able to agree that a victim bears NO responsibility for her victimization whatsoever. Otherwise she is simply not a victim.

  16. Dillon says:

    Hannah, thanks for this clarification. I agree with you completely. You’re right–I do think that “victim” language is…complicated, and I have a hard time separating an absolute definition from a social definition so easily. To my thinking, all responsibility is “shared” in a sense of humanity’s intrinsic interconnectedness under God’s sovereignty (even if its share is 99.9 to .1). My only personal hesitancy is with respect to such absolutized language–that dress be entirely absolved as a category altogether (Lord have mercy on my daughter if He should bless me with one!), even while I, as a man, resonate deeply with Thabiti’s main point–ownership over the issue of protection. Operating with this definition of “victim” doesn’t make his point resonate with me any less. As I understand, he sees a direct correlation between the manner in which I use “victim” and license for abuse (hence, my way of thinking “contributes to the problem”). But this need not be so, any more than our sins having been absolved in an absolute sense is license for sinning. And you’re also right to point out that much in this conversation hangs on one’s definition of “victim.” Thanks for that clarification. I’m not here trying to offer further reflection–merely further clarification. Hopefully my clarification is helpful and not hurtful?

    1. I think that this is where the disagreement is rooted–we must be able to have a category of “victim” where the victim is NEVER responsible. Otherwise it undermines the whole doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Christ was in no way responsible for the injustices perpetuated against Him–although it would be easy to argue the He “brought it on Himself” in many ways–because if He were, we could never benefit from the righteousness that He imparts to us. He would have paid simply for His own participation in the sin (if only .0001% of it).

      Also, if we don’t have a category of an innocent victim, Peter’s admonishment to suffer as Christ did in the face of injustice doesn’t make any sense either.

      I am responsible for my sins, but I do not hold any responsibility for another person’s sins against me. Do I share the weight of living en masse in a sin-cursed earth? Certainly– but that is identification with humanity not ownership of another person’s particular sinful choice.

      1. LG says:

        Hannah, that was beautiful and I thank you for writing it.

      2. Dillon says:

        Hannah, once again–I want to say *thank you* for actually interacting with the issue I’m raising. I feel as though the argument is actually being heard, even if there’s some disagreement. It’s refreshing, when so many responses presume malicious intent, as though I were trying to legitimize abuse, even a little bit. I mean no such thing. I really don’t want to offend, and I truly mean no harm–but absolutized victimization makes me nervous in a culture which strikes me as already so highly…victimized, where little to no mention is made, at least among intelligentsia, of individual responsibility. For others to presume malicious intent on my part is understandable in one sense–it’s a very charged issue–I understand this sort of thing needs to be handled with greater delicacy, and I’m sure I could have put things more winsomely in previous posts. Just the same, thanks for hearing me out, and I do sincerely apologize for any offense my words may have caused.

        And, actually, I think there’s more agreement between us than disagreement. I do have a category for innocent suffering–victimization–as per Christ, or even Job. Christ was a victim in the fullest sense, insofar as He did not deserve the cross in any way–not even .0001% of it. You’re absolutely right, that to even ascribe .0001% of Christ “deserving” the cross would completely undermine the atonement.

        So then, the question is raised in my mind: If a young woman walks naked into a frat party and gets molested–abused–certainly, the man’s fault, with absolutely NO excuse for the abuse at all whatsoever–but in a “sin” sense, we might still ask: Of what sort was this young woman’s suffering–that of Christ? Innocent suffering? Absolute victimization, like Christ? Even if you say “Yes” with sound assurance, I must confess the question does give me pause. And, maybe that’s a result of my own hard heart. I pray for the Lord’s mercy and illumination if this is so.

        But consider perhaps a less charged example. Supposing “Bob” says something vicious about “Ed.” In response, Ed leaves Bob with a black eye. I’m sure we can mostly be agreed that Bob’s words did not justify Ed’s violent response. Now that we are agreed on that, I ask: Will Bob nevertheless be called to account for his words on the Last Day just the same? My thought is that he will be, even while Ed’s violent sin is entirely his own. Again, the matter comes back to *absolute* or transcendental innocence/victimization, but by no means are they guilty in the same sense.

        I don’t here see a contradiction in terms–provocation on the one hand, and exclusive fault of the abuser on the other. To take an analogy from Calvin: Like the sun shining on a corpse, the corpse begins to stink (by “provocation”), but we do not therefore conclude that the corpses’ stench was caused by the sun (the abuser is still completely guilty).

        (I want to stress, I’m not meaning to press the issue further, or reflect more deeply on it–merely hoping to clarify what I meant, so as to remove offense. This is not an issue I’m distant from, though I’ve never been abused, I know several women who have. For most of them, I would never even imagine inquiring as to what they were wearing. For many of them, they really *were* behaving and dressing modestly, looking for no trouble at all. What’s more, Thabiti wisely pointed out: most women who have suffered abuse already feel guilty in any case, and are in need of grace–to be freed from that illusion of guilt. They need to know–it *wasn’t* their fault. In cases like these, I am much quicker to answer “Yes”–that their suffering is much like Christ’s. But is *every* instance like that [which must be the case, for absolutized language to be appropriate]? I’ve known other women who claim abuse at the drop of a dime and work hard to take the man for everything he’s worth–and absolutized language really can, in those rare cases, endanger men and create a class of male victims as well. So, I’m just not so sure it’s so simple, cut-and-dry when it comes to *absolutized* victim language.)

        I’ve been reflecting on this throughout most of this afternoon. And I realize, certainly, what I’m saying must have some kinds of limits. If a person gets mugged on the streets of LA because he or she was walking around the projects at 2 in the morning, I should not at all want to say that the person walking deserved it. On the other hand, if the same person walked into a strip club at 2am and was somehow violated by a performer, I very well may suggest that person ought not to have been so surprised at their molestation. Where to draw that line–I have no idea. Where the example of a naked female walking into a frat party fits on that spectrum, I don’t pretend to know. My suspicion is that context plays a key role, and that the matter at hand falls closer on the latter end of the spectrum than the former. But really, my only call is for nuance and care with absolutized “victim” language, even if we disagree on where the matter of dress falls on this spectrum. I am just as eager to rush to the defense of those who are victims of abuse. And can we not be simultaneously agreed that encouraging absolutized, transcendental innocence–in any sense–has its dangers as well as its comforts?

        If I know an abused woman, I will not be asking her what she wore. But I will also not preach that it made no difference to God what she wore. I suppose that’s the issue. Abuse and dress are distinct–they are–but there are cases in which neither party is guiltless in an absolute sense, which, strictly speaking, makes me nervous about how Katz phrased it. He may just as well have said, “Dress matters, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact–there’s no question–that abuse is unequivocally wrong.” Then, we’re very much on the same page.

        1. Rachael Starke says:

          Dillon,

          You’ve asked the same question and been answered, multiple times. You are clinging to the same argument that Adam did in the garden, and it needs to stop.

          Beyond that, you have now taken this conversation and done precisely what Jackson Katz demonstrates in the writing exercise in the first minutes of his video – turned it entirely on its head to focus relentlessly on women, and even on women in a small subset of situations, rather than where Katz calls the focus to be, which is why men abuse women and children in many different settings and different ways, and how men should and must take the lead in addressing that problem.

          Please be a gentlemen and let the words that have already been said, stand.

        2. Eric M says:

          I hate to belabor the point, but I believe you are still missing said point. Nothing women could do could end this problem. We could make all women wear hijabs and shapeless black full-body robes at all times. That would completely eliminate your “what was she wearing?” question, but it would not eliminate abuse or rape. Only men can do that, by not raping anyone.

          1. Dillon says:

            @Rachel: OK, but I do confess it’s hurtful to be so blatantly called a promoter of abuse, as though I really believed dress to be at the center of this issue–as though I’m really saying it IS a “women’s issue”–as though Adam’s argument really was OK. Yea…it’s just not at all what I’m trying to say. I am honestly sorry for not being more clear in my even stronger repugnance of men’s facile tendencies towards abuse. Believe me–it’s much stronger. And I will let that stand.

            @Eric: Yea…I mean, you’re right–completely–I don’t disagree with you at all–that’s just not what I’m trying to say. But it’s my fault for having said it in unclear ways. Sorry.

            1. LG says:

              I don’t think anyone is saying you’re a promoter of abuse, brother. I think we’re saying that the unintentional effect of your words is to minimize the culpability of abusers. Those are very different things.

            2. Dillon says:

              Maybe I’ve read something into Rachel’s words that she didn’t intend. Very possible–but that what I am saying is “why men abuse women and children” doesn’t sound…like minimized culpability. It struck me as causation. But perhaps I misunderstood.

              I guess I just have a hard time seeing how one follows from the other. Christ died to cover all sin–does that vitiate our responsibility? Of course not. God is sovereign over evil–does that mitigate the exclusive guilt of secondary causes? Of course not. I just don’t see here how it follows from what I’m saying that abusers are less culpable.

              I think my posts have been misleading in their focus–that most of what I’ve been talking about is to do with women. But that’s only been my emphasis here because of its absolute negation. Believe me–I have far more and far harsher words for abusive men, and just as much frustration with complacent men. My problem, I think, was not making that side clear. I wrongly communicated that for me, women’s dress is the center, when truly, I don’t think or feel that way. But, that’s how I’ve come across because on this post I’ve made it my center. It isn’t, never has been, never will be. And for that miscommunication on my part, I am sorry.

            3. Eric M says:

              I never thought that you viewed how women dresses as central to the issue, you did at least make that clear. What I ( and I believe others) am trying to say is that shouldn’t even be on the table. Asking those questions doesn’t help anyone. We have all admitted it’s unwise to dress like that, but it’s important to impress upon men that she is never asking for it unless she actually asks for it. What a woman was or wasn’t wearing should be the last thing on our mind when something like this happens.

            4. Dillon says:

              Brother, it *is* far from my mind. But I’m hesitant to take it off the table in an **absolute** sense–to *completely* delegitimize the question of dress, even where unnecessary, unjustified abuses arise–****because**** I’m not sure that for God, dress (of men or women) is merely a question of pragmatism–merely an ornament of innocent expression, ****even in the despicable abuses that can arise.**** Make no mistake–that despicableness arises from the abuser, and the abuse is entirely his fault–and yet I raise dress to avoid its absolute exclusion, not as center, but to keep in our minds, at the back, but in, that on the last day, all sin will be accounted for. And I sense we may raise an unintentional danger of justifying certain fashions of dress when we completely delegitimize the question. To my thinking, it has its proper place. Not after the abuse. Not, as you say, “when something like this happens.” Not to the abused herself. But it does seem to me that our dress can communicate something to and in our culture, including sexually. That doesn’t excuse men, it doesn’t mean rapes would cease if women wore burkas–I’m not saying anything of the sort. Men must take ownership. Only clarifying that dress has meaning in our culture, even if that meaning is socially constructed–it’s still meaningful. I, like you, want to press upon all men that she is never asking for it unless she actually asks for it. (Further–even if she asks for it, unless you’re married, she doesn’t realize what she’s asking for.) But we must not draw a wrong inference from that, that therefore people will not be held to account for their choices in dress with respect to modesty (men and women), and how that dress impacts others, even in these situations. It does. If I see a girl walking down the road in her bikini and I turn my head, I alone have sinned and must repent–I’ve taken that little, tragic step. But if that woman is a sister in Christ, I must confess, I do anticipate some change in attitude towards dress for the sake of blessing others, and at least considering, if only the smallest bit, how to avoid having heads turn towards her. I don’t want to just proof text these things, but it seems to me that is the thrust of Paul’s concern when he encourages women to modesty.

              (Would wives reading this post really have **nothing** to say to a girl who walked into the church in her bra and panties if their husbands’ heads turned in curiosity? Of course the husband gets hit–not the girl!–he shouldn’t have been looking! But would they really not be asking themselves, even internally, “Where are her manners? Doesn’t she realize there are men present?”)

              One wise pastor I know has helpfully said, “There is a way to dress that is not helpful in the culture.” That’s all I mean here. Dress says stuff, whether in contexts from which abuse follows or not. Abuse is always evil, and the man is always to blame. And I don’t pretend to know exactly how various dress considerations should look like–where lines are drawn, and so forth. My guess is the women who have spent time thinking these things through would have far better input than I ever could. Simply saying, it’s dangerous to take off the table entirely for at least some of the reasons I’ve tried to sketch in.

            5. LG says:

              “Would wives reading this post really have **nothing** to say to a girl who walked into the church in her bra and panties if their husbands’ heads turned in curiosity? Of course the husband gets hit–not the girl!–he shouldn’t have been looking! But would they really not be asking themselves, even internally, “Where are her manners? Doesn’t she realize there are men present?””

              And here is where I feel like this conversation is done, brother, because NOBODY and I mean NOBODY in this thread has said anything like this. A girl getting stared at, rightly, and called out, rightly, for wildly inappropriate dress in church is not even a little the same as a man thinking a woman’s clothing means she is giving her consent for sex. Not even a tiny, tiny bit of comparison there. Not a shred. And if you can’t see that, I fail to see the point of people responding to you.

            6. Dillon says:

              As I understand you, LG, raising dress issues is question of timing–before the abuse versus after the abuse. I actually agree with that.

              The point of the analogy was something like this: If we can see that a girl dressing inappropriately in a church can spark in the men in the church a certain response (which is sinful for them to have looked; they are responsible), AND we can hold that woman accountable for having *provoked* that response in the men, then why do we deny so absolutely that there can be no similar causal chain at a frat party?

              You might say it’s not a legitimate comparison because one involves abuse, the other does not. But the analogy was not meant to justify any one or any thing. Of course the situation I described is categorically different from abuse. But it makes the point that causal chains of sin can be initiated, in part, by dress. That is all it means.

  17. Akash Charles says:

    just to make things clear

    I do not think this is a feminist issue- I just think feminists deal with violence in the wrong way

    also in this day and age I do not think one can define feminism as “love for women”

    its more like power hungry godless women and men

  18. If I understand Dillon correctly, he is operating on the understanding that not all “victims” are victims in the same way. He seems to have a category where sinful behavior on the part of a woman could become complicit with sinful behavior on the part of a man, resulting in a situation where a man’s superior strength caused violence to that woman. He is still blaming the man for the violence, but he sees two distinct sins instead of one. He then seems to understand the woman’s sin, not as excusing the man’s sin, but as somehow making her less of a victim than a woman who did not sin and yet was abused. I think he is differentiating between two different types of victims.

    Is that accurate? If it is, even though I understand what you are saying, I still find it highly problematic and dangerous because it shifts the focus away from the reality of the violence in the first place.

    1. Dillon says:

      Thank you again, Hannah, for the care you’re taking. You’re very, very close to what I’m getting at.

      I do see two distinct sins–one of immodest dress, and one of abuse. While all sin is condemnable, from our vantage point, just as we might usefully distinguish between a lie and murder (maybe asymptotically?) so too we might distinguish between immodest dress (something of a “lie” sort) and abuse (something of a murder sort–I really think the two are very, very closely related–sexual abuse and murder. I think a good case could be made for rape warranting capital punishment, but that’s another can of worms.)

      I can conceive of circumstances where the sinful behavior of the woman can become complicit with the sinful behavior of the man, resulting in a situation where a man (wrongly, sinfully) concludes that he has some right to invade her. He has no such right, even while her dress **may** communicate a sexual provocativeness.

      The only part where I would not quite share your wording, Hannah, is when you say that I see the woman’s sin as somehow making her less of a victim. This is true only if by “victim” you mean utterly without shared responsibility of any sort. In that sense, she is “less of a victim.” But from our vantage point, from that of actually considering *how we respond,* or *what we do,* or how we counsel her, there is just about no difference between the two positions, as I see it, because the sheer immediacy of one sin so obviously outshines that of the other that it’s almost not worth pursuing. Not worth pursuing–but as per my only point today–not therefore worth forgetting.

  19. Dillon says:

    One more thing, Hannah, regarding your last point–I have come to see that you’re right–that’s precisely, as I see it, why my earlier comments were problematic, as per what I shared with LG. My problem, I think, was not making that side of how passionate I am about men’s ownership of the issue clear. “I wrongly communicated that for me, women’s dress is the center, when truly, I don’t think or feel that way. But, that’s how I’ve come across because on this post I’ve made it my center. It isn’t, never has been, never will be. And for that miscommunication on my part, I am sorry.” And I truly am. I did not intend to shift the center of attention away from men and on to women. But that being what I have done, I do repent.

    1. I think the greater issue is that dress shouldn’t even be discussed in context of abuse because it has nothing whatsoever to do with abuse. That’s where the problem lies–it’s not simply a matter of timing. It’s that the two don’t even correlate. If you shift the issue ever so slightly, how would you understand child abuse–would a child EVER in ANY way need to have their behavior or dress addressed? I trust you would say “No” and I hope you could recognize that it is the same with a woman.

      And with that, I’m done.

    2. Thabiti says:

      Dude, you have successfully made this comment thread all about you–even after vowing you would make no more comments. You’ve written incredibly long comments in defense of a point you claim to be minor and not your intent. All for the sake of a distinction without a difference, obscuring the very real and very important point of the post. I think that’s a pretty good filibuster, and a shame, too. Do you know how many women and children have been abused since we began this? I wish we had used the considerable attention paid to you to actually do something–anything–to end abuse.

      This ends here. Thanks to everyone for participating. Perhaps some of us might watch the brief video again, pray fervently about this issue, and do something concrete in our small corner of the world to protect a woman or a child from a man’s abuse.

      The Lord bless. And keep us all.
      Thabiti

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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