December 22, 2010
Before our difficulties began, one day as we were chatting, Kathy started to tell me about her “gentleman friend,” Mel. Mel came from a background similar to hers. He was the son of an evangelical Christian minister. In rebellion, he had turned to a life of “rock and roll and rebellion” (I translated this as engaging in sex, drugs, alcohol, and the like). Kathy told me that they were living together.
She told me that Mel was intelligent and sweet, but unable to get and hold a job. Apparently, he spent much of his time working out as a body builder. She knew he had the intelligence and charm to get himself a fine job (perhaps as a salesman), but he was entirely lacking in confidence in himself.
It was obvious that she desperately wanted him to propose to her and marry her. (Although she was not attending church, she still considered herself a “good Christian girl,” and living with a man in “sin” distressed her.)
Mel felt as a man he had to support Kathy. Actually, he was a fine “house husband,” a good cook and housekeeper. Kathy was fine with supporting Mel financially, but Mel was horrified at the idea.
She told me that periodically they would have a big fight and she would storm out and leave him, but then return.
I said, “This does not sound like it will work out. Perhaps you should just cut your losses and realize he is never going to change…”
At that point, Kathy astonished me by saying with some vigor, “No! No! I love him! I am not going to leave him.”
I was startled and decided to stop giving her advice. Looking back on the situation with perspective from years later, I now conclude that what Kathy (the evangelical feminist) wanted was, like Maria, a man who wouldn’t give her much shit. It was fine with her if she had to support Mel, as long as he let her wear the pants (so to speak) in the relationship.
Over time I actually met Mel a few times. He seemed like a pleasant, personable man. I could see no reason why he and Kathy would not make a fine married couple, but what do I know?
However, I figured that Mel would never break down and agree to marry Kathy. However, one week they made a trip to Nevada (not for gambling, but for what reason I don’t remember), and on her return Kathy surprised everyone at the school by telling us that Mel had married her in Las Vegas during the trip. As I had recently seen the zany Nicholas Cage film Honeymoon in Las Vegas depicting Cage as a reluctant boyfriend who finally breaks down and marries his lady love, I was struck by the peculiar coincidence. I could think of few people less similar to the characters in the movie than Mel and Kathy, but there they were, married on impulse, in Las Vegas.
Kathy told me after the marriage that after watching Mel with their dog, she decided not to have children. As I’ve always believed that 75% of the people who do have children should not, that seemed as good a reason for coming to such a conclusion as any.
About a year or so again I had an email exchange with Kathy. She and Mel are still married. She still likes to be in charge of everything, but she found a job at a community college where she prepares curriculum and seems to be in charge of enough stuff to keep her control urges satisfied. She said that she and Mel are still married, and he has become a minister (of what crazy denomination I have no idea) and satisfied his urge to be a preacher by marrying people. All in all seems like a happy ending for an evangelical Christian feminist.
December 19, 2010
Kathy told me that her goal in attending Multnomah School of the Bible was to be a missionary in Africa and win souls for Christ among the heathens. However, as she neared graduation, she had an uncomfortable insight.
“I realized that the only way I could be a missionary was to either be the wife of a missionary or be a “go-fer” for a missionary. These were the only roles available for a woman in my church.”
In other words, somehow, Kathy had somehow succumbed to feminism, despite all her training and indoctrination against it.
Instead of using her divinity degree, Kathy got a job as a clerk in an office. As an intelligent, energetic and ambitious person, she quickly taught herself about computers and office procedures and rose to responsible positions. However, two main themes in her life were 1) fearing betrayal by people she trusted and 2) lacking respect for people less intelligent and perceptive than her telling her what to do. As she constantly feared betrayal, she would provoke people around her into betraying her, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. As we worked together, I saw her engage in this pattern.
At first, however, things went very well for Kathy. My boss, Tom, quickly recognized Kathy’s intelligence and ability, and, as did I, responded to her charm, which is considerable. Unlike Tammy, (the woman I described in my last post), Kathy does not play on her sex appeal in as strong and calculating way, but she knows how to make a very positive impression on people she meets, both men and women with her courtesy, intelligence, and desire to help people learn and succeed.
Tom quickly hired her and she quickly proved to be one of the best teachers in our “school.” [We were well separated from the rest of the University; both geographically and in how we functioned, so mostly we thought of ourselves as a separate school, like a little community college in Portland.]
Every class we taught was “graded” by the students, who submitted a feedback form, rating the class on a scale from 1-5, on about half a dozen points having to do with the quality of the class. Although I was and am fairly conceited about my teaching ability and about my ability to recognize and improve my teaching flaws and correct my failures, like all the other instructors I read the student feedback carefully. As far as I could tell, Kathy and I were the two highest rated instructors in the program.
I found this fascinating in that our teaching styles were quite different. We sometimes sat in on each others classes. Sometimes this was to learn a program we didn’t know. In large classes, the program provided “teaching assistants.” Once in a while one of the full instructors would help out as a TA.
My style of teaching is varied and improvisational. I am constantly trying new approaches and experimenting. I am very responsive to student requests. For example, one day I was teaching a class for a group of employees for the Internal Revenue Service. I began by making jokes about how much people hate and fear the IRS. I noticed a passing university employee staring at me in alarm, apparently fearing that I would be audited and arrested on the spot.
I quickly learned that the requested topic for the class (assigned by a supervisor who was not present) was not what the group of employees actually wanted to learn. I knew something about the topic they wanted but did not have a class prepared. I improvised a class on the spot. Later, I got a letter from an IRS department head expressing appreciation at how well I had met employee needs. That was an illustration of how I functioned when I was working at my best.
The down side was that I was (and am) easily distracted and impulsive. Sometimes in an effort to better meet students’ needs I would go off on a wild goose chase or get in deeply over my head. My willingness to improve and fly by the seat of my pants drove some students crazy.
Kathy, on the other hand, was a person who functioned entirely by depending on careful analysis and preparation. Once she had mastered a topic, she planned her classes practically to the minute. As I walked by her classroom, I would hear her voice, look at my watch, and joke quietly to other teachers, “It’s 11:15 am. I now exactly what she is going to say right now, because it’s on her schedule.”
Students loved her organization, confidence, knowledge of her subject. On the other hand, when circumstances were not entirely under her control or events were not going as she planned, Kathy tended to panic.
I remember once, she was teaching a database class, a topic where she was expert and my knowledge was skimpy. Microsoft had just released its first database program. Students were clamouring for it. The program was full of bugs and constantly crashing. I went into the classroom to assist Kathy. She was practically distraught. She wanted to cancel the class. In her mind, if the program crashed while she was teaching, the students would blame her personally, not Microsoft, who was releasing software not ready for prime time, nor the University of Oregon Portland Center, who was offering a dubious and unready program to satisfy student demands.
I said to Kathy, “Just tell the students, ‘We know you really want this class and we are offering it even though we cannot guarantee that the program will run without crashing through the entire class. If it crashes, we will give you your money back or a free class at a future time when we can make it work.’”
“No! I can’t do that. It’s completely unprofessional! They will consider me as a person who does not know what she is doing and is not fit to teach!” Kathy lamented, practically in tears. “I can’t get up and say something like that to a room full of students!”
I said, “I will do it for you. I will take full responsibility. Since Tom [the director of the program] is not here today, I will tell them I am the ranking staff member here and if someone is furious and irate, I will take all the heat. I will tell them I am the senior staff member in the absence of the Director.” [This was more or less true.]
Eventually, Kathy let me make a brief introductory statement to the class while she cringed in the back of the room. I explained that we really wanted to meet their need for a class on this program, but we could not guarantee it would run through the entire class without crashing. The students (who were for the most part already very computer-experienced and used to the typical ways in which computer hardware and software fails all the time) mostly shrugged.
Kathy then began teaching the class. Although the software was shaky for the duration of the class (about 6 hours over one day), it never actually failed completely. The students were enormously grateful for the fine job she did that day.
I was also fairly confident in dealing with difficult and hostile students. I attributed this to having been a high school teacher for about ten years. Adolescents are by nature difficult and hostile. I regarded the adults in our classes at UO as fairly pliable and easy to control. As I had been teaching for much of my career in a “diverse” high school with a variety of races, religions, and general nuttiness, I was fairly comfortable in dealing with diverse groups. Probably I overestimated my capability in this regard, but in general I was more relaxed in dealing with hostile students than my fellow teachers.
One day Kathy taught a class where a black man accused her of not providing him with enough attention and support. I wasn’t there, but I suspect I would have been more comfortable handling this situation after having experience with teaching a few hostile black gang members in my classes in high school. Again, Kathy was mortified; horrified that anyone would consider her prejudiced.
However, Kathy soon began to play out her betrayal dramas. In our classes, there was never quite enough work to go around for all the teachers. Each teacher would have his or her “turf”; classes they considered their property. Other teachers were not supposed to teach turf classes unless there was so much work to go around that the “owner” would say, “OK, you go ahead and teach that section.”
Kathy and I shared the Microsoft Word classes amicably enough, but trouble arose in the area of databases. Kathy and a teacher named Richard shared the database classes. Richard was a friednly and easy-going person, but he began developing a new database class. Kathy (with little justification) began to regard Richard’s work as “stealing database classes” from her.
It’s always easier to see other people’s flaws and errors than our own. I could see that Kathy was provoking a “betrayal drama” where she would get herself fired. My efforts to tell her to calm herself down were not well-received. We never had a complete break, but our friendship cooled considerably.
During the period when our friendship was having difficulty, Kathy told me, with some asperity, that I was too willing to go along to get along, and that I should stand up for myself more and compromise less. As a person who was usually in trouble for arguing with bosses and on the verge of getting fired, I was rather bitterly amused to receive such criticism.
December 18, 2010
I met Kathy, the second evangelical Christian feminist, when I was teaching computer classes for the University of Oregon. This is an extremely misleading sentence because it makes me sound like a professor of computer science teaching advanced classes for future nerds. In fact, these classes were short, ungraded, no credit classes akin to community college classes taught in Portland, Oregon, about a hundred miles from the main UO campus in Eugene, Oregon.
Anyway, in those days I was younger, smarter (though not by much) and sort of “tri-lingual” in that I taught DOS classes, Windows classes, and Macintosh classes. I was teaching a Microsoft Word class for the Macintosh computer when I met Kathy, one of the students, about ten years younger than I, pretty without being bodacious. As the class proceeded, it quickly became clear to me that while a few details of the Macintosh were unfamiliar to her, in general she knew as much or more than I did about Microsoft Word. At the end of the class, she stopped to chat with me a bit. Given her obvious intelligence and knowledge of the program, I wondered a bit why she was taking the class.
When she asked about the class and about our program, fairly quickly became apparent to me that she was trolling for a teaching job. [As I got to know Kathy better, I realized that the reason she was trolling for a new job was that she knew she was about to get fired. At the time, she was office manager for a well known market research company in Portland. In my checkered working career, I was usually in trouble and conflict with my bosses, but Kathy outdid me by a few light years in this regard in her tendency to get into battles she could not win with her bosses.]
I explained that I was not the person who hired for our school, but advised her that if she provided a copy of her resume, I would pass it on to my boss. Up to that point, Kathy had been confident and self-assured in manner and projected smooth professional self-confidence. All of a sudden she seemed embarrassed and diffident and reluctant to let me see her resume. However, when I pressed a bit she reluctantly handed me a nice-looking and well-prepared curriculum vitae.
As I glanced at her education, I was struck by her degree: in divinity from a Portland college: Multnomah School of the Bible. I was slightly familiar with this school. It’s an extremely conservative, very devout evangelical Christian college. (A quick web check shows it is still going strong and now rather dubiously labels itself as a “university.”)
As we talked, and as I got to know her over the next months, Kathy told me something of her background. She had grown up in Northern California, a child of very strict, very devout evangelical parents. My impression is that she was a very obedient and devoted child who accepted what her parents and her church told her wholeheartedly. She apparently felt her entire purpose in life was to worship Jesus and to convert non believers to conservative Christianity.
About the time she was a pre-teen, her father abandoned her mother and ran off with another woman. As far as I could parse as I got to know her, Kathy’s immediate response to her father’s betrayal and hypocrisy was to double or triple her devotion to God and Jesus–perhaps blaming herself for the failure of her parents’ marriage–but on a deeper level, she developed a deep fear of betrayal and a passionate reluctance to trust anyone else or depend on anyone else.
(To be continued)
December 6, 2010
Not so bad part, slightly safer to read.
The first story actually goes back before the story of Maria and Kip in my life. At one time, my wife and I foolishly started a pre-press graphics business. We had two motivations:
1. We wanted to make more money than we were making in our fairly dead end jobs.
2. We were tired of working for domineering and arbitrary bosses.
There were several problems with our choice.
1. We knew nothing about the “typesetting business” as the enterprise was known in those pre-personal computer/ pre-desktop publishing days. We actually became fairly competent at running our business (as far as the quality of work we produced), but the education process was wasteful and time consuming.
2. It was a business that was seldom profitable for the participants unless they worked in special niches, mostly doing work for advertising agencies, a niche we knew nothing about and had no access to.
3. The equipment needed was expensive. We had no capital and put ourselves ruinously in debt leasing borderline, marginal quality equipment we barely knew how to operate.
4. The business was eventually doomed entirely as personal computers and desktop publishing software developed. We had no clue this was going to happen. Most people in the business, even the successful ones, had no clue we were going to become a “buggy whip” business.
The business came close to ruining our lives, our relationship with our daughter, and our marriage. (As our marriage is currently in trouble, some of the roots of our present problems no doubt link to this disastrous business venture, though it’s quite possible the marriage was doomed from the outset, though it’s also possible it can be saved even now. But that’s another story.)
One of the differences between then and now is fonts. At that time, getting a variety of type styles and type sizes was enormously expensive. We spent thousands of dollars on the few score fonts we had and always tried to talk our customers into settling for what we had in our library. However, from time to time we had to go to a competitor and ask them to set a few lines of type for us and then we would provide it to our customer at a tiny mark up.
Our business was located in Beaverton, a suburb to the West of Portland, Oregon. The successful typesetters, who mostly dealt with advertising agencies, were located in downtown Portland. One day I went downtown to buy a line of type for a business card and letterhead and met Tammy.
Tammy was tall, elegant, blonde, attractive, and very intelligent and assertive. In looks she reminded me a bit of Jean Harlow, the “blonde bombshell” movie star of the 1930s. Tammy grew up in a very religious evangelical Christian family. As far as I could tell, her relationship with her parents was positive and friendly, but for whatever reason, she had married fairly young, given birth to a daughter right away, and was abandoned by her husband within a year or two of the marriage.
[I suspect he was weak and good-looking, and when he married a woman who was not only good-looking and fertile, but also very smart and very tough he fled in terror.]
Tammy and I hit it off well when I met her at her shop. She lived in Beaverton, so sometimes on her way home from downtown Portland, she stopped in our shop and purchased some type from us if we had a font her shop did not; or more often the case, dropped off something we had ordered from her employer.
Although Tammy had no formal academic graphics and business training, her intelligence and drive meant that she rose quickly to executive positions in graphic design and pre-press businesses in the Portland market of the time (mid-1970s). She obviously spotted very quickly that the business my wife and I owned was doomed, but she was too kind and polite to say this to us.
Tammy was well aware that she was a “bomb shell,” as looks go, and cynical enough to regard it as a business asset. As we became friends, she sometimes laughed about how she would participate in a high level business meeting (perhaps the only woman, or if not, but by far the most attractive one) and how men would be so distracted by leering at her that she could gain better deals and terms. She was not quite this crude in how she expressed herself ( though she came surprisingly close) but I will take the liberty of summarizing what she told me as If they are so befuddled by imagining it would be like to screw me when we are negotiating a deal that I can screw them in the deal itself, that’s fine with me).
Eventually, our business collapsed, leaving my wife and I with huge debts and a need to get jobs quickly just to survive. Through a friendly competitor named Ken, who owned a similar doomed business with his wife (who left him with the collapse of their business) I came into contact with a start-up business that was trying to invent “desktop publishing.”
The business was begun by a would-be entrepreneur named Paul, and his father Paul, Sr. Paul considered himself a brilliant entrepreneut and business man. To my eye, Paul was bright, arrogant, moderately slimy and while largely unethical, I did notice times when he was hampered by a few scruples.
His dad, Paul, Sr. was a hard-driving salesman freak, something like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, but much less attractive and interesting than Willy Loman. Paul Sr’s main schtick was hiring pretty saleswomen and then sleeping with them.
Paul and dad started a company they named Accucom, bought some very early IBM personal computers, early Apple computers, and early laser printers and started trying to develop technology that would let people set type themselves.
Even to this day, decades later, the Oedipal and Freudian implications of their relationship, with son as boss of the company, and dad under his direction, are monumental.
Their main aid to management decisions was to drink copious amounts of alcohol. A typical day would run like this. In the morning, Paul would gather the management team (of which I was the most junior member, but not quite the stupidest, try as hard a I could to function down at their level) and make a management decision or two that might be diluted by about 25% good sense, and perhaps little or no alcohol. In the evening, the top management team (although I on occasion got dragged along) would meet at a close-by tavern and hold another management meeting, this time enhanced by copious amounts of alcohol). It was my observation (which being very foolish I sometimes shared) that the evening revisions of the management reduced the 25% good sense to as close to zero as could be achieved by human beings.
I still remember with great fondness a special treat that Paul once provided. The typesetting machine owned by the newspaper could advanced type fairly quickly, perhaps a foot a minute (.3 meter). The Pauls decided that they could sell “rush jobs” for large projects by advertising these impressive specifications. However, a few seconds of consideration revealed the “fine print.” The specification was only how fast the machine could advance blank paper. As it as it actually was setting type, changing fonts, enlarging and reducing type, and so on. The speed went down to a half or a quarter.
When I tried to point this limitation to the Pauls, the blew it off as a minor detail. One day, Paul Sr. arrived at the business with a great air of triumph. He had bagged a stupendous job, a technical manual consisting of thousands of pages that had to be delivered in three days. Based the specs for blank pages he had promised the job could be delivered in that time period and been promised a huge bonus.
When I scanned over the job (which also presented many other complications and difficulties), I tried to explain to the Pauls there was no way the job could be delivered in that time period.
I was scolded for thinking negatively and told to get to work. I gathered my crew and we set to work. After working around the clock for about three weeks, we finally completed the job about 7 pm one night .
I thanked the crew who had worked energetically, skillfully, and cheerfully over the whole time period. As a special thanks I walked to a near by convenience store and bought enough six packs of beer so everyone could have one bottle to celebrate. I believe that I asked that at least one person who was driving (they had come in several groups) no open his bottle until he was home.
Just as we were packaging up the completed job to be air express to the company, Paul Jr. walked in. Instead of apologizing for inflicting an impossible job on us, or even thanking us for doing a job that properly would have been a six week job in three weeks, Paul went into a tirade that I was providing employees with alcohol on company property and putting everyone in danger of a lawsuit. He grabbed the bottles of beer (none open) from me and the employees and locked them into his office.
This was especially rich, as I had often seen him stagger out of a bar after one of his late night management meetings and drive off loaded and barely able to drive. I am not a violent person, but even so he is fortunate that I did not take one of the bottles and smash it over his head. I have observed many powerful examples of hypocrisy over my life (and probably inflected a few), but this had to rank as one of the all time truly great ones in my personal life.
(In the next part, I will get to the first evangelical feminist I am going to introduce to you.)
December 6, 2010
In talking about feminists I have known, I tend to divide them into two groups. One group I would describe as “classical feminists,” who thought, “Men have fucked us [women] over; when we get the chance, we will screw them just as badly.”
Historically, until recently, women seldom got the opportunity. Three women from historical records come quickly to mind: Cleopatra, Elizabeth I of England, and Catherine the Great of Russia.
Cleopatra famously fooled around with Anthony, who lost out in the Roman gang war rumbles of the time; she went down with him. Elizabeth was very tough and coy; defeating the Spanish armada, negotiating with a variety of suitors, while cultivating a cult of virginity (the virginity may have been accurate in fact.) Catherine of Russia proved to be a tough babe in a rough land; conquering enemies in war, holding on to her court (after her husband was deposed and then killed); and taking and casting aside lovers as suited her tastes without much qualm or secrecy.
At this point, as my style, I will embark on an incredibly prolix, tedious, and ignorant essay on the history of modern religious belief, which will eventually get you to the subject of feminist evangelical Christian babes I have known. Feel free to skip to the not so bad part will be helpfully labeled, “Not so bad part, slightly safer to read.”
While my co-worker Maria would probably not wanted to be grouped with babes like Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Liz; as a very educated woman who majored in history and possessed a wry sense of humor, I suspect she would have reluctantly conceded the resemblance.
As an English major, I was familiar with Henry James, an eccentric writer who wrote dense novels that most people feel they ought to read but probably don’t want to. [Actually, with a little effort on the part of the reader, some of James’ early novels, such as What Maisie Knew, are pretty good, but as James was very bright and very talented, once he put his mind to writing completely unreadable novels, by the end of his life he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. If he had been a competitive runner, James would have been one who ran marathons hundreds of miles from where any other competitor would dream of running in desert landscapes where no human observers would be caught dead watching the race because they would be caught dead period by the Gila monsters and rattlesnakes.
Until later, I was less familiar with Henry’s eccentric and brilliant brother, William James, a philosopher who believed in pragmatism (if i t works, it probably is right); a social scientist who invented experimental psychology (a system for torturing rats and pigeons); and one of the first people to study religious belief from the point of view of social science. In other words, aside from pondering the question of whether religious belief is true (impossible to determine for sure, but probably not) an issue that fretted James quite a bit as he was fairly depressed much of the time and did not want to die any more than most of us, except when he was considering whether to commit suicide, he also contemplated the question: what do religious people actually believe?
Writing in the late 1800s, James noticed that religious belief tended to fall into two schools:
Positive Thinking School: What might be called the “positive thinking school” (Tending toward a belief in a benevolent Loving God who will reward us for existing by granting us life after physical death in a groovy place called Heaven) and:
Humans Are Wicked, Doomed Sinners School:What might be called the “” believing that Christ’s sacrifice will save us from eternal punishment in Hell if we worship God and Christ while constantly bragging about our sinfulness and unworthiness.”
[In keeping with James I am speaking of Christianity here, but similar strains existed in other religions of his time as he was aware.]
A century after William James went to find out for himself if there is any there there (in other words, he croaked), globalism seems to be creeping into the world of religion, in that two main religions are cohering around the world. Speaking in the late 1900s and early 2000s, writers such as Karen Armstrong (Catholic nun drop-out and author of acclaimed books such as The History of God) have described these trends (my summaries of which would probably make poor Karen puke, though very gently and discreetly, because she is a very gentle, refined woman):
Tolerant, Ecumenical, We Are All Children of One Loving God School and
WE BLOW OURSELVES UP AND YOU WITH US IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE CORRECT GOD OF YOUR OWN FREEE WILL SCHOOL!!!!
(Karen Armstrong herself, describes the second school as “Fundamentalism”]
One of the typical strains of fundamentalism is “obedience to God.” God wants humans to be blindly and unquestionably obedient to Him. A side benefit of this system is that many fundamentalists assign themselves roles as spokespeople for God and then start telling others around them to be obedient to them as religious leaders, political leaders, and so on. In evangelical Christianity (and most other fundamentalist religions), men interpret this chain of command as applying to women being obedient to men (husbands, fathers, and so on).
Just as in the case of political leaders such as Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Catherine, some fundamentalist women are not inclined by temperament and philosophy to be blindly and passively obedient to the men in their lives. In the following sections of this thread I will describe a couple of evangelical Christian women I have known who were by nature feminists and the somewhat amusing (at least to me) turns these contradictions played out in their lives.