I’m just going to put this out there again. So many of us are strong. Are resilient. Have overcome so much and will continue on in our quest for equality…
Frailty, thy name is NOT woman… even though I was programmed to believe so. And so have, apparently, a whole lot of other people.
Y’all, I’m about to get political here, and please know that it is not because I want to pick fights or force my will upon any of you. I know and understand that I am passionate in my beliefs, just as you are passionate in yours. I know we all have our stories and we all have our convictions, and I know that our experiences make up what we ourselves hold to be true. Faith guides the majority of us. Faith points us in the direction of what we deem right and what we deem wrong. Our personal histories dictate our faiths. Often, we either reject the teachings of our childhoods or we embrace them.
Me, I believe in God — but not the God I was raised on. Not the God that was thrust down my throat and battered about my heart and head, yoking me to servitude and self-loathing. That was my reality. A God of the Old Testament. A God of Wrath and Condemnation and Plagues and Pestilence. A God I was raised to fear. A God who condones men who would proclaim me a weak, worthless and wanton woman.
I have lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.
I choose to believe in a loving and benevolent God. This is my reality. The God of the New Testament. A God who appreciates and cherishes me, who values my contributions and celebrates my achievements. Who does not love me less because I am Woman. A God who does not fault my mind and shame my body.
Today, I am speaking out because there was once a time, not that long ago, when I could not speak out. There was a time when I found myself and others of my gender, silenced and powerless. I’ve explained before that I was raised in a cult. It was a cult led by men who took pleasure in their ability to objectify and subjugate women. It was a cult led by men who refused to see value in womanhood beyond their ability to serve men’s needs and take care of their households. It was a cult led by men full of ego and blasphemy, self-righteousness and self-flattery. They didn’t appreciate women – although they did “delight”—I remember that word – they did delight in a good woman. And what exactly made up a good woman? Her abilities to serve, to be silent, to satisfy and to look pleasing while doing it all.
I still struggle with recovery from that early indoctrination and conditioning. Every day I remind myself that I have a mind and a voice that are vital, that are important – that I am worth listening to. It is classic battered women’s syndrome, to believe that you are unworthy. To feel fearful and weak and apologetic. And though I was never physically abused, I was emotionally abused — programed from a very young age to believe that women are nothing more than silent helpmates for their husbands, in the primordial form and fashion of the Old Testament Eve. I struggle every day to remember I am so much more than that.
I also struggle every day not to grow angry and resentful towards those who have never had to experience misogyny or prejudice, who could never understand what it feels like. But who are ever ready to denounce the fears and concerns of those who have. Who try to calm us, to placate us when we grow upset at old, familiar injustices we see rising once again to the surface. Or who argue our claims of injustice are unfounded or are blatant exaggerations. Who suggest that if we would just shut up and not stir the pot, things would be fine.
Well, I won’t shut up. I won’t sit and wait for the pot to boil over and burn us all. I’ve lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.
I’m kicking, I’m screaming — I’m asking other women out there to do the same. We CANNOT ignore this call to action and we CANNOT fail. If we do, all hell will break loose – again. I’ve lived there. Some of you haven’t – but your mothers or their mothers or their mother’s mothers have. Because I see the Handwriting on the Wall – I’ve seen it before. And I BEG you all to take a look around you and recognize it, too.
Let me explain…
I’m terrified of the mentality that Donald Trump has toward and against women — because I have seen it before. Sadly, he spouts the same fundamentally-flawed attitudes toward our sex as the cult I was raised in, and while the language he uses is far more vulgar (it was a church, after all), the philosophies are the same. He is a man eager to insult and belittle women, a man ready to condemn all women for being the genetic dispensation of Eve. He has fat-shamed us, he has slut-shamed us, he has fluid-shamed us — yes, he even went there — publicly ridiculing a female reporter for “blood coming out of her wherever” and humiliating a lactating female attorney by calling her “disgusting.” Trump is cut from the same cloth as those church elders I left behind, that I escaped from, so many moons and so many progressions ago. Men who feel we are less than them because we have different parts than them. I refuse to go back to that dark, silent Hell.
Just as The Fellowship – for that was the pet name of the cult in which I was raised (ominously patriarchal, I know…) – refused to acknowledge that women have brains and purpose beyond that Old Testament job of helpmate to our husbands… Trump has refused as well: “You know, I don’t want to sound too much like a chauvinist, but when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I’ll go through the roof, okay?” He also once implied on a radio interview that it is a woman’s job to care for the children and he holds disdain for any man who has ever diapered an infant because that’s the wife’s job.
Yeah, well I’ve lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.
When I was young and fully submerged in the confines of the cult, I knew I had no chance of becoming anything other than a wife and homemaker. College was never to be an option for me. In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, an antagonist has a theory closely akin to how I was raised: “Sending a girl to college is like pouring water in your shoes. It’s hard to say which is worse, seeing it run out and waste the water, or seeing it hold in and wreck the shoes.” An expensive university education would never have been an option for me, had it not been for my grandmother. My post-secondary destiny was apprenticeship under an elder’s wife. I would be closely tutored and monitored in the ways and wonders of domesticity. I would become an indentured servant, working for my room and board and learning to be a skillful homemaker from some of the best. These women put Martha Stewart to shame: perfectly pressed and pleated trousers for husbands, hospital corners on all of the beds, crown roasts of pork at Christmas and braised racks of lamb at Easter. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to be proficient, masterful even, at domesticity. I love a beautifully appointed table to this day, and I do value the domestic education I received before I made my escape. One of the things that makes me happiest in life is to make my family happy. My problem here is that it should be by CHOICE. A woman should always have a choice, with regard to ANYTHING – job, husband, family, all of it.
Wait, you argue. Trump has never said women shouldn’t be allowed to work outside the home. Ok. I give you that. At least he hasn’t said it publicly… However, he avoids discussing women’s strengths and abilities, unless they involve her sexuality. It’s far easier to objectify women if their brains are ignored completely. If he does happen to comment on women’s minds, often it is to call them “neurotic” – one of his favorite female insults. Normally, though, he focuses on women’s physical appearances, particularly in relation to conquest: “It’s all about the hunt and once you get it, it loses some of its energy. I think competitive, successful men feel that way about women.” And with regard to female writers: “it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.” In other words, my words mean nothing – not only because I’m not young and beautiful, but also because it doesn’t matter what I write. According to Trump, as a woman, my words – and by reflection, I, myself – don’t matter. I mean nothing.
I’ve lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.
So let’s talk a little bit about the historical precedence of equating women with nothing… During the Renaissance, the Elizabethan euphemism for female genitalia was “Nothing”– seemingly apropos, I suppose, since no thing hangs between our legs, but also extremely demeaning and disparaging. Trump over and over again diminishes us to our genitalia, objectifying us – robbing us of subjectivity. Making us little more than toys for his tool. Trump considers us powerless because we have No Thing between our legs. For Trump to respect you, you must have Some Thing hanging between your legs. And then, only if it’s a white thing.. and even then, only if it has some wealth attached to it. Because that makes you a star. You can do anything when you’re a star “Grab ‘em by the pussy,” if you want. He sees women as objects to be demoralize, to grope, to molest, to rape, to control. Any which way you look at it, women get the shaft when Trump is in charge
Trump’s words have the power to transform women’s lives as we know it. A president’s words set the tone and the climate of our nation. His (or her) words carry weight. They are powerful and they are absorbed. They can teach a child she is worthy or they can teach a child that she is unworthy. Girls and young women maturing in our society do not need to hear their president slut-shaming and fat-shaming their sex. As women, we have come such a long way from the double standards of our father’s and fathers’ fathers’ eras. For centuries a woman’s value was tied to the tiniest sliver of a membrane and whether or not it was still intact. Men were celebrated for their sexuality. Women were shamed for theirs. That’s bullshit.
I have lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.
Thankfully, our potential and value is no longer intertwined with the state of our hymen or the price of our dowry. We have not yet reached the place where double standards are obsolete though (obviously – otherwise the fat-shaming and slut-shaming wouldn’t still be happening) – but I fear that with Trump and his misogynistic attitudes we will slide backward far faster than we’ve managed to climb forward.
Women have worked hard to get where we are today… and we still aren’t where we need to be. Women still make significantly less than men in comparable jobs – statistics claim between 22% and 27%, depending. And if the job has shifted over the years to predominantly female-owned, statistics show that wages fell, in some instances, up to 57 percentage points. For whatever reason, throughout history, women have been undervalued. In Judeo-Christian society, I think it all heralds back to that despised darling, the apple-eating Eve. We women are way too wily and wicked, and we simply cannot be trusted. So don’t you dare give us power.
Now people would argue that Trump’s words are just that – words. But words are never simply words. Take the Bible – the Word of God – for example. If you are Christian, you build your entire faith, your entire world and mindset and principles and actions, around those words. If you are not Christian, then they are simply words. The same may be said of the Koran. Or the Bhagavad Gita. Or the Tripitaka… And if we segue away from faith into the secular, the same may be said of the United States’ Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. They are simply words. But they are so much more than that, as well. They bear weight. We have built our government, our lives, our principles and actions around those words.
The same may be said of Hitler and his government, a dictatorship built off of the power of his words -– he started slowly and gathered steam (unlike Trump, who has been ballsy from the start and will surely only get more daring), creating a mindset and manipulating millions and slowly eliminating the freedoms of the Jews and others. Trump is openly xenophobic toward several groups, Muslims in particular. He would like to see all Muslims carry religious IDs, a frightening flashback to the labeling of the Jews, initially by IDs and later by insignia. Trump has also threatened the first amendment – freedom of speech – by declaring he would shut down Saturday Night Live because of their “unfair” depictions of him. If he could shut down satiric entertainment like SNL, what might he do to print and network journalism? And like Hitler, Trump isn’t above inciting violence, He has encouraged his minions to punch protestors, proclaiming he would take care of their legal bills. His campaign suggested Hillary Clinton would likely be shot if Trump lost the election – a thinly veiled threat. And he, himself bragged that he could literally shoot someone on the streets and not lose voters– and the sad part is, he probably could. Because he is the epitome of a cult leader – and I know cult leaders. I’m a recovering member.
I have lived through that Hell, and I’m not going back again.
It is obvious that Trump’s legions are following a controlling, narcissistic bully. He convinces seemingly rational and intelligent human beings to latch onto his every whim with wild abandon. Hell, some supporters even likened him to the Biblical Samson, a sinner and womanizer, but one who, they argue, was still called by God. I’m not kidding here. Supporters declare, “God’s hand is upon Trump and the forces of evil have been trying to stop him.”
Wait, what? Trump?!?
It is obvious that some followers are ready to sacrifice life as they know it, to take up Trump’s cross, and to follow him blindly. Hitler is famous for saying, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” Trump doesn’t even lie about the audacious things he would do. And people are absorbing every outlandish, sexist, racist, violent, vitriolic word of it.
This presidency terrifies me. I know that our nation is drastically divided for a variety of reasons. I know that. I get that. We all are equally passionate about why. I just wanted to share a few of my reasons why.
I have lived through that Hell, and I am not going back there.