This month marked the thirtieth anniversary of a shooting I had never heard of, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as this one took place in Canada where shootings are rare enough to actually be newsworthy. One viral Tweet describes the event thus:
A blog called phenoMENalAct, which I had never heard of before and have no opinion on, takes issue with this. In an article entitled "Are Men Obligated to Die for Everyone Else?", an anonymous author protests, "Notice how not a single damn is given about the men who got shot during that massacre, whom for all we know, may have tried to intervene. Something else that gets overlooked is the fact that the men didn't know what the shooter was planning, and some, who feel survivors' guilt to this day, have said they would have helped if they knew."
The Tweet's indictment of these men for not "teaming up and fighting the shooter" reminds me of people who demand to know why a police officer didn't just shoot the gun out of a terrorist's hand instead of killing them. It's lofty, idealistic and unreasonable. Yeah, fifty unarmed men probably could have taken the jerk down, but the ones who rushed him first would have been screwed. Should they have drawn straws? Since the jerk was holding everyone hostage, and didn't come in with his gun already blazing indiscriminately like most shooters, it wouldn't have been an unreasonable assumption that everyone's best chance for survival was to cooperate until outside help could arrive. Anyone who's never been under such life-or-death pressure (aka most people in the First World) has little or no business complaining about what others should have done.
The author continues, "Here's a life lesson for you: unless it's their job, no one is obligated to risk their life to rescue you, whether you're a male or female. If a stranger decides to jeopardize their safety, family, etc. just for you, that's one hell of a blessing, but not a right. Our society is so spoiled and judgmental regarding this subject that too many people need to study this paragraph."
I, for one, would be happy to sacrifice my life for almost anyone, because being dead would immediately solve most of my problems. And also because that's the Christian thing to do. But I would agree with the author that this is absolutely not something I owe to anyone. If I did it, I would be a hero precisely because I went far above and beyond what anyone had any right to expect or demand of me.
"That said," the author continues, "the mindset of people complaining about the men says a lot about what society thinks of males. The term for this perspective is 'male disposability.' Apparently, a father's life is so worthless that he needs to take a bullet for women in order to be redeemed. Your son is a waste of life until he tries to fight a murderer and become an extra victim."
From the standpoint of reproduction and the long-term viability of the human species, men objectively are more disposable, but since polygamy has long been frowned upon in Western civilization I highly doubt that's what the framers of this cultural norm had in mind. And of course the implication that the human species deserves to survive is up for debate anyway. No, I imagine this was just another one of those "Let's give women special treatment so they won't notice that we don't let them vote" things.
The author then raises a point I had never considered. "And to you guys who believe that men should play superhero at a moment's notice, what would a random woman contribute to the family you leave behind for her? Would she adopt your kids? Would she start paying the bills for your family?"
Currently, if I gave up my life for someone, I wouldn't feel the slightest twinge of guilt for dodging my obligations to the student loan vampires. But what if, against all odds, I had obligations to a family? Would volunteering to die for a stranger, knowing that it would leave someone I actually knew and loved to finance and raise our bratty children by herself, actually be a noble thing to do?
"Choosing to be a hero is your decision," the author continues, "and I can respect people who make that sacrifice. What I don't respect are people who condemn the men who save themselves. Some say that being a protector is a male instinct. What they seem to forget is that survival is a human instinct."
I've wondered about that. Is being a protector a male instinct? Why? In an era when wolf and bear attacks aren't exactly everyday occurences, what do women need to be protected from, besides men?
The author includes several links to support his thesis about male disposability, and singles out the fact that on the Titanic, "304 out of 412 female passengers survived, compared to 128 out of 776 male passengers." But I think the best evidence by far, which I would have focused on at length if I had written the article, is the untold millions of men in the history of the world who have been sent to their deaths in wars, skirmishes or "police actions" they had nothing to do with. In the United States, men are required to register for "Selective Service", which means they can be conscripted against their will if the military ever needs a lot of soldiers really fast, in order to avail themselves of the rights and privileges that women get by turning eighteen. (A federal judge recently ruled this unconstitutional, so there will probably be a few years of court battles and then women will probably be required to register too. I think we should just abolish the stupid thing, but nobody asked me.)
Then he cites a female author. This is a great rhetorical strategy. When people inevitably claim that focusing on the ways society screws men over is sexist against women, he can point out that Helen Smith, who is not a man, wrote: "The guys’ behavior is a culmination that has been years in the making. Our society, the media, the government, women, white knights and Uncle Toms* have regulated and demanded that any incentives men have for acting like men be taken away and decried masculinity as evil. Now they are seeing the result. Men have been listening to what society has been saying about them for more than forty years; they are perverts, wimps, cowards, assholes, jerks, good-for-nothing, bumbling deadbeats and expendable. Men got the message; now they are acting accordingly. As you sow, so shall you reap."
*The quote in the article says "Uncle Tims", but since it didn't say "[sic]" I'm assuming that was a typo by the anonymous author, not Helen Smith.
I mean, I don't think anyone with more than two brain cells can deny with a straight face that this is exactly what society says about men. I can't say whether or not it's worse than how society degrades women, but it is a separate and independent issue that also exists. What's the point of even trying to be a specimen of positive masculinity if society is going to put you down and ridicule you either way?
Recently I saw this thing on Facebook and decided to tear it apart, because that's what I do.
This is, of course, a highly contrived fictional conversation that somebody made up to pat himself on the back for how woke he thinks he is. (That's still the word kids today are saying, right?) So I shouldn't hurt anybody's feelings by mansplaining what should be the self-evident fact of how ridiculous it is. Of course I realize that in the hierarchy of hate crimes, mansplaining is just below smiling while white, but I never said I was perfect.
Ugh. I know the feeling.
"This 'sexual harassment' ---- is -------- ridiculous".
I am not inclined to empathize or side with someone who starts off by saying this. Actual sexual harassment is wrong, plain and simple, and should not be tolerated in any workplace. But again, this is a fictional person and almost nobody in real life is stupid enough to say this so bluntly in public even if it reflects his actual opinion.
"What, now I can't even tell a woman she is pretty without getting in ---- for it?"
This part is a tad more realistic, and the point where I expected the post to take a completely different turn than it did. I expected the author to say something like, "No, you just have to treat women with respect and not be a pervert. You shouldn't feel personally victimized by that concept. Allow me to explain the difference between sincere, thoughtful compliments and sexual harassment."
"Well, we've worked together for you've never told me I'm pretty."
"That's because you're a dude, like me."
In this instance, the fictional person is correct and the person making up this conversation is an idiot. It is not and never has been normal in any English-speaking region of the world to call a dude "pretty" as a compliment. Even if you're gay. The typical male equivalent is "handsome". If the author had demonstrated a first grade level of English fluency by recognizing this fact instead of pretending that two entirely different contexts are the same thing, he would have greatly strengthened his argument. But he didn't.
"Gotta tell ya, that's a little disappointing because I think you're pretty."
"Cut that ----, bro. You're creeping me out."
Again, the fictitious nature of this conversation is painfully obvious. Based on the context immediately preceding these statements, to say nothing of the way most straight males aged twelve to thirty interact with each other, the fictional sexist straw man would need an IQ in single digits to not realize the author is just being a jackass and messing with him. He certainly would not play right into the author's exceptionally woke hands by saying "You're creeping me out." At best he would roll his eyes and say (correctly) "You're an idiot." But in this SJW wet dream, anything goes.
"Soooo me telling you that you're pretty when you neither asked for nor welcomed comments about your appearance is making you feel uncomfortable."
What alternate reality is this guy living in where you're not supposed to compliment people until they "ask for" it? The same alternate reality where there's no difference between calling women and men "pretty", I suppose. And how exactly does one "welcome" compliments? "Attention, everyone, I am now welcoming comments about my appearance for the next fifteen minutes. Please submit your comments before the deadline or they will not be accepted." Look, if someone is making unsolicited unflattering remarks about your weight or complexion or whatever, of course that's messed up and you have a right to be upset. But if you think people need your permission to say you look attractive, and/or if you can't tell the difference between those things, something's wrong with you.
No, not really, you pompous tool.
And the story ends there. I suppose modesty forbade the author from mentioning the part where all his other coworkers applauded, and the misogynist piece of crap was so ashamed of his behavior that he deleted all his Facebook posts where he had accused Rey of being a Mary Sue.
Once upon a time, a gay friend told me that I'm "dorky cute". I'm not gay, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. More recently, a straight friend told me, "I know guys aren't really supposed to say this, but that shirt really brings out your eyes." He was right, guys aren't really supposed to say that, I appreciated the compliment anyway and started wearing that shirt a lot more often. Last week at church, a friend of my grandparents who's old enough to be my mother asked them, referring to me, "Who is this handsome man?" The obvious explanation is that she needs stronger glasses, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. Though I would have appreciated it more if she had called me pretty. Why didn't she call me pretty, when all the people more woke than me know that's a perfectly normal way to describe men? Another time, I was in the restroom at Hasting's (now closed) when some guy outside started whispering "I want you." I looked around for something to kill him with if he came inside. So I would certainly qualify that one as sexual harassment.
I'm hardly an expert, but here's some free advice on giving compliments that aren't harassment. I waive all responsibilty for death or injuries that may result from following said advice.
First of all, I don't think you should call someone pretty or handsome or cute or whatever unless you actually know them a bit. When complimenting strangers, which if done properly brightens any normal person's day, I think it best to focus on an item of clothing or swag and leave it at that. "I like your scarf", etc. Maybe if you have social skills and pure intentions you can proceed to get to know this person but I wouldn't bother. Even with someone you know, a specific compliment with some thought put into it is usually more meaningful. Something that singles out the clothing, a physical feature from the neck up, a personality trait, or a skill.
I would forego the gender-specific and potentially loaded terminology altogether, to say nothing of slang that could make someone feel objectified, and just say "You look nice." I have never experienced or heard of someone reacting negatively to being told that they look nice. Sometimes they have low self-esteem and try to deny it, but they probably won't bite your head off, but then again people apparently exist who think you need prior authorization to say something like that. Perhaps I've just been fortunate enough to avoid those people. Not that I go around giving out as many compliments as I'm making it sound like here.
If you're a middle-aged or older man, probably just don't compliment anything about the appearance of a woman in her twenties who isn't related to you. It's not harassment if done properly but it just isn't necessary enough to justify the potential discomfort. Yes, there is a double standard that makes this less acceptable than when the genders are reversed, but let's be honest, we all know that double standard exists for a reason and we all know what that reason is. I wish we lived in a world where everyone had pure motives and just wanted to brighten everyone else's day out of the goodness of their hearts. But since we don't, I'll just keep being a jerk.
It's a shame that "agenda" has become a dirty word. If I pointed out that Disney has a clear and unmistakable agenda to fill Star Wars with more women and non-white people, most would assume that I'm racist and sexist and see this as a bad thing. But Disney does have such an agenda, and I see it as one of the few things they've done (mostly) right with Star Wars. (I say "mostly" because actual character development seems to be less than an afterthought in some cases.) I'm not exaggerating when I say that the lack of women and non-white people was previously the biggest flaw in an otherwise stellar franchise. And as I've grown more sensitive to these things, I've implemented the same agenda in my not-yet-published and still-evolving novel.
Some years ago, before the new batch of Star Wars movies, I proactively went through my draft and made more characters female just because it seemed like the right thing to do. My two protagonists were already female (hence the working title that will definitely be replaced with something better someday, "Space Girls"). I had no agenda in mind when I made that decision at the beginning. It was just something I tried out and for whatever reason it made them more real to me and more interesting to write than my previous male protagonists who were flat and hollow and stupid, and I did this before Rey was ever a thing, before Disney even bought Lucasfilm, but now they'll make their official debut long after that fact and I suppose it will look like I'm just jumping on the bandwagon. It never occurred to me, though, to make them anything other than white. Crossing the gender barrier was somehow more intuitive than crossing the skin color barrier.
Of course, skin color is handled differently in the non-visual medium of writing, and often glossed over altogether. Most works of fiction in the U.S. have historically been written by white people to an audience of predominantly white people who will assume that all the characters are white unless otherwise implied or specified. So in the original 1980 novelization of "The Empire Strikes Back", Donald F. Glut makes no mention of Luke's or Leia's or Han's skin color, but introduces Lando as "a handsome black man". I presume Mr. Glut didn't and doesn't have a racist bone in his body. But this kind of unconscious bias is something we take notice of and try to rectify nowadays. Contrast it with Alexander Freed's 2016 novelization of "Rogue One", the most diverse Star Wars film up to that point. Every main character is given a detailed description of his or her appearance, but with no mention of skin color whatsoever.
Just a few months ago I tried to diversify my novel in like manner. Of course, most characters are never given a level of description sufficient to justify mentioning skin color or national origin, but most of them had boring "white" names and were white in my mind. My unconscious bias was at work because I'm white and I grew up surrounded by white people - my middle and high school combined literally had like five black kids - so of course that was how I would visualize the world unless prompted otherwise. I replaced a majority of these "white" names with various Hispanic, African and Asian names. All but one of the more prominent characters were also white (or half-white, in the case of one human/alien hybrid) so I changed some of their descriptions and tweaked a few of their names to rectify that. However, I didn't feel at liberty to make such adjustments to the two protagonists. They're at the center of the story I began nearly a decade ago, and to me they were like real living breathing people that I couldn't just alter as it suited me. The most I could do was decide that one of them is half Northern Paiute.
I did not use any labels like "white", "black", "Latino" or so forth, as they seem a bit heavy-handed for my purposes. Within the world of the story, national and ethnic boundaries are all but nonexistent. People of Earth live under one overarching government and collectively regard themselves as "Earthlings". Current categories of race within the Earthling species have been supplanted by the differentiations between Earthlings and other sapient beings from other worlds altogether. "Racism" is no longer about skin color so much as the number of eyes or tentacles someone has. So I just describe Earthling skin color as "pale", "tan", "dark" or what have you, and let other contextual clues like the names or accents fill in the rest. To me this makes sense and is an ideal which we should be striving for in the real world (even though our chance of meeting other sapient beings anytime soon isn't great). "Race" is a social construct that misleads people to believe in divisions within humanity that don't actually exist. Discarding it with all its associated terminology and baggage is, of course, quite impossible at this time. But I think we should be striving toward that end.
Now if anyone has actually read this far, I can imagine some of them asking, "Who the ---- cares? Why does it matter? Why are you SJWs so obsessed with this identity politics crap?" There are at least three reasons for me to have this diversity agenda.
1. The most obvious - inclusivity. If you haven't had the experience of growing up and seeing nobody of importance in the movies or on TV or in novels who looks like you, then you can be forgiven for not grasping why it affects people so much and why they're so happy for the situation to change. Even if you refuse to try to understand, it should be a neutral thing. You shouldn't feel personally attacked by people who look different getting more chances in the spotlight.
2. A related but more selfish reason - because I find it more interesting. I never gave a second thought to growing up surrounded by white people, but now it feels like a breath of fresh air whenever I have the opportunity to be around a substantial number of people who look different than me. Diversity for its own sake is just beautiful, okay? I don't know how else to explain it. And most of the name replacements I made in my novel are objectively superior to the originals anyway. Joaquin Tolentino is a much cooler name than Jacob Collins. Sorry.
3. Because, get this, it's actually necessary if I want to be realistic (which I do). This reason doesn't really apply to Star Wars because it's a fictional galaxy altogether, but my novel is set in this one, just in the future. And in the year 2153, the United States and Europe and probably all of Earth are going to be way more diverse than they are now. From what I can gather, in fact, white people are pretty much the slowest-reproducing demographic on the planet. In just a few decades they'll probably be the smallest minority of all (and since I'm not a Nazi, I have no problem with that and I'm not complaining in the slightest, just stating a fact). So visualizing a future world that's as dominated by white people as most current American movies, TV shows and novels would actually be absurd. So this means my white and now half-white protagonists are actually minorities after all!
I would agree, however, that this shouldn't matter. No such agenda as this should be necessary. In an ideal world, movies and TV shows and novels would automatically reflect the diversity that exists in real life without requiring conscious and deliberate efforts to make them so. But we, at least in the United States, aren't at that point yet.
It's always interesting when a discussion on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' former ban on priesthood and temple blessings for people of African descent partially morphs into a discussion on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' severely deficient dating culture, as happened recently in the comments section of a blog post about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' current circumstances and future prospects in Brunei. At least I say it's interesting because then I can copy that discussion and save myself a lot of effort. Selected comments follow.
First, some guy named Tony complained about President Nelson not apologizing for the ban when he spoke recently at the NAACP convention. Many people think the Church should apologize, but for whatever reasons, it hasn't and at this point is probably never going to.
[C]hanging your mind later doesn't make up for the tears, heartache and pain. I lived in London before the ban was lifted and there were quite a few black members. We had black women married to white men. He could go to the temple do his endowment. She couldn't and couldn't be sealed to him or their children! Can you understand that heartache and pain? While we went to priesthood meeting the black male members had to sit outside! While we went to the temple and served missions they couldn't! While we had many different callings they were restricted to Sunday school president or teacher! Can you comprehend how that made people feel. I sat with people who broke their heart because they were good members but because of their skin colour they couldn't be full members!No retro fitting of history changes that trauma but an apology would help!
Then this guy Johnathan chimed in and I was very impressed by what he had to say.
With all due respect, I can to a degree understand that pain. I am not a black person, but I am a single man in his late thirties. Because of my single status, I've been denied visiting my nieces and nephews in primary and made to wait outside due to the teachers thinking I'm a "weirdo" or a "pervert" due to my single male status. I was released from my calling in the young men leadership as soon as a new bishop was called, because that bishop was prejudiced against me due to my single status. Before the release, he would sit in our classes, micro-manage and interrupt each time I would try to speak, despite the fact I was trying to bear testimony or share uplifting experiences from my mission. This same bishop refused to allow me to go on a temple trip to Manti with my own teenage nieces and nephews, not because of any worthiness issues on my part, but because in his own words, having me as a single adult man in his thirties on the trip would be "innapropriate."
He's not the only bishop or congregation to treat me this way, either. When I was 33, I went to the closest YSA ward I could find to my house (I had just moved) and was rudely told I didn't belong there due to my age.
The Stake President's wife in my current stake asked me if I needed to have a worthiness interview with her husband because I had made the offhand comment that I, "wasn't in a huge hurry to get married."
As a YSA and an older single adult, I've been handed pamphlets from prophets and apostles condemning me for being single - accusing me of not having my priorities straight, not being eternally minded, being lazy, shiftless, or a "menace to society." I've sat through lectures from Institute teachers, Bishops, Stake Presidents, and Apostles and Prophets during the Priesthood Session of General Conference accusing me of being unworthy, sinful, not honoring my priesthood, etc., simply because of my social status, and not based on the actual thoughts and intents of my heart.
For years, these experiences taken together filled me with bitterness and anger towards the church, and severely tried my faith. However, through a long difficult period of personal reflection, prayer, and scripture study I've come to realize a few things:
One is that you can't sit around waiting for other people to apologize to you (no matter how justified you are in your position). As a follower of Christ, your first responsibility is to love your enemy, bless them that curse you, do good unto them that despitefully use you. Jesus didn't say, "Refrain from doing good until you've managed to cast the mote out of someone else's eye." We know what he did say, and it involves changing the mind and the heart of the one person you have control over - yourself.
On my mission, when Elder Eca from Nigeria was handed a copy of the Church News pertaining to the 25 year anniversary of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood, he bore his testimony about it. He served in the inner city in Louisville Kentucky, and he was constantly asked about the priesthood ban.
"I don't care. We didn't have it then, but we have it now, and that's what matters."
The 1978 revelation is retroactive, as is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. All who didn't receive the blessings who are still living can now go to the temple and be baptized and be sealed. We have African and African Americans who hold the priesthood now and are serving as general authorities of the church. And all who died before receiving these blessings will receive them by proxy through temple work. This is stronger than a verbal apology. This is action to right the wrongs of the past. Besides, Christ himself already made the ultimate apology, he apologized to the Father for all our mistakes, including the mistakes made by our leaders. All of these injustices are swallowed up in His infinite Atonement.
Then Dane, the resident tough guy, offered a word of caution.
Johnathan: While I admire your turn the other cheek attitude, I also hope you haven't become a doormat in putting up with these types of behaviors. There is nothing inherently wrong in standing up for yourself and sometimes in life, it is essential to do so lest you begin to lose your mind. Too often in life, and particularly in the Church, things get swept under the rug.
Johnathan took the advice in stride.
Very true, and I appreciate your concern, too.
While I do believe there are times to turn the other cheek, I recognize there are times to defend oneself, also.
However, one of the main things I'm wary about in myself (or in others who have been wronged) is developing a victim mentality because of the injustices performed against us.
A few years ago, I had a bishop who I felt was being unfair with me. He'd cut me off when I'd speak to him, wouldn't let me elaborate or explain my situation, and only gave me questions in interviews that I could answer with, "Yes, sir!" I got tired of that behavior after a while and made clear to him that he was being manipulative. He apologized, and respected me after that.
Recently, regarding the bishop I mentioned in my previous comment who wouldn't allow me to go on the youth temple trip to Manti, I confronted him about his treatment of me (and others in my ward who had special needs), as well. Unfortunately, he is a military person who acts constantly like, "It's my way or the highway." I was so upset with him for a while that I actually was worried that I might get in a physical fight with him. I can be a fiery tempered person, and so I have to watch myself and my temper.
After a lot of consideration, prayer, and talking with family and friends about what to do about the situation (I was prepared to take my concerns to the stake president or higher), the words of a scripture I'd memorized years earlier kept coming back to me:
"The Lord shall fight for you and ye shall hold your peace." (Exodus 14:14)
I felt that I needed to step back, forgive the man (let go of all the anger I had towards him - despite the fact that he wasn't changing his behavior as fast as I would have hoped), and see how the Lord would handle it.
Fortunately, that story has a happy ending (at least for now).
About six months ago our Stake boundaries were rearranged and I was placed in a different ward from him. That solved my problem, but I was still worried about other members of his ward (some who were friends of mine) who had also had problems with him. Luckily, he was released (two-years early) from the bishopric about two months ago. I had also found out through the grapevine that some members of the ward were possibly taking their case against him to the church's legal department, which may have lead to the release.
Yes, sometimes we need to fight, and other times it's better to follow the example of Zion's Camp, where we initially think we have to fight, but really the Lord is testing our patience and wants us to "Stand still, and know that I am God."
For every bishop and ward member who has been a jerk to me, I can name other bishops or ward members who've been kind or friendly or considerate. And I've even seen some of those jerks come around and let go of their old prejudices through time and patience.
I'm not saying that what happened with that last bishop of mine will happen in every case of a leader we disagree with, but I do advocate for taking each scenario one at a time and turning to the Lord for specific answers.
Perhaps feeling a tad guilty for splitting the discussion in half, Johnathan brought it back around in his next comment.
One thing I forgot to mention was how the Priesthood Revelation has affected me personally.
Because of it, I'm now sealed to two members of my extended family with black heritage: a cousin-in-law from Nigeria, and a sister-in-law from Brazil (who has probable African roots, as well as probable native-indian Brazilian roots).
Additionally, I've dated African and African American women in the past (both named Keisha, coincidentally), and wouldn't be against someday marrying a black woman if I happen to meet one I'm compatible with.
We could have all left it at that, but I I wanted to express some empathy and camaraderie to Johnathan. Dating is utter garbage. Dating in the Church of Jesus Christ is, if possible, doubly so. (Every YSA acknowledges this. It's just that most of them think it's worth it for the chance to get married, but I don't.) And I could have spent a couple hours writing a tirade against it, but I exercised restraint and tact instead. I'm occasionally capable of that.
There is a horrific double standard in our culture. When a man in single, it's his fault and he should be condemned. When a woman is single, it's a man's fault and she should be pitied. What if we all minded our own business?
That set him off again, and it was glorious. Not because I reveled in his discomfort, but because he gave our culture a piece of his mind that it so, so richly deserved. And yet he was so calm and articulate.
Very true. And I'm well aware of the disparity between how male and female singles have been talked to and treated for years in the church.
I've heard all women praised from the pulpit for being beautiful, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy, or being sweet spirits, whereas the same speaker has cast doubt as to there being any single man living his priesthood to be worthy enough for them.
I've had a bishop who would excitedly welcome ever single woman in the YSA ward with a big hug (as if they were his granddaughters), but when I walked up to talk to him and introduce myself, he kept his distance and stared at me like I was a drunken hobo who'd wandered in from the street. And that's not just the first time I met him, that happened on several occasions while I was in his ward.
I had a Stake President sit us all down as an Elder's Quorum and give us a lecture about how it was our duty to "date every girl in the ward." Not taking into account the individual worthiness of these women, or the strength of their testimonies, or whether or not they had any social skills, or dressed or acted in a way to attract the opposite sex, or were good conversationalists, or whether or not any of us had chemistry with them at all. To clarify, this was not a ward where dating wasn't happening. This was a typical Idaho Falls YSA where dating and marriage were happening all the time, and I was a prolific dater in the ward. When I didn't have a steady girlfriend in that ward, I was still asking someone out at least once a month. But we still got the blanket sweep of, "You need to be dating all these sweet spirits, you lazy slobs!"
And it wasn't just from the leadership, either. I and some other men in the ward had a conversation with three of the ladies where they told us their perspective was, "Every woman deserves to be chased." (Not "chaste," but "chased.") As in, pursued by suitors. Yet, these women were themselves picky. I later asked all three of them on dates at separate times: one stood me up; another went with me to a movie, then never spoke to me again; and another went with me on a date, then didn't speak to me again for months (luckily, she and I became friends a lot later, but she did end up marrying someone else). And they were picky with other men, too.
To be fair, though, it hasn't always been condemning the men. I've heard talks (particularly from institute teachers) where they've said, "If none of you single people (men and women) make it to the Celestial Kingdom, it'll be your own fault!" And another where a man got up and chastised his daughter (who wasn't present), for dumping the boyfriends he thought were perfect for her, so in his mind that meant she now had to "settle."
This benevolent/not-so-benevolent sexism isn't nearly as pronounced in my ward, but it's present, just as it always has been as I've grown up in the Church. We did stop saying "Ladies first" at linger-longers, a commandment that I started ignoring anyway, so that's progress.
I bring these things up, not to condemn these leaders or teachers, but to point out an interesting phenomena I've noticed in the church. I call it the "parents' goggles" or the "grandparents' goggles." Many single people out there will know what I'm talking about. Your parent or your grandparent or your bishop has been happily married for decades, so all they remember now is the good times they had courting their sweetheart, and the happiness they've enjoyed since that union. They've completely forgotten all the heartache they went through from being rejected, stood up, having their love unrequited, or all the searching and struggling they had to do before they found someone compatible for them (and who the Lord also approved of). Additionally, many of them were young in a time period where dating had a more universally accepted social-infrastructure. The rules were clearly set out. The man courted the woman by doing such and such, and the woman either accepted or rejected by doing such and such. I'm not saying it was a better system - just that the gender roles were more generally accepted by the parties involved, so you didn't have as many question marks as to how you were supposed to approach courtship. A lot of the older generation still think dating is just as simple as it used to be, so they're frustrated and blame us singles, assuming that we're just lazy because the process itself should be so simple and straightforward.
One last problem is getting talks from people who married young or who married their "high school sweetheart." These can be the worst in my opinion. A lot of these guys/gals were the prom king or the captain of the football team, and the girls were a cheerleader or the homecoming queen (insert other popular teenage social positions at your discretion). Yeah! Dating was so easy! I was attractive and popular, so members of the opposite sex just kept lining up to go out with me, so I had to beat them off with a stick! These people generally have no concept of what it was like to struggle with dating as a teenager, let alone struggle through all of your twenties alone, let alone struggle through most of your thirties (and beyond) alone. Dating is completely different for me now in my late thirties than it was when I was fresh off my mission at 22. And people who got married in their early twenties straight off their missions can't grasp that.
Understand, I'm not trying to be negative. Talks condemning all singles for being unworthy, or ones that talk about how easy the dating process should be, used to really upset me. As a person who has actively dated and tried to get married throughout my entire adult life, anymore I just kind of turn a deaf ear to the talks that don't apply to me, and look for the ones that are more sympathetic to singles in general, or the ones from speakers who I can see actually have been through the trenches with dating and do understand what we go through. And I try to understand that many of these speakers are just seeing us through the distorted lens of "grandparents' goggles," and forgive them for it.
I agree with virtually all of what Johnathan said. Of course, his remarks and my approval of them are not anti-woman, but anti-putting-women-on-a-pedestal. And the people who put women on a pedestal are usually men. Funny how we perpetuate this cycle of abuse against our own kind. It reminds me of how I read in an Anthropology class years ago that women, not men, are by and large the ones who perpetuate the tradition of female genital mutilation on their own daughters and granddaughters, falsely believing that they're being helpful. And I think most women hate being put on a pedestal too. I don't think they want to be worshiped. I don't think they want to be held to impossible standards. Of course, I'm not a woman and I could be completely wrong.
I think I relate to Johnathan because I anticipate being him in a decade or so. Of course, my efforts to date are half-hearted and rare and undoubtedly by my late thirties will have ceased altogether, and I also anticipate being very rich by then and I don't care what anyone says, I don't have a single problem in my life that money wouldn't completely and immediately solve, so the situations aren't entirely analogous. But I've been in love and I've wanted to marry specific people at specific times so I imagine a normal person's generalized desire to get married is like that, but constant, and my heart goes out to Johnathan and everyone else in that same boat. I hope someday our culture will grow up. Until then, whenever I hear an insensitive comment at church or in institute about how I need to ask girls out, I just mentally flip the guy off and let it go. It's not worth getting too upset over.
Two fan films released in the same year covered the topic of a young female Jedi who gets blinded in an accident, spends some time in the woods without her bearded male master, and has to fight someone right at the end. Because I don't know how long each took to make, it's difficult to say whether or not one influenced the other. I don't care either way. They may both have been influenced by Kanan Jarrus getting blinded in the "Rebels" season finale earlier that same year, or Rahm Kota getting blinded in the non-canon video game "The Force Unleashed" a few years prior. And of course, in December "Rogue One" gave us Chirrut Îmwe, who may or may not have been Force-sensitive and may or may not have been born blind. So in summary, 2016 was a big year for that sort of thing.
At least in the cases where the character was shown or implied to remain blind for a long time, even for life, I can only assume it was by choice. There's no way the Star Wars galaxy doesn't have the technology to fix or replace their eyes for very cheap. But those with some connection to the Force may end up deciding that blindness is a blessing. As Obi-Wan Kenobi said, "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them." Look, it's a franchise about space wizards with laser swords. It doesn't have to make sense.
Filmed in the Provo/Payson area of Utah, "Emergence" is possibly the first good thing to ever come out of there. (Kidding, kidding.) Between that and several of the surnames in the credits, I'd bet my life that most or all of the people who made it are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'd also speculate that the really cool-looking and criminally underused alien villain is a metaphor for Satan, but maybe that's going too far. What is clear (especially after it gets more or less spelled out in the credits) is the metaphor for depression and anxiety running throughout, and Aleena's battle with and triumph over them. It's perhaps even a bit heavy-handed, but there are worse messages to be heavy-handed about.
The second and slightly better of the two, "Hoshino" is similarly a tale of personal growth forced by the newly incurred disability. The title character starts out as kind of a brat. While "Emergence", from what I can tell, takes place in a day or so, a longer and more realistic passage of time is implied here as Ko's story up to and including the accident is told through flashbacks intercut with her prematurely aged, more stoic self. We don't see as much of her actually coming to terms with or learning to live with her blindness, and it's unclear how long that process took, but presumably more than a day given that the past and present portions seem to take place on opposite sides of Order 66 (if the TIE fighters and her master's absence are any indication).
If I may be so bold (though I'm hardly the first to point this out), both of these protagonists are superior characters to Rey. In very brief windows of time we see that they have obvious weaknesses and/or character flaws, and this makes them relatable and it gives us a reason to root for them. It doesn't make them any less awesome at the end of their respective arcs. Disney seems afraid to write female characters like that because it doesn't want to be sexist, so we get Rey who rarely fails at anything, never needs help, comes prepackaged with the skills to do whatever the plot requires, and undergoes virtually no trial or tribulation to earn her awesomeness. I think that's a huge wasted opportunity. Having more female leads is great. Having strong role models for little girls is great. But it shouldn't take priority over making actually good characters. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
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C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.