Author Archives: Bethany

Quieting the Noise

We live in such a noisy world. And somehow, I feel obligated to keep up with it all. The first thing I do most mornings is check my email. If I have time, and sometimes even if I don’t, I check twitter and facebook, too. There are blogs to read, photos to like, videos to see, perfect sound bites to retweet. Something in me thinks that I have to read every single thing that’s been posted since I was last on and I work so hard to keep up.

Several voices have spoken lately about the deluge of information we face and how our digital lives are shaping the rest of our lives.

I take in so much information on a daily basis. I can’t help but wonder how much of it I’m actually absorbing and how much of it is a waste of time and energy. There are words that I have found on the Internet that have made space for my weary heart to rest and I am grateful. Words that have spoken hope when I wasn’t sure that there was any. But there are so many words.

Even my words here, I wonder if they really matter. I wonder if I’m doing anything more than adding to the noise—the same noise I’m so desperate to escape from.

Last week I self-evaluated my stress level for one of my classes. Based on the assessment we used, my stress levels are incredibly high. Even my textbook knows that I need to do something about it. And I am. There are so many different things I could point to as sources of stress. Only so many of them are things I can control.

On top of all of it, my health is not where it should be. It’s probably equal parts cause and effect of said stress. This week I finally started moving towards regaining my health, but it’s going to take time.

Then I read Allison Vesterfelt’s “Slowing Down, Finding Healing, Uncovering Grace.” She said something in there about staring her days slower, about not staring them with her computer.

I’m a perfectionist. I have an amazing capacity to put pressure on myself to do, do, do. I have to keep up with everything. I have to read all the tweets. I don’t like slowing down. But if I am going to find healing, if I’m going to reduce this stress, then I’m going to have to. And I am.

I’m starting by reducing the noise. Last week I unfollowed forty-something people on twitter. I unfollowed people on Facebook, too—people I don’t really know but know far too much about because of the Internet. I re-blocked Pinterest on my computer. I unsubscribed from some emails. I found freedom in those simple buttons.

Slowing the flow of digital information won’t take my stress away. I know that. But it’s a start. It’s something I can control. Quieting the noise.

And maybe in the quiet I will learn to slow down.

Is there a link between sex trafficking and the Super Bowl?

If you spent much time on the internet last week, you probably saw a lot of articles about an increase of sex trafficking around the Super Bowl. It’s something I’ve talked about here in past years. But this year, there’s been some pushback. People are questioning whether or not there really is an increase in trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl.

Both of these perspectives have shown up in my various internet spheres, and truth be told, I don’t know which is correct. I can’t tell you which side we have more evidence for or what the statistics really show. And with an issue like this one, good statistics are incredibly hard to come by anyway. But I do know that there is a link between the two—it just may not be the obvious one.

You should know that I didn’t watch the Super Bowl last night. In the past, though, the only real reason I’ve watched is for the commercials. And I’m not the only one. Even the people who watch it for the football usually wind up watching the ads.

I’d wager a guess that most of us enjoy them, too. Or at least, we used to.

While I wasn’t watching last night, I was on Twitter. Between the many people I follow who were live-tweeting the game and the #NotBuyingIt hashtag, I got a pretty good feel for what was happening. The Seahawks were destroying the Broncos, the halftime show got the mixed reviews it always does, and the commercials, well…

They were as bad as they ever have been.

Sure, there were a few good ones. But for the most part, the commercials once again discriminated against, excluded, or objectified women.

I spent some time tracking #NotBuyingIt last night. The goal was to call companies out on ads that were sexist or sexually objectified women. This was how they were doing it:

[Video: #NotBuyingIt: Sexism in Super Bowl Commercials]

We live in a world where we’ve trained ourselves to see people as things. “Sex sells,” we say, and turn a blind eye to it. Is it any wonder that sex trafficking is so prevalent? When we believe that people are nothing more than commodities, it’s easy to believe that we can do whatever we want to them.

Until we change the way that we objectify, sell, and consume human beings, we won’t be able to face problems like sex trafficking and rape culture.

The Super Bowl is more than just a football game. It’s one of the largest advertising events of the year. We need to be thinking about what those advertisements are telling us. There is a link between the Super Bowl, or at least the advertisements at the Super Bowl, and sex trafficking: sexual objectification.

The media is failing us when it comes to this. It’s time that we speak up and start telling a better story.

(A word of caution: this video contains some pretty disturbing material)

[Video: How the Media Failed Women in 2013]

Miss Representation Film

Because justice is too big for any one of us

It’s really easy to sit at my computer and say something on the internet about “social justice”. It’s even pretty easy to sit in a classroom and learn about it. But to actually get outside myself and do justice?

That’s hard.

It’s hard because I don’t know where to begin.

It’s always an interesting conversation when people ask me what my major is. “Social Justice,” I say, and sometimes they look at me like I’m crazy. That’s okay, though. I’m not sure I completely understand what I’m doing here.

What I do understand, though, is that I get to spend the next few years learning as much as I can about justice and injustice and the very best ways we can do something about it. And that blows my mind. There’s hardly a day I’m not grateful for it.

The problem is, the more I learn, the less I know.

I’m a perfectionist. Sometimes it feels impossible for me to move forward if I don’t have enough information. Other times it feels impossible because I know that saving the world, which is what I really want to do, is way bigger than what I’m capable of.

I could spend the rest of my life learning about these things without actually doing anything. I could spend years agonizing about what my part should be.

But I can’t help feeling like that would be a waste.

There’s this moment in The Return of the King where this group of warriors and leaders who have taken on the task of defeating Sauron and his Shadow are gathered to discuss what move to make next. They have won a battle but they know that the fight is not over.

They know that their strength is not enough to defeat the darkness. Their hope lies in their ringbearer and his mission of destroying the ring. And they have to choose in the meantime whether to sit around and wait to be destroyed or charge into battle and face almost certain destruction.

It seems as though they can’t win.

And Gandalf says to them,

Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant and an emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of these years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.

They can’t dictate the outcome for future generations, but they can move. They can do something.

Perhaps it’s time to stop trying to save the world.

Perhaps I need to start looking towards the fields I know and the evil I find there.

For some of us, the evil in the fields we know might be our front yards and neighborhoods. For others, we may be called upon to travel to places we’ve never been before and fight battles there. But none of us are called to do it all.

I love the Social Justice major. I love that I get to study these things. I believe that it’s important. I believe that good intentions are never enough. And I believe that we should know as much as possible and be as strategic with our movement as we can.

It is our job to look towards the sustainability of the movements we’re creating. We need to be asking tough questions about where they’re heading. We should be measuring the impact of what we’re doing.

But we can’t expect ourselves to be able to do it all.

Not one of us has the power to dictate what weather future generations will have.

All we can do is uproot the evil in the fields we know.

I still don’t know what that will look like, but I know that it’s important. It’s time to stop letting what we don’t know paralyze us. Yes, the problems we’re facing are enormous. And yes, we need to know as much as we can about them. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t, or shouldn’t, do something.

Even while we’re learning.

On Being Wrong

Well hey. Thanks for sticking around for the past couple months in spite of my silence. I’m grateful. There are still a lot of things up in the air, but I’m coming back to this space. Thank you for your patience.

I’ve talked about being wrong before. It’s no secret that I don’t like it. But I think I’m getting better at it. Or at least, I’m getting to do it more often.

What I’m learning about college is that I came here to learn. And in order to learn, there has to be a gap between what I know when I start and what I will know when I’m done. If that’s true, then sometimes I’m going to raise my hand to answer a question in class and be wrong.

I know it sounds simple, but it’s been surprisingly hard to get used to. And I’m finding that it goes far beyond an answer in class.

A year ago, I thought I knew a thing or two about social justice. Now I look around and am stunned by how much I still have to learn. And so much of that is due to what I have learned in the six months that I’ve been studying it.

And I’m learning to be okay with that.

I’m learning that sometimes the questions lead not to answers, but to more questions. Solutions are almost never as simple as we want them to be. And we can’t just stand back and offer them, either. If we’re going to love people, it’s going to get messy.

Today I’m far less certain than I was in August, but I’m also far more excited.

I am being stretched. I’ve felt God leaning close to whisper, Would you dare to believe that there is far more to me than you could have ever imagined?

It’s been a challenge to lean into being wrong. To be honest about the hard things, to think critically, and to not hang on to things just because they’re what I’ve always believed. And I’m astounded by what I have learned.

I’m also far more acutely aware of how much I have left to learn, but that’s okay. I think I could use being wrong a little bit more.

On blogging and stuff

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been super on top of this whole blog and stuff. I’ve been writing a lot of words, but they’re words I’m not ready to share yet. This semester has been way different than I expected, and it’s been way harder, too. So many things that I’ve put so much trust in have been stripped away. I never realized just how much I’ve depended on my ability to control things. So I’ve spent a lot of time processing, but I’m just not quite ready to talk about it.

I’ve often wrestled with the question of when to write about things. Do I write about them as they happen? They are, after all, what I’m thinking about, what I’m consumed by. But if I give the world a play-by-play, am I missing out on hindsight and the perspective it can bring? I don’t know. I don’t know what the right answer is, but for now, I want you to know that I am thinking and I am writing, just not here. Not yet. Maybe soon. Hopefully soon. But in the meantime, I hope you’ll be patient if my words here are sparse.

And if I’m not around to say it later, I hope you have a splendid Thanksgiving.