Thursday, June 27, 2013

The NOH8 Campaign

On this day after the overturning of The Defense of Marriage Act, I’ve been doing a bit of reading about the “No Hate” (cleverly abbreviated as NOH8) Campaign. Here’s what the website declares as its mission statement:

“The NOH8 Campaign is a charitable organization whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest.”

The campaign illustrates its mission through over 30,000 photographs of people—many of celebrities or politicians—with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing the silencing of their voices when Proposition 8 was passed in California.

I’ve been thinking about NOH8’s mission statement. I understand the arguments for marriage equality (meaning that marriage should not be limited to one man and one woman. We still seem to deny such equality to underage people, so the opportunity is not entirely equal to all). I appreciate the call for human equality, if what that means is that all human beings are of equal value (of course, such equality shifts a bit based on one’s social status and net worth).

But the call for gender equality puzzles me. I’m just not sure how that works. There is a co-humanity that underlies gender, and a kind of gender equality exists between members of the same sex (as long as size doesn’t matter). I just don’t get how the male gender is equal to the female gender.

I’m all for equality of opportunity, voting rights, etc., when it comes to gender. But, when it comes to comparing women to men, I’m pretty sure that the parts are different (if memory serves). There is a difference of hormonal makeup between men and women. Woman can bear and give birth to children, while men are made to watch TV in their underwear while eating potato chips and drinking beer.

Equality is an important word. You can give me two cookies to eat, and I eat them. Then, even while the crumbs are still dangling from my lips, you can give me two more and I eat them also. Or, you can just give all four cookies at once and watch me eat like a starving pig. Either way, I have eaten four cookies. Two plus two clearly equals four.

But equality and value are not necessarily the same. A dollar bill is different than a stack of a hundred pennies, but the value is the same. A dollar bill has similarity to a hundred dollar bill, but they differ in value (yet neither is value-less).

I have to say that I’m a bit concerned about the movement to flatten all things out to something called equality. From what I’ve seen, if someone has a different view (not necessarily hateful, but just different) about marriage, for example, the word hate is applied to that person. Hate is not equal to love. There is no equality to be had. So is equality only to be found in unanimity of opinion? Does that unanimity equal non-hate? Does it equal love?

There was a notion about equality in Jesus’ day. Long ago, Moses had pushed against the dominant, tribal practices of retribution (as in, you steal my chicken, I kill your entire family) by directing people toward an equality of response: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Punishment and recompense needed to fit the violation.

But Jesus challenged that sense of reactive equality by insisting on an entirely different response to an offense, one that flew in the face of any sane person’s view of equality:

“But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.” (Matthew 5:39-41)

Jesus’ words violated the dominant view of the culture. So was he a hater? I don’t think we would say that. Maybe those who espoused equality regarding retribution were the haters. But who makes that call? If the culture at large demands a particular point of view, isn’t anyone who speaks differently a hater? Who now defines hatred? Jesus was condemned to death on the basis of the claim that he was a hater—he hated God’s temple, he hated Caesar, he hated the status quo. They duct taped him to a cross to silence him.

In our time, it seems like disagreement and difference of opinion are tantamount to hatred. This worries me. I am all for standing against hatred. Hatred spawns violence, oppression, and murder. I am just concerned about categorizing any contrary views on a topic as hatred.

In fact, I may now be a hater just because I’m not sure that gender equality makes precise sense. I’d better go find some duct tape.


Mr.Monge said...

Thank you for this article. It seems rational discourse has been reduced to emotional pleas, accusations, and allocating the opinions of others into a "with us" or "against us" extreme. Even when people carefully craft their opinions and provide reasonable evidence to support their claims, their opposition chooses to setup straw men and mercilessly execute them in the most elaborate and degrading way. Again not engaging in reasonable discussion. As you have pointed out, the people that haven't commented are now being dragged into a battle. These are strange times indeed.

Valerie said...
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