Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Modesty in North-American Christian Culture

Warning: potentially controversial topic ahead…

Today, on Facebook, a friend of mine posted a link to THIS ARTICLE.  Its about a year old, and there is much discourse on the internet about it.  So, i'm late to the bandwagon.   However, it really got me thinking today outside of my “west coast-Canadian world view” & I am thankful for that.  I actually was quite surprised as to how much my emotions reacted to reading the article & found it difficult not to reply; even though I know that Facebook is not the best forum for complicated conversations.  I am thankful that I have friends who are not within the same socio-cultural standpoint that I am, who have different convictions than I do.  ‘Cause I need to be reminded of other perspectives, sometimes.  I would also like to hear yours, in my comment space! (though, if it gets rude, i will moderate comments!)

I think that modesty and purity is a topic that frequently comes up in Christian communities, and that it *should* be discussed, and *should* be controversial, because I think that it is important that women (and men) are able to express their views and opinions.  I believe that Christian men and women should think about how our actions, words, and choices, affect other people (Christian or not).  I also acknowledge that I definitely come from a more liberal-social-anglo-catholic world-view, so, I probably speak from that influence.

I struggle with is the idea of modesty and purity as Christian women, being a cover for the complicated social phenomenon of "slut shaming" and "rape culture." If you don’t know what rape-culture includes, at its most basic, it is the same idea that when a woman gets assaulted, and she happens to be showing cleavage or wearing a skirt, she was molested/assaulted because of the clothes she was wearing. That concept is absolutely.not.true.

Humans (men, women, Christian or not) are autonomous beings: I found that the article implies that it is our responsibility to control other peoples thought (in this article, through the choice of our athletic attire).  As a tall, fit, athletic, extroverted, good-looking woman, i gain attention NO MATTER what I am wearing.  I have heard from Christian communities that if I wear baggy clothes and ball caps, I am not engaging my god-given femininity. However, on the other hand, if I wear spandex or tank tops (err: rowing, triathlon, running, cycling, hiking, etc.), I (as in this article) could cause men to have impure thoughts. I found myself thinking, like others have written in other blogs, that articles like this removes dignity from both men and women: it denies women their identity, defining them as risky & tempting objects, and frames men as sex-driven fiends who have no control over their thoughts. It forgets that both men and women bearers of the image of Christ. If a man chooses to even look (um… look?  To open your eyes in the morning is “to look”) at a woman in “curve conforming attire,” the woman is "Asking for it."

It is never true that women are "asking for it," and always true that men have the responsibility to control how they express their desires.  Every human, including the sex-worker on my street, or the super-cut attractive guy on the beach, or the senior in my church, is made in the image of Christ, each deserving of equal dignity and respect. Therefore, even if I chose to dress less-modestly, I would still expect that I would be treated with dignity and respect.  As a woman who is strong, powerful, athletic, tall, christian, married, faithful and seeking of God and my husband, I am given the free-will to wear what I am comfortable in & I acknowledge that my choices do not control other peoples thoughts.

Based on that,
1)      I think it is important to note that women should be able to make choices based on what they feel comfortable with.  Therefore, if a woman feels empowered, strong, confident (and, dare I say strengthened in faith) in the clothing they choose to wear (conservative, "curve bearing" or, whatever), then they absolutely should wear that clothing. But… women should not be dictated in what they wear, out of guilt or shame for what they perceive men might think. 
2)      I can’t help but wonder how much of this article is culturally based:  Might we ask “what is the difference in “Christian” modesty v.s. “Southern-USA-Style Christian” modesty?”  i.e.: modesty is a socio-cultural concept.  In my personal experience, that I have learnt by living in many places over the past few years, the clothing-choices of Christians in Vancouver is very different from the choices of Christians in Malawi, and very different from Christians in West Virginia, etc. Even outside of Christian circles, if that is relevant… e.g. Yoga pants are frequently an acceptable office attire in Vancouver (probably because, or why, Lulu Lemon was founded in Vancouver).
3)      I do realize that the point of this article is not about violence against women, but, I see it as a quick skip and a jump away.  On a global basis, violence against women exists at the highest rates in conservative, religious countries. Despite the fact that those countries are not predominately Christian, this trend may shed light upon the fact that clothing choices do not correlate with such violence.

When looking up different thoughts on women and Christianity, I found a neat quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury: 
In God’s grace our very humanity is the material through which God’s divinity is revealed. Male or female, it matters not, so long as in our beings, through our clay, in a willingness to risk everything and stop at nothing, we offer ourselves to Christ and for Christ. Then we may in his grace and love be made like Christ, who emptied himself and took the form of a servant, for the sake of the world. In our very weakness, we may be the instruments of God’s transforming power for the world.

so, on a lighter and moderately more satirical note J I enjoyed this article: http://thesaltcollective.org/modesty-whensuitsbecomestumblingblock/

Friday, August 1, 2014

Calgary 70.3 Race Report

So, race reports.  Wow Wow Wow!

Last weekend, I got to travel to Calgary, to participate in the 70.3.   This race has been on my bucket list for a while, as when I was living over the summers in Edmonton, it was close and convenient.  It just never quite lined up with my schedule, and I didn’t get the chance.  This year, it lined up perfectly.  I was nervous, I was excited, I felt fit and ready.

 Having had planned to get to Calgary in the car with Sean, Esther, and Dante, work schedule changed and I flew into Calgary on Friday night.  After a few “unplanned” barriers in our accommodation, Saturday ended up being a bit more hectic than planned.  3 athletes staying in 3 different places, with one car to get around was a logistical nightmare.  I forgot my transition bag for check in, I felt like I needed to make sure everyone around me had the best pre-race day possible, I made assumptions that I shouldn’t have, and It. Was. Hectic.  I certainly did not feel “calm” and “focused.”  But, thus was life. Race expo felt more like a local race than a large Ironman Event, and I liked that.  The best part of the day was the excitement that we all felt, and the beautiful, pre-race (Albeit expensive) dinner at Avec Bistro with Sean, and my mum.

Race morning came quickly, and I had a great sleep.  The morning was cool, clear, and perfect.

Well.  Let’s just say that the race start came faster than planned.  I think I presumed I was off the line at 7:15, but really it was 7.  And, why the heck did I have a white cap, and all the other women had a pink cap?  Am I sure that I am in the same swim group as all the other women?  I positioned myself to the front, and a little to the left.  I did dolphin dives to start, and away we went. 

The start was fast.  I found myself wishing I had a better warm up, and I instantly had two people on my feet.  It makes me anxious when that happens, and I don’t quite know how to mentally “not care.” It was especially annoying since the girl on my feet was pretty much pawing them, not just a tap every once and a while.  I know this is kosher in triathlon, but it is also nice if when you draft, you draft where you don’t have to hit the feet every 5 strokes.  So, I stopped for 5 seconds.  I let them pass, and it was better.

Other than the sun creating it hard to see the course, I felt steady.  Not particularly FAST, but, steady.  Turns out that I had the fastest swim ever.  I ran out of the swim with a sub-30 minute swim. This made me happy! 29:40 swim, 9th AG, 36th Female.

Quick strip of the wetsuit, quick transition, and onto the bike.

I anticipated the bike to be challenging out to Bragg creek (where I would have to be conservative), and fast on the way back into Calgary.  This was about right.  The roads in the city were not particularly clean, and not closed to traffic.  This was OK for the most part, but the shoulder was night & people are the most bunched at the first part of the race. As the hills came and went, the field spread out, and I found myself feeling great.  I was passing quite a few people, and having very few women pass… I only noticed one 30-34 year old pass me.  I knew I was in good shape.

The scenary was amazing, and a deer almost jumped out onto the road in front of me.  Gotta love the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

I was ready to start heading downhill & was excited about my time.  Today would be my first sub-5 hour 70.3.  We went north, then East, and the descent & slight tail wind were in my favour.  I felt AWESOME, loved seeing Dante looking so strong on his ride, caught the other girl in my AG in the past 10km, and loved passing folks.  I was smiling the whole time.  After stretching out my legs a big, massaging my quad, getting out of the saddle, the run was waiting.  2:31 time, 2nd AG, 17th Female.

Ran off the bike with the girl from my AG, and was out of transistion faster than her.

I started off too fast. Instantly, I knew I had to slow down, and at this point I was feeling good. I had a nice little chat with Lindsay, the girl in my AG on the bike, and wished her a good run.  I knew that she would out run me, but, that’s ok.  It is up to me to be consistant.

 I think, mentally, I paniced a bit (even though I wasn’t aware of it).  When you have the desire to go fast, and to PR, you put yourself on the line… BUT, sometimes you forget the necessary things. And, I also (retrospectively) think that mentally, I doubted myself.  I was scared that what happened in Boise would happen here as well. I was worried that I would not achieve my goals. If psychologically, you do not 100% believe in yourself, when it gets hard, you are going to struggle. 

The run for this race is and out and back, right around the reservoir, in and out of a valley, with 50% shade, 50% open & a few VERY good  hard climbs.  It wasn’t easy, but it certainly was also not a killer.
First 5 km: great! Good chance at getting a sub 5hr race!!! 
2nd 5km: steady. 5hrs will be a push, but, PR is a certainty.
3rd 5km: Tough, with walking starting to set in.  HOT.  Uncertain, psychologically. 
KM 15-16… oh boy, its going mentally downhill. I hurt, this is hard, im not sure what is going to happen here.
 Last 4-6km: big struggle.  I just couldn’t get it going.  Mentally, I knew that I would be in a fine spot to qualify for Mt Tremblant, but my feet were dragging, and I was hot.  I was not happy, but I also was not sad.  I knew I had put my best on the line during the race up to this far.

The last two KM were a struggle, on the concrete & on a slight uphill. I went over the line, with a PR, and having lost my first podium spot in a 70.3.  I slipped from 2nd to 7th, in what seemed like was the last 6 km of the race. That was frustrating.
Finshed my run with a 2:20, 7th AG, 37th woman.

5:09:14 (PR by 2mins, 15 seconds), 7th AG, 37th woman.

It was a good race.  It is 80% AWESOME and 20% meh.  Looking back at my 70.3 results over the past few years, I have really struggled on my runs. And, I want that to change. I know in the next few weeks, up to Mount Tremblant, that I have a focus and a drive.  We have a plan (it includes focused pace running, frequency, and hills). It just needs to be executed.

Now, I want to open it up to you:

What are your thoughts on this race?  What could’ve I changed?

-         Rarely do we hear people say “I had a crappy bike and an AWESOME RUN!”  We often hear the opposite.  Why is this so common in triathlon?
-         How do we mentally train for the toughness on the run?

-         We know that when you are conservative on the bike, there is a better chance for a successful run.  However, how do you find a balance in that?  If you go 10 minutes slower on the bike, are you going to go 15 minutes faster on the run?  Unlikely. Is there a secret to succeeding in this balance?