Monday, July 30, 2018

Spiritual Self-Defense: Master Your Biggest Enemy - Part Two

The second section in "Master Your Biggest Enemy" by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin attempts to finally work out the spiritual aspects of Bryan and Emily's story.  Since this series is long and convoluted, I've pulled out the entirety of the original story in case we've forgotten any pertinent details:
Bryan is pushing his girlfriend Emily’s physical boundaries. Emily says no, I don’t want to do this. Bryan pushes harder. Emily finally gives in, but reluctantly. Afterwards, she’s furious and devastated and blames him for forcing her. Bryan says, What are you talking about? You were going along with it the whole time, and besides, look how you were dressed. Don’t try to tell me you weren’t asking for this. It was half your fault; don’t you go trying to get me in trouble like you’re some victim here.

Re-reading this synopsis, I'm reminded of the problems with attempting to write a scenario about a situation that you've never experienced.  Or perhaps the problem is a lack of deciding what actually happened between Bryan and Emily.  For people in the non-CP/QF world, the confusing bit is that the idea of consent between adults is totally absent.  I've read that story a billion times and I'm still unsure if what happened between the two of them qualified as rape/criminal sexual conduct or just miserable consensual sex. 

Let's look at the details more closely.  The first five sentences are a mess.  For example, the verb "push" is used twice in five sentences - but obscures the actions performed by Bryan.   Was Bryan threatening Emily physically?  Was Bryan threatening to harm Emily in a serious way in the future if she did not comply?  If he was, he's guilty of rape or criminal sexual assault by force or coercion even if Emily consented later on.  Was Bryan asking Emily to perform a sexual act repeatedly without threats of a serious nature?  Was Bryan threatening to break up with Emily if they didn't have sex? That's legal - although  red-flag towards Bryan's suitability as a boyfriend. What's the difference between "is pushing" and "pushes harder"?  Did Bryan start in an area that is legal and move into illegal territory?

The total lack of a timeline in the paragraph is another issue.  If the paragraph happens in a single, date night  between Bryan and Emily, that's deeply concerning.  On the other hand, this could be a sloppy synopsis of days or weeks or months of Bryan wanting to do more physical interaction while Emily doesn't want to do more - which Bryan accepts for days or weeks or months.

Emily's response to everything is another hot mess.  Emily says no.  According to later portions of posts, Emily says no over and over.  Meanwhile, Bryan keeps asking until Emily eventually changes her mind and says "yes" - albeit reluctantly.  I'm not a fan of reluctant consent - and I don't think the Botkin Sisters are doing anyone any favors by writing up a female example who says "yes" then tells Bryan she was forced afterwards.   Yes, Bryan should have picked up on the fact that Emily didn't seem that into whatever they were doing since they were dating - but unless Emily did or said something that clearly delineated that she revoked her consent - Emily's on very shaky ground for arguing that Bryan forced her. 

Truthfully, I'm not entirely sure what's going on with Emily emotionally.  At some point she made a choice to do something sexually with Bryan.  What is missing is how Emily reached a point where she made a choice and then freaked out about the choice she made afterwards.  Emily seems oblivious to the fact that "bad sex" - a consensual encounter that one or both parties regrets afterwards - is not the same as rape or criminal sexual conduct.  From my read, the story is closer to "bad sex" than rape - but it's still a mess. Emily's reaction to blame Bryan for her choice is not a healthy or fun way to live when you don't have the skills to make choices and manage feelings that come after the choice.

Finally, Bryan is an ass based on his reaction to Emily's emotion.  I'm cutting him some major slack because his girlfriend is accusing him of rape - but the whole victim-blaming spiel is deeply disturbing and is a sign that Emily should run away from her relationship with him. 

The saddest bit is that the Botkin Sisters act as if all romantic relationships are adversarial when it comes to sexuality.  In reality, most relationships manage sexual issues just fine.  Partners understand that everyone has different likes, dislikes and boundaries.  If the two people are too discordant, the general outcome is that they break up - not that one person decides to bend their boundaries markedly and then regrets it.

After that long digression, we can move into these added reflections by the Botkin Sisters:

Emily truly did want to do the right thing in her relationship with Bryan. She genuinely believed that the things Bryan continually pressured her to do were wrong, and she really did mean “no” every time she said it. But in each encounter, her resolve crumbled under the pressure of his arguments and pleadings, the fear of hurting or angering him… and honestly, sometimes, the overwhelmingly strong desire for what he offered her. Emily’s no floozy, but her natural desires are simply a lot stronger than her spiritual ones. Does this feel familiar?

Honestly, no, this does not feel familiar to me at all.  I make decisions about what I want to do sexually based on what I want to do sexually.   For me, it's based on if I feel that doing something more sexually fits the relationship based on where the relationship is at on emotional and commitment levels plus what I feel comfortable doing as a person.   My partner's wishes, wants and desires matter exactly as far as letting me know if they are comfortable with doing something.  Outside of that, I expect my partner to be an adult and treat me as one as well.  IOW, if a person starts arguing or pleading with me about a sex act I don't want to do, I am leaving that relationship pronto.

Again, the Botkin Sisters miss a chance to talk about the different degrees of "fear of hurting or angering him".  Bryan is guilty of rape if Emily has a rational reason to think that Bryan is going to cause her physical pain, injury or harm to herself, love ones or personal property if she refuses sex with him.   If Emily's fears are the more germane type where she doesn't want to hurt Bryan's feelings or is afraid that Bryan will be angry enough that he will break up with her, Emily's consent still stands legally.  After all, Bryan didn't sign off all autonomy when he started dating Emily.  He has a right to have feelings and to act on those feelings as long as he doesn't break any laws.

The last problematic issue is that the Botkin Sisters ignore the fact that Emily may have given honest consent - in spite of the nagging ghosts of her fundamentalist upbringing saying she was a floozy - and struggled with her feelings afterwards.   Those ghosts might have hit Emily with a wave of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing after the fact.  Emily deserved help dealing with those feelings preferably from a trained professional.  Instead, she blamed Bryan - which isn't terribly helpful.

So that paragraph tipped the story towards "consensual sex with later regret" - and yet the very next paragraph labels Bryan as a predator...and Emily as a weakling:

We can’t say often enough that Bryan and Bryan alone bears the blame for what Bryan did. Emily’s weaknesses didn’t force Bryan to sin against her, and also didn’t mean that she deserved it. But they did betray her into the hands of a predator when it was fully in her power to escape.

How does a weak woman become strong? Does Emily have any hope of becoming the fearless champion of right that she aches to be… a woman who could actually stand by her words, who could actually walk away from her encounters with Bryan without regrets, who could dare to ask trusted friends for help without fear of Bryan’s fury…? What do you do when you know you don’t have the strength you need?

The first paragraph crystalizes the major flaw with the CP/QF views on morality in sexual encounters.  According to CP/QF logic, procreative sex between married heterosexual adults is licit; everything else is illicit.    Because of that fuzzy logic, the dueling scenarios of rape vs. sex with later regret have the exact same level of moral blame for Bryan.  In CP/QF land, Bryan is always wrong for having sex with Emily premaritally; Emily, on the other hand, is not morally culpable if she was raped.   The scary side-effect of CP/QF morality is that the ONLY way Emily is not culpable is if she was raped.  The Botkin Sisters throw the word "floozy" around quite easily; I'm sure they've got other more descriptive and crude ones available once they've learned that Emily and Bryan had consensual sex. 

The vast majority of Christian churches take a more....well, nuanced....view of human sexuality.  My Catholic schooling was pretty clear on the fact that people should wait for sex until they were married - but an awful lot of my classmates were born well under 40 weeks after their parents married.   As we got older, it became pretty clear that real adults - people who were financially independent of their parents - who were in committed relationships could do more sexually than was viewed as being OK for teenagers because adults can make adult decisions.  Equally importantly, gossiping about adults' sexual matters was more morally abhorrent than having sex.  After all, sex is an expression of love between two adults; gossip is a form of hate.  We also had a church-sanctioned method of repairing our relationship with God if we had premarital sex and felt bad known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The simple existence of that Sacrament tends to mess up the gossip chain anyway because gossiping about someone else's forgiven sin is really, really crass (and probably a sin as well, now that I think about it) and you never know if they've repented or not.

What do you do when you don't know if you have the strength? Guess what?  No one ever feels strong in the middle of a crisis!  Adults simply do what needs to be done. Yeah, having a tough conversation with a boyfriend about ending the relationship because you have different sexual needs or wants is hard.  Applying for jobs and not getting a job over and over is hard.  So is supporting a spouse through a medical crisis.  So is sitting by an incubator with a tiny infant who will die without advanced life support - and the only thing to do is wait for him to grow.  Caring for a person with complicated medical needs is hard.  Saying goodbye when loved ones die is hard, too.  Here's the upside to all of those hard things - doing hard things is the only way to gain wisdom.  I've known people who have chosen to run away from hard situations in life.  That makes me angry at times - but I also have a great deal of pity for those people since they are choosing to live as children instead of adults.

If we’re using music, movies, or novels, to sow to inappropriate fantasies, misplaced longings, or emotional roller-coasters, we must not expect to reap purity, clear-mindedness, emotional self-control, and a strong grip on reality. If we’re sowing to moral confusion by sympathizing with people in those movies, music, or novels doing things we know are wrong, we must not expect to reap moral clarity and resolve in the times when we need it most. If we’re sowing to an affection for the wrong things in men, we must not expect to be more drawn to godliness and holiness than good looks, rakish charm, and edgy humor. And if we’re sowing thoughts and actions from our natural desire for men to notice us, like us, want us… we must not expect to respond really selflessly, righteously, and uncompromisingly when one does. Because God’s laws of sowing and reaping don’t work that way.

*rolls eyes*

That's the most absurd thing I ever heard. 

I grew up hearing about how people defrauded Meijers on a regular basis from my mom who worked in Loss Prevention.  In other words, we had all the information we needed to be super-thieves - and yet I've never stolen anything. 

My favorite Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character was Kai Winn who managed to set up a contract killing before killing a servant for trying to stop her evil plan - and yet I started crying in my yard yesterday when I thought I had hit a rabbit's nest.  (The baby bunny survived unharmed; I rebuilt the cover of the nest as best I could because otherwise the little kit kept trying to hide in the middle of our driveway.)

I've been listening to Shakespeare's plays being rehearsed and performed since I was a toddler.  I was awash in a sea of alcohol, drugs, illicit sex and violence - and yet my life has been so vanilla that I describe my alcohol usage in drinks per year, have dabbled in no illegal drugs, and have only ever fought my twin sister.

My favorite two binge-watching shows are "White Collar" and "Arrested Development" - but I have no interest in becoming a white-collar criminal or joining a passive-aggressive dysfunctional family for that matter.

So, no, I don't think any part of Emily's issues with Bryan come from her love of Christian romance novels or the fact that she listens to contemporary Christian music.

Finally, beware quashing all of desire to have someone be attracted to you want to have you as a life travel through life's good and bad times together if you want to be married to someone who likes you and is sexually attracted to you.   Yeah, it's a terrible idea to get so fixated on marriage that you marry the first guy who seems attracted to you - but it's an equally bad idea to send out the vibe of "I'm not into you romantically" if you want a romance.

Think about it.  If I walked around all the time looking mostly unexcited about teaching, why would anyone offer me a teacher's job?  How is marriage different?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Legal Isn't a Synonym for "Good Idea!"

Well, I was in the middle of working on a Botkin Sisters post when I read a new Titus 2 update that blew my mind.   The second son - Christopher - wrote a blog post about tips for flying with small children. 

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of flying - and adding our one toddler to our family makes flying sound less appealing so my mind was blown to find that Christopher and his wife traveled to see her family with their five children who range from age 6 to a small infant.

As I was skimming the post, I noticed he talked about dragging two car seats on the plane so that if there were open seats the lap babies (notice the plural) could use the car seats - but if not two of the other kids could use them.   I was completely lost, so I googled "flying and lap babies" and just about dropped my laptop in horror.

In the US and Canada, parents can choose to either purchase a seat for a child under the age of 2 OR hold that child on their lap during the flight.   

Folks, we stopped letting parents hold children under the age of 2 when riding in cars for a good reason: during car accidents, infants and toddlers restrained only by their parents' arms become flying projectiles.   The survival rate for unrestrained infants and toddlers in car accidents is horrific; the forces applied when the kiddlet comes to a stop by crashing into the ground or another object does massive and often terminal damage.

Airplane accidents are much less frequent than car accidents - but the forces involved are far greater.  Most commercially available car seats are also approved for protection for flying so presumably the Maxwells already own car seats for their youngest ones.   I can think of two reasons that a family wouldn't bring car seats for all their kids.  First is the hassle of moving four car seats onto a plane.  Bluntly, I'd splurge by spending the $20.00 to rent a baggage cart at the each of the airports.  The other option I can think is that there is a FAA approved restraint system for kids who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds called CARES that costs around $80.00 per harness - but the harness fits in an adult's pocket or a kid's backpack after using it.  If the Maxwells plan on flying frequently and having a lot of kids, two carseats plus 3 CARES should do the trick for safely restraining all their kiddos. 

Now, there's a picture of Anna Marie Maxwell wearing her youngest daughter in an Ergo baby carrier on the plane.  While babywearing is a comfortable way to manage some infants,  the baby receives no protection during an accident from the Ergo.  The baby may not fly free in an accident - but their head is likely to hit the seat in front and the bone structure of her mother's chest repeatedly leading to potentially fatal head and neck injuries.

The other reason to do "lap babies" is financial since the family has to pay for two extra seats.  The total cost of those two seats, though, isn't that much.  Using "Google Flights", I compared the cost of tickets from Kansas City, KS to Olympia, WA for 2 adults, three children and two infants in seats compared to 2 adults, three children and two lap babies.  The "lap babies" saved the family about $500 by dropping the total package price to around $1,200 dollars from around $1,700. 

Five hundred dollars is a lot of money for any family - but doubly so for a CP/QF family.  On the other hand, $500 is a tiny price to pay to protect the lives of their two youngest babies if there is an accident. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Making Great Conversationalists: Chapter One - Part Two

Before my son was born, I was a slightly-above average user of the medical system in the US.  I got an annual physical and a few same day appointments for rashes or various minor ailments that I was a bit concerned about.  Additionally, I'd need 2-3 urgent care visits for asthma, injuries or rashes that seemed to be going systematic.  (I'm a 21st level Eczema Goddess.)  About once every 5 years, one of my legs goes wonky and I return to physical therapy for a few weeks to a few months.

Since Jack's been born, I've become a medical appointment guru.  I've met so many specialists, generalists and therapists that I have difficulty listing them all.   Because of this, I feel plenty confident to discuss Steven and Teri Maxwell's odd take on "Making Great Conversationalists" at medical appointments.  Let's jump into the first "typical" example:

You are missing work to take your 14 year old son, Gerald, to a doctor because of a stomach ache he has had for the last week. You and he have been waiting in silence for 20 minutes, and now the doctor comes into the examination room.

" Hi, Gerald, my name is Dr. Grote. What can I do for you today?"

Gerald looks at you as if you were going to answer, but you nod so Gerald says, "Well, my stomach hurts."

" How long has it bothered you?" Doctor Grote queries.

" Well, I'm not sure, you know, ah, it's been a while," Gerald manages.

" It's a week yesterday, Doc," you add.

" Show me where it hurts and describe the pain."

" Right here, and it really hurts. You know?" Your son shows the doctor where it hurts.

" Would you describe it as sharp, aching, cramping, or throbbing pain?"

" Oh, maybe, no, let's see. I guess I'd say sharp," Gerald half mutters.

"Did it start quickly or gradually?"

" I don't know for sure." At this point, you are wondering what Doctor Grote thinks of your parenting skills when your teenager can't respond to him any better than this.(pg. 11)

Similarly to my critique of Cynthia's parent, the only person who is behaving neurotically in this sketch is Gerald's dad.  Personally, I foresaw that having children would mean taking them to a doctor from time to time - especially since minors need permission from a parent or guardian to receive most forms of medical treatment.  Similarly, if my spouse and I had more than one kid and both of us worked, fitting medical appointments into working schedules would require that the primary breadwinner would take time off every now and again for kids' medical appointments.  I feel like the queen of obvious for stating this - but parenthood brings mostly responsibilities and a handful of rights.  I know this - so why doesn't Steven Maxwell, the father of eight children?  His implication that Gerald's father has been greatly inconvenienced by taking his son for a needed medical appointment irritates the hell out of me.

Speaking of inconveniences - why is Gerald required to amuse his dad with conversation while Gerald's dealing with a long-term stomach ache? If I was nervous before a doctor's appointment, I tended to talk nonstop.  If I was actively feeling sick, on the other hand, I curled up into the most comfortable chair and tried to sleep until the medical assistant or doctor came in.   As I was typing this, I realized I'd never really thought of the amount of conversation I had when I was a waiting patient in a medical office.  My parents and spouse never seemed to care if I wanted to talk the entire time or attempt to sleep; they were fine either way.  This boggled my mind for a full minute before I remembered the obvious - none of us pride ourselves on being cut off from popular media.  If the sick person wanted to sleep, their driver would pull out a book, grab a magazine from the rack, enjoy the antics of healthy young children playing or watch the TV that was on.   There was no reason for the driver to be beholden on the sick person for entertainment (and expecting the sick person to do so would be viewed as childish, selfish or simply crass in my family.)

I am disturbed by the fact that a teenager still defers to his father before responding to a direct address from a doctor.  I went through a phase when I didn't know if doctors wanted to hear from me or my mom.  I was between the ages of 8-10 years old.   By the time I was a teenager, my parents had long convinced me that if the doctor addressed me that meant the doctor wanted to hear from me - not them.  Since married women don't work outside the home in CP/QF land, the parent accompanying Gerald can be assumed to be his father - and we can also assume that Dad hasn't been around 24/7 for the last week.    That's why I find Gerald's father's interruption to explain that Gerald's been sick for a week to be odd.   Gerald might have been sick for a week - or Gerald might have realized that he's been dealing with less severe, but similar symptoms for two weeks or two months.  That's why it's best to let the patient answer the question.  I've added additional information before when my husband (or parent) has been ill enough that I'm worried they missed part of the doctor's question - but that's pretty rare.

I highly doubt Dr. Grote has questioned the parenting skills of Gerald's father since Gerald's not showing any signs of abuse or neglect and Gerald is acting like a perfectly normal teenage patient.   Doctors know that patients come in a wide range of ability when it comes to describing symptoms.  It is so normal for the average patient to not know the answer to all of the doctor's questions - and doctors can make reasonable estimates of the answer sometimes.  For example, the fact that Gerald doesn't remember the sudden onset of severe, stabbing pain in a localized spot in his abdomen makes a decent case to assume the pain came on gradually.   I'm sure doctors like it when they can figure out most of the medical clues from the discussion with the patient - but the doctor also uses a physical exam as well as blood tests to confirm the doctor's diagnosis.

My final two cents - Gerald's dad is more worried about what the doctor thinks about the dad as a father than he is that his son has been having sharp abdominal pains for a week.  That's seriously messed up. 

Let's look at the "ideal" conversation:

Let's look at how the interaction could go if Gerald has learned how to talk to others, answer questions, provide information, and carry on a conversation.

" Dad, I sure hope Dr. Grote will give me something for the stomachache. I really don't want to miss choir practice tomorrow night. I already missed last week's practice."

" Son, I hope so too. What songs are you learning in choir right now?"

Your father and son conversation goes on for the 20-minute wait, and then Dr. Grote enters the room.

" Hi, Gerald, my name is Dr. Grote. What can I do for you today?"

" Well, sir, I've had this sharp pain in my stomach for the last week."

Dr. Grote nods and asks, "Why don't you lay back on the table here and point to where exactly it is hurting?"

" It's right here. It hurts the worst for about an hour after I eat. Then it is better, but it never really goes away. I have tried taking TUMS for it, but that hasn't helped. My mom thought I should try the BRAT diet which was bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. I did that for two days, but there wasn't any difference."

Gerald's interaction with Dr. Grote is one with which you could be pleased. He answers questions, gives extra useful information, and is easy to understand. The time before the doctor came into the room was profitable fellowship between you and your son. (pgs 11-12)

See, Maxwell likes the second situation much more because the father gets entertained for 20 minutes followed by having his son perform well for the doctor.   Ironically, the conversation between the doctor and son has revealed less information in the second conversation than the first one.  In the first conversation, the doctor learns the place and severity of the pain, the fact that the pain has been around for at least a week, but possibly longer and that the pain came on gradually.     In the second conversation, the doctor has learned the position, severity of pain and length of time the pain has been present - but the implication changed so that the pain started clearly one week ago and nothing has been said about if it was gradual or sudden. 

  Now, Gerald offered a whole bunch of information about his eating habits and the effect on the pain - but not all abdominal pain is related to food.   I have this mental image of Gerald pointing at an area of his lower abdomen that could be related to things like his bladder, appendix or prostate while reciting how his family has been trying to treat that using the BRAT diet and TUMS.  (Added bonus that Gerald is a boy; a similar spot in a girl could be one of a dozen issues with the reproductive system.)

Throughout this book, the Maxwells include tidbits that show incidentally how isolated they've become from interacting with other human beings.  The example here is that Gerald feels compelled to explain the BRAT diet to his pediatrician or family practitioner.  Trust me; Dr. Grote knows what the BRAT diet is.  Dr. Grote is more than capable of explaining why the BRAT diet works well at quelling certain gastrointestinal issues - and why the BRAT diet will make other issues worse.  If Dr. Grote works in a diverse practice, he knows how to adapt the BRAT diet for recent immigrants who don't regularly eat applesauce or toast.    I remember my mom explaining the BRAT diet to me when I was a teenager in terms of teaching me a form of good self-care when recovering from a stomach bug.  The diet made a lot of sense to me - and I assumed that most - if not all - adults knew the rough outline of the BRAT diet. 

I hope you enjoyed this section as much as I did - the best is yet to come!  The next post is on when your son calls the father of the girl he's sweet on to ask permission to court. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Spiritual Self-Defense: Master Your Biggest Enemy - Part One

Well, we've made it to the confusing-as-ever fifth installment of Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin's blog series "Spiritual Self-Defense".  In a refreshing change, this post attempts to focus on the spiritual aspects of how we choose to live.  As always, I disagree with 90% of their beliefs - but I am happier when the post fits the overall theme.

The first three paragraphs rehash the Botkin Sisters theme of "Biblical heroines fought back!".  Honestly, I'm not in the mood to explain why most of the references are misrepresentations, but maybe someday I'll feel like going on a Bible quest.  Ironically, many of the women the Botkin Sisters lionize from the Bible used sex as part of their plot but the Sisters ignore that simple reality.

The fourth paragraph, though, begins with a set of questions that threw me a bit:

Those of us who have never faced intense pressure from a seducer or predator may wonder: How would we actually respond to a situation like that? How strong are we, really?

My train of thought: "Of course I know how strong I am!  After dealing with the interpersonal warfare between girls that is late middle school/junior high...oh, but the Botkin crowd didn't....huh.  That's a bit of a puzzler for them..."

CP/QF families live a strange contradiction.  They are lights on a hill to reform the entire world - but they raise their children to be exceptionally sheltered from all peers who aren't exactly like their family of origin in terms of belief.    There's a whole spiel about protecting their children from bad influences that will lead the kids astray and not throwing pearls before swine... but they are also sending the message to their kids that the kids cannot be trusted to stand firm against temptation.

If I wanted to raise little Christian war-arrows (*rolls eyes*), I'd be dumping said arrowlets into peer groups all_the_time starting when they could talk.   The best way to figure out what strengths and weaknesses a kid has is to watch the kid in action.  I'm sure parents could figure out which kids are likely to flee the family belief system and which are super-straight arrows pretty early on.

After this question is a long, jumbled list of actions that a reader can use to see how well they might stand up to an attacker, an abuser or a boyfriend who wants some physical affection.  I've sorted the list by topic.  The first theme I want to discuss can be labeled as "stuff most people work on with platonic friends long before they start dating".

  • Do we say “yes” to the fears that make us keep silent when we know there’s something that needs to be said?
  • Do we say “yes” to the pressure to go along with things friends want to do, even when we know it’s a bad idea?
  • Do we say “yes” to the temptation to do nothing, when doing something sounds really hard and scary?
  • Do we back up the things we say with our actions?

If a child is raised in a diverse peer group, they've gotten some practice in these skills long before they are old enough to date.    Even among a close group of friends, there are always times where one person is out of line and needs to be told to stop their behavior.   
  • I had three close friends - E., B., and J. - in junior high.  E and B  had a love-hate relationship where they would be inseparable for 1 week (to the point of excluding J and I), interact normally for two weeks, then have a blowout fight and refuse to be around the other person - which meant I had to hang out with E while J friend hung out with B which meant J and I couldn't spend much time together until E and B made up.  J and I realized this pattern sucked for us - so we had a sit-down discussion with the other two during their "calm" period.  We informed them that they could do whatever they wanted - but we were not going to be forced to partner up with them while they weren't speaking to each other.  E and B thought this was funny; they weren't ever going to fight again!   Well, during the next explosive period, J and I ended up sitting together at lunch while E and B each sat alone scowling at each other and us.   This repeated a few times - and then E and B stopped having blowout fights!  Turns out the fun of dramatics fights aren't worth 1-2 weeks of sulking alone....
  • I went to a massive sleepover where all the girls from our class were invited in 6th or 7th grade.  E and B were at different schools by then and J wasn't interested in going so it was just me and 15 female classmates.  We had fun.  A few guys from our class came over and we did their make-up.   Eventually, things settled down when three of the girls decided to pull a prank on a former classmate who lived a few blocks away.   I demurred; pulling a prank on someone we hadn't seen in years seemed really mean and sneaking out at night was one of those things that my mom would react very strongly to when she found out about it.  (I was a pragmatist even then; I didn't trust that my classmates would be able not get caught - or keep their mouths shut if they pulled it off.)  So....I was left behind with three other girls who had some common sense.  Ironically, we four were the people who could have probably pulled the prank off, but I digress.  Turns out that four girls in a small house sounds remarkably different than 15 girls...and they were busted about 10 minutes after they left the house and long before they had gotten off the block.
  • I really enjoy public speaking now, but for years I was terrified of giving speeches or presentations.  I nearly passed out before giving a presentation in my freshman English class; I remember sweating profusely while shaking nearly uncontrollably in the hallway before I began.  After that, I decided I needed to get over that fear.  I started by offering to do readings at church since that was about the least threatening audience I could think of.  I also read books to groups of kids at the library. When I was older, I would volunteer to do daily readings at Mass - with only a single silent read-through just before Mass began.  Over time, the fear faded and was replaced with excitement and anticipation as I became a talented speaker.

Parents who homeschool well make sure their kids have experiences like these by giving them unsupervised peer time when they are old enough and by keeping their kids involved in outside activities that challenge the kids.   Parents who are more dedicated to indoctrination through homeschooling don't.

Scattered in the list is the second theme of "If you've had sexual feelings, you're not a real victim".
  • Do we say “yes” to inner emotional warm-fuzzies after a guy has flattered us?
  • Do we say “yes” to the temptation (we all have it) to dress or act in a way that will draw men’s eyes to us?
  • Do we say “no” when a guy friend gives us attention as though we were something other than “a sister, with all purity”?
More victim-blaming from the Botkin - but the questions are really bad advice in a culture that requires marriage to become an adult. 

 The second question is deeply ironic coming from the Botkin Sisters who espouse that women shouldn't dress to attract men - but being frumpy is an offense to God's Creation. 

Assuming girls can find an outfit they feel is pretty but not attractive to men, the other two ideas are going to send potential suitors the wrong message.  Jane Austen made this clear about Jane Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice" since Jane was so shy and undemonstrative naturally that Mr. Darcy was able to convince Mr. Bingley that Jane wasn't that into him.  At least Jane Bennet was allowed to dance with Mr. Bingley and have unchaperoned conversations with him; what hope is there for a good CP/QF boy to figure out which girls may be willing to court him?  God knows I wouldn't want to be dragged into the level of insanity that Geoffrey Botkin would level on a potential suitor unless I was certain the person I wanted to marry liked me!

The last theme is "Weird theology begets weird actions":

  • Do we say “no” to the inner voice that says “You’re not in any position to call someone to account for something – you’re a sinner too!”
  • Do we own the responsibility for our own sin, without blaming others?
  • Do we let other people dictate our sense of right and wrong, to the point that we feel guilt over things that weren’t wrong?
  • Do we ask first what God thinks about everything, before consulting our own inclinations and feelings?
  • Do we approach situations asking what we have to personally gain or lose?

  • The first question is based on the strange theological premise that sin is sin and therefore all sins are equally bad.   I don't understand the rationale for that - at all - because I grew up in a church where sin is bad - but sins that hurt other people are a whole lot worse than theological sins.   For example, skipping church on a Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation or eating meat on a Friday in Lent are both sins in the Catholic Church.  Murder, rape and adultery are also in the Catholic Church.  The second batch is a whole lot more serious - with much more serious consequences - than the first batch. 

    This is why so many Catholics were horrified when the sexual abuse cover-ups became widely known.  Enabling someone to abuse a child or parishioner is SO MUCH WORSE than causing the Church to get bad press.  The laity in the pews know this - so how the hell did a bunch of bishops and cardinals fuck that up? 

    The Botkin Sisters have made ONE statement that deviates slightly from their father's belief system; they don't believe that rape victims who didn't cry out should be killed.  I'm glad they've made that slight step away - but I'm not going to be lectured by two women who have internalized their family-cult beliefs sans one example.   Let's be blunt - they've got a long way to go since they still believe victims who didn't cry out should feel guilty and ask for God's forgiveness.   That's a twisted, harmful belief that needs to be rejected!

    I'm not being wry in this next statement.  I don't know what God thinks about.  Saying that I know what God's preferred way of dealing with everything is a form of blasphemy to my way of thinking.  God is the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the Universe who knows the struggles of all people and all things!  I've got some basic guidelines like "Make the World a Good Place for All" and "Don't be a Jackass" - but I'm making wild guesses most of the time.  Thomas Merton wrote a prayer that I find meaningful that includes the idea that we're probably screwing up when we do what we think God wants us to do - but hopefully God is pleased by the fact we're doing what we think God wants.

    Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin - along with other SAHD in economically secure families like Sarah Maxwell or Jana Duggar - can afford to NOT count the cost of a personal decision to do right or wrong.  They've internalized their family's values so much that the likelihood of doing something that would get them kicked out of their comfortable paternal home is close to nil.   In their cosseted prisons, they don't have to worry about the economic effects of offending an outsider.  Sarah Maxwell posted  a quick blog post about why she lives at home where she claims that she's completely capable of living on her own - but chooses not to.  A few sentences later, she explains that her life is totally full between her Titus 2 work, working as a part-time bookkeeper for her brothers' businesses, and working on her next self-published book.   

    Only a woman  girl living at home with her parents would confuse four marginally paid contract jobs (which includes the books she writes) for the amount of income needed to live independently of her family at the same socioeconomic level. 

    The next post in the series covers the confusing, poorly written incident between Emily and Bryan.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    Making Great Conversationalists: Preface and Chapter One - Part One

    I'm sorry for dropping off the blogosphere for a week.  My little guy had a bunch of medical appointments while working on erupting his canines.  His left eye has been deviating inward especially when he was tired so he needed a few extra tests to figure out how much deviation there was.  Long story short: he's getting glasses next week along with patching his right eye for one hour every day.  Let me tell you: young todders adore having a dark, sticky patch stuck over their eye!  It's a great excuse to show his newest skill - temper tantrums.   Thankfully, we still had some really awesome toys (read: noisy electronic toys for toddlers) that I had stashed away after Christmas.  Having some "new" toys to play with while having his patch on makes it easier. 

    Little Guy has also learned how to pull himself up on furniture and people.  I'm glad he hit that milestone - but he's having to re-learn how depth perception works while standing.  He's a fast little guy, so he's taken a few spectacular falls already.  I'm fighting the urge to make suits of clothing out of bubble wrap for him - or at least a helmet whenever he's out of his crib.

    Magically, he took a three-hour nap today - and I used the time to start transcribing the hillarous crazy-land that is "Making Great Conversationalists" by Steven and Teri Maxwell.   I knew that this book was totally worth the $3.00 or so I paid for it from a second-hand book seller when I read the the first two sentences in the book:

    This book was conceived after many discussions our family had in the past ten years about the difficulty of having meaningful conversations with others. We realized this was because of a lack of conversation skills on the part of others. (pg. 7)

    Man, those two sentences crack me up every time! 

    The level of insularity and hubris blows my mind - and the author is completely unaware of either.   Taking the sentences at face value, eight adults spend ten years trying to figure out why talking with people outside of their family-cult is hard and their final conclusion is that the problem lies with the other people.     Additionally, the family think-tank realizes that although they cannot hold a satisfying conversation with outsiders the family does have the skills to write a book to teach outsiders how to hold good conversations....

    Remember, the main issue talking with a member of the Maxwell family is that the family has reached an insane level of sheltering where they do not watch TV, movies, or theater, do not read fiction, do not follow professional sports, do not participate in team sports, and don't do any outdoor recreational activities besides hiking as a family.  They do semi-CrossFit-like home exercises, run, drink coffee, bother random service workers about their salvation status and author random books. 

    The rest of the preface of the book is the same rah-rah self-help spiel as every preface written in CP/QF land - so I'll spare you the boredom. 

     The first chapter walks the reader through four "typical" conversations followed by four "improved" conversations that are within reach for families who use this book.  Personally, the "typical" conversations often don't teach the lesson the Maxwell authors want the readers to learn.    Let's look at the first scenario involving a mother, her 5-year-old, and a non-threatening stranger.

    Have you ever taken a child to the grocery store and had this experience? A pleasant Grandma looks at your five-year-old and tries to engage her in a conversation.

    " Hello, sweetie. Those pigtails are just too cute. What's your name?"

    Your child looks down at the floor and says nothing while you feel like melting into the floor yourself. However, you cheerfully attempt to prompt your child to answer.

    " Tell the nice lady your name, honey."

    No response. "Mommy said to tell her your name!"

    Still no response so you continue to press. " You need to tell the lady your name!" By this point the grandma is looking decidedly embarrassed and obviously wishing she had not asked the little girl her name. (pgs. 9-10)

    At this point, there are two people who are acting appropriately for their age and the situation - and one person who is acting like a crazed martinet.    Five-year-old Cynthia is acting like a standard kindergartener who is nervous about being expected to talk to a stranger.   Cynthia's mom, on the other hand, is throwing a hissy fit at her kid because the kid isn't performing on demand.   The kindly Grandma is probably feeling horrible that she's caused the crazy lady in front of her to lose it; after all, nice grandmotherly-types have had decades of experience with nervous children who are afraid to talk to strangers.

    Personally, I was a shy chatterbox.  If I didn't know a person - or was expected to strike up a conversation unexpectedly - I would be frightened and tongue-tied at first.   My parents handled the situation by waiting a short time to see if I would respond and if I didn't would gently answer the question while chatting with the person.  This would buy me some time to "warm up" to the person - at which point I became a torrent of random chatter.

    The weirdest bit of the conversation so far is the fact that Cynthia's mother has turned this into an entire power-play battle for control.   She's acting like Cynthia's health or well-being is threatened because Cynthia doesn't want to talk to a random stranger.   It's not.  Hell, it's not even a sign that Cynthia doesn't understand social cues because she's five!

    Finally, your daughter mutters under her breath, " Cynthia."

    " What was that, my dear? I am sorry. I couldn't understand you," the grandma replies.

    So you try again." Speak up louder, and say your name clearly."

    Again Cynthia says her name but still not so the lady can understand. You finally step in and tell her Cynthia's name. (pg. 10)

    I don't believe for a second that Grandma would have any response to the kid other than "What a nice name!" even if the kid was completely inaudible.   Seriously - don't give the crazy lady another reason to start pressuring her kindergartener. 

    Side note: the name Cynthia is one heck of a mouthful for a kindergartener.  Expecting her to say her name clearly might be beyond her speech capacities.  I say this as a fellow person with a tricky first name; most kids pronounce my first name "Melinda" as "Ma-WIN-da" in kindergarten - including me.

    This is a typical interaction for an adult with a five-year-old. It's what happens most of the time. How would you feel, though, if this were the way the conversation went instead?

    " Hello, sweetie. Those pigtails are just too cute. What's your name?"

    Your child looks at the grandma, smiles, and replies, " Thank you. My mommy likes to sometimes make pigtails for me. My name is Cynthia. What's your name?" (pg. 10)

    Well, since you asked how I felt, I would be weirded out.   Most kids don't ask random strangers what their names are.  I have no idea how to respond to the fact that Cynthia is wearing pigtails because her mom likes to put Cynthia's hair in pigtails.  Does Cynthia like pigtails?  Does anyone care if she does? 

    This whole conversation reminded me of a CP/QF point-of-pride that might be putting their kids at risk.  CP/QF homeschooling parents often wax poetic about how their kids spend all their time in intergenerational settings instead of being surrounded by their peers.   That sounds all well and good - but it also means that their kids are oblivious to the fact that adults don't usually spend time with random kids.    I do water aerobics for exercise and sometimes workout during busy "Open Swim" times.  Generally, people assort by family groups or peer groups.   There's usually groups of boys and girls within a few years of each other playing some game while the parents chat or exercise.    As an adult woman without a kid with me, my interaction with the kids in the pool is limited to occasionally retrieving a toy that has floated into an area that's too deep for the kid to go safely.    The kid gets my attention and asks if I can get the toy on the edge of the deep end.  I say, "Sure!" and return the toy to the kid who says "Thanks!" and we all go about our merry ways.   If I were to join in the kids' game when no other adults are playing -or strike up a conversation with the kid without involving their parent in some way - I would be behaving in a very strange manner would be at least uncomfortable for most kids.   

    Well, I'm going to stop there for now.  The next section of stilted dialogue revolves around a teenager at a doctor's office. 

    Friday, July 6, 2018

    Maidens of Virtue: Did We Read The Same Book?

    The last appendix in "Maidens of Virtue" by Stacy McDonald sets out an elaborate tea luncheon for girls to enjoy with their buddies.   There's an implication that this tea luncheon is totally like what British ladies do - but to me it feels more like a church potluck combined with an etiquette class.

    Anyways, teenage girls can't be trusted to talk about whatever topic comes into their head; that leads to the dreaded "peer-dependence" feared by every CP/QF parent.  Instead, Stacy McDonald included a list of approved books for the girls to read ahead of time and discuss at lunch.    I was seriously thrown by the fact that the second book on the list was "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte.   I love that book; it was one of those books that I stayed up all night to finish when I first read it in high school.  The reasons I love the book, though, should cause the book to be banned in most CP/QF families.   The luncheon information included a whopping ten questions to discuss about a classic of the English language.  When we read it in high school as part of our British Literature class in my junior year, we were lucky if we only got ten questions per chapter.

    I'd like to look at the ten original questions in-depth and propose additional questions that are far more interesting - and potentially life-changing - for young adherents of CP/QF.

    1. Read a short biography of Charlotte Bronte (You might even print a sheet from an online source to share). Do you feel the author brought her own experiences to bear upon writing? Does Jane reflect Charlotte Bronte's own struggles and dreams?

    I hate dumb leading questions.  These questions are pushing really hard in one direction and I find that deeply annoying.   I would end up writing a dead-serious essay that describes every substantive difference between Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte - mostly revolving around the fact that the wife of married man that Charlotte Bronte was emotionally attached to didn't have the decency to kill herself so that Bronte could marry him.

    The questions are also daft.  No writer can completely separate their life experiences from their writing so, yeah, Bronte's experiences live through Eyre.  Duh.

    Better Questions:

    A.  Research the social issues that governesses struggled with during this time period.  Compare and contrast the issues faced by governesses with stay-at-home daughters.

    B. Both Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte formed a deep emotional relationship with a man that they wished to marry - but whom was already married to another woman.  What circumstances make those relationships more likely to occur?  What circumstances make those relationships less likely to occur?  What are the benefits and drawbacks for women in those relationships.

    2. How do we get to know the characters through Jane's eyes? Notice how her perspective matures from childhood to adulthood.

    Moving from the two word answers from the first set of questions, explaining how characterization occurs in Jane Eyre is a potential thesis level question.  Oh, I know you can adapt it to the level of the teens - but even teenagers should get that this is a huge question.... The second question, though, accidently narrows the question far too much.  There are five characters that Jane knows as an adult and a child: Mrs. Reed, Bessie (Lee) Leaven, Eliza Reed, Georgiana Reed, and Maria Temple.  Of those characters, Jane only perceives Bessie Leaven differently as an adult than as a child.   Jane interacts much differently with Mrs. Reed (and to a lesser extent the Reed daughters) as an adult - but I would argue that the difference in her interaction is due to Jane's deeper understanding of herself than any change in perspective on Mrs. Reed per se.

    Better questions:
    A. You arrive at college and find out you can choose either Georgiana or Eliza Reed as your roommate.  Which would you pick and why?

    B.  Jane idolizes women some women like Maria Temple and Diana Rivers while having more balanced relationships with others like Bessie Leaven and Mrs. Fairfax.  What characteristics in women make Jane more likely to idolize them?  If Helen Burns had lived, would Jane have idolized her?  Why or why not?

    3.How does Jane treat Mr. Rochester? Compare this with how other women in the story treat him.

    I find this question strangely offensive.  One of the things I liked the most about "Jane Eyre" is that Jane lives in a predominantly female society and has very complex relationships with the other women in her life.    Instead of focusing on those relationships - or even on the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester - the girls are told to focus on the difference between Jane Eyre and Blanche Ingram.  (Added bonus points, though, if the woman the girls discuss is his first wife...)

    Better questions:
    A.  Defend Bertha (Mason) Rochester's  and Blanche Ingram's courtships of Mr. Rochester in light of the economic conditions facing gentlewomen during this time periods.  How does Jane's experiences after her flight from Thornfield Hall support or detract from the defense of the two other women who courted Rochester?

    B.  Jane and Rochester's relationship prior to her flight from Thornfield contained warning signs of potential abuse in the future.  Discuss these signs.

    C.  At critical points in her relationships with Mr. Rochester and St. John Rivers, Jane receives counsel from Mrs. Fairfax and Diana Rivers respectively.  What information did Jane receive from these women?  Why did these women share this information with Jane?  How did the counsel affect Jane's course of action?

    4. How do Jane's spiritual beliefs affect her relationships with others ( Mrs. Reed, her cousins, friends at school, the headmistress, Mr. Rochester, St. John Rivers, etc.)?

    Here we have another 15-20 page essay question to be discussed over lunch!  Although - now that I think about it - the effect of Jane's spiritual beliefs on her relationships with Georgiana Reed, Eliza Reed, Maria Temple and Helen Burns can be summed up as "not much, really." 

    Let me see if I can work out a better set of questions - but the first one might be a memory from a choice of essays from high school so if you like it, thank Sr. Irene Mary:

    A. Discuss how Helen Burns' religious beliefs affected Jane Eyre.  Which beliefs did she adopt?  Did she reject any of her beliefs?

    B. How did Jane's spiritual beliefs affect her interactions with Mrs. Reed as a child and as an adult?

    C.  Bronte faces a difficult transition when Eyre rejects Rivers to return to Rochester.  Discuss how Bronte uses mysticism to smooth this transition.

    5. Do you think Jane makes the right choice when she runs away from Mr. Rochester after discovering his secret?

    Depends.  Does that include her accidentally forgetting all of her worldly goods on the coach?  That bit always felt forced to me. 

    More broadly, I'm concerned that the CP/QF crowd will defend her flight based on morality - "Jane was right to flee from temptation" instead of as an act of self-defense.  From my point of view, running away was her safest option - even if she ended up sleeping in the moors.  Rochester's behavior from the time after his bigamy was discovered until she leaves his was frightening and violent.

    Better questions:

    A. Discuss the ways in which Rochester separated and threatened Jane between when Jane discovered his bigamy and when she fled Thornfield Hall.

    B.  What options are available for people who are fleeing abusive situations today that were not available to Jane?

    C.  How was Jane's flight from Thornfield Hall complicated by her lack of career choices?  How would her flight have been more difficult if she had discovered his bigamy after she had given birth Rochester's son?

    6. Do you think St. John's offer to Jane is a good one? Why or why not?

    From whose point of view?  It's a great offer from St. John's point of view; he gets the perfect subserviant wife to bring on his Indian missionary work.  It's not so great from Jane's POV - she gets a husband who views her as an interesting tool as she works herself to death.

    Interestingly, my feelings about the relationship between St. John and Jane changed the most greatly of any of the characters when I compare how I felt in high school compared to when I re-read the novel recently.  In high school, I viewed their potential marriage relationship much as Jane does in the book - as unacceptable due to the lack of romantic love on the side of St. John.  As a real adult, the lack of romantic love pales compared to St. John's narcissism and mind games.  RUN, JANE, RUN!

    Better Questions:
    A:  Over the course of one year Jane Eyre attracts two men with controlling personality issues.  What personality traits of Jane do you think are attractive to controlling men?  Why?

    B.  During Jane's formative years, she was under the control of two capricious guardians: Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst.   How could this childhood and adolescence lead Jane to be attracted to men like St. John Rivers and Rochester?

    C.  List all the "tests" that Rochester and Rivers put Jane Eyre through during their "courtships".

    7. How does Jane reconcile with Mr. Rochester, and how does this demonstrate her unwillingness to compromise her faith and her moral convictions?


    Whew.  I needed that.   Making Jane's reconciliation fit within the CP/QF framework requires ignoring studiously the timeline between when St. John Rivers proposes to Jane and when she proposes to Rochester.  Based on my read, Jane takes off to see what has happened to Rochester long before she learns of his first wife's death.  Since Jane struggled through the entire book to stay the course of her chosen moral path when she was near Rochester, I suspect she would have been hard tried to leave again once she met with him.

    Minor note: Rochester never asks Jane to compromise her faith - and only pushes at her moral convictions during that whole first-wife-is-alive-and-a-lunatic-but-hey-let's-get-"married"-anyways time period.  Bronte wrote the Bertha Mason backstory as overblown as it was both to point out the damages England's refusal to grant divorces once one spouse was insane did - and to create a situation where most period readers felt that Rochester's idea to live together in spite of a lack of a lawful marriage was moral.

    Better Questions:
    A.  Research the term "deus ex machina" and explain how it applies to the resolution of Mr. Rochester's first marriage.

    B. Describe the changes in power between Jane and Rochester throughout the book. 

    8. What do you think of the final paragraph in the book?

    Hello?!?  Let's discuss the sacchanine ending for Jane and Rochester before we dive back into the hot mess that is St. John Rivers, ok? (Seriously - it's more than a bit disturbing that Stacy McDonald, writer of "MAIDENS of Virtue", wants to spend most of the luncheon talking about the men in the book.)   Jane marries Rochester who has magically become a much nicer, calmer and less aggressively violent dude after going through the trauma of losing his home to fire, watching his first wife commit suicide, and suffering two life-changing disabilities.   Remember, this is the guy who threatened to kill Jane when she wouldn't marry him; how are we supposed to believe he's become less impulsive and less unstable when he's suffered severe mental and physical trauma?  (Answer "he found Jesus!" at your own peril.)

    Jane brings Adele who is now 7 or 8 years old back from a harsh school and tries to be her governess again - but Rochester's care takes up too much time so Adele is sent to a nicer nearby school. 

    Cool.  I can deal with that. 

    But how does Jane manage to care for a newborn baby while Rochester is still pretty helpless?  I know his eye has a magic recovery - but most of what Jane did for Rochester was more along the lines of being overly enmeshed in Rochester's daily life.  That's not going to work well with a small infant, fyi....

    As for the last paragraph - St. John manages to work himself to death by age 40.  Whoo-hoo. 
    Better - but mainly geeky - Questions:

    A.  (Throwback) Research typhus and typhoid fever. Which disease better fits the Lowood Epidemic?  Why?

    B.  Reseach sympathetic opthalmia and discuss how the course of Rochester's case of sympathetic opthalmia compares to the expected medical course.

    C. Describe the issues surrounding not-planning pregnancies when a family is also providing care to members who need specialized care.

    9. If you had to name one theme that ties all of Jane Eyre together, what would it be?

    This is actually a pretty good question.  My take-away is that people have a right to make their own life choices. 

    10. Which character is your favorite, and why?

    Oooh!  This is a nice question, too.  Personally, I've always liked the character of Bessie (Lee) Leaven.   I like her because her life was so very normal.

    Tuesday, July 3, 2018

    Spiritual Self Defense - Get Ready For War - Part One

    The fourth installment of the Botkin Sisters blog posts on sexual abuse, rape, harassment and consensual sexual relations that don't fit the CP/QF courtship mantra "Get Ready For War" is an astonishingly tone-deaf work about how victims of abuse, rape or harassment absolutely have to do something to stop their attackers from hurting anyone else afterwards. 

    At the end of reading this section, I had two basic observations.  First, most people who want their readers to do something include direct, clear, specific directions for the next steps.  If I want my readers to learn CPR, I'd include a blurb for the Red Cross or American Heart Association.  If I wanted readers to understand how to report child abuse/neglect or domestic abuse, I'd tell them that they call 911 if a child/erson is in immediate danger (e.g., a passerby sees a child being harmed by a parent; the couple in the apartment next door has a screaming, crying fight that includes the sounds of objects being thrown followed by dead silence) or the non-emergency line for their local police department for more chronic issues (e.g., concerns about a sister's refusal to get her niece medical attention for an ongoing issue).   The Botkin Sisters include absolutely nothing about how or even to whom to report abuse, rape, harassment. 

    Why do they repeatedly - and annoyingly coyly - state that their podcast and blogs aren't the right venue to discuss the nitty-gritty details of reporting?  I believe they refuse to do so because of the second observation: the Botkin Sisters are completely unable to function as adults.  That's a harsh assessment - but I believe this section highlights how unprepared and inexperienced the sisters are for women who are 32 and 30 years old respectively.

    Take a second to think about what you have experienced in your life prior to age 32-30 years (for those who are old enough) or what you've experienced so far if you are younger. 

    • In terms of education, I had earned a high school diploma and college credits through AP tests by 18.  I completed a bachelor's degree in Biology/Education with a minor in Chemistry and was a certified teacher for 6-12th grades in Biology and Chemistry.
    • In terms of a career, I had worked as a bagger/cashier/department clerk for 8 years and a teacher for 5-7 years. I earned tenure the year I turned 32.  I had held a variety of short term or contract jobs for supplemental income or experience building concurrent with my main income from working at Meijers or teaching.
    • In terms of building my nuclear family, I started dating seriously when I was 26 (I think...).  Most relationships petered out when the guy I was dating and I realized we simply were not suited for each other - but I did have one serious relationship with a depressed functional alcoholic who dumped me on his way to a vocational retreat for future priests after lying about his intentions to look into the priesthood.  He never made it into the priesthood - or back into my life.  After that cluster-fuck, I decided dating online could not possibly be worse than that last relationship so I went online and met my husband six months later.  We dated for about a year, and we were engaged for 9 months before we married.  We supported each other through depressive episodes, family squabbles and major surgery for my husband. 
    Keep your real life experiences in mind as we discuss some of the more jaw-dropping, eye-popping moments from the Sheltered Sisters:

    In response to the deluge of sexual abuse and harassment reports, it’s astonishing to hear so many voices – even from the feminist camp – implying that we can’t ask or expect a woman to do something that would be hard or require personal sacrifice. “She couldn’t have refused him… she might have lost her job!” “She couldn’t have told anyone; she knew a previous woman had told someone and gotten in trouble.” “She couldn’t have fought back; she had so much to lose here.”

    See, not all difficult personal sacrifices have the same costs attached.  Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin are kept women; their family's income is enough that they can live as upper-middle class adults without having to do anything as distasteful as finding jobs that support their accustomed lifestyle..   If you read the "About" section on their website, they include a non-descript statement that they 'collaborate' with the rest of their family on ministry items...and the only other item they include that describes work is house-cleaning for their immediate family and child-care for their niece and nephews.  I strongly believe that a lot of traditionally women's work like childcare, support for ill or elderly relatives, and care for a home is devalued since it doesn't earn wages.  Having said that, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth are kidding themselves if they think serving their immediate family including siblings is anything similar to the grind they would have to do if they had to earn their own living.  Their home includes six adults (Geoffrey, Victoria, Anna Sofia, Elizabeth, Lucas and Noah) and no young children or adults with needs for extensive caregiver needs.  Even if the male members do nothing but create messes, that's full-time work for one adult woman if she cooks three meals a day from scratch and does all the laundry.  A second woman might be useful if she gardens and keeps enough animals for food - but that doesn't sound like the Botkin Sisters.   Likewise, sporadic childcare duties and housecleaning support for the 2-3 kids of their married brothers is probably a great relief for their sisters-in-law - but it's nothing like trying to support a middle class lifestyle on house-cleaning and babysitting. 

    It's easy enough to preach while sheltered from reality.  Of course, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth would quit a job (or classily submit to being fired) if they were harassed; their income is pin-money for them.  How about if the two of them were supporting the other four adults in the home?  Would it be so easy to walk away from even a single babysitting or house cleaning job with a leering man if that job literally paid the rent?  That requires a bit of imagination on Anna Sofia and Elizabeth's part so let me make it more simple: why haven't Anna Sofia or Elizabeth categorically denounced Doug Phillips after Ms. Torres' accusations?  All the Sisters would be risking is whatever income they receive from lectures involving former Vision Forum members and potentially the disapproval of their father who holds the purse strings in the family.  Huh.  Not that easy, is it?    Hmm....what do we call people who tell other people to do a course of action that they themselves won't do because of the consequences of their actions?  Hypocrites. 

    Of course, we must sympathize with these women’s pain, fear, and prospective loss. Saying no or speaking up can cost a woman everything, and it has for many brave silence-breakers. But we also have to realize that statements like this send a message to young women: Doing the Right Thing is what you do when it’s not hard, when it’s not scary, and when there’s no danger that you’ll lose anything. know....we can speak out against the structural issues that cause people to lose everything when they speak up about unfair practices.   Let's start with an easy one: gossip.  The Botkin Sisters have managed to turn gossip-mongering into an income stream.  Their two books are filled with little anecdotes of how people they know personally have failed morally.  Is that kind?  Is that going to induce victims to feel confident that Anna Sofia and Elizabeth will support them in the aftermath of going public?  Heck, their podcasts subtly mock young women who ask them very specific questions about what is allowed and not allowed for women to do.  If they are that unthinkingly cruel to people who already trust them and confide in them, who in their right mind would disclose sexual harassment to them?

    Their spiel about doing the right thing even when it is hard is a hoot!  These two women have never traveled without a male immediate family member.  They've never volunteered to do physically or emotionally messy work in the community.  The thirty-something women live with their parents and don't have to cover the entirety of their expenses.  The "family ministry" that keeps them SO BUSY is moribund.  In thirteen years, they've written two books, made one documentary, and created one webinar.  They produce about 2 posts a year for their website - and their father's site is even less frequently updated.

    I know the two sisters find the idea of moving out of their parents' home morally repellent so I'll make this easier for them.  They should spend a year trying to earn enough money to cover what they would need if they were living independently.  They can do it however they want - home business, working for church members or revitalizing their ministry - but if they want to be taken seriously, the two of them need to start clearing enough income from their endeavors to pay for a two-bedroom apartment, transportation to and from their jobs, food, health insurance (or cost-share ministry), renter's insurance, clothing, and utilities.  Looking up apartment or house rental comps isn't hard; they can track their own needs for food, clothing and transportation; the rest they can get from talking to other people in their church or in their jobs.   On the months they fall short - and there will be months they fall short - they need to cut back in real life the same way they would if living separately from their parents.  (Added benefit: they'll understand the jokes people make about living on Ramen noodles, Tina's burritos, and bargain-basement pot pies since cooking from scratch falls apart when working 60+ hours a week with $100 a month for food.)

    Erin Lovette-Colyer, director of the University of San Diego Women’s Center, says that when it comes to dealing with and reporting harassment, “I tell students that whatever feels the most empowering for them is what they should do.” Which, we’re pretty sure, is how Harvey Weinstein’s whole network of effectual accomplices covering things up to protect their own careers and success were operating all along. Actually… we’re pretty sure that’s how Harvey Weinstein was operating, too.

    *slow claps*

    This is the level of analysis I would expect from a last-minute slapped together essay from a young high school student. 

    Harassment is a civil matter.  The most severe remedy for extreme cases involves filing a civil suit. Like many civil matters, there are relatively few hard-and-fast rules for how best to handle a given situation.  The Botkin Sisters - and the rest of their family as well - try to make the world black and white when it's filled with grey areas.  How a person chooses to react to harassment with vary depending on the severity of the incident, how the offender was connected to the person, the options the person thinks are available and the likelihood of the incident happening again.   IOW, getting harassed by a drunk stranger at a baseball concession stand will likely have a different response than the same behavior from a classmate, a professor or a supervisor.    Bluntly, "being empowered" in this situation is a different way of saying "listen to your gut."  If telling the guy at the lab table behind you that you don't want to overhear explicit stories of his sexual exploits sounds like the right response, it is the right response.  An undergraduate might choose to ignore a single issue with a professor that might be harassment as long as it doesn't reoccur - or they might feel the best option is to say to the professor that that interaction made them uncomfortable - or they might need to report the interaction through the college's system. 

    I don't know how Harvey Weinstein's associates justified dismissing Weinstein's reputation, but I suspect the process was pretty similar to how Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin managed to miss Doug Phillip's skeevy behavior when it benefited their family.  The family made at least one podcast based on their trip to Boston in 2009 for Vision Forum's Reformation 500 where Anna Sofia and Elizabeth got to do cos-play under the guise of representing important women in the Reformation.  A variety of bloggers from both the upper-class royalty of Vision Forum and the working class supporters describe how chummy the Botkin and Phillips families were - so how did the paragons of virtue in the Botkin family miss Doug Phillip's predilection to molest their nanny?
      (Side note: the description of Anne Boleyn's execution as being caused by her support for the Protestant religion in England is a hoot. A more accepted reading was that her inability to give birth to a healthy son doomed her to fall the internecine power-plays of the court...)

    This last quote is sad simply because the Botkin Sisters confuse feminism with the daily restrictions they place on themselves as members of a cult:

    With all its promises of strength and liberation, feminism leaves women in the ultimate bondage, the bondage to their own natural sinful tendencies. Bondage to the fear that says, “I just can’t.” To the apathy that says, “It’s not worth it.” To the ambition that says, “It would be OK to trade my principles for success.” To the pragmatism that says, “What would it profit me if I think about my soul and lose the whole world?”

    I'm sure the Botkin Sisters know fear; they believe they are too gullible to discern the difference between a potential rapist and a potential suitor.  They believe that listening to a college lecturer who is an atheist discuss any topic will cause them to lose their belief system.  They believe they need their father to dictate where, when, and with whom they go places. 

    I'm sure the Botkin Sisters know apathy; descriptions of their busy life is somewhat less than the amount of work, fun, family time and community responsibility that an adult woman has - split across two single women.  I managed to keep up my blog while caring for a medically complex newborn; I have no idea why the Botkin Sisters can't do theirs except apathy or burnout.

    We've already discussed how the Botkin Family has chosen silence to maintain their standing in the CP/QF society - so deriding other people's ambition is hypocritical.

    Pragmatism - I would say that the Botkin Sisters have made a pragmatic choice.  To enjoy their lifestyle, they've passed up any opportunity to serve among the lost, forsaken, and hurting of the world so that they can be safely ensconced in the Botkin Family enclave.  By not reaching out, the Sisters avoid running into any of the inconvenient moments when life challenges their deeply beloved thoughts and actions.  After all, deviating from Geoffrey Botkin's plan means that they would risk having to support themselves like adults - so pragmatism dictates that it's better to skimp on following Jesus than risk losing their paycheck.