On Churches and Policing Women’s Bodies

I happened upon this hashtag (#finderskeepers) on Twitter yesterday. It is based off a similarly named series that Mavuno Church, in Kenya, is doing on how to find and keep the one/that great everlasting love. Now, I am all for love and all its greatness, passion and power. However, some of the statements that have been tweeted from Mavuno’s account as well as comments made by the pastor on his Facebook page with regards to the topic are worrisome and disturbing.

There was a discussion about defensive barriers to help people win the war against sexual temptation. As per the tweets, one of these barriers is your body. Here is where the plot left the building and the default it-is-your-fault-woman came in. (Read each screenshot from bottom to top…you already know of course)

mavuno 1

We do teach people how to treat us, that much I agree. But do we really do that by how we dress? If I wear shorts and a t shirt, does that mean you should treat me with less respect than you would if I wore a suit? Aren’t you supposed to treat people with respect simply because 1) they are human beings and 2)that is how they treat themselves!?

If you dress like a cute little plaything and present yourself as a toy, then boys will be boys and try to play with that toy. Even if not physically, then with their eyes and lust.” Wait…huh…what!? What exactly is dressing like a cute little plaything? Sometimes cuteness is in the eye of the beholder. There have been times when I have dressed in what, to me, is casual attire only to meet a friend and have them tell me I have a cute outfit on. Even when I deliberately set out to be cute that did not mean that I was looking to be a “plaything”. I simply wanted to be cute. Period. The end. How does one present themselves as a toy anyway? Women, whether dressed in a Kitenge complete with the headpiece on or as “cute little playthings,” are NOT toys. Referring to women as toys is cosigning that women-are-objects message. Really church!? Is that how you view women!? What happened to honoring women as the good Bible says!?

And of course they had to throw in the escapist “boys will be boys” phrase. That phrase should be banned. Unless you are trying to say that boys are genetically engineered to be so basic that they can’t look at a “cutely” dressed person without lusting after them. It is such phrases that embolden men who assault women. This tweet implies that if women dress in a certain way then they are asking for whatever “play” comes there way. Seriously!? I am appalled that a church would make such statements. Whatever happened to preaching self-control to the men!? It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit no!? Or are men exempted from the fruits!?

 

mavuno 2

Again, reference the preaching self-control to men bit. Only men can control their own feelings and emotions. Women cannot do it for them, neither should anyone expect them to. If you are stimulated at the sight of a scantily clad body then you ought to figure out a way to handle that issue internally. Alright godly men, if you want to honor your wives then do so. Do it because you love them and are committed to them. Keep your eyes on them. Other women are not there to keep you faithful and stray-free. Ala! They have their own lives to live. As for the Lupita dress…ha! Are you acting selfishly or lovingly? Abeg…so women are supposed to choose their outfits based on men’s stimulation potential!? Oh…I can’t wear this plunging neckline dress because I might encounter godly men and I don’t want them to stray. Can you imagine having such monologues every time you are getting dressed!? Women can be covered from head to toe and the straying eyes will stay doing just that. So in response to the question, it is men that are acting selfishly by thinking they have the rights to women’s bodies.

 

mavuno 3

Apart from how you dress it, please also guard your body physically around men.” Ati nini!? Eh! Like I said before, dressing has nothing to do with it. I remember once I was walking home wearing a knee-length winter coat, knee-length boots and a scarf. I was as covered up as could be to deal with the brutal cold. This guy, old enough to be my ancestor, asked me where I bought my coat. I gave him the store’s name. He told me I looked nice. I thanked him and kept walking. He proceeded to yell out to me, “I bet you are glad you aroused me today.” I was covered up. I was minding my own business. I was aware of my surroundings. I was alert. Then here came this “boy being a boy.” Should I start walking around in a sack!? Or maybe wear a baggy coat!?

“…guard your body physically around men.” This statement implies that men are simply beasts constantly ready to attack. Also, men, don’t you get tired of being classified as such!? As creatures that people need to protect themselves from!? Apparently you can’t even be given warm hugs because your body systems will go into some ecstatic overdrive levels.

Come on churches…you can do better than this. Society already places the blame and burden solely on women. Churches are supposed to be safe spaces, I thought. So why would you engage in the same women-blaming, shaming and burdening game!? When will you start holding men accountable for their own feelings, emotions and actions!? More importantly, when will you stop policing women’s bodies!?

 

 

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4 thoughts on “On Churches and Policing Women’s Bodies”

  1. Sigh. The church really fails when it comes to equality sometimes! The notion that a woman’s choice of wardrobe is the root compass of men’s sexual patterns and reaction is appalling and disgusting! This narrative just needs to change!

  2. The full text of the sermon can be read on the church’s blog at mavunochurch.org. The previous Sunday sermon delt exclusively about men, and how they can control their sexuality.

    1. I did read the full text of the sermon. I also read the text of the previous sermon that dealt with men and how they can control their sexuality. From the onset there were major differences in how the topic was handled when addressing the two groups. The sermon about men was titled “Real Husbands of Nairobi (Real Men)” but the one about women was titled “Devious Maids (Real Women).” Why not “Real Wives of Nairobi”!? Men are “real husbands” but women are “devious maids”…why!? Or is it because “women tend to manipulate while men tend to dominate” as was learnt in “The Morning After” sermon!? That is a stereotype that the church is pushing right there.

      In discussing the three defensive barriers, the men’s message focused on “your eyes, your mind and your heart,” while the women’s message focused on “your heart, your mind and your body.” The issue addressed in this particular blog piece is the way in which women’s bodies are being policed as shown by the examples I gave that were taken directly from the sermon. In the men’s sermon, no one told them to keep their bodies covered. No one referred to them as “cute little playthings” or “toys” based on their dressing. No one pegged the way they are treated to their dressing. No one questioned the intention behind the way they dress. As a matter of fact, their bodies were simply not discussed in the way the women’s were.

      Lastly, the men’s sermon focused on measures they can take to ensure they personally and individually “win the war against sexual temptation.” The women’s sermon not only focused on what women can do to “win the war against sexual temptation” for themselves (heart and mind) but also how they can help men win (i.e by covering their bodies, avoiding certain dressing styles and guarding their bodies physically around men) because “boys will be boys and try to play with that toy.”

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