My reflections and musings on the struggle to leave a Christ-shaped impression on the world of law and public policy.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To Betty Cook, et al.

If you read my last post about The Tilted Kilt, which was published by the Daily News Record, you won't be surprised that I've been receiving some online comments about it and about the interview I did with our local television station.  Now I am certainly no stranger to the feeding frenzy that is the online comment venue.  But I must say that I was a bit taken aback by some of the commentary on this particular issue.

Of course, many of the remarks stuck with the tried-and-true, unimaginative line of accusations that are trotted out as a matter of course against any person who dares to encourage societal evaluation of the morality of any law, business, or practice.  You've heard these ad nauseum, and they were certainly on parade last week:
  • "I cannot believe the narrow minded, holier than thou attitudes of some [people]..." [This author goes on to suggest that I become amish because, after all, "it's not like they're working in the nude."  Um, no, they're working in their underwear...]
  • "What a prude."
  • "I think this lady just needs to get over he [sic] self and go join the Amish families because she is so worried about 'preserving' family values???"

Somewhat more interesting, or at least more telling about our society's attitude toward issues of morality, were the numerous comments of the "live and let live" variety.  "If you don't like it, don't go there." 

What's interesting about this is that it is precisely what I suggested in both my Op-Ed and my television interview.  I have not called for a government shut-down, police raid, or tighter zoning restrictions.  I have not even called for a picket (although I did consider that!).  I have merely suggested that members of this community refuse to patronize this business out of an awareness of the various harms that it will cause to people and relationships. 

So what is implicit in the outrage about my speaking out is that these commenters would have me be silent about my concerns.  In other words, "If you don't like it, don't go there, AND keep your opinions to yourself while you stay home." 

This viewpoint is troubling to me, in that it signals an utter lack of desire to engage in a genuine, meaningful debate about an issue.   A couple of commenters said things like, "I am a member of this community too, and Rita does not represent my values."  But they didn't say what their values are, as they relate to this issue.  Even Tony Williams, the manager of the establishment, stated that the Tilted Kilt is founded upon core values and principles.  But he neglected to mention what, exactly, those are. 

The most shocking line of comments (although not, ultimately, the most troubling) were the hateful personal attacks, led by a woman named Betty Cook.  Betty said, "This women [sic] is just upset because of her plain Jane look..."  Ouch!  Several other remarks of this ilk suggested that I was refused a job at Tilted Kilt, insulted my clothing, and chided me for being unable to "inspire lust with [my] ankle length garb." (I was wearing slacks and a sweater on the television interview). 

One commenter stated simply, "Rita Dunaway, I hope you fail!"  Yet, ironically, one person instructed me to "STOP HATING..."

Betty Cook et al., you got me.  I will never be anything more than a plain Jane to a Tilted Kilt manager.  Most women won't.  I probably couldn't get a job there if I tried.  Most women couldn't.

But to my Heavenly Father, I am beautiful, precious, and lovely.  I was created for real intimacy and meaningful relationship.  I am understood.  I have dignity, worth, and value.  I was designed, individually, for a purpose.  And the thing is, Betty, so were you.  So were they.

The Tilted Kilt is in business because so many hurting people have swallowed the lies of this world.  They have settled for the fleeting and the superficial.  They have settled for bondage.  But I have hope that we need not settle. We are created for MORE.  And I won't leave off reminding people of that.


  1. Let me put another spin on the "if you don't like it don't go there" comment.

    From the point of view of a hypothetical customer of Tilted Kilt:

    Dear Ms. Dunaway,

    What do you expect of me? I have no problems with the Tilted Kilt, I like their wings and I don't see any harm in oogling some scantily clad women who *applied* for the job and weren't coerced to be there. Some of them are probably glad to have a job. Are you asking me to change my opinion on the matter? Should I feel guilty that I don't see a problem with the business? Maybe you don't hope to change me or guilt me or whatever, but if it's not your intention to change anyone then is there any point in sharing your opinions other than sanctimony?


    The point is that I think you're engaging in a battle of ideas, philosophies, and words and in a postmodern culture I think that carries very little weight. You've also judged the business owners, managers, investors, and customers and found them morally lacking and implicitly found yourself to be virtuous since you've found a righteous place to stand (arguably objectively so); also not effective in a post modern world.

    Imagine instead an op-ed like this:
    I have an 8 year old daughter whom I love dearly and it is my earnest hope that she grows up as a self-respecting, confident woman who knows she is beautiful and loved beyond all imagination by God. I hope the same for all women, but with the opening of the Tilted Kilt the servers there are even more on my heart. The culture of sexuality in America, particularly evident at establishments like the Tilted Kilt, simply reinforces the message to women that "you're only valued as a sexual object." I want to do my part to battle this lie not only with words, but by being the face of love to women who feel their best option is the Tilted Kilt. If you'd like to help me tangibly show love to the servers of TK (things like childcare assistance, free pedicures, coffee together, and countless other ideas) please contact me at XXX...

    Hopefully the difference in approach is obvious but indulge my being pedantic for a second ;). First, it's intensely personal. It's about your daughter (and implicitly about all of the daughters of America). Second, there is no judgement of specific people (business owners/manager, servers, or customers) but instead is judging our culture and implicitly judging yourself along with it. There is something significant about collective judgement that diffuses "us" / "them" and makes it only "us." Sadly "forgive *us* Father for *we* have sinned" sounds strange in a culture that is intensely individualistic as well. Finally, there is a boots on the ground call to action. Everyone, I assume, has a daughter/sister/niece/neighbor/friend they love and you've just invited people to love someone's daughter. Only an ass would say "good luck with that, though I hope you fail."

    I suspect the responses to this op-ed would've been different; perhaps not extravagant volunteerism, but probably also not negative sniping.

  2. I think your proposed op-ed piece is ideal, Andy! While I didn't mention this in my piece, I am, in fact, presently working on an outreach project to the TK staff.

    That said, I think we have to be careful that we don't, in our desire to present the love and grace of the Gospel (which I agree MUST be presented), shy away from standing against depravity in our culture. And I think it is even more important for us to do so when there are such high societal costs involved.

    My goal with the piece was simply to challenge people who do care about our community to consider the various ways that this kind of business harms people and relationships. I have no doubt that there are a hundred ways it could have been done better.

  3. I've been to this blog probably a hundred times since the Tilted Kilt opened, hoping for some tact in what I'm about to say. Like the person above said, calling for the failure of a business as well as likening their professions to prostitution is just downright atrocious. Need you be reminded that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute before meeting Jesus and when Judas criticized her for it, Jesus corrected HIM and not her. As Christians, we shouldn't pray against people, but for them.
    Jesus spent his time with drunkards and the outcasts of society, meeting them where they were. As you've implied, those who patronize and work at these types of businesses probably need the most love from Christians. What they don't need is to be told that they are prostitutes followed by a half-hearted, "but God still loves you just the way you are!" These types of comments hold the same sort of power you claim the Tilted Kilt has in diminishing the self-worth of women in our society.
    That is an insult wrapped in a compliment, and lacking in any sincerity. My aim is not to insult you, because as followers of Christ, we should be focused on building one another up. I know you mean well, I really do, but this media frenzy created by your Open Forum post in the DNR has done nothing but attempt to tear people down. And I don't believe that Jesus would ever stand for that.
    We are called to act out of love, and when Jesus narrowed the 10 Commandments down to 2, one of them was to love one another as ourselves. Clearly, both sides of this issue have failed to follow these commandments very fully.

  4. Kay,

    Wow! After I read your comment I had to re-read my article to make sure we were talking about the same piece—and I’m still not certain! But let me respond:

    1) I disagree with your conclusion that calling for the failure of a business is categorically “atrocious.” For instance, if a widget factory opened up down the road that illegally used child labor, would calling for its failure be atrocious? What about a brothel (and no, I am not “likening” TK to a brothel!). The point is that some businesses are so inherently harmful that we SHOULD want them to fail if we care about others.

    2) You also take issue with my saying that TK waitressing is a “subtle from of prostitution.” I appreciate your concern that this statement may hurt the feelings of waitresses who do work there, but I believe it is a true statement. For instance, one online dictionary defines prostitution as to “sell[] one's abilities, talent, or name for an unworthy purpose.” My intention was not to insult, but rather, as I explicitly stated, to encourage these young women to realize how their bodies are being exploited and refuse to debase themselves. I took great pains, in fact, to tailor my words to that end. Despite that, I suppose I should have been prepared for the fact that some readers would, as you have done, assume and assign to me motives about which you know nothing. (As you stated, “This is an insult wrapped up in a compliment, and completely lacking in sincerity.” How can I possibly respond to that?)

    3) We agree about one thing, at least: Jesus befriended the prostitute and any others whom society deemed “unworthy.” He reserved his harshest criticisms not for the notorious “sinners,” but for the religious leaders of the day. And yet, Jesus never sacrificed truth in the name of “love,” because telling people the truth IS love. Challenging people to re-think actions that are harmful to themselves and others IS loving—both to those being challenged and to the third parties being harmed.

    4) Despite what you appear to assume about the condition of my heart, I’ll just throw this out there: I am in no position to judge or condemn any person. I am a sinner, saved by grace, and my stockpile of sins goes far deeper than wearing a bikini top in a bar to earn money. But if I were engaged in an activity that was demeaning to myself and damaging to others, I would HOPE that people around me would gently and lovingly confront me about it.

    In closing, let me be clear: before a holy, righteous God, my mess is no better than that of the waitress, manager, or owner of TK. But because I have been saved by His grace, I am called to love God with all my heart, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. For me, in this place, at this time, that means resisting the incredible harms being done by TK and refuting the evil lies its business model perpetuates. We were made for MORE! And people need to know that.

    1. First of all, Rita, I want to apologize for the way I spoke earlier. I did to you exactly what I accused you of doing to others. I was out of line to assume that I know the condition of your heart and after being on the receiving end of unfair judgment many times, it was really uncalled of me to do that to you. I am really sorry for how close minded and self-righteous I portrayed myself. A few minutes after posting that, I realized that I had taken my anger out on you and that isn't right, nor is it in any way Jesus like.
      We all have causes that speak to us, and it is unfair of me to say that what speaks to you isn't important. Although I don't find the Tilted Kilt any more offensive than a high school or college cheer leading squad, I do understand why you feel that way.
      Again, I am so sorry for the way I behaved, and I hope that you accept my apology.
      And I definitely agree with you that we were made to do miraculous things with Jesus guiding us.

    2. Kay, I appreciate the integrity shown by your apology, and I accept! I also appreciate your heart of compassion for the TK folks involved, as it certainly reflects the heart of a redemptive God.

      I am currently working on a way to reach out to the TK waitresses, in particular, with a positive, affirming message. If you would like to be involved with that effort, please e-mail me at