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permission

permission

Mother, may I? Do our young people even still play this childhood game today? Does anyone remember with me, the tensely focused anticipation of making it to the leader first so we could have our turn at possessing the power – the power to command the progress of the masses to the “front of the line?” (Read more here if you’ve never heard of “Mother, May I?”)

Permission.

I’ve been a bit preoccupied this spring with rape. Yes, I’ve been thinking about this post for two full months. My preoccupation began when I watched Zerlina Maxwell’s appearance on the Melissa Harris Perry Show. I was horrified and astonished that Ms. Maxwell received death and rape threats because she stated on FOX News that we have to teach men how not to rape in order to prevent such assaults on women in the future. And for this very simple and rational solution she is so violently threatened? Really? I don’t understand how we get from A to B on this one. (See Ms. Maxwell on MHP here.)

Then Olivia Pope and President Grant shared a passionate, quite aggressive sex scene in a White House IT closet which triggered very visceral responses from black women on social media. Their responses to this scene essentially equated it with rape.

Finally black women were up in arms again after seeing Tyler Perry’s Temptation. Several sistahs cried, “Rape!” upon seeing Harley persist in his desire beyond Judith’s expressions of “no.” (None of the online clips of this scene on Harley’s private jet include the critical moments of her persistent resistance.) I heard their voices articulating what they experienced as a viewer; however, after I saw the film, I resisted characterizing it as rape.

And I struggled with my resistance. To me, “no” has always meant “no” – unequivocally – even, as a friend of mine put it, if “no” means “not yet.” To me, rape has always meant a conclusive violation of any form or stage of “no.” After several conversations with friend-colleagues, I determined that in the moment of watching the scene on the plane we audience members don’t have enough information to decide whether it’s rape or not. Mr. Perry fails to do what Shonda Rhimes has done twice now in “Scandal,” with meticulous intentionality I presume. Each time Fitz (President Grant) asserts his desire for Olivia and she pushes him away, he retreats. Pause. Then it’s quite clear that Olivia resumes the encounter by going to him.

Permission.

So, now I’m left with more questions. What is the genesis of our gendered hierarchal culture that persists across our world in most nations? When did men’s power over women start and how has it remained intact decades after efforts like the United States’ Suffrage and Equality Movements? How is it that in 2013 we continue to tolerate a rape culture while misconstruing a woman’s agency to engage in whatever kind of sexual encounter she chooses?

In westernized Christianity, certainly, we can point to traditional interpretations of one of the creation narratives to determine that women are ordained to be ruled over by men because G~d created the first woman from the side of the first man. However, there are other cultures to consider in answering my globally posed questions. Perhaps it is simply about power and control . . . and the fear of losing it.

Over Mother’s Day weekend, I had a few more conversations with family and friends. Young adult family members studying philosophy and other such subjects in college challenged their elders to our thoughts on racism, sincerely asking if we’re not perpetuating the problem as black people by persistently pointing it out all the time. “Everything is not about race,” they insisted. At the end of the day, we found common ground around the notion that it’s all fundamentally about power. I can say that I left the conversation agreeing with the young scholars that, indeed, we are distracted by race when we ought to work on resolving humanity’s power issues.

Then I spoke with a friend about how it is that certain groups are more successful than others in assuming (via conquest) power and keeping it. Essentially he suggested that it’s a confluence of circumstances. The group in power simply had some kind of advantage – physical strength, more formidable weapons, etc. – and then, over time, their experience in power becomes an advantage as well. Prolonged power becomes privilege and an ingrained sense of entitlement. That’s how men rape, how they assert themselves with women without the slightest notion that they require . . .

Permission.

SIDEBAR: I have to say a word about how I sense that women with conservative, traditional religious values contribute to our gendered hierarchal (rape) culture. While I agree with Ms. Maxwell that it is absolutely not my responsibility to carry a gun on my dates in case I’m sexually assaulted – I assert that it is my responsibility to create a rational, balanced approach to heterosexual gender relations. I cannot claim the man is the head of my house and my equal at the same time. I cannot be the damsel in distress waiting for his salvation and his equal at the same time. I contribute to an anti-rape culture when, within my own sphere of influence, I create a person within my femaleness who is a self-actualized human being in which {healthy} men recognize agency, autonomy, authority, compatibility and the necessity of permission rather than the urge to overpower and control.

We’ve forgotten the lessons of simple childhood games, I suppose, lessons which teach that power and control are meant to be shared in community. The ones aspiring to leadership must actually reach the places of power one day

and, in turn, guide others to take the reins from them while caring well for the ones who made their leadership possible as they retreat and allow themselves to be guided once again.

Mother, may I?

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Current Events

Who Told You That You Were Naked? on Respect My Hustle Radio – TOMORROW, 1p EDT – candi sits down with -72- to discuss her book and how the Black church’s tradition of virtual silence regarding sexuality adversely affects the Black woman’s self-understanding as a sexual being. Catch us on 1100 AM Radio (Atlanta, GA). (Click here for live streaming.) Call in to the show at 404.603.8770.

Upcoming Events

“Urban Grind Book Club & Signing” – June 9th, 5p (every 2nd Sunday), Urban Grind Coffeehouse, Atlanta, GA  – Featuring books (fiction & non-fiction) and their authors, as a community that loves to read, write, and discuss interesting literary work. Look for more information soon on June’s authors. Interested authors should email me (facilitator) at cdugas@candidugas.com to register for future dates.

Recent Events

“Single, Saved & Sexin’: The Redux” – In March, I revisited the renowned Crunk Feminist Collective (CFC) post, “Single, Saved & Sexin’” with Dr. Brittney Cooper (Crunktastic), Rev. Arabella Littlepage and Rev. Theresa Thames. What an affirming evening! “Awesome! So many points and so well connected to self-care, self awareness and the black woman’s body. Our female spiritual leaders can help guide us in a direction that creates healthy relationships.” ~Anacostia Yogi If you missed it, check us out here.

Annnd . . . More Thoughts for Our (re)Consideration

© 2013 candi dugas, llc

what if it means something else: thinking differently . . .

what if it means something else: thinking differently . . .

Reflecting with a group Sunday evening, I remembered my study of the serpent in Genesis 3. Sunday’s focus was the Gospel writer Mark’s version of Yeshua’s (Jesus) baptism, wilderness experience, and proclamation of his ministry. (Mark 1:9-15) When one brother in our circle objected to how we tend to view wilderness experiences, that we should embrace rather than avoid them, I looked up the Greek meaning of “satan” in Mark 1:13. It means either accuser or condemner. Traditionally we’ve considered the serpent to represent Satan, the same tempting entity of Mark 1. And traditionally we’ve considered this kind of wilderness experience filled with accusations and temptations to be a bad thing, something to be avoided whenever possible.

What if it means something else? What if we think about it differently? What if facing an . . .

Accuser is not so bad.

Accuse me. Let me defend myself. Let me understand who I am and how I need to articulate that to the world. Until I do, I am only who others say I am.

Accuse me.

Confronted by and conversing with Satan – a good thing.

So what about the serpent in Genesis 3?

Let’s consider this creature differently as well.

First of all, that this Genesis story is about the fall of humankind and original sin is only one interpretation of a highly symbolic, hidden-meaning laden text. A more likely explanation of this tale’s origin is that once upon a time a student asked his teacher to explain responsibility. The rabbi weaves a long-held community tale of the consequences of blaming others for our own decisions and actions.

Secondly, the serpent is not the evil one. The serpent is an oracle, a being who delivers wise and revelatory information. What the serpent tells Eve is proven to be correct. Of the three (Eve, Adam & serpent), only the serpent is cursed by G~d in the text, probably for revealing the truth too soon – not necessarily evil, just out-of-line, over-stepping . . . disobedient.

Let’s see what options open up when we consider alternative views of a thing . . .

  1. The wilderness with its accusations and temptations is a mere chapter in the book of our lives that is a type of proving ground, a rite of passage that is to be embraced, settled into for as long as it lasts – even enjoyed. The accuser (satan) in this season is not an enemy; rather, it is simply an opponent – or an obstacle . . . a resistant energy to overcome.
  2. Relieving ourselves of the nagging burden of original sin, falling from perfection, etc. makes space for us to think about another point to the tale – taking responsibility for our own actions. This point implies that we have more authority than traditionally we may believe about ourselves as humans. With this greater sense of authority, we can live more fully into the goodness of our created ontology. We are able to grasp and utilize our own abilities to create . . . and to destroy. So as we’re faced with all the things we want to improve in this world and we ask where G~d is, we can change our outlook and our question. We can begin to ask where we are, confident in our own G~d-given abilities to right wrongs and to make life better for everyone.
  3. Our lives and decisions and experiences are liberated from the fear of one who tells the truth. Maybe it’s at the wrong time and maybe it’s delivered in a crafty way. So what? We are in the very image of G~d! Rise up! Let’s not eschew our cunning (clever) capabilities. Redemption, second chances, and flipping the script are also present and available. Our (re)creative authority is at hand – let’s take hold of it and do something with it!

How can your life and experiences be different if you reconfigure your understanding of key textual foundations of your faith?

I find great freedom and joy in the reconfigurations of my faith. Life, as a result,  is deeper, richer and more robust!

The best is ahead of us ;-)!

Serpent and the tree source: http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/garden-of-eden-and-the-trees-of-lebanon/.

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

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