Archives For Feminism

GB 1Ghostbusters along with Star Wars IV, is one of the movies, that as a kid, I remember watching over and over again. I’d fast-forward the VHS tape past the opening scene in the library and go straight to the title. It was part “skip-the-scary-bit” and part, just get me to the Ray Parker Jr, theme song.

As far as the remake goes, each of the main actresses were convincing enough, but they had big shoes to fill. The pressure on them to meet such a high standard would have been enormous. Taking all this into consideration it’s not a really bad film.

Best expressed through the general response of my daughters: “the movie was okay. I liked the gadgets, but there was not enough guys, and they made Chris Hemsworth look dumb.”

Or best summed up by Richard Lawson in his review for Vanity Fair:

‘Ghostbusters is a flat, occasionally charming disappointment. While certainly funny in parts, Paul Feig’s much-debated reboot can’t find its groove…There are brief highlights [but the] film is largely an uninspired slog, everyone doing their best to get to the end without screwing things up too much’ (source)

I had my own thoughts on it, so here’s a short, 16 point review:

1. Cerebrally effortless, fun movies, do exist.

2. Ghostbusters can fit all genres. If you liked The Golden Girls this one’s for you – (minus the humour of Estelle Getty)

3. If you’re obsessed with the Ghostbuster movies, then this is an edition that’ll uniquely sparkle in any pristine, shrink-wrapped, for-display-only, collection.

4. If you like to see men, particularly Australian men, portrayed as dim-witted buffoons, then you’ve picked a winner.

5. If you’re ideologically bent towards supporting the emasculation of a classic, it’s for you, but in answer to the question “who ya gonna call?” – perhaps, first, call a therapist, not Ghostbusters. #justsayin

6. Crude statements about how a woman’s anatomy works, no matter how subtle, doesn’t communicate well for any actor selling a story to a wider audience, outside the teen angst bracket.

7. The storyline was strong enough to withstand the small amount of innuendos.

8. Overreaching in order to empower feminism disempowers feminism (and almost squeezes the life out of everything it touches).

9. Outside the Gilmore Girls, I’m not a big fan of Melissa McCarthy’s later work. (You deserve better, you can do so much better because you’ve done so much better).

10. Hollywood peaked in 1984. It’s been on a slow downward slide since. It seems to have literally run out of really cool, original ideas.

11. Bill Murray is still one of the coolest comedians alive, and Ernie Hudson must be part Vulcan, he’s hardly aged at all.

12. Chris Hemsworth, Australia thanks you for Thor, but we’re pulling faces and scratching our heads over this one, mate.

13. Hollywood is still capable of making a comedy without copious amounts of swearing or sexual innuendos [thumbs up]. It’s the genius in the legacy of Dean & Jerry, the Dick Van Dyke show, Mchales Navy, and Hogan’s Heroes.

14. Ecto-1 remains one of the coolest pop culture cars to have ever been created. With the ban on the General Lee, Ecto-1  moved into the number 4 slot, just under the A-team’s GMC van, KITT & the Delorean.

15. It doesn’t matter how awkward a movie might seem, gizmos and gadgets always make it better.

16. The modern liberal quest for what it, and it alone, determines to be tolerance and equality, creates inequality. In well-timed humour, on screen chemistry and one-liners, this reboot of Ghostbusters is not even close to being equal to its predecessor.

Does the movie speak to it’s audience and Ghostbusters fans? Yes, sometimes.

Does it do anything for feminism? Yes, however not in the way I suspect that it might have been intended. It shows that the frown of feminist idealism is kryptonite. That it’s misandry and overshadowing hypocritical disapproval of men, is toxic. Feminism is fundamentally about empowering women to be as equal-in-value as men. Any medium that betrays this platform rests not on talent, wit and moxie, but on a destructive ideology that perverts feminism, and clouds its positive achievements.

The absence of Ivan Rietmann and Dan Ackroyd is noted. Although, Ackroyd, Hudson and Murray make a cameo appearance, they’re not credited as being directly involved in the remake, which might explain the movie’s awkwardness. The brilliance of the first film was its disciplined balance between the serious and the silly. The retake barely seems to attempt to do the same. Paul Feig (Director/Writer) and Katie Dippold (Writer) could have made the story line deeper and tapped into the tension Reitmann maintained. It’s not clear why they didn’t choose to go in this same direction.

Putting the apparent hi-jacking of Ghostbusters by feminist idealism aside. Dedicated fans of the franchise might not be as thrilled as the fans of Batman were with Nolan’s trilogy, or Bay’s Transformers, however, they’ll probably be more forgiving. This is because Ghostbusters, the reboot, isn’t just a remake. Its in-part, an interesting retake on the whole Ghostbusters story.


Note: Thoughts expressed here are my own. I received no payment of any kind for this review.

Trailer: Ghostbusters, 2016 Sony Pictures

One of Australia’s loud minority parties displayed their brilliant political idiocy this December by supporting a campaign called: “No Gender December”.

As a political manoeuvre it’s brilliant.

The ideology behind it, however, overreaches. Intentionally motivated to do so or not, it’s an ontological argument that sabotages the message of Christmas; selling it out to a predatory political agenda by sidelining the pointed Christmas message and exchanging it for easy “cheers” and blurred distinctions.

The issue according to Greens Senator Waters is that:

“We shouldn’t be labelling toys-for-boys and toys-for-girls”[i]
“Starkly separate aisles of pink and blue” might seem harmless, but “setting such strong gender stereotypes at early ages can have long-term impacts, including [on] self-perception and career aspirations.” 
Senator Waters said that “outdated stereotypes” about girls and boys perpetuate gender inequality, “which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.”[ii]

Despite claims of misquoting and Murdoch-press propagandizing from Water’s Facebook fans, the message is clear enough: ‘Don’t buy our daughters pretty things, even if they like them, because it reinforces “outdated stereotypes.”

It is an ideological mess that even Waters, when questioned about it, struggles to define.

Having long since abandoned the respect for democracy and exchanged the term political opponents for political enemies, this only serves esoteric elitists who have their egos stroked by promoting anything which may lead to some form of political advantage.

The veil falls ever so quietly.

The fabric of this particular veil is made up of the highest goal of gender neutrality: an androgynous collective resting on the false premise of the divine right of the individual.

This is Hindu spiritualism disguised and repackaged as gender equality. In brief, Hindu belief holds the notion that you can become god once you transcend gender.

As Indian Christian and theologian, Vishal Mangalwadi writes:

”Hindu philosophy (historically) has promoted homosexuality and become foundational to the contemporary interest in ”scared sex” because it teaches that each one of us if god, infinite and complete…Consequently I don’t need a wife because the feminine is already in me (Shakti). It lies dormant, coiled up as a serpent (Kundalini) at the base if the spine in the psychic centre of sex (Muladhara Chakra).
It teaches that I might need sexual help to awaken the feminism within, but that I can transcend finiteness as male (or female) and experience my completeness (divinity) when the feminine within rises, travels up, and merges with the male energy (Shiva) in my crown (chakra)”[iii]

Mangalwadi is not from the West. Therefore his observations are unique.

He sees dangers we do not, or ones some of us do see and yet fail to get an audience for.

The Greens (and I dislike how this environmental term has become so politically charged – as if only an elite few care about the environment) seem to be playing on the issues challenging the major political parties:

Society and politics today is not just about who you know, but who you can impress and satisfy; and for how long.

The world is becoming a machine that communicates through a human face devoid of character, faith and healthy distinctions. An industrial mechanized society empty of any real meaning and purpose.

So why drown out with politics one of the only times that reminds us of our humanity and the beautiful reconciling unity-in-diversity that begins with the Freedom of God’s will to be for us; His gracious decision that works its way out in the lives of men-as-men, women-as-women and man for the woman, woman for the man, both for God.

My boys don’t like pink or things they consider to be ”girly”. {Curiously enough, in her interview, even Waters defaults to the term “girly”  (0:50, source) }

They just don’t like the colour pink. So why should I force them to like it, or force my daughters to settle for gifts that would normally be gifted to their brothers based on their interests at the time?

My young daughter commented once, rather confidently, that she disliked a poster she saw in a store that had happened to catch her eye:

It read: ”It’s a man’s job to manage the remote, a women’s job to clean the house”.

She is not indoctrinated by politics from either side. Yet she was clear on how much she did not like this poster and why.

For me, this is an outworking of her freedom; her life in Christ. Being formed by His Spirit and leading.

We don’t have to be a “progressive” to be for progress.

We don’t need politicians to parent us, run our lives or be our social conscience.

When that happens, my friends, we are no longer free and have signed our vote off to the highest bidder. Choosing something far more sinister than budget cuts, stopping illegal and unsafe migration, or fairly reminding Australians that they have a heritage worth learning, celebrating and lamenting.


 

Source:

[i]  Senator Waters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-JTmKl5GNQ

[ii]  No Gender December: Greens Senator calls for end to gender-based toys ( http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/no-gender-december-greens-senator-calls-for-end-to-genderbased-toys-20141202-11y4ro.html)

[iii] Mangalwadi, V. 2011 ‘The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of Western civilization’ Thomas Nelson Publishers (p.295)

 

I am in agreement with Karl Barth when he aBarthsserts that we need to maintain a distinction between male and female.

He is right to state that this imperative is because there is a structural and functional order to the ‘I & thou encounter’ (1951:131 & 150; see also Buber).

Barth writes: ‘man in himself was a question without an answer and the woman only the answer to his question’ (1951:168); ‘the root of togetherness is man with woman, woman with man.

This encounter reflects our humanity i.e.: ‘Humanity which is not fellow-humanity is inhumanity; for ‘the root of this inhumanity is the ideal of masculinity free from woman and femininity free from man’ (1951:117 & 166).

In other words man is man in his relationship to woman, as woman is woman in her relationship to man (1951:163). The two cannot exist in total isolation of the other[i]. Barth is right to argue that humanity is, ‘in light of the command of God’ (1951:130) female and male; fully male or fully female (1951:140 & 149).

Outside medically rare and exceptional cases, never both at the same time. The alternative conclusions lead to the non-Biblical notion that God is bisexual and all humans that transcend their sex become gods (1951:156-157).

Barth raises a potentially liberating challenge to the ideology behind conclusions that presuppose a ‘’feminine side’’ to men and a masculine side to women. What must be made clear is that the impetus for the latter is rooted in a higher plane of individualism. One that holds up the idea that each person needs to “get in touch with” themselves to be more complete as humans, hence the ‘’born this way – stay this way” absolutism, advocated implicitly within certain ‘’lifestyle’’ paradigms.

Whilst this has been the trend in most Western Societies, we can still avoid the politics of displacement and resentment that develops through a confusion of roles, and the victim politics that follows. Yes, we should be who God created us to be, but that is either fully male or fully female, which is properly grounded on God’s ‘commanded orientation’ (Barth 1951:167), not a rejection of it.

Along with Barth (1951:161), Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi points out that the idea of the feminine in the masculine has its origin in Hinduism. For instance he writes:

‘Historically Hindu philosophy has promoted homosexuality and become foundational to the contemporary interest in Tantric or ‘’sacred sex’’ because it teaches that each one of us is god, infinite and complete. Consequently, the assumption is that I don’t need a wife because the feminine is already within me (Shakti) it just needs help to be awakened.’ (Mangalwadi 2011, p.295)[iii]

Barth rejects this, labelling homosexuality and its ideological elements a ‘malady on society’ (1951:166). Even though there may be conflict (polarity 1951:163[ii]) between male and female there is no crisis between what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Therefore, as a man, I can let go of any notion and social expectation that might demand I ‘’get in touch with’’ the feminine within myself.

There are indeed absolutes and these need to be acknowledged for true freedom to be understood.

Barth rightly points out that ‘men should rejoice in being male, likewise women in being female, rather than be ashamed of it; or promote an idolatry of self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency ’ (Barth, 1951:149 & 166).

At this point it is helpful to introduce John Howard Yoder’s concept of ‘subordinate reciprocity’, understood as ‘haustafeln’ (house-tables Yoder, 1972:163).

Subordinate reciprocity asserts that the ‘subordinate person becomes a free agent when that person voluntarily accedes to their role in the power of Christ instead of doing it either fatalistically or resentfully’ (Yoder, 1973:191).It is therefore right to suggest, as Yoder does, that ‘subordinate reciprocity’ (Yoder, 1972) aligns with the axiom ‘to be a teacher is to be a learner’ (Kierkegaard XIII: 461). (I believe Barth would agree based on his comments about the ‘reciprocity of the sexes’ 1951:164)

Subordinate reciprocity is a New Testament ethic that empowers men to ‘confirm the order in which woman in her place is not simply subordinate to him, but stands at his side’ (1951:181). As Barth writes

‘…there is no simple equality… Man does not enjoy any privilege or advantage over woman…Man cannot become her Lord…Man is not the Christ of woman. This would be misunderstanding the Divine order, creating disorder and abuse. Woman is right to protest this if the context so demands it…The man is strong as he is vigilant for the interests of both sexes. This is what is intended and tenable in the otherwise rather doubtful idea of chivalry. To the man who is strong in this sense there corresponds, when woman is obedient, the woman who is mature…the tyrannical man is always disobedient in relation to this order’ (1951:170-180)

In his essay, Perichoretic Possibilities in Barth’s Doctrine of Male and Female, Alexander McKelway provides an analogy of perichoresis (participation with God). McKelway imagines it as a ballet between a man and woman (the “grand pas de deux” McKelway, 1986:242).

While I take issue with some of McKelway’s conclusions about Barth, his analogy is helpful. The perichoresis that humanity is invited into is similar to the reciprocity in a waltz where the male ‘takes the lead, initiates and inspires their common being and action’ (Barth, 1954).

We do well to hold this in critique of the increasing influence of “cultural and ideological straightjackets” that are bound by an excessive egalitarianism, blurring gender distinctions (gender neutrality[1]) in the name of equality. The dangers appear very real as lobbyists appeal to a vile post-modern inverted idea of tolerance and its inevitable by-product ‘unchecked individualism’ (Le Buryns 2009:72).

The conclusion for a man who acknowledges and rejoices in his being as man, is that when he loves a woman and woman loves in return, despite the polar opposites, he doesn’t just say to her, “I need you”, but can confidently and more importantly ask her:

“Will you share your life with me, as in Christ, I am willing to share mine?”.

Final thoughts:

When attempting to provide sharp relief of Karl Barth’s theology of fellowship between God, man and woman, there is always a risk of oversimplifying his intended meaning. I am in agreement with Timothy Gorringe on this; therefore I have attempted to briefly unpack Barth’s thought in full awareness of that caveat. I realise the length of this article will also limit its readership.

However, my intention here was to at the very least introduce the relevance, if not communicate the balance, clarity and insight Barth was developing in his theology regarding such important matters. They are words with poignancy and precision. Calm words of warning for an age going full throttle in opposite directions with little concern for the consequences, or those who try to raise awareness about them.

Finally, perhaps a good, albeit simple example of subordinate reciprocity lies hidden within the narrative presented by Miranda Divine here:

‘Prince Philip managed to remain his own man, respectful but not emasculated, as he accompanied Queen Elizabeth on every royal tour’ (M.Divine, 2012)
Queen and Prince Phillip3 collage

Source: The Daily Telegraph. Miranda Divine, 2012. The marriage that made the monarchy.


Bibliography

Buber, M 1970 I and Thou (trans. Kaufmann) Kindle for PC ed. Charles Scribner’s and Sons

Barth, K. 1951 Church Dogmatics III.IV The doctrine of creation Hendrickson Publishers

Kierkegaard, S. 1997 the Essential Kierkegaard Princeton University Press U.S.A

Le Buryns, C. 2009, Re-placing stewardship? Towards an ethics of responsible care Source:

Religion & Theology, 16 no 1-2 2009, p 67-76. Publication Type: Article Peer reviewed.

Database: ATLA Religion Database sourced 27th May 2012

Mangalwadi, V 2011 The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization

McKelway, Alexander J. 1986 Perichoretic Possibilities in Barth’s Doctrine of Male and Female The Princeton Seminary Bulletin sourced from http://journals.ptsem.edu/id/PSB1986073/dmd008

Selvaggio, A. 2011, 7 Toxic ideas polluting your mind P & R Publishing Company Phillipsburg, N.J, U.S.A

Yoder, J.H 1974 the Politics of Jesus Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids M.I, U.S.A

Related Reading:

Gender and Theology series: Karl Barth on man and woman – Kevin Davis


[i] Contrary to what radical feminist Mary Daly might argue; see Elshtain’s Public Man, Private Woman, 1981

[ii] ‘Man is unsettled by woman and woman by man’ (1951:167)

[iii] Or as Barth puts it ‘Self-glorification’ (1951:167)

©RL2013

I read Janice Rees’ interesting, September 1st blog post @ WIT (WomeninTheology.org):

 ‘On Not Reading Barth: my measly resistance’

Janice raised some good points, for example: Barthian scholarship does tend to attract elitists. Coming from a white underprivileged background, where I was pushed to the margins of the church, I empathize to some degree with some of Janice’s concerns. This is something that predisposes my own theology more towards liberation theology than it does Karl Barth’s.

However, I see Barth’s theology, and those who choose to become dialogue partners in the field, as a counter weight. This ironically helps to liberate me from the self-imposed limitations that can feed dysfunctional paradigms [1]. This can tend to keep people, such as liberation theologians, in a constant circular movement motivated more by emotion than reason (i.e.: chasing ones tail to the point where they compromise the purpose and intent of their manifesto, creed and ergo their entire existence) [2].

Kait Dugan (theologian and feminist) recently responded to Janice here.

Worth noting is Kait’s lament:

…”Now I don’t measure up to what it takes to be in the girls club. And you can’t even begin to imagine the insecurity and isolation that occurs when you feel excluded from the “new feminist orthodoxy” as a woman and Barthian theologian”…(Dugan, 2013)

In some respects I have witnessed the reverse to Rees’ ‘mens club’. In Australian theological academia, at least, there seems to be a  lot of ”tip toeing” and ”egg shell walking” when it comes to women in theology. I think this approach shows as much contempt for feminism as misogyny does. I agree with Jean Bethke Elshtain who suggests in ‘Public man, Private Woman, 1981 (post scripted 1991)’ – that this special treatment towards feminism in some ways negates the ideas within feminist liberation theory of gender equality. This is something Kait Dugan also points too albeit from a different context.

…’Women should be encouraged and free to engage anyone they want within theology and other academic disciplines including the male-dominated field of Barth studies. And women should feel free to follow Janice in not reading Barth if they don’t want to as one form of powerful resistance. After all, isn’t that freedom for women to be exactly who they are and study whatever they want the true ethos of feminism?‘.. (Dugan, 2013)

My concern rests in the overly sensitive treatment from men towards women in this area. It has negative implications for free speech and other key areas which should encourage, rather than supress respectful dialogue. Having said this I understand those sensitivities. I simply question whether such actions are theological responses informed by feminist context, or whether such actions are drawn from a sycophantic – people pleasing – agenda. In this sense such a response could be regarded as a self-imposed limitation feeding a dysfunctional paradigm. This is because it comes from a broken context and in turn becomes hostile to the very thing it appears so innocently to promote (self-defeating is a word that might more appropriately fit here, if I had the time to unpack this further).

Let me just highlight a parting word from Elshtain in her book ‘Public Man, Private Woman’:

…’movements and theories which insist on the centrality of a style of action, a refusal to question ourselves (or others) in order to complete one’s agenda, leads to the repudiation of the very existence of those with whom one disagrees’

(J. B. Elshtain PMPW, 1981:365, emphasis paraphrased)

Axe meet the proverbial grind!

A self-limitation might well be the refusal to question our own predispositions because of a fear that doing so might offend ivory tower sensibilities.

That is why I believe free speech is important. The ability to have a variety of creative discussion and reverent expression (like I hope this blog you are now reading is developing into). One which allows for the tension between embedded and deliberative theological reflection to move forward, correcting our alignment and further pointing us towards the proclamation of the Gospel.

Source:

Elshtain, J.B 1981 Public Man, Private Woman: Women in social and political thought, Princeton University Press

[1] I am presupposing a distinction between the terms limitation and limits. I use the word limitation here to indicate negative outcomes to a decision. Limits such as those encouraged by English common law for example, have proven to be beneficial. So depending on the context self-imposed limitations like personal boundaries can be a good or a bad thing. I think what this may really suggest is the fear associated with questioning ourselves, testing our positions whether they be political, theological or otherwise.
[2] I am not intending to imply that Janice or Kait are doing this or allowing it. Here I am reflecting on my own personal/academic journey thus far in conversation with both Janice and Kait’s articles.