#METOO: Sharifa Stevens

Sharifa is a dear friend and gifted communicator. You should check out her blog and buy her new book Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible .

I was 10 years old when high school boys started staring at my breasts. 

My mother, a regal and dignified woman, once shouted “she’s only 15!” to a grown man leering at me as we waited on a subway platform. Crowded trains were orchards blossoming with low-hanging fruit…for “accidental” brushes with breasts and bottoms. For men waiting in packed subway cars for the train to screech-stop or careen to one side, so they could press their rigid parts into passengers held captive by crowds.

During my brief stint as a city government fellow, one of my superiors leaned in to punctuate his “Happy New Year” with a kiss. On the lips. 

In Santo Domingo, male German tourists and Dominican men alike both propositioned me for sex—a brown girl in a nice hotel could only be there for one reason.

In Cancun last year, an American man offered me one U.S. dollar for the opportunity to touch my hair. When I refused, he attempted to touch me anyway.

Thieves have been stealing from my temple all my life. Intruders break in and steal boundary lines, dignity, choice. 

Other folks—both men and women—come by to casually investigate the crime. 

What were you wearing?

Dress for the attention you want.

I’m sure that’s not what happened.

We have been taught to profane the temples that are women’s bodies. We have taught ourselves that these women’s temples are for consumption instead of worship. We ask questions and make presumptions that rob women of their dignity.

Money-changers have no place in our temples. There is no acceptable language to excuse or normalize the consumption of human bodies.

This consumption happens when men—and women (because, maddeningly, some women support and condone and dismiss and behave as accomplices to the abuse of other women)—pervert the tragedy of Genesis 3, asserting that domination and subjugation is God's ideal.

It happens when we groom our children to live according to the curse instead of redemption.

It happens when the responsibility to be chaste, cautious, above reproach, self-controlled, aware of others, respectful is shouldered by girls and women, and the sum of men's responsibility is:

"Boys will be boys."

We need to quit the culture of robbery.

Teach your boys that women are people—and then live what you teach.

Demonstrate that women are people—and their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit—in how you talk to your boys (consider the implications of saying that your boy cries, throws, or runs "like a girl").

Praise self-control to both boys and girls.

Expect self-control from boys and men, as well as women and girls.

Prosecute and discipline predatory behavior. Stamp it out; don't coddle it or sweeten it with phraseology like "20 minutes of action" or "locker room talk." Locker room talk is a prelude to assault and rape.

For all the women who say, "me, too": Your bodies are sacred. 

You are created in the image of God.

I am so sorry that anyone made you feel less than who you are. I am with you. God is with you. Jesus cleansed temples. He never gawked at a woman. Never minimized a woman’s pain. He won’t do that to you, even when His followers do.

Your dignity is precious to me, and I will fight in every space of influence to uphold it. Your dignity is not diminished because of the barbarism of another human being.

You matter. 

#metooKat Armstrong