“Boob” on the Air
In case you missed it, that’s what Fox News (Host? Panelist? Pundit? In-House Misogynist?!? I’m not really sure what to call him, though I’ll offer one suggestion later on…) Eric Bolling had to say about the story of Major Mariam al-Mansouri.
If you can stomach it, the clip containing Bolling’s comment is here.
Major al-Mansouri’s story is fascinating. She’s a fighter pilot in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force. And, last week, she participated in a bombing raid against ISIS terrorist targets in Syria. For Major al-Mansouri, flying is the fulfillment of a dream, one that has seen her become the first woman to fly an F-16 in the UAE Air Force. And yet pursuing her dream has also come at a cost. According to this article, Major al-Mansouri’s family has disowned her since her mission.
So, if you’re scoring at home, this spat pits a heroic, sacrificial female fighter pilot versus a bombastic, misogynistic talk show contributor.
Who do you think wins that one?!?
Now, on one hand it’s easy to dismiss Bolling’s “Tertullianic” comments. After all, they’re clearly sexist. They’re misogynistic. They’re ridiculous. They make Bolling look like an ass. And don’t get me started on Bolling’s non-specific, all-too-brief apology (here).
Yes to all of the above.
On the other hand, we shouldn’t be too hasty to dismiss Bolling’s comment. Why? Because it reveals something about this male privilege-steeped culture we live in.
Specifically, I think Bolling’s comment reveals at least two false narratives embedded in our culture. If we’re not careful, we buy into these, in subtle ways, every day. Let me break them down here.
The first is this: Women are objects for male gratification.
Women are more than their bodies, but too often you wouldn’t know it from observing culture. As just one example, watching sports with my kids is a constant exercise in changing the channel during commercials. I mean, I feel like I have to use the bathroom during the game! Because almost every ad has a scantily-clad young woman selling beer. Or cars. Or deodorant. Or, God help us, domain names.
In her book, Equal to the Task, Ruth Haley Barton has a helpful chapter entitled “The Discipline of Honoring Sexuality.” Writing about the struggles men face with regard to their sexuality, she says:
“Many men I spoke with experienced sexuality primarily in terms of pain and struggle, guilt and fear rather than joy…they acknowledged that they have been conditioned to view women almost exclusively as sex objects, and so relating with women as multidimensional human beings requires conscious discipline.”
Honestly, it’s a miserable and painful reality for both genders. And when we buy into this false narrative, we only perpetuate the problem. So, let it be said: a woman is more than her body. Indeed, to quote Psalm 139, she is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The second false narrative revealed in Bolling’s ill-advised quip is this: Women are inferior to men.
For Bolling, it’s preposterous that a woman would be piloting an F-16. It makes no sense in his worldview. So much so that it’s laughable, worthy of being the object of an ill-advised joke. Why? Because, deep down, he believes that piloting a 15 million dollar aircraft capable of destroying a small city is the surely a job that only men are qualified for.
You know who does NOT believe that? The military.
In this open letter to Bolling, a collection of soldiers refute the suggestion that women are inferior to men, in this specific area:
As it turns out, women have been flying combat aircraft since before either of you were born. Over 1,000 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) flew during World War II. Seeing as U.S. Army Air Forces Commander “Hap” Arnold said “Now in 1944, it is on the record that women can fly as well as men,” we can probably guess he thought their parking was adequate. The WASP legacy reaches into the present day; on 9/11, then Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney scrambled her F-16. Completely unarmed, she was ready to lay down her own life to prevent further devastating attacks on American soil.
According to Genesis 1:26-27, women and men are both made in the very image of God. One is not better than the other. It’s not as if Adam was blessed with 51% of the divine DNA and Eve 49%. In fact, the emphasis in the Genesis account is on mutuality and equality.
Here’s what writer Gilbert Bilezikian has to say about this passage:
“In other words, the male/female sexual differentiation reflects realities contained within the very being of God and derived from Him as His image. Femaleness pertains to the image of God as fully as maleness. God is neither male nor female. He transcends both genders since they are both comprehended within His being.” (emphasis mine)
Friends, both women and men bear the image of God in equal measure. Neither gender is inferior. Neither is superior. As Paul says in Galatians 3:28, “all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
In the end, let’s be clear. Eric Bolling’s unfortunate, sexist comment reveals the brokenness systematized in our culture. It demonstrates Tertullain’s effect.
That he did it on TV, in front of millions of people, reveals something else:
The only “boob” deserving of comment in this situation is the guy wearing the microphone.