"The other women said, 'Think for a moment. If men were at the bottom and women were the ones in charge, if our theology tended to give us the power and excluded you, if it deified the feminie only, would you still be saying, 'The church is only human, why don't you just let it go? Why can't you just forgive and be done with it?''"
The Dance of a Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd, pg 35
LOOKING FROM THE BOTTOM UP
As I continue in my reading of Sue's book, so many words, thoughts and feelings are being stirred from deep within my soul. I am not even sure I can express these in concrete words here...as I'm sure other women that have gone before me have encountered this. In this part of the book Sue talks about asking men in gentle yet firm ways to stop and look at what it would be like to be in women's shoes...to look at life as if from the bottom up. Reading this, I realize that I had no idea this was how I was viewing life.
As a swimmer, I spent many hours in a pool, seeing the world through the lens of water.... below those walking around on the pool deck, the ones hollering and shouting out at you the orders you must follow if you wish to do well in the race. This is how I feel now as I look back over my life, that I've been looking through water at the world, not seeing clearly until recently. Let me see if I can explain myself...
THE FEMININE WOUND
God's timing is ~ of course ~ amazing and spot on. As I entered these last few days, days with some space to reflect and contemplate and to be with God, I happened to meet with a woman pastor at my church. The contents of this meeting for this writing are unimportant - yet the outcome that hung in the balance of this meeting weighed heavily on my heart. It seems that for me to move into what I feel God's calling is for me and my talents...well, it seems that I have some work to do around this area of being a woman in - do I dare say it - a man's world.
Gosh, even as I say it - my heart starts to beat faster, I can feel my face flush and I can feel the uncomfortableness that I have wanted to stay far away from start to surface. I have been so trained by those around me - INCLUDING MYSELF - to stay far away from the feminist movement. I have been so conditioned that the women's movement has decimated men and WOMEN and their God given gender roles that I have done everything to support men...and nothing to support myself nor women.
I now know as I read Sue's book - as she also talks about Earthquakes and the floods - that my journey that started this time last year...this journey that I declared were Earthquakes shaking my very foundation of who God is and what that means for me -
of me moving from the act of giving everything up for God
to giving up everything INCLUDING the God I knew...
that "this" is what my journey has been leading me to.
What is "this"? It is the discovering that I have suffered some very unjust treatment in this world...I have been at the hand of abuse - emotional, verbal, physical, sexual abuse - maybe simply because I had the "unfortunate" destiny to be born with 2 "X" chromosomes instead of just one. This abuse has come not only at the hands of boys and men...not only at the hands of women...but at my own "hands" as well.
See, the Feminine Wound Sue talks about in her book is the realization that even as women - we have been so conditioned by years and years and centuries upon centuries of brainwashing - that even women believe women are inferior to men.
MY TRAINING GROUND
I can remember being taught in my school that I was equal to a man... that I had every possibility this world had to offer at my fingertips if I wanted them. Yet, I know now that I was conditioned from a very young age to believe something very different about myself.
As a young girl with little parental involvement, I was exposed to things no kid should have been exposed to at such a young age. Through my indoctrination into Disney fantasies I learned that a woman's role was to pine after men while waiting for them, doing nothing else in the meantime....and that it was within only the man's power to be the one to pursue and control the relationship.
Through my exposure to "R" and "X" rated videos at a young age and through abuse of varying forms - I was often "put in my place" as one who was weaker and less wise, less valuable than men. That if I would just allow myself to be a vessel of pleasure or to be subjected to the apparent physical abilities of man - well that I would find my value and worth and place in the world.
From a culture that shouted in subliminal ways I learned that women were considered a slut if she was sleeping around while a man a "stud"; that a woman is pushy if she goes after what she wants, but a man is considered a wimp if he doesn't pursue what is rightly his; that a woman is emotionally unstable if she happens to cry and should be medicated...while a man is called a dirty word - "a girl" - if he dared to show his emotions; that women could pursue a career but that she was still a woman in a man's world.
The last place a woman would expect to find this wound to be driven home is in her church. Yet, this wound is conditioned in a woman's soul every time she is told that she is "equal" to a man EXCEPT ...she cannot lead a man in a church setting or any setting for that matter; EXCEPT she must subject herself to her husband's leading; EXCEPT her highest calling is to raise children and provide a warm home for her family; EXCEPT she is expected to perform her wifely duties without objection; ECXEPT that she was created second to man yet first to sin; EXCEPT...
What is a mind supposed to do with all these contrary messages?
"THIS ABUSE HAS COME...AT MY OWN 'HANDS'..."
When I joined the Church, I thought I had found a safe place to finally be a woman...a haven where I could finally embrace my gender and my role in life. I bought into the Complementarism view hook, line and sinker. Why? Well, I think because it felt like a breath of fresh air for my damaged soul. I could finally be treasured as the "weaker vessel" I had come to believe I was. Just like I saw in my fairy tales I loved so much, I could finally sit back and let God and the man he picked for me ...well I could finally be taken care of as I was told I should be. Little did I know that I would have to exchange my very soul, my feminine soul, my identity as a person in for this to work.
I had no idea that the Feminine Wound was being etched even deeper into my soul by this "theology"; a screw being screwed into the places a screw is not supposed to go - into flesh and muscle and blood, bone and marrow. I would have to argue that this conditioning was almost worse than those from my childhood. For these wounds were from those "hands" that I consciously put my life into of my own accord. I trusted that this was how life was supposed to go...it was what I was taught and what I was shown in God's word. I loved and trusted this God that I had come to know just a short time ago...why would He ordain anything to hurt me even further?
As is my personality, I was a very good student. I bought into Dr. Dobson's words and the prevalent Church doctrine that the women's movement was so damaging and we must all do our part to turn back the hand of time to June Cleaver days. I remember reading Dobson's take on how "Runaway Bride" was a classic Hollywood ploy on the reversal of roles and how as Christians we must stand against such attacks on God's design. I was horrified at MYSELF because I had allowed myself to enjoy this movie. Here I stood at a crossroads, even though I did not know it. I choose to perpetuate the Feminine Wound even further.
Flash to another time...a time where I had been attending a church where women were allowed to be pastors. Ordained pastors! What? Are you kidding me? And what's this? My friend's mom was a minister at a church? Now I was really getting uncomfortable. How could these women allow themselves to be in such positions? This was not right, couldn't they see this? And what did the men think? How could they sit under these women's teaching them?
Flash forward to 2008. Sarah Pailin has just been announced as the running mate for VP of the Republican Party. It wasn't like she was running for the head pastorship of a church...yet I can still remember saying out loud - out loud! - that I didn't believe America should have a woman president...that I didn't believe other countries would take us seriously with a woman at the helm....
There it is ...do you see it? The Feminine Wound was right there smacking me right in the face. I didn't believe that women were as equal or capable as men. I didn't believe that women had the right to lead men, didn't have what it takes to be leaders. I didn't believe in women...and thus I didn't believe in myself. I had fully bought into the conditioning that most likely started for me in the crib - or maybe even in the womb. I believed that I was ____ - well, you can fill in the blank. Bottom line was this: I was perpetuating the abuse of women, of myself with my own "hands". I too am responsible for the Feminine Wound.
There is a line from Pretty Woman that has always stuck with me. It is a line Julia's character says to Richard's character as they are laying in bed. In response to something he says or asks she replies that "The bad stuff is just easier to believe." This line I understood and could identify with, even at the ripe young age of 13. Even at that young age, I felt disbelief that Richard could chase away this "bad stuff" for Julia as he lovingly caressed her to sleep.
Do you ever feel like that? That sometimes it is just easier to give into believing the "bad stuff" that the world has told you about yourself - wether female OR male?
VICTIM, SURVIVOR OR THRIVER?
One thing we learn in Life Skills is how living in the victim role just continues to perpetrate the abusive cycle. That the goal is to move towards gaining tools to reclaim your past in a healthy way, enabling yourself to move out of the victim role into survivor...but that it doesn't stop there. No, the ultimate goal is to move on past just being a survivor of abuse...into the role of a thriver.
As I venture into unearthing and dealing with new aspects of the trauma and abuse that permeated my childhood...as I learn to sit in the pain and ugliness and try not to be overwhelmed by those feelings ~ my one desire is to go out for a run. A run to burn off the steam; a run from the feelings and thoughts and tears that flood my eyes. A run from the realization that I have been victimized...and worst yet - to realize that I unconsciously have continued to victimize myself by buying into the pervasive myth that is the Feminine Wound.
Yet, I cannot run. Physically barely able to walk more than a few yards at a time...I cannot do a whole lot of running now can I? The thing is, I can see the beauty of God's timing in this. I see the beauty in God's timing to allow me to break my foot so that I cannot run from the work that S/He has for me. For if there is one thing I have learned in this past year it is this:
Nothing can heal me like a good cry and the hard work of letting God into the deep, dark, smelly "whalish" parts of my soul. Of allowing Her/Him in to do the hard work of helping me integrate my pain into my womanhood, my personhood...into my soul. That this pain will continue to run after ME if I do not turn around and face it.
So it is with this resolve that I will stand not in the direction of the desire to run, but in the direction of the desire to flee. I will stand with resolve to uncover and name my victimization...yet will not stop at that. I will stand with resolve to uncover what it means to be me...what it means to stand up to the voices that wish to hold me and you and him and her down into prefabricated roles that don't allow for individualization...to stand up to them and to continue to encourage us all to tell our stories - loud and clear. So that in the end, in the end we could all stop being the ones that continue to allow the "abuse at our own hands."