Monday, August 22, 2011

sexualizing children

This is a really cool optical illusion. But what is more interesting is that, depending on your age, you might see something different. Children, who don't have a frame of reference for sexuality, usually just see the dolphins. Adults, though, see a couple in an embrace.

It would seem that this is not good enough for us in this fine country and we need to make sure kids see the sexual pose as well.

Go to any store selling clothes. Go to your local WalMart. Look in the section where they display women's undergarments. What do you see? Hello Kitty. I even found a pair of rhumba panties (you know, those cute drawers we put on baby girls with the ruffels across the butt?) in MY SIZE!!! WalMart - at least in my neck of the woods - is not so bad in the little girls' department, but they do sell padded bras in a size my 5 year old granddaughter will be able to wear in about a year. Look at some of the online offerings for some of the major brands. I could, if I should lose my mind in the next hour or so, buy that same 5 year old granddaughter a cute lacy thong. I can also find shorts or yoga pants for her with attention-grabbing words written across the seat.

Who needs to be looking at a 5 year old's butt?

But look the other way. Look at what women have to choose from. On a recent A.N.T. Farm (Disney) episode, the principal of the school wanted her portrait painted by one of the students. What did she wear? A white oxford cloth shirt tied at her waist, a short red plaid skirt, knee high white stockings and mary janes. If you clicked on the link, you know she is no school girl.

Rhumba panties. Cartoon character jammies. Who is the child and who is the adult.

And more importantly, what does this do to our view of the sexuality of a woman?

Little girls are encouraged to become sexual beings (can this be real?) while grown women are encourage - nay, it is demanded that they not age. The message seems to be that a woman's sexual peak is during her very young years and she needs to get all the mileage out of it she can.

So what do we do? How does a sane society respond? We can recognize that businesses are "in it" to make money. Period. If some idiot will buy a padded bra for a seven year old, I'm happy to take that $50 off your hands. That's a good place to start. And maybe we can refuse to purchase that stuff for our little girls. Maybe we can also start telling our daughters, our granddaughters, our nieces or any other little girl in our life, not just that she's beautiful but that she's smart. Maybe strong. Or athletic. Or funny. Anything else that she can DO is better to compliment her on rather than on how she looks. Even an ability to put cool outfits together is a skill we can praise rather than looks. Maybe that will start a trend with girls seeing themselves in in that light.

What are some ways we can combat this? The APA article is good reading for anyone interested.

I've linked a few articles at the bottom of this post for further reading.

watch this video for a great idea of how women are sexualized as little girls Katy Perry video
little girls' lingere
goodbye to girlhood
consuming kids
APA report

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wicked Step-Mother

Walt Disney seemed to have no love for mom's. Most classic Disney cartoons either have no mother or mom is a silent backdrop to use for close ups at either the beginning or the end of the movie. Many of them even had the anti-mother: the Wicked Step-Mother.

"Not my real mom."


Or this lovely example.

Well, that's me. I'm a step-mom.

I'm pretty lucky in that while ours is a blended family, we never had a lot of contact with either ex's and functioned much more like a nuclear family. Plus, our kids were all under five when we married and under six when we had one of our own.

Motherhood is a pretty awesome calling. Not everyone who can conceive a child can be a mother. It takes a certain selflessness. You know - mother is the one who takes the thigh and swears that it's her favorite piece of the chicken. And for most of us, falling in love with our children is like breathing. Automatic. Without conscious thought.

But this is for moms who love someone else's kids.

We didn't have nine months to start falling in love with an anticipated bundle of joy. Often, when we come onto the scene, a bond is already strong for that first mother. And sometimes, falling in love with a man does not always mean you will fall in love with his children, as the article linked above demonstrates.

Very early in my career, I read a bit of profound wisdom: God is not going to cut me any slack as a mother just because those four little letters precede my title. God is not going to look down through my life and see messes made and things not said or love not given and say "Well, you were only a step-mother, so that doesn't really count."

Many believe that God is the one who gives us children. I'd have to agree. Sometimes, he gives them to us the traditional way, with stretchmarks and 16 hours of labor. But sometimes, he gives them to us from someone else's womb.

I was blessed to be able to deliver into this world two remarkable sons. They are like me in myriad wonderful and irritating ways. They make me grind my teeth in frustration and beam with pride. I take credit for their successes. I accept blame for their failures.

I was also blessed to raise two daughters who were given birth by another woman. They are like me in myriad wonderful and irritating ways. They make me grind my teeth in frustration and beam with pride. Plus they've given me four wonderful grandchildren. I take credit for their successes. I accept blame for their failures.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Choosing to See

I caught a bit of Chuck Colson on the radio today talking about his grandson, Max, who is autistic. I actually didn't know that until I looked it up because I literally caught just the tail end of his segment of Breakpoint. I heard the part where he said that his grandson wouldn't cure the common cold or anything amazing like that, but he will, if you take the time, show you love and grace and maybe teach you a little humility. His final point was that people should quit playing God. I think the reference there was to abortion.

I wholeheartedly agree. Lots of children with disabilities are aborted for "quality of life" issues. Often it's less clear who's quality of life is under consideration, but this post is not a rant about abortion.

I have heard many, many parents of profoundly disabled children talk about the blessings their children are. My mom has a cousin who was born with Down's Syndrome at a time when the only real option was institutionalization. Her parents opted to keep her at home and help her reach her fullest potential. And that potential included holding a job and living independently and having a boyfriend. She also lived longer than many with Downs did at that time. She was a great picture for me, as a young mom, of the power of love in the life of a child.

But those kids are still not who I'm talking about. I'm talking about another set of disabled children. Their disability is usually economic. Or maybe it's a color issue. Or maybe geographic. For whatever reason, instead of an extra chromosome, they have a deficit of money. Or they live in a bad neighborhood/city. Or maybe they're a minority. All of those things work together, especially the lack of $$, to produce less. Educational outcomes. Employment opportunities. Social outcomes.

True, there are some mores. More jail/prison time. More drug/alcohol problems. More criminal behavior. Sadly, though, it seems that people choose to see labels instead of potentials. We're not investing in potentials. We are happy to celebrate when someone pulls themselves up by "their own bootstraps," defying the odds to make it. But they are so few and far between.

I spend a lot of time with kids and families who are dealing with emotional problems. Many of those problems are a result of chaotic lifestyles, which are usually birthed by poverty. I have met some really amazing and wonderful kids who have so much stacked against them. I have listened as they told of their dreams and hopes for the future. I have watched as a few of them were able to at least start off in the right direction. But I've watched just as many, if not more, wander with little other support into an abyss they may never see the other side of.

We need to see the value in all our children. We need to see the potential for greatness. We need to see the imago dei that exists even in dirty, cursing, angry faces. We need to see that even after they've been born, many kids will need help that their parents are either not equipped to handle or they just don't exist for whatever reason. We need to quit labeling kids and start loving them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Which America needs to tighten it's belt?

It's the economy, stupid!

We need to tighten our belts. We need to limit spending. We need to be responsible and not leave our children with massive debt.

Sounds like a broken record, but it's something we can all agree on. We keep hearing that our government needs to act like the millions of families in America who are tightening their belts. They're getting thrifty. They're carpooling. Or cutting back on the family vacation this year. Or buying store brand cereal instead of name-brand.

I agree. That's a great policy to have. In general. As a country, we should spend tax dollars on what is needed. Our spending should be efficient. We should be getting the most out of our budgets.

But that's only part of America.

All this austerity-speak seems to be speaking to the parts of America who have jobs. They are still able to pay their bills. They are able to access health care because they have insurance. Maybe they have a high deductable, but they can pay it. They have homes that are not under water, mortgage-wise. They are consuming. They're going to the mall, debating between this name-brand sneaker and that one for their kid going back to school. They're eating out at nice restaurants. They're still vacationing, only less extravagantly.

But what about that other America?

You know the one. They one you're not hearing about on the news, but you probably know someone who lives there. They've lost their jobs. They've lost their home or they owe more than the house is worth. They're applying for food stamps or medicaid for their kids. They're not going to the doctor or are facing medical bills which will bankrupt them. They're worried about filling their child's belly at night and wondering if all the cuts at the school will result in a child who won't be able to compete for any but the most menial of job. They're probably feeling ashamed and worthless and they may have turned to drinking to numb the pain. And vacations? The extended one they've had since the last layoff is quite enough, thank you.

For so many families, they're out of belt to tighten.

These families would like to hear their elected officials - the President and both houses of Congress - talk about how to get our people back to work. They want to hear how their kids who are graduating from college will be able to find jobs that will allow them to pay off those student loans. They certainly don't want to hear how their parent's Medicare is going to be stripped down so much that they have to bury their parents sooner than necessary.

Maybe after this America gets back to work we can talk about belt tightening. Maybe after this America is able to buy the belt.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


One of the greatest freedoms of this country is encapsulated in the first ammendment to the constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In this country, you are free to speak your mind. No matter how much it disagrees with someone elses'. You are free to practice your religion. You are free to assemble. Perhaps it is the ubiquity of this freedom that maybe makes us a little numb to it's importance. For most of us today, we have no real idea of what it might be like to NOT have these freedoms.

So here is where Civic Tami meets up with Religious Tami and they might have some conflict. This is a pretty good article about a proposed change in how health insurance is done. It says that health insurance providers must provide many preventative services, including contraceptives, without copay in their health plans. This is a good summary of the opposition to making contraceptive coverage mandatory without co-pay.

I encourage you to read both, but the basic idea of the first article is that being able to delay or prevent pregnancy is a good thing. Women are more able to participate in the work force at higher paying jobs. A good percentage of pregnancies in a given year are unintended and a good percentage of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. It makes sense that we would remove the barrier of cost as a matter of preventing abortions. At least it makes sense to me.

In the second article, you will find a good quote by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What he seems to find objectionable is that many will be paying health insurance premiums and those premiums will fund contraception for someone.

I'm stymied by this line of thinking. An all-male, celebate clergy has for generations, forbidden the use of artifical contraception. Interestingly, those affected by this edict don't seem to follow the Vatican's way of thinking.

In a recent post, I pondered why it is that Herman Cain thinks that Islam is unique in that it is a belief system but also a system of law. The Rev. Dr. C. Weldon Gaddy did a good job of pointing out the flaw in that argument. But if lawmakers bow to pressure from the religious right, and contraceptive services/supplies are not covered, without copay, by health insurers, what message is sent?

This is the message I hear: "My religion trumps all. If I can finagle a way for every single policy regarding my pet issues to be religious in nature and if I can find ways to make it the law that my religious preferences are followed by all, I will surely do so."

Yeah. It's sorta confusing. And convoluted.

Is it wrong?

Should one faith tradition - Christianity - be able to tell the rest of our country to quit having sex? Should one faith tradition be able to tell the rest of the country who to have sex with, how to balance their family budgets and what to prioritize in their lives?

Yes. And no.

Yes. If you ask me, I'm going to tell you that if you're not married, you shouldn't have sex. There are myriad of different aspects of my daily life that arise directly out of my faith. I try not to tell even "little white lies." I try to be kind whenever I talk to people. I try to remember to listen once, twice and even three times before I speak. I try to be patient and slow to anger. All those things come from how I believe my faith is to be lived out. I would also expect that those who identify themselves as following my same faith tradition would have very similar ideas, habits and worldviews.

But here's where the no comes in. All those things come from inside me. They come from a relationship I have with a God I believe to be personal not just universal. I recognize that most of those aspects of my character have come from decades of practicing that religion and growing in devotion and faith. They don't come from pressure from the outside. The right-standing with God that I may or may not enjoy comes from my devotion to Him and His commandments. Not because I'm bowing to legal pressure.

So I'm left to wonder what the Catholic bishops and those who follow that line of thinking might be trying to accomplish.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What is beautiful?

Rachael Held Evans

Tim Challies

Rachel again

female beauty matters

I think I have the order right. The Evans piece is first, and references an old tirade from Marc Driscoll. The Challies piece came next, followed by the CBMW blog post.

It used to be that a Christian woman need not worry about being beautiful except to her husband and he should love her "unvarnished." But it would seem that today, a Christian woman needs to worry about both inside AND outside beauty.

I can say that I come down on the side of Evans in this whole debate, and it's sister debate, modesty. There are things about which the Bible is very clear. How we are to treat the less fortunate, for instance. But there are also things about which we have less certainty.

What are your thoughts? Is a Christian wife who "lets herself go" responsible for her husband's infidelity? Even in part?

What does it mean to "let yourself go?"

Does a Christian, man or woman, need to concern themselves with outer beauty?

And if outer beauty is a spiritual matter, where is it defined for us? What standard do we shoot for?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I think I might have had a bracelet, back in the day, with WWJD? on it. Or maybe I just bought some for my kids. Either way, we all know what those four letters mean.

What would Jesus do?

For a while it seemed, every single action was rejoined with those letters. You were forced to think about how you'd feel if Jesus walked in while you were doing whatever it was. I think it got out of hand and the fad of it has largely died away. But as a barometer for my actions, I think it still rocks. Mostly. I would not want Jesus to walk in while I was on the toilet, but I don't see anything wrong with answering my body's needs that way. The same as intimate relations with my significant other. I don't want anyone walking in, even Jesus. But I digress...

Here's where it rocks: how do I act in a given situation?

That situation could be just about anything. It could be work related. It could be in a relationship. Usually it's something about my character. Sometimes it's interchangeable with the 10 Commandments.

Here lately, I find myself asking WWJD? in regards to voting and how do I view the current economic problems facing our country. How do I view charity from the church vs. social programs from the government. For me, all those things have a WWJD? in them.

Since I have not been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, I have watched the reactions to the Casey Anthony verdict. Well, "watched" might be a little strong. I've tried to avoid it like the plague. But this caught my eye.

What would Jesus do?

Check out the links the author included. The one verse I had hoped to see was not linked. Probably the only one that should have been linked if one wants a Christian response would be Ephesians 4:32.

I am actually very thankful that God, in Christ, has forgiven me. I have no room to point fingers because the same punishment awaits people like me as awaits people like her without the intervention of the saving grace of a Sovereign God.

So - no injunction in Scripture exists to excoriate Casey Anthony. None suggest we threaten her or stalk her or make it so she can't live the life God gave her. So what is the real Christ-like response?