I just finished reading a strong and powerful critque of the relationship between Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series and the hierarchy, sexuality, and relationship dynamics present in the evangelical church. This incredible paper is my friend KJ's thesis paper which she blessed me with by allowing me to read it. Post reading I find I am left with so many emotions...many of them similar to those felt in certain Christian contexts as well as those which came up while reading this book series and other cultural stories. One of the strongest emotions sitting in my body right now at 12:18am is that of grief. Why why why is the question that keeps running through my head. So often I find that when confronted with stories of women who are harmed, especially in structures, systems, and stories that condition them to participate in the harm as part of goodness or love, that why screams so loud it threatens to break my heart.
KJ in her paper brought up the biblical story of Tamar, what is interesting is that there are actually two stories of women name Tamar in the Old Testament both of whom are connected to the linage of Christ. The first story comes from Genesis 38:1-30, this Tamar is the daughter in law of Judah. The essencial of the story are: Tamar marries Er son of Judah who is evil and is killed by God, then according to Levirite law (pop culture reference if you have seen Deadwood this is why Sheriff Seth Bullock is married) she (because she has not born a child with Er) is then married to his brother Onan who sleeps with her but does not ejaculate so that she cannot conceive because the child would be his brother's and not his and for this wickedness God kills Onan. Levirite law then stipulates that Judah give his next son Shelah in marriage to Tamar when he is of age which Judah agrees to but does not do for fear of his son's life. During this passage of time Judah's wife dies and Tamar realizes that she has essencially been screwed over by Judah and so she goes about gaining her rights. She disguises herself as a protestitue and sleeps with Judah to finally conceive a child through his family line and seek the protection she should have had a his widowed daughter in law. When he finds out she is pregnant, not knowing he is the father, following the law she is taken to be stoned until she produces evidence marking Judah as the father of her two sons. And at the end of the story Judah commends her for seeking what was rightfully her's: "Judah recognized them(the markers he had left with the protestute) and said "She is more righteous than me, since I would not give her to my son Shelah." vs. 26 NIV
The second Tamar is a sadder story one of the explicite rape stories in the biblical narrative 2 Samuel 13:1-22. Basics of the story are: Tamar is one of the daughters of King David, the sister(meaning they had the same mother) of Absalom. Another of their half brothers Amnon is in "pain" over his lust for Tamar. Their cousin Jonadab counsel's Amnon to fain sickness and ask for Tamar to come and feed and care for him so that he can have her alone and sleep with her. This Amnon does and he rapes Tamar. And then with all of his "desire" alievated he turns to her in rage, and she pleads with Amnon to fix the rape by marrying her. To this request he violently expells Tamar from his rooms. She is now a cursed woman and seeks shelter with her brother Absalom, who protects her from this while the father of all three Tamar, Amnon and Absalom, David the King who God loved does nothing.
For both biblical Tamars they are denighed voice and strength, in their harm they are asked to honor their abusers above themselves. They are seen as objects not as equal or valued beyond their ability to give pleasure (masterbation) to their abusers. And in these stories I see the same questions and harms and structure that are addressed in KJ's paper and are up held in Meyer's books. KJ writes about the subtle messages that are inbibed by women and men with in the church and culture about the roles of women in relationship to men specifically in sexual and relational dynamics. There are concerns about the great harm and collusion that happens when ideas that lead to the glorification of abuse and power with in a relationship get confused with developing ideas about love, passion, desire and faith.
All of this biblical synopsis to say I was inspired and challenged by the writing of a friend this evening. And my heart screams why are women and girls being burn on the alter of lies about love? Why are our good desires of connection, sex and love being filtered through shoddy and unhelpful representations of a violent and destructive fantesy, because it looks shiny and whitewashed on a curserary glance?