The New Misogyny: “bro-culture” pastors, sexist Christian comedians and abuse apologetics disguised as female empowerment

When I was growing up, the Christian misogynist wore a suit and tie, poured on enough cologne to slay an elephant and toted a Bible the size of an encyclopedia. This pastor boomed Biblical pronouncements from the pulpit and quoted lots of Scripture to defend his abusive, anti-woman teachings.

You know, I kinda miss the Old School Misogynist. At least he was obvious. At least he didn’t pretend to be all pro-woman.

These days, the Christian misogynist is far more subtle. He probably wears hip clothing and may even use feminist jargon to disguise his underlying sexism.

These are the pastors who tweet and talk endlessly about their smokin’ hot wives.   These are the “Christian comedians” who write dating manifestos about why Christian “girls” don’t have boyfriends. Apparently, reading your Bible at Starbucks is NOT attractive to these men. Maybe you should try wearing white shorts to a prayer meeting.

What makes me ill is that these are men are my peers. These guys are not my Dad’s age. These guys are not my grandfather. These men should know better.

It’s even more discouraging when you call their views offensive only to be told by their yes-men, “Hey, can’t you take a joke?”

This is the New Misogyny: when huge bloggers like Jon Acuff claim that sexist jokes about women help “clear away the clutter of Christianity so we can see the beauty of Christ.”

This is the New Misogyny: when bestselling Christian authors tell “girls” how to live a better love story by being a supporting character in a story a man is writing. [Note: Don Miller took down that post, but I never heard him recant his harmful view of women.]

This is the New Misogyny: when Prodigal magazine publishes sexist articles under the guise of satire and “truth telling.” Oh, yes.  John B. Crist believes his sexist humor is excusable because he’s JUST TELLING THE TRUTH.

 

[Note: Prodigal removed that post w/o explanation]

This is the New Misogyny: when a popular author of many books on Christian ministry and spirituality asks women why they don’t comment on his blog and then he dismisses their answers.

This is the New Misogyny: when a woman engaging theology blogs under a male pseudonym is treated with greater respect than when she comments as her female persona.

This is the New Misogyny: when “Biblical Marriagists” claim they’re empowering women while defending the very theology that oppresses them.

You guys. What is happening, here?

It’s not that I doubt the sincerity of all these Christians. In fact, it’s their sincerity which troubles me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my years in an abusive church, it’s that the most dangerous abuse apologetic comes from a sincere heart and good intentions.

And the most subtle form of spiritual abuse is cloaked in messages of empowerment.

I guess when you’re hip and sincere, nobody suspects you of misogyny. You can tell the same lies about women that have been told for thousands of years and all anybody will see is the sincerity of your heart and your precious nerd glasses.

*due to an anti-feminist website sending an influx of trolling commenters, comments for this post are now closed.*

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

    FREAKIn’ LOVE YOu. You’ve spoken truth, and its kinda scary.

    • Anonymous

      well, thanks! although, i won’t claim to be speaking truth–just my opinion of the trends I see happening in Christian culture at large. :)

      • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana

        well I think its true that misogony takes different forms. Whether the people are intentional about it might be up for grabs. I guess I struggle to love well, too.

        • Anonymous

          Yes! Misogyny takes different forms and you DON’T have to intentionally HATE someone to participate in systemic forms of misogyny. Great point, Lana.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

    What a terribly depressing post. I sooo want to think that we’re moving forward and making progress and putting this stuff behind us… but…will we ever? Whether it’s out in the open or veiled behind humor and theology it doesn’t seem to be going away. What to do? Two things come to mind: 1. point out this stuff wherever you see it happening, as you’ve done above. Draw attention to it, don’t let it slide. 2. Support women leaders in the church (and elsewhere). Encourage them. Give to them. Promote them. The road to “solving” this problem seems to be a long one … but we can’t give up.

    • Anonymous

      yeah, i’ve been feeling pretty damn depressed about all this. just when i think we’re moving forward and making progress, the fundamentalist tide seems to rise again–and even more strongly. I appreciate you coming alongside me, here.I can’t fix it. But I can BE the change, you know? You can, too. Together we can make a difference.

  • JB

    This is so true. I had an interesting debate on fb this week when I dared to correct a pastor’s interpretation of some verses. Had I been a guy I know his reaction would have been different. Even worse, I had the credentials to make an informed comment/correction. Thankfully its not my church…we have quite a few women pastors and elders where I attend :) All is not lost!

  • http://twitter.com/aintiwomanblog Melanie SpringerMock

    Truth. Thanks for speaking so powerfully. What I find interesting (and telling) is that so many places put something out there, then take it down. IMO, it reflects how deeply engrained misogynist messages are in the church, so that some of Christian culture’s biggest writers can’t even see it in themselves until they are called out for it. Keep calling it out: the way you are making a difference, for sure!

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Honestly, if dudes are directing their dumb literary snark at women and thinking that doesn’t reflect badly on them in their quest to be not-sexist, they are blind. And here’s the thing – with at least a few of the writers you mentioned, power in the white male church establishment is probably exactly that – blinding.

    • Anonymous

      really appreciated YOUR post, Zach. Blindingly brilliant–in all the right, enlightening ways. :)

  • KatR

    “What makes me ill is that these are men are my peers. These guys are not my Dad’s age. These guys are not my grandfather. These men should know better.”

    Yeah, but a lot of these guys were raised by those men. Or at least were raised in churches run by those men, and now they vaguely realize that those same attitudes won’t fly anymore, but they still have the same disdain for women. So instead of barking out orders about women learning in quietness and submission, they post “humorous” articles that try to shame women for putting posts on Instagram about how much they like to read the Bible.

    Oh, and as far as Prodigal pulling down that article without explanation? Fine with me, actually. I’m kind of tired of hearing their excuses.

    • Anonymous

      Good point. They SHOULD know better but they don’t because they were RAISED with those attitudes and clearly haven’t taken the time to re-educate themselves. During a recent Twitter conversation with some of these men I was stunned by how many of them were sincerely CLUELESS about why Crist’s dating article was offensive. My finding it offensive was simply a subjective experience. Meanwhile them finding it humorous trumped all. Almost zero self-awareness and a willful refusal to examine their bias and blindspots. Really like they were REVELING in their ignorance. Pretty telling.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=168302465 Allison Maass

        Read your post and this happened upon this TEDtalk right after. It’s about EXACTLY what you’re saying! They’re clueless because they’re in the dominant group. Soooo true.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTvSfeCRxe8

        • Anonymous

          GREAT point!!! As long as they are in power do they have any incentive for examining their privilege and abuses of it?

          • http://www.facebook.com/quakergil Gil George

            I think it goes beyond that. White males are seeing their dominant position erode, and there is a lot of fear on a subconscious level that the oppressors are about to become the oppressed. Oppression is such a part of their paradigm that they cannot conceive of the absence of oppression. So their tactics are matching those of dictators about to lose power, growing more extreme in their suppression of dissent from the fear of having to face the world from a place of powerlessness.

          • http://www.facebook.com/quakergil Gil George

            I say the above as a white male pastor who has had to confront the fear, ugliness, and resentment within. By God’s grace this happened before I got married.

          • Anonymous

            Thank you SO much for this. I so admire your humility and insight. Breath of fresh air.

      • Simple Man

        Too bad they aren’t married to an elizabethester. My wife played and plays a large part in my re-education and I thank God for it everyday.

  • http://twitter.com/eflask flask ehrlenmeyer

    yes. that exactly.

    imagine: women as people, not accessories to someone else’s (more important) life.

  • QoB

    “Can’t you take a joke?” is one of the oldest anti-feminist derailing techniques in the book, along with “You’re overreacting”. Kudos to you for calling it out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

      Gaslighting is a tried and true tactic

  • Mia

    “You can tell the same lies about women that have been told for thousands of years and all anybody will see is the sincerity of your heart and your precious nerd glasses.” Hahahaha! So good.

    But seriously- I went through the links you posted to John Crist’s articles (and looked through his website as well) and honestly, I don’t even think he’s that funny. It’s like the Christian music phenomenon: cheaply made secular music that’s been dubbed over with cuss-word-free church-lady-friendly lyrics. It’s like because they say “Jesus” enough times it doesn’t have to be technically excellent. Makes me crazy!

    I feel like the problem with these guys is that they make you feel bad when you’re not the “ideal” Christian woman, when you don’t get the ring by spring, when you don’t read your Bible at Starbucks in your white shorts- but the second you throw in the towel and try to conform to this perceived ideal they mock you in their “satirical, we’re just joking, lighten up LADIES” blog posts. (Source: I went to a Christian college in Orange County. The dating culture was truly a form of masochism.)

    Loved it EE! Keep up the good work! :)

    • Anonymous

      Christian college in Orange County. Enough said. :/

  • sunshinemary

    I’m not following why you are upset about a lot of these. For example, the article from Prodigal about why Christians girls don’t have boyfriends appears to be a list of things that young women do that are unattractive to young men. Are young men not allowed to have preferences? Why is that misogynistic?

    • KatR

      No, those were a list of things that women do that are unattractive
      to John Crist. Of course men are allowed to have preferences. We all have preferences. I prefer men who don’t try and police who I retweet and what I post on Instagram.

      • sunshinemary

        Sure, that’s no problem. It’s just that it isn’t misogyny, unless by “new misogyny” you mean anything that men think that women dislike.

    • Days of Broken Arrows

      And for that matter why is it bad for men to want “smoking hot wives?” How exactly is wanting a nice-looking woman “misogyny,” which is defined as the hatred of women? No one trashes women’s preferences, and women sure do have a lot when it comes to choosing men. So why can’t men have their own, as Sunshine Mary asks?

      • Simple Man

        Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

        The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

        Christian men should strive to see things the way Jesus sees them.

        • http://mountainofrefuge.tumblr.com/ Frank Swift

          The Lord says, if you look like a 500 pound wildebeast, put the cheeseburger down.

      • KatR

        Physical attraction is an important component in relationships, no doubt. But it is a bit discomfiting when a pastor stands at a pulpit and says, basically “hey guys! Check out my wife’s ass!” Also, when only physical beauty is ever complimented in a public setting in church, it gives the women in the congregation the impression that their worth lies only in their cup size.

      • Anonymous

        If you had read the linked article you would have understood that this isn’t about the male preference for beautiful women. This is about PASTORS tweeting and talking endlessly about their wives as if their wives are trophies to be pimped out on social media for everyone to see how godly these pastors are for lovin’ their “smokin’ hot piece of Proverbs 31.”

        • Anonymous

          That screams “look at my trophy wife!”

    • Anonymous

      Men telling women what is unattractive about them is the very definition of sexist treatment. It is objectifying. This is not about having “preferences” this is about men telling women how to modify their behavior to be more appealing to a CERTAIN KIND of male.

      • http://geeksjourney.com/ Frank Swift

        And women telling men what is unattractive is the very definition of sexist treatment. It is objectifying. This is not about preferences, this is about women telling men how to modify their behavior to be more appealing to a certain kind of female.

        Right?

        • Anonymous

          Uhhh. Women telling men their behavior is offensive is sexist? Ohhkay. I’m glad John Crist sent you over here to do his sexist dirty work because you’re really just proving my point. Thank you!

          • http://geeksjourney.com/ Frank Swift

            I find your reaction offensive. Is that sexist?

          • Anonymous

            Frank? This is your last comment on my site. Your ignorance about what constitutes sexism is not worth my time. Educate yourself.

        • http://www.diannaeanderson.net/ Dianna

          Google “male gaze.” Google “objectification.”

          The problem is to do with power structures. And it’s to do with the assumption that any action a woman takes is to please men. Crist’s post made a universal out of his personal preference, instructing ladies that men are judging their every movie, from the tweets they make to the way they do or don’t pay their nails. Not only is that creepy, but that’s sexist as all get out – it is reducing a woman to what a man thinks of her, not who she is as a person and certainly not who she is as a sister in Christ. THAT is sexism.

      • sunshinemary

        But women do do this all the time. We have long lists of demands that we make on men, usually less so about looks, but more about how they act.

        Listen, I know I’m probably not going to change anyone’s mind here, but I think that most men respond positively to a woman who takes care of herself and tries to stay in shape. You appear to be quite attractive and obviously put some effort into maintaining a lovely appearance for your husband. I’m sure he appreciates that. Does he praise you and tell you that you look hot or beautiful? I would guess he does.

        Why shouldn’t Pastors appreciate the same efforts from their wives and applaud them for it? Women in our culture have really let themselves go. We tend to be badly overweight and sloppily dressed and it disgusts most men, even if they are generally too polite to say so. I think more men should praise women who make the effort that you obviously make.

        • Anonymous

          I am very attractive, thank you. But I maintain a lovely appearance for MYSELF. It has nothing to do with my husband. If he were dead, I would take care of myself because I value MYSELF. And yes, while my husband often tells me I am beautiful if he ever DARED say I was “smokin’ hot” on Twitter or FB or–God forbid!– from a pulpit I would be extremely offended. Why? Because him talking about my body publicly is about HIM, not me. That’s him objectifying me, propping me up as some kind of trophy. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if he praised me for WHO I am and what I’ve done but narrowly focusing his praise on my BODY is insulting and dehumanizing. I am far more than my body.

          And furthermore, just because some women make “long lists of demands” on men is no justification for men to treat women in a sexist manner. That doesn’t even make sense.

          Mary, it appears you’ve internalized many of the misogynistic messages of our culture–including that being overweight badly “disgusts most men.” I really hope for your own sake you re-examine the ways you’ve internalized these harmful messages and can see how they are not only damaging to your fellow women but also damaging YOU.

        • Anonymous

          Well, Mary. I saw the incoming links from your site and casually clicked over. Was pretty stunned to see all the vile things you and your readers are writing about me on your site. I’m teaching a “false Gospel” and have a “false ministry” and don’t think much of my husband–among other lies. All I can say is: thank you for showing your true colors.

  • sunshinemary

    OK, and I’ve just read the Jon Acuff post – it surprised me to see him on there, since he is a fairly progressive Christian. He is actually agreeing that the thinking of men who have some kind of issue with “girls with a past” is wrong. How does that make him a misogynist? If anything, that makes him a bit of a Christian feminist.

    • Anonymous

      Right. Because writing shaming satire about that dredges up harmful stereotypes about women (for laughs) is precisely the way we hold men accountable for their boorish behavior and demonstrate our Christian feminism. Um. No.

  • http://geeksjourney.com/ Frank Swift

    Misogyny: Any criticism of a woman, no matter how mild, that makes them out to be less than the perfect fluffy superior beings of pure driven light that they are. Got it.

  • Heather

    “John Acuff” and “Christian feminist” in the same sentence. AHAHAHAHAHA! Just spit out my wine! Also, Frank = troll.

    This article was so right on. Thank you for your courage to tell the TRUTH.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.warnock.7 Dave Warnock

    You’ll be hard pressed to find any religion; Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc…where women are viewed as equal to men. It’s shameful. Women will be treated with true equality when religion dies away. May it come quickly. Sometimes It’s just embarrassing to be a male. Sigh

    • Mistie Holler

      Sikhism. At least in theory. Don’t know about practice.

  • rebecca

    i quit SCL since that post. seriously. just not impressed with him. “progressive” christianity is pretty scary sometimes! the line you used “clearing away the clutter of christianity so we can see the beauty of christ…” yeah thats a LOT of BS for me.
    i want to say this carefully but sometimes it feels like they want to focus on “their smokn hot wife” to

    a) convince everyone they have their eyes on one chick and one chick alone (the smokn hot wife of course) so no one can ever call them a pervert or say he has “roaming eyes”

    b) its like a contest to see who won the hottest wife

    c) because THAT is what is important. to be smokn hot. not kind. absolutely not messy and barely holding all of life together. not smart. not classy. just hot.

    d) the couples who impress me the most are the ones who communicate, laugh together, can be across the room from each other but who take the time to make eye contact and “check in” with each other. whenever i see public stuff it tends to make me feel they are trying to convince others that they have “more” than maybe they do? (i know i know. some people may argue this to the bitter end but seriously get yourself a room!!)

  • Kelly W. Russell

    Thank you, EE! I have been thinking the same things.

    Regarding male pastors and christian men in leadership sphere at large, am I the only one sick of any religious conversation regarding women having to do with appearance? Seriously, we get that men want women to whom they are attracted to. Women also want men they are attracted to, by the way. Seriously, though, can we all be a little more like Jesus who never said anything about how a woman looked? Gah. I’d take the whole Christian world more seriously if women and their physical appearance was never a topic of conversation.

  • JessieLeigh

    I shouldn’t be dumb, but I can’t be TOO smart. I shouldn’t flaunt my beauty, but I damn well better be attractive. I should know everything about the Bible, but somehow manage to make it look like it’s my husband who’s the wise one…

    Honestly, it’s remarkable I’ve made it 36 years with any sort of successful relationship and any kind of self-confidence. It saddens the heck out of me for anyone to suggest this as a message appropriate of the CHURCH.

  • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

    I’m a recovering misogynist.

    No, I never hated women. I never realized I was sexist. But as I’ve gotten more educated and learned to be empathetic, I’ve learned ways that I was unintentionally sexist in my thought patterns and attitudes.

    It’s difficult to accept that what seemed like just normal, average opinions were actually disrespectful and damaging to women. But I’m learning to take THEIR word for it, rather than just saying “Well, I’m a guy, and I don’t think that’s offensive, so you shouldn’t be offended, women.”

    • http://twitter.com/Lanahobbs Lana Marie Hobbs

      I’m also a recovering misogynist. And I’m a woman, so that gets a little complicated :) It’s scary how we internalize sexist thinking so that we only recognize it as what is natural and appropriate, or at least I did. I’m having to uproot so many thought patterns.

      • Map Forward

        Me, too. An older friend of mine (in her 60s) told me that a mentor of hers once told her that everyone has some unhealthy scripts or tapes that run from time to time. It can be hard to stop them, but you can turn them down and listen to other things.

      • Anonymous

        oh my word, YES. man oh man. i need to write about this because I certainly directly perpetuated the harmful misogyny I internalized. and also, most of my physical abuse happened at the hands of women who truly believed they were doing what God wanted–because a man told them this was “God’s Way.” :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/daviddrury David Drury

    Isn’t it more accurate to say that misogyny has ALWAYS been subtle. Particularly to the misogynist himself. Who would ever declare, “Yes! I harbor a gender-fueled hatred!” The nature of evil throughout time is that It hides behind high standards, good intentions, and well-dressed ignorance.

    No, the “old-school” misogynists weren’t subtle by today’s standards, but 50 years ago they weren’t seen within their culture as haters of women, merely proponents of God’s order. The ones who saw through the lies and called it out were prophets, because the majority of people didn’t see it. How many women simply absorbed the cultural misogyny without even identifying it as misogyny? How many of them would have rushed to the defense of their husbands and pastors because it was beyond the scope of their understanding that the men in their lives “hated” women. I don’t think any of these people saw themselves as women-haters.

    Jon Acuff will turn to his wife and say, “I don’t hate women, do I?” and she will say, “No, honey, of course not,” and off they will go to Applebees. Tony Jones will huff and puff wonder why people would think to pile on on top of someone who is so gosh darn theologically progressive and then he will take four Tylenol and settle back into crafting a tweet about templeton rye. Jon Crist will bro out and try to drum up meaty laughs among his Jesus frat.

    Or they will all be silent and just hope it all just goes away.Or they will fashion a sort of “Hey haters!” comeback. Defense mechanisms are subtle as well. Subtle and ugly and safe.

    It takes a special resolve to be willing to consider that which we don’t yet see in ourselves, and yet that is the call of the Gospel, The SAME GOSPEL to which the above men have made THEIR CAREERS. We are all broken and in process, and that is okay. If any among us don’t harbor some degree of misogyny, we have something just as bad lurking beneath the surface.

    It is the posture of defensiveness among these men which is the real giveaway that something is wrong.

    Thank you Elizabeth for swinging the hammer. Something is getting built here. Even if there is some tearing down that has to happen first.

  • vascularity

    I agree that there is indeed negative feelings from men toward women. But there are very toxic feelings and toxic behaviors from women to men as well. Are you willing to honestly discuss emotional abusive bahavior of women to men also???????

    • Anonymous

      Sure. In another post.

  • Mike

    Forgive me if I missed it, but I still don’t understand exactly what this “new misogyny” is. You’ve called out several individuals as representing this, and you’ve posted these tweets; but, I don’t know the background dialogue of the tweets, and (as you’ve noted) at least two of the sources you’ve referenced are no longer available.

    I hear you saying that the “new misogyny” is more subtle and disguised; it’s people who claim they are pro-woman but say or do things that are, in fact, oppressive. I would appreciate a clearer explanation of what “theology” you believe these new misogynists to be ascribing to. Thanks!

  • http://nataliesblogthoughts.blogspot.com/ Natalie

    Just found your blog for the first time through my sister. I’ve been out of the church for a little over a year now and really questioning everything….. initially I left because I was just sick of the charade, not so much because I was really questioning the teachings of my church. But now that I’m on the outside, I’m seeing some of the sick, misogynistic, abusive and oppressive teachings that my childhood church taught and still teaches. It’s like… these men were people I was supposed to be able to trust and believe in their teachings… and it’s still hard to come to terms with at 26 years old.

  • http://twitter.com/GrumpCurmudgeon Shannon Montgomery

    Thanks for reminding me why I haven’t been to church in over a year.

  • deb

    Great post. I was reading your twitter feed and I do wish you had no linked to that awful comment feed where they were discussing you. It was quite upsetting. I’m not kidding. I felt bad for you but also just horrible that people like that seriously exist. I mean my stomach was in knots. The worst is that it seems this sunshine Mary person is a woman. I am so upset now. I wish I hadn’t seen all that hate. It was so disturbing