What everyone missed in Partridge’s yoga pants post.

I’m already tired of what I have deemed The Yoga Pants Kerfuffle of 2015.

I bet you didn’t know yoga pants could kerfuffle, but they’ve caused quite a stir. Or, rather, one Christian blogger’s decision not to wear them has caused a stir. Veronica Partridge made internet headlines when she announced her conviction to ditch yoga pants in order to prevent lust in men.

Many writers and bloggers replied that Partridge was shaming women and removing responsibility from men, while Partridge maintains that she was only sharing her personal journey.

Much as I’m not a fan of the modesty narratives, I’m going to leave that point to other capable Christian bloggers because I see a glaring issue that seems to be falling through the cracks of the discussion. It’s staring us right in the face but my guess is that you, like me, didn’t see the forest for the trees at first.

In explaining why she wants to avoid tight pants that might cause lust, she cites her daughter as a major factor, saying:

I want her [my daughter] to know, her value is not in the way her body looks or how she dresses, but in the character and personality God has given her.

Fair enough. I agree with that.

But does this belief extend to any area beyond yoga pants?

Partridge appears on her blog and in a recent Buzzfeed article looking absolutely pristine. Her makeup is that combination of smooth, stunning, and natural that comes from careful study and a practiced hand. Her abundant hair is styled with every lock in place–and trust me, as someone who had long hair, I can attest that this would take a bare minimum of 30 minutes. Her clothes are trendy. The main picture on her blog honestly makes her look like a model.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with spending time on your appearance, but because women have been socialized to put so much worth in looking pretty, it’s an area of life where every woman should honestly explore her motives. Is she frilling up because she loves doing that? Or because she gets a sense of self-worth from meeting the visual standards in movies and magazines? If it’s the latter, that frantic need for approval becomes a cage that she might need freeing from.

It’s entirely possible that Partridge is completely consistent in her values, and spends time on her appearance for the sheer enjoyment of it, rather than from any sense that she should look this way or that way. I’m not trying to pick on her or guess her motives, I just want readers to not overlook that aspect of the conversation. You can (rightly) teach your daughter not to place her self-worth in societal standards of sexiness, but if you teach her that grown women shouldn’t be seen without makeup or styled hair, you’ve taught her to place her self-worth in societal standards of “safe” beauty instead—and still not solely on the value of her character.

Again, I want to stress, I’m not accusing Partridge herself of holding that double-standard. I just want women who read her article to reflect on that in their own lives, and not miss the bigger point that this modesty post accidentally brings attention to.

And I’m not saying that attention to your appearance teaches your daughter bad things. Enslavement to your appearance, however–the palpable fear that you don’t look okay, the stressed-out prioritization of an expensive beauty routine that you actually hate doing, the refusal to be documented in photos without sufficient time to glam up–well, that might not be so good.

Now, if we can be done with kerfuffling yoga pants for awhile, I’d really like the internet to move on to something else.

Blessed Are Those Who Don’t Need No Therapy–and other things Jesus never said.

I’m not pulling punches on this one.

I was incredibly sad to see Robin Williams go this week. It’s even more terrible and tragic that his death came at his own hand. And it’s even worse that some people called him a coward, or belittled his supposed lack of willpower in powering through life. I’d like to see some of these people spend 63 years in constant mental pain and then see who’s the coward.

There’s been some talk in the Christian blogosphere (from bloggers who I won’t link to because it would only increase their traffic and reward their unloving, click bait behavior) to the effect that depression is a spiritual malady best treated with joyful thoughts, and that too much talk of brain chemistry and medical treatment is a modern distraction. Christians should, so these people say, view suicide as a conscious choice to reject all the good in this world, and the rest of us should therefore place suicide victims outside the “victim” category because it was really just their own selfish choice.


Despite all the available information about the medical side of depression, I’m upset to see so many people sharing these sentiments and going right along with them. The lack of nuance in the conversations is worrying the bejeebers out of me, and I’d like to have a chat about it with you.

Modern psychology has known for awhile now that depression is a complex animal with many factors. Life circumstance, habits of thought, brain chemicals, and physical ailments can all contribute to depression, and each might be explored as part of a treatment plan to alleviate it. As a Christ follower, I also believe that spirituality interacts with our depression. But then, as a Christ follower, I believe that all our experiences have a spiritual component to them, so this is almost as obvious as saying that the meaning of life has a spiritual component to it, or that the love for a child has a spiritual component to it. As we used to say back in the 90s, “Duh!”

Yet some people take this further, stretching the implications of this truth way too far. They get suspicious of medication and psycotherapy as real answers, stressing instead the need for God’s joy and spiritual healing as the “real” answer over and against the “false” answer of depression as a medical condition. This makes little sense to me. Saying that we should downplay the role of brain chemistry in depression just because we know a spiritual component exists is like saying that a cancer patient should downplay chemo just because we know that nutrition helps fight cancer, too.

Christians accept the role of medicine alongside faith in just about every other type of ailment, without seeing the two as being pitted against each other. Mention a serious ailment like Lukemia, AIDS, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s, and most Christians will immediately say “I’ll pray for you,” indicating that faith and prayer are part of the healing. Those same people would not, however, say, “I’ll pray for you, so that means you don’t need to take your medication or follow your doctor’s orders.” Rather, they accept that faith, prayer, and modern medicine are going to work together in harmony–not competition.

It seems that some of the bloggers and nay-sayers who talk about depression are assuming that if feelings are happening inside your head, rather than outwardly on your body or organs, then those feelings can’t possibly be tied to physical processes; they’re all spiritual. And we know from science that it’s simply more complex than that. There are physical and spiritual forces at play in our brains; thus you need physical and spiritual healing to deal with it.

Next up–what’s with this insistence that enough faith and enough joy will allow or facilitate healing from depression? Isn’t that dancing at the edge of being a prosperity gospel, one in which God rewards you like a slot machine for putting in enough Faith or Joy tokens?

When I was 17, someone apparently entered my name in the Anxiety Lottery without my permission, and sadly, my number was picked. I became the lucky recipient of an obsessive worry problem that I’ll likely be managing for the rest of my life. At that young age, I didn’t understand why my feelings were so out-of-control, so I prayed about it constantly. When God didn’t heal my fears and obsessions and phobias, I began to suspect that He had rejected me. What other assumption could I make? Why wasn’t He fixing the problem?

During this time, my parents taught me something that I count among the top five pieces of life advice I have ever received. They pointed out to me that I was asking God to heal me immediately from my fears, the way one might ask God to heal a broken leg overnight or make a new job drop in your lap. Sure, they said, miracles are possible, but do we really walk around expecting God to zap our every prayer into being immediately? Doesn’t God usually work over time, in various ways, without revealing the end of the path? Why should that be different just because the problem is in our head, and not something outwardly physical? Did I expect Him to reach down and magically rearrange my brain wiring when maybe His plan involved leading me through a process of healing?

I’m not saying that’s any kind of easy answer. When your brain feels like it’s doing time in Hell’s version of Alcatraz, of course any rational person would wish for immediate healing. There is legitimate grief, anger, and confusion when emotional healing doesn’t come fast. But the point is, we mustn’t get unrealistic expectations about how God works. A person with a broken leg expects to go to physical therapy and stay off the leg for awhile and receive strength and patience from God during the healing period. A person who needs a job sends out job applications and pray that God guides them to the right place.

By the same token, it’s normal to need professional help and medication, and to take time to heal, and to feel like utter crap while doing so. It doesn’t mean you’re doing faith wrong. It doesn’t mean God rejected you. It doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time with medication while you should be sitting on your couch waiting for Joy-with-a-capital-J to show up.

For the record, my own treatment for anxiety involves a professional therapist, supportive friends and family, exercise, keeping a job outside the home, and the Holy Spirit. Should medication ever need to enter the picture, I won’t hesitate.

We also need to address this pernicious (and baffling) idea making the rounds that depression and joy cannot co-exist in the same mind, and that joy is therefore a cure for depression. I’m not sure why anyone would ever think this, but here is a good resource by a Christian woman for dispelling that myth. If you’re still unsure, ask around with people who have been depressed. I’m sure they can give you many more personal examples of joy and utter depresson coexisting. Life is nuanced. Life is gray. Get used to that.

No discussion of this subject could be complete without addressing this next point: is depression-induced suicide a refusal to see the goodness in life?

Besides being needlessly antagonistic and utterly insensitive to grieving family members left behind, this statement is just plain wrong. Taking one’s own life is not based on the refusal to see life as good. It’s based on the belief that you cannot attain life’s goodness.

When you know you should be able to enjoy things, but literally can’t–when you know loved ones care for you, but they can’t sit in your pain with you–when you see other people functioning, but can’t get yourself to function–you are painfully aware of how good life is…for everyone else. You just can’t get there yourself.

This, by the way, is why depression is so isolating. You look outside of yourself and see a happy world full of happy people. But you can’t be there with them, and they can’t come inside the depression with you. It’s not a lack of desire to see joy and have hope; it’s an inability to break down a wall that your brain created without your permission.

To say that someone who is depressed or suicidal is refusing to see life’s goodness is like saying that a slave who can’t escape a captor is refusing to know what freedom is. You may know it, you may want it, but you don’t believe you can get to it.

I mean, let’s stop and think about this for one second. One second. Who on earth would ever choose to be miserable enough to kill themselves? Who on earth would ever say, “I’m in so much pain I want to die. There’s an answer in the form of hope and happiness and joy and good things, and all of those sound lovely, but….nah. I’m too lazy. I think I’ll just painfully cut my wrists open, or strangle to death on the end of a rope, rather than regain happiness.” Who says that??

This refusal-to-see-the-good-life idea is such utter, complete, ignorant, cruel, ridiculous tripe that there aren’t enough words in the English language to criticize it, or to describe the careless stupidity one must possess to spout it in judgment two days after a beloved actor has left a grieving family behind. And that’s saying something, because do you know how vast and descriptive the English language is?

Now to the final bit. It has come to my attention that some people are playing the Personal Experience card to de-legitimize other people’s experiences. Here’s how it works. Person X says, “Depression feels insurmountable; people who kill themselves must have been in so much pain.” Person Y says, “Oh yeah? Well I’ve struggled with these issues, too, so I can say from experience that you can get out of depression with this spiritual formula.”

Well, if we’re going to play the Personal Experience card, guess what? I have one of those cards too.

Having dealt with anxiety since I was a teenager, I’ve had my fair share of bouts with depression. Here’s the interesting part: my depression is usually a byproduct of anxiety (in fact, I hesitate to even call it depression because of that, but let’s do for the sake of argument). Because it’s a product of my anxiety, my attempts to fix my anxiety by changing thoughts and changing focus usually go a long way to alleviate the depression. So in a way, I could fit the profile that many of these bloggers want everyone to believe–the profile of the depressed person who finds a way to pull herself back into joy.

Yet even I, someone who found ways to pull myself out of depressed feelings, completely affirm the reality that many cases of clinical depression are too debilitating for people to fix on their own, and cannot be solved with enough joyful thoughts, especially if they’re due to chemical imbalance. Even I, who should fit these bloggers’ categories, believe their theories about depression are complete poo.

I could use my personal experience to belittle and blame people who have a different depressive experience than I do, but I don’t. You know why? Well, first, because I’m not a jerk. But second, it’s because I recognize that my experience is very particular to me, and that I have not experienced the kind of severe, brain-chemistry based clinical depression that some people struggle with. And I would not want those other people to tell me how my anxiety-driven depression should work, or to make predictions about how to fix it. What’s useful is to learn from each other’s experiences, recognize the differences, and support each other. So let’s drop this charade that heaving dealt with “these issues” somehow gives us insight into the experience of every depressed person. Shall we?

If I sound angrier than usual, it’s because I have finally lost patience for people hurting each other. I will grieve for Robin Williams and the millions like him in the world who suffer from a silent hell, and I will not be polite when people say ignorant things about them.

Modesty Battles and the Role of the Fashion Industry


With April nearly on us and summer around the corner, do you dread the start of the modesty battles as much as I do?
You know what I’m talking about. Someone writes a blog post urging girls to embrace modest dress in an effort to prevent lust. Someone else writes a response post discussing how this attitude hurts women. More posts pop up. All of them get shared on Facebook. The comment section on each thread turns into a theological battle about who’s responsible for lust, what role clothing plays, and whether this conversation harms the self-esteem of young women.
Just thinking about it in advance gives me a nervous tic.
This year, I want to make a preemptive strike. Yes, you heard me. I am striking preemptively, bringing on the conversation I so dread. Why would I do such a foolish thing?
Well, if we’re going to have the conversation anyway (and judging by my watch, we will in about five weeks), I want to get it started off on the right foot.
You see, every time this battle starts, it’s always directed at the wrong people, and I want to direct it towards the right people for a change.
Without fail, the clothing conversation is always started with young women.
“Buy modest clothing. Don’t stoop to “the world’s” tactics. Popularity isn’t worth it. You don’t want your brothers to stumble. Your motive should not be to attract them—unless you believe that “modest is hottest,” in which case, absolutely, use attraction as your motive.”

So now I’m going to say the conversation should be directed at young men first, right?
No, keep backing up.
Before the conversation gets to young women….before it gets to young men…before it gets to parents…it has a first stop to make, and that is at the doorstep of the fashion industry.
One very basic principle of life is that you can’t buy what isn’t being produced. Do you want girls to have higher necklines? Longer shorts? Fewer see-through clothes? The first step in that process is for those things to actually be available on the clothing racks.
I invite you to go shopping with a teenage girl sometime this summer. Go to any reasonably-priced department store you want. Target, Wal-Mart, Kohls, Old Navy, Maurice’s, Macy’s, doesn’t matter. Shop with her for awhile, and try to complete this challenge:
Find ONE tank top that is cut high at the neckline.
One.
I bet you can’t do it.
(If you do, please comment on this blog post saying where you found it and what brand it was, so I can go buy it. I’m serious).
You may be thinking that you’ll immediately just go to the camisole section. Those are adjustable, right? Girls can make them as modest as they want. Ha! You’ve outsmarted the Observational Ginger this time!
Not so fast. The reality is, there’s only so far up you can adjust a camisole before it’s hugging your armpits, cutting off circulation and sponging up sweat so that you smell like an onion by 10:30 in the morning. They’re cut with the expectation that girls will wear them low, and adjusting them upwards makes them not fit in other areas of the body.
Also, to all you guys out there, I must appeal to your logic for a moment. You’ve experienced unbearably hot summer days, right? The kind where, even in a T-shirt, you’re practically melting? Now imagine that you’re actually wearing two shirts on such a day. The first is the top you picked out this morning, and the second is a FLESH-HUGGING, ARMPIT GRABBING, SWEAT COLLECTING camisole that you’re wearing UNDER the already-too-hot shirt.
Get the picture?
So let’s change the challenge to one comfortable tank top that could be worn by itself, all day long, that is also cut high.
I am confident in challenging you to this because I have searched high and low for them, and they do not exist. (Again, if they do, I beg of you to let me know where. I would fly to Abu Dhabi at this point).
Next challenge. Try to find shorts that are modest enough for you. This one should be easier, right? You’d think, in such a large shorts section, there must be a variety of lengths. They can’t all be super tiny.
Oh….well…apparently they can. Okay, so long-ish shorts for young women may be a toughie. But wait, brilliant idea! You’ll just head for the Capri pants section. Capris come down mid-thigh, so they’re—
Wait. No. Those are cut like skinny jeans and practically painted on. Plus they’re really low-rise.
Well…I guess girls can wear jeans all summer and sweat it out. (The kind of jeans that aren’t skinny, of course, which brings it down by about 50 percent).
We haven’t even touched on the phenomenon of see-through clothes yet, and already I’m frustrated.
Now, to be fair, there are ways to solve these problems. The tank top thing, for instance. You can cut off plain white tanks at the rib area so they’re just little half undershirt things, and then wear the undershirt half-tanks backward (because they are cut higher in the back than they are in the front. I’m not kidding). You can then wear those backward things under all your regular clothes, they don’t hug the armpit quite as bad, and they’re not a full second layer.
You can also buy jeans and cut them off to make your own shorts.
But do you notice something about these solutions? They’re all improvisations that girls have to invent. I recently spent an entire day looking for this season’s brand of tank tops that I will cut into under-tanks and wear backwards. I couldn’t find any that could be worn forward. Some years, I have trouble finding anything at all. Plus, it took me until age 30 to have the brilliant idea to wear them backwards.
My point is, girls can’t just walk into a store “with a good attitude” towards their Christian brothers and easily start choosing things off the rack. Sometimes you can’t find good solutions.
So I question the wisdom of lecturing girls about it, when the people with the most control are actually the fashion designers and clothing stores.
The True Degradation of Womanhood
I don’t believe there’s anything terribly wrong with wearing low-cut tank tops or short shorts, and I don’t agree with many of the shaming and scare tactics used on girls (I’ve seen memes stating that God stops paying attention to girls who don’t dress modestly. Wow). Now, I believe it’s sad when young women think they must wear those things to be attractive and have worth. And I believe any young woman should seriously consider how she shows respect to her body and how her clothing choices reflect that. Self-respect–not shaming, not fear of losing approval–is what my clothing choices are based on. And I don’t think it’s a scandal if a young woman, having thought carefully about self-respect, still chooses clothing that’s cut a little lower or higher than mine. No judgment here, ladies.
The problem is, in a world where the fashion industry offers us one option, we don’t even have a choice. I think that is the true degradation of womanhood going on here. The fashion industry either believes that all women think the same, or believes that women who think differently don’t deserve to be indulged. (I haven’t figured out which it is yet). It doesn’t care what a woman feels about self-respect or her own body.
And it doesn’t help that an army of self-righteous fashion police tells us we’re somehow responsible for the problem.
I’m not suggesting that I have The Solution to force the fashion industry to change. I honestly don’t know how to fix that problem. It’s something that I will begin researching this year. But I do know that we won’t fix it by telling young girls to magically find a type of clothing that doesn’t exist in our shopping malls. No matter how much guilt you pile on them, they can’t make tailor-made outfits appear from thin air.
So what do you think? Do you have any ideas about how we could make the fashion industry offer more choices at reasonable prices?