Scary stories from a lovely place
Just now as I opened my computer I unwittingly spotted a sexist remark on facebook that I couldn’t help but share with you. Stephen’s account was open in a firefox window and I foolishly glanced down at a few of the status updates and the offending one jumped out at me. It went something like this: “Imagine all the pregnancies that would disrupt the team if Banyana were attractive”. (Banyana Banyana – “the girls, the girls” – are the South African women’s soccer team.) Besides the obvious humour that comes from a guy criticising a woman’s sporting team (Banyana would kick his arse up and down the field), what he says makes no sense in reality.
As anyone would know who has eyes and sees people on a regular basis all sorts of people find love, get attention, even get married and have babies who are not particularly attractive. It warms my heart to see someone less than beautiful in a loving relationship. It gives me hope that sense reigns and people do love others for who they actually are and what they can do rather than if they meet a particular standard of beauty.
Attractiveness is so relative anyway. Standards and markers of beauty or handsomeness change as culture, age, race and fashion dictate. What’s attractive in Australia is different to what works in South Africa which is different again in Rwanda which would change again once you reached Libya or Scotland. (Read this post for a tough challenge to Western standards of beauty.)
But my issues with the comment go deeper than this. First, the notion girding this flippancy is that the Banyana women would get pregnant by mistake, in an unplanned fashion so as to effect their careers or the performance of the team. This assumes that either South African women or sportswomen, or both, in general are loose, which is clearly problematic, sexist and unkind.
Second it reinforces the old adage that sexual activity and promiscuity is a woman’s problem because she most easily shows the signs of it on her own body, in the form of pregnancy. But, as I have daily, lovely, cute proof, it takes two to tango, and no member of the Banyana team could get pregnant on her own. A man is needed to complete that equation. But, once the deed is done, he can be conveniently absent because of the lack of obvious physical evidence in his body (except for the rash that may plague him).
I was talking to a friend one day about this whole problem and he told me that in his church when a girl got pregnant the pastor would get her up the front of the congregation to make a public example of her. To shame her. I asked him if anything was done about the guy who put the baby there. He said no, it was considered the woman’s problem. The shame is actually on that pastor and the others in leadership in that church and they will answer for their behaviour. I’ve seen similar, less blatant but as damaging, treatment of women in Australia too. This is not how Jesus treated women who were in a similar situation (see John chapter 4). In the face of this kind of shame, no wonder so many young women procure hasty, and sometimes dangerous abortions.
This is the problem with flippant, funny comments. They almost always play into and compound harmful and deep-seated stereotypes and thus cause damage. I’m not sure it’s worth the few laughs they garner or the ‘likes’ on facebook.