the strangest thing i have ever read (so far)

I’ve been reading a bunch of “how to be the perfect conservative religious woman” books as research for a few projects. For the most part, said books aren’t generally that bad. Sure, the relationship advice is usually questionable at best, but there are usually good intentions and at least vague points in the right direction and… okay, I really do hate self-help books and the addition of Bible verses does not change that one bit, but most of that genre (at least that I’ve read so far) is at least… not as horrific as it could be, I guess??

But all categories have exceptions, and the first one I’ve found in this particular one is A Return To Modesty by Wendy Shalit.

I almost feel bad writing negatively about that book because like… when it’s good, as it is in places, it’s really good. There’s a chapter about how a significant part of the problem is that we as a culture are not socializing our sons to be decent human beings, which I appreciated and did not expect to find in a book that’s otherwise all “BLAME THE WOMAN!!”. And even when Shalit goes some questionable places, she has extensive citations, so the book isn’t just personal opinion gone awry.

Unfortunately, another of the chapters is devoted to the strangest conspiracy theory I’ve ever come across, which Shalit believes completely – doctors are putting young women on psychotropic medications to take away their natural femininity.

Remember, y’all – I grew up on the fringes of the homeschool movement. I have seen and listened to some weird shit (for example, a longtime family friend is convinced that the iPhone is the Mark Of The Beast). I am usually much more accepting of heartfelt-albeit-unusual beliefs than the average person. But that one?! I just… I don’t have words.

Like, I’ve seen that argument used about why birth control is evil. Not frequently, because people who believe that generally have way more interesting rationale, but I have seen it. Never before about antidepressants, though.

And sure, maybe I’m a bit biased. I’m coming up on six years on-and-off meeds, mostly and currently on, so maybe my particular cocktail’s warped my opinion of everything holy. But like, I’ve heard a lot of the super-religious arguments against the mere existence of mental health issues and… this is still new and bizarre and I can’t even.

Seriously. How damaged does one’s brain have to be in order for one to believe that?!

A Return To Modesty was published in 1999, so hopefully Shalit’s taken some time over the last two decades to reassess some of her views and minimize her confirmation bias, but… I’m not holding my breath, nor do I think the odds are good enough for me to poke around online and find out. Congratulations, though – a nonobservant Jewish woman (not a religious tradition I generally associate with this scale of crazy) managed to impress me with the audacity of her bullshit. Well done, lady, well done.

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4 thoughts on “the strangest thing i have ever read (so far)

  1. So…fun fact: Wendy Shalit was mentioned in my conservative sex. ethics class. Also, I’ve not heard that you could lose your femininity by taking antidepressants but definitely that antidepressants mean you’re “not trusting God enough.”

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    • Yeah, I’ve heard that one as well. And a few other variations on it that I can’t remember at the moment buuuuut are most of why I do not go to a particular church anymore or talk to anyone who went there at any extended point unless I absolutely HAVE to. (I’ll attempt to do a post on the “if we don’t talk about it then it CAN’T happen to our children” theory soonish ’cause that was pretty prevalent with that group. Spoiler alert, ignorance does not prevent teenagers from making questionable life choices, as evidenced by a few teen pregnancies and at least one suicide that I sorta knew. Which is a totally DIFFERENT post. Grr.)

      Anywho, it does not surprise me that Shalit was mentioned in one of your college classes ’cause like… yes, most of her ideas are borderline bullshit, but they’re EXTREMELY WELL-RESEARCHED bullshit. So I can respect that to an extent, and then I remember what she thinks about date rape (which just as easily could’ve been the focus of this post because that belief is ALSO unusually wild) and then I go back to wondering what her freaking problem is and hoping she gets help for it.

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  2. I’ve read a lot of dumb stuff from conservative viewpoints, and it always disappoints me. At some point, I began to realize that outside of that world there are lots of non-uber-conservative Christian writers who hit the nail on the head when it comes to topics like this. I also realized that in the churches I’ve gone to as an adult and the Christian circles I’m in now, very few people actually think that way…or have ever even heard of anyone thinking like that. Thank goodness! At some point, I had to decide that, while that might be where I came from, that isn’t where I’m at, and it’s healthy for me to move on. I read things from Christians who get it and surround myself with people who think clearly, and I have been able to see that Christianity is not the way I once thought it was, that there is much more freedom than the legalistic ones like to think. They are in bondage to their conservatism.

    I’m reading a great book now called “The Lost Women of the Bible: The Women We Thought We Knew” by Carolyn Custis James. Very good perspective on the way the Bible portrays women. I also recently read a book called “Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World” by Amy Peterson. You’d like them both.

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    • I’m reading this stuff not out of personal interest so much as research for a few potential books/projects I’m considering. And the thing that gets me is that most of these books are more good than bad and overall, if read by someone with enough common sense to survive, are pretty harmless. But when they’re bad, they’re BAD.

      Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll add those to my reading list.

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