I asked my friend John to share a memory for this week. What he sent me follows…
It was the pinnacle of a preacher boy’s training. No, not New Testament Greek, or even the bizarrely garish spectacle of the yearly “preaching contest.” It was Marriage and Family class – where we finally got to learn how to hold a family together amidst the constant drain of The Ministry. And also, we all secretly hoped, talk a little about sex. So far we had learned that “Men are like microwaves and women are like conventional ovens.” I finished the last scratches of my doodle. It was a three dimensional picture of a slightly rumpled box, its flaps open, with the word “Think” sitting outside of it, also rendered in three dimensions. A few minutes earlier a female student had asked a question that the teacher had apparently considered very stupid. He must have, because his response was, “No, you bimbo…” before launching off into an Approved Narrative regarding the topic. And in that moment, I caught a glimpse of a spirit that infected the entire campus like a spiritual canker, a spirit so contradictory to Galatians five that it shook me to the core. I had seen a ghost – an evil spirit that wore khakis and a blazer and a saccharine smile and called
women created in the image of God bimbos.
My mind drifted back to all the pain and suffering I had seen women go through. There were little things – like dates tearing up after being told to return to their room and change. Not because changing was so difficult, but because of the shame associated and the opportunity for gossip and to be labeled a slut. Or a bimbo. There were the separate elevators, as if two young adults couldn’t possibly ride together in an elevator in the library without spontaneously copulating. I thought about the girls who were forced to surrender their friendship because they were caught sleeping in the same bed – surely a sign of being lesbian, because even two women can’t sleep in the same bed without being filled with irrepressible sexual urge.
But there were bigger things that belied a seriously sick approach to gender and sexuality. I remembered the girl who gave birth in a stairwell at school. I hadn’t known her very well, but my heart ached for a young woman who was so afraid of admitting that she had pre-marital sex that she would risk the health of herself and her baby. I wondered how many times she had been called a bimbo. I wondered how this same fundamentalist culture could scream so loudly about the evils of abortion and then put a girl in a position where the precious gift in her womb would be better off hidden, better off delivered in a dusty, hot stairwell. Maybe better off aborted. I wondered where the love was in a system that called itself Christian and called its women bimbos. And I thought about the double standard.
When I first arrived on campus, I had a secret fear. I feared going to a “Christian” college. I feared that I would be around people who were good. I was afraid that such people would reveal the lie of my superficial morality and polished dress- code. When I met my roommates, I was filled with almost instant relief. They were upper classmen, and while they suffered from the same superiority complex as I did, they were unabashedly pagan. They joked about going out of state to purchase pornography. They joked about clogging the shower drain through frequent masturbation, and argued over whether it was polite to masturbate in the shower or not. We had a newer dorm and didn’t have to share a bathroom with anyone, so it brought a new dynamic to the conversation.
As the teacher droned on about how women were the downfall of many a minister, I thought about how so many of the men I knew in school were just as psychologically screwed up as the women – just as hurt, just as confused, just as sexually stunted and repressed. But, they weren’t called names. I thought about the serial daters on campus being humorously – and a bit adoringly – referred to as “man whores”, usually with a wistful sigh and hint of jealousy. I thought about a double standard that allowed men to think of women as sexual objects and sources of damnation and ruin. I thought about a culture that thought it was ok to call a female student bimbo, or a classmate a slut because she wore a fitted top, but would never use such shaming on men.
I sighed a little too loudly, drawing an irritated glance from the teacher and causing the dozing fellow in front of me to stir and wipe the spittle from his mouth. Then I hastily scratched four words beneath my drawing that would because the mantra for my short time left. “Not in this place.”