Last week a gunman killed 6 victims because he was a misogynist who didn’t get the attention from girls he wanted. I, like many others, will not mention his name in order to curb culture’s bent on celebritizing murderers, sometimes excusing their crimes. We say that they couldn’t help it, that it’s not their fault.
But it is.
A trending topic on twitter, #YesAllWomen, dares to defy the claims of the murderer and much of stigma around sexual harassment being the victims fault and the perpetrator the true victim. The #YesAllWomen trend aims to bring awareness to the fact that culture often denies the full person-hood of women, making them objects, much like this murderer. I want to spend a few moments cutting down some defenses those who have for the murderer or their own actions in harassing women. We need to take responsibility for our own actions.
It’s the hormones
Many people blame their actions on hormones, on it being ‘natural’. On one level, yes, everyone has hormones. Having a physical human body is part of our being. We are both spirit and body, and that includes hormones. These hormones have an affect on us. They can make us feel happy or sad, or even sexually charged.
However, this doesn’t give anyone the excuse to act on them. Even the ancients like Plato would say that to allow the carnal desires to rule is wrong. To let them rule us makes us no different than animals. As humans, we have a soul that requires proper ordering. Among the different ways philosophers have divided the soul over time, the animal spirits, the physical desires, are always on the bottom. Reason is to rule over them. To say that one has to sexually harass another or can’t help it is a signal that they are out of control of themselves. They have allowed the lower parts of lust and fleshly desires to rule over their reason that tells them that a woman is fully a person. These people have become less human and more animal. No one can say that it’s just natural to harass others, only that it is animal.*
Others blame their sexual harassment behaviors on culture. Again, to a certain this is true. We are shaped by the culture around us. Culture teaches us how to react and interact with one another. In many instances, culture is a good thing and we can learn much from those around us.
Culture can also be a bad thing. We live in a culture that tells us that whistling, touching, and sexual pursuit are natural and fine. Culturally, we tend to blame the woman for being too cold or dressing the way she does. These cultural scripts and systems contribute to shaping our norms and behaviors. While #notallmen have individually harassed women, #yesallwomen have experienced it. Our individual acts contribute to the systematic problems of culture. While many of us men may not be the instigators of the problem, by not doing anything we are allowing the cultural systems to continue to grow.
But culture isn’t the end-all. To say one was raised a certain way absolutely takes away the credit of anything a person can do. There is no individual artist, athlete, or individual of great accomplishment. There is only culture. Every evil act, crime, murder, and genocide can only be blamed on culture. But that is ridiculous. While there are cultural sins, including the way we treat women, each individual is responsible for the part they play.
Certainly we can forgive those who come from bad cultural upbringings, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be corrected and experience consequences. Cultures and those who are cultured often need correcting.
It’s my sin nature/ I’m only human
This is the root of it all. When one confesses that they have a sin nature, they are right on the dot. Everyone is bent to sin. There’s no escaping our sinful nature. We can’t expect people to be perfect, to fully understand the person-hood of others and treat them as such.
But we can hold people responsible. Sin nature is not an excuse. The things they do are still sin, ‘missing the mark’, not acting within the desires of God. Just because we all have sin nature does not make the actions ‘not-sin’. That’s why it’s called ‘sin nature’, because sin is in our fallen nature. These sins are not excusable on part of the nature, but we are fully responsible for them. We cannot escape our responsibilities to the people around us, much less to a holy God.
Paul talks about sin nature in the first chapter of Romans. In it, he explains how God has seen the sin of men escalating and his judgment against them.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
This is what has happened to society, especially to this murderer. He killed because he couldn’t do what he wanted with girls. His sin nature was so hungry that he became animal, both in his lust and his destruction.
While rampages like this are not everyday occurrences, domestic violence and sexual harassment are. In the past decade, more women have died from domestic violence than soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. No, not all women have been killed because they’re women, but yes, all women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, and many much much more. Simply go on twitter and look up #yesallwomen, or read this article, to hear endless stories of those who have been mistreated.
And those are only the ones who are willing to tweet.
The true number may never be known, but we do know is that we have a duty to lower it. Here are a few things we could benefit from.
I’m not talking to victims of harassment, but perpetrators. You are responsible for your own actions. Responsibility means not only owning up to your mistake but also suffering the consequences. My friend tweeted the other day about how when she was younger someone prank called her, asking her to sleep with him. When she reported him, she was told to forgive him. When she said she was still angry, she was reprimanded. This isn’t taking responsibility. While we should and need to forgive, that does not mean that people are completely off the hook. How can we forget the instance with David and Bathsheba? He violated her and killed her husband. Even though he repented and fasted, he still suffered the consequence of the death of his son. God had forgiven him, yet he was still punished. We must be careful that we execute both grace and justice, love and discipline, within the church and society.
We have lost the idea of virtue. Instead, we rattle off lists of rules, equating ideas of ‘purity’ and ‘modesty’ with how long a skirt should be. A friend of mine recently did a project on modesty and how we in the church have taught a shallow view of modesty (not to bash the church, just point out where she can grow). When we teach lists of rules, they have no backbone, no connection to the reality of God, no system to really work off of. When we teach about virtues like purity we can instill them as virtues, as practices deep within the character of a person. No longer would we have to instruct boys to not make jokes, instead they would practice purity and respect. Girls would not find their self worth in their clothes, but rather in God who teaches and gives them, gives all of us, true purity.
The Holy Spirit
While practicing virtues may help slow the rate of harassment, no effort by man can truly be transformational without the Holy Spirit. Sin nature is real, stronger than any virtue man can practice. Look at Benjamin Franklin. He tried to instill virtues in his life, but he clearly failed. No, it is only with the Holy Spirit that we can conquer sin. We need him to show us the truth of person-hood and enable us to fight our sin nature.
For myself, I cannot think of a time when I treated anyone less than human. To those I have inadvertently, I am sorry. To those I didn’t defend, I’m sorry. To those who have been by anyone, I’m sorry.