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Christian Patriarchy


how I stopped worrying and learned to love the Psalms, part three

bell tower

My last semester in graduate school I took a class called Poetics. It was one of those classes that shook me to my foundations– intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. The class discussions were heavy and illuminating, and exposed to me to so many ideas I’d never had the opportunity to work through before. We talked about the intersection of our lives with literature, and why that mattered to us. Why were we all a bunch of literature grad students, sitting around gabbing about Chaucer and Dante and Camus? What did any of that mean, really?

The breadth and depth of what we covered is too enormous to get into right now, but I’ll never forget the first time something we were talking about really connected with me. The professor had asked us to read a few articles about sublimity, and we read Peri Hypsous by Longinus. According to Longinus, the “sublime” is something in literature, or art, that is capable of evoking “ecstasy” in the reader. It is primarily a spiritual and emotional response, and Longinus argues that the presence of the sublime in writing elevates the piece to “art” or “greatness.” This has gradually evolved into aesthetic literary theory: studying literature for its beauty– its sublimity.

I was staring down at my desk, listening to the discussion, fiddling with my pen and trying to refrain from doodling. The reading had been extremely difficult for me, as I hadn’t really understood anything Longinus had argued, and it seemed inherently biased. How could he possibly make the argument that some literature is “great” because of what is essentially an emotional response? Emotions are subjective, and no reader is going to have the exact same response to a work as another reader. There’s no possible means of quantifying an emotional response. It’s a useless way of examining literature.

Something the professor asked caught my attention– she asked us when we had our first “sublime” response to literature. What was the very first piece we read that demanded that we engage all of our attention, emotional and intellectual? I tried to come up with something– but nearly all the supposedly “great” literature had never really stirred me in the way that any one in the room was talking about. I’d never had that kind of response. Plus, the kind of reactions they were talking about just sounded so . . . melodramatic. They were tossing around words like “awe” and “breathless” and “wonder.” No book had ever taken my breath away.

But, like a starburst, T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” sprung into my mind, so fully-formed I could almost see the words springing up at me off the page– I could see my English Literature textbook from 11th grade in perfect detail. And the words from section IV were on the tip of my tongue, waiting to spill out.

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

And then I was not in classroom DH 2009. I was in the rickety office chair with the padding falling out the bottom and the chipping layer of cream spray paint flaking onto the torn vinyl. I was sitting at my school desk in the office, picking at the exposed particle board on the corner, reading “The Hollow Men” for the first time. The introduction in my textbook had labeled the poem “post-modern” and was using it as an example of how post-modern poets didn’t care about communicating anything, just wrote their words into meaningless, empty space.

But when I read it . . . it struck a chord buried so deeply inside of me it was a tone I’d never heard before. It resonated, and I felt my whole body thrum like the lowest bell on a campanile. My fifteen-year-old brain had no idea what to do with the poem– there was no “literal” meaning I could grasp, although my textbook included footnotes on some of the symbolism and imagery and allusions. Nothing about it made logical sense, but somehow . . . somehow, I just knew what it meant– but it was a sightless, stumbling, expressionless knowing. I read it countless times that day, over and over again, and I could feel the words soaking into my bones and changing me. I could see “sunlight on a broken column.” I could hear whispering “as quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass.” I could hear the faint echo of children singing “here we go round the prickly pear.” I could touch the “raised stones” in the desert.

The present snapped me back, and returning to that moment jarred me, put my teeth on edge. Something about sitting in that room suddenly felt so tiny and cramped and airless.

“The Hollow Men.” I think I might have interrupted someone in the middle of a sentence. “T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men.'” I met my professor’s eyes, and I felt tears stinging the back of my throat, threatening to make me cry in a room full of people. “The only way I can even begin to understand it is through the sublime, through my emotional response.”

Joy leapt into her face– I don’t know if she knew what I’d just experienced, just remembered, but she understood. “Yes!” she exclaimed, her whole body coming alight with life and energy. “Yes, I know just what you mean. ‘The Hollow Men’ is a perfect example for this.”

At this point, the memory fades out into a ambiguous golden glow. I sat through the rest of the class, beaming to myself.


Even now, when I read “The Hollow Men,” I can feel the same inexorable tug in my viscera. There’s just something there that sings when I read it, and, to this day, I still consider it one of the most beautiful, haunting poems I’ve ever read.

It took me a long time to realize this, but the questions I had about the sublime and Longinus when I walked into that classroom were the absolutely wrong questions. Every person’s emotional response will be different, and yes, this response is completely unquantifiable.

That doesn’t matter.

That doesn’t matter at all.

Emotions, and emotional responses, are treated as less than. As insignificant. As unimportant. As incapable of contributing to a productive discussion. Emotions, and the people that have them, are denigrated, mocked, belittled, and shamed. Reason and intellect are the only things that can make a difference. It’s “just the facts, ma’am,” because how we feel about those facts is beside the point. Or, even daring to have feelings about the facts somehow removes some of the “fact-ness”.

This is wrong. This is completely and utterly inhuman. There’s no dichotomy here. Emotions don’t pose a threat to reason. The best example I can think of is Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “n____,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

That single, beautiful sentence is emotion. It is emotion begging to be heard. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t ultimately begin to succeed because of any one person’s logic, or any lawyer’s ability to debate. It started here– when we, as a nation, looked into the eyes of a six year old girl.

That is what emotion can do, and that is why it is feared and controlled. Because emotion demands a response. Emotion can’t be ignored, or shouted down. Emotion is part of all of us, and when we dismiss it, we fail everything about ourselves.


Yes, No, and how Feminism taught me to say both

Feminisms Fest Badge

The first time I ever heard the word feminism, it was from the pulpit of my fundamentalist church. I was probably around twelve, but I have a fairly clear memory of the “sermon” that the preacher was furiously raining down on the congregants; he claimed that feminists hate men, that they were a bunch of bra-burners, and that feminism emasculates men. He told the women and girls sitting in the pews that Sunday that being a “feminist” meant you had to give up your womanhood, your femininity– feminists are butch. Feminists don’t let men open their doors. Feminists would have wanted the women and the children on the Titanic to drown. Feminists will never get married, will never have children. Being a feminist makes you a murderer, because feminists support abortion.

It was a horrifying picture to paint for my twelve-year-old self.

When I hit my teenage years, I started encountering other perceptions of feminism, but none of them were favorable, even if they were slightly more moderated. Mostly the people I read and heard spent a lot of time talking about how feminism wasn’t necessary any more– in much the same terms that I heard the Civil Rights Movement discussed. There was this perception that became women’s suffrage had succeeded, there wasn’t anything left for feminists to do. They were all, basically, tilting at windmills. Sexism just doesn’t exist anymore, why are you getting your panties in such a twist? Feminists were innately ridiculous– like Winnifred Banks singing about “Sister Suffragette.” Harmless little souls. Or Enid Wexler’s character from Legally Blonde, ranting about silly nonsense things like the word “semester” being innately sexist, and how it should be “ovester” instead.

I had no idea what feminism was– I had never met a feminist, and I purposely avoided feminist writers. Anytime I encountered someone who claimed to be a feminist, I backed away slowly, like I was mentally facing down a rabid dog. If they were a feminist, it meant that they had subverted their identity as a woman, and could not be intellectually honest. Being a feminist, as a woman, meant denying who you were. Who you were “created to be.”

Then I went to college, and my horizons expanded just a little bit further. At this point, I started reading women who wouldn’t outright identify as feminists, but they did acknowledge that there were still some problems that we could work on, a little. These writers, usually women, included the phrase “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but” or “I can’t go full-out and claim that I’m a feminist, but“.

That “but” is what opened the door and let in a sliver of light for me. During my upperclassmen years, I became one of those “but” women, as I started seeing what had been right in front of my nose all along. I didn’t want to associate myself with feminism (shudder), but I could see their point.


Intellectually I became more directly feminist when I entered grad school, at some point during my second semester. I don’t really remember exactly when the shift occurred, but I do remember that I still wouldn’t associate myself with feminism. The term had too much baggage, too much history. But, by the second semester is grad school I was taking English Romanticism and my professor spent a goodly amount of time talking about women from a cultural prospective (News Flash: Mrs. E, my British Novel teacher, was right. Grad school really is a den of liberalism, talking about systematic oppression of women like it’s a reliable historical fact). We were engaging with Mary Shelley, the Bronte sisters, and Ann Radcliffe. We discussed how these women began constructing their identity as an individual with a voice in the midst of the Romantic movement. We read Mary Robinson’s Letter to the Women of England, on the Injustice of Mental Subordination.

I fell in love with these writers who were struggling to identify themselves, to see themselves as more than a series of designated, seemingly God-ordained tasks. They fought against their culture just to have a voice.

For me, though, I could fully claim feminism for myself when I watched Mad Men for the first time. It was spring break, and I miraculously had barely anything to do. No papers to grade, no research to do (well, not really. It could wait without creating a mountain of stuff to read later), and no papers to write. One of my fellow grad students suggest that I watch Mad Men, and I did. All three seasons on Netflix, and then cursed myself because the season premier of season four was the last Sunday of spring break, and I couldn’t afford the time to watch it.

My favorite character will always be Peggy, with Joan running a close second, but it was Betty Draper that commanded most of my attention. I loved watching Peggy grow into herself and owning her career, and I adored Joan’s constant snarkiness, but Betty… Betty was the character I identified with. Betty was the woman who had followed the culturally-acceptable path for her life. She had worked, a little, but she settled down, became a wife, had children. She went to the grocery store, ran errands, had her husband’s dinner waiting for him, and did her best to submit to her husband.

She did every little thing she was “supposed” to. She was, very nearly, the perfect 50s housewife. She forced herself to fit the complementarian, patriarchal mold. And she was absolutely miserable.

And that’s when it really, finally hit me. The complementarian, patriarchal role I had stuffed inside of my head, telling me what I was “supposed to be,” what I was supposed to want . . . could not make me happy. I would find no joy in it, I would not even be myself in it.

For me, feminism is about identity– and it’s about the freedom for men and women to shape and build whatever identity they feel like. Feminism is throwing off a cultural shroud that confines us with nothing more than the word no. Feminism is saying yes.

Feminism is saying I will when culture says you can’t.


Mainstream Feminists Need Religious Feminists

I need Feminism because there is No Love without Justice

She Shouts– How Feminism Saved my Life

I am a Strong, Independent Woman

Feminism Schfeminism


fundamentalist men thought they owned me

My interactions with boys until I was about ten are pretty much hysterical. They are some of the funniest stories I tell about growing up, and I cackle and giggle my way through them. There’s the boy who gave me his mother’s wedding ring on the bus. I was so confused about what had just happened– why would he do that? I showed the ring to my mother and she about had a fit. Long story short, we found the boy’s mother and returned the ring– and it was like the Parable of the Lost Coin going down in that house.

Then there was the random boy who walked up to me in kindergarten and pompously declared that we had “broken up.” Bewildered, I responded with “ok, but I don’t remember your name.” I think he was trying to impress another girl in our class.

My first five-year-old crush ended in violence. We were playing with our blocks, me creating a lopsided pyramid of sorts, and him carefully stacking one block on top of each other. At one point he started crying, I think, drawing the attention of the teacher’s aide. He complained that my tower was taller than his, and that was so not fair. The aide pulled me aside and told me to not be such a show-off. I nodded, then went back and slapped him.

There were the three boys who lined up after church one day when I was nine, and told me that I had to pick one of them to like, because all three liked me but they weren’t going to let that damage their friendship. I solved that particular problem by telling them they were all gross, and I didn’t like any of them. (Seriously– one boy saved up all his spit during church and then bolted out of church the second the service was over to get rid of it, boy #2 had shoved a scorpion down my dress, and boy #3 had made fun of me in Sunday school for disagreeing with him).

When I was thirteen, Jacob* appeared. I tried to be his friend, as his family had recently joined the church and his status as a public schooled was not being very well received by all the homeschool kids at our church. He was more awkward then we were, shy, and uncomfortable. He did not make friends easily, but talking to complete strangers had never bothered me. I kept it up for a few years, even though we spent most of our conversations fighting over the most ridiculous things. At one point, we ended up in an argument over whether or not a road that connected both of our neighborhoods ran north and south or east and west. This argument lasted for a good, solid fifteen minutes. We fought like cats and dogs about everything.

Then, when I was about fifteen, Jacob confessed that he still felt very lonely at our church, and he asked me if I liked him. “Sure,” I said. “I like you.”

It didn’t really occur to me that he was asking me if I liked him. I’m rather obtuse, when it comes to these things. He started talking about how he was almost a year –11 months, 12 days, to be exact — older than me, and how that was a good thing. His commentary befuddled me, but it frequently did that, so I didn’t make anything of it.

Six months later, Jacob started treating me like I was his. I was confused by this, as it looked like he was trying to make it seem that we were together, and we were not. He had never asked me out, had never even come close to broaching anything like that. He had never even approached my father, as would have been expected as a first step. But, after a “Fall Fellowship” we had out at one of the member’s hay farm, and he had clearly pissed on my leg in front of the boys who’d come from other churches, I asked him what was going on.

He told me that he had gone to the pastor of our church and asked him for permission to marry me. And the man had given it– as well as a promise that he would groom Jacob to be the pastor of the church someday. Apparently, the pastor thought I’d make an “excellent pastor’s wife someday, if she recognizes her place as a woman.”

What the WHAT?!


Needless to say, that’s still my reaction when I think about this encounter. I get confused, still– and I get angry. Even when I first found out about it I was pissed.  You’re batshit insane if you think I’m going to be ok with that. Obviously, our tenuous friendship ended with me furiously yelling at him to never speak to me again. A difficult demand, considering there were six people in our church who were close to the same age, and he and I were the only ones who weren’t related. But, I enforced it by very haughtily flouncing away, Anne of Green Gables–style, whenever he approached.

The underlying philosophy that made this situation for Jacob and the pastor that church, however, is one that is a basic tenet in Christian patriarchy:

women are not capable of making decisions.

This basic assumption drives nearly everything else that gets discussed regarding gender roles and women in patriocentric and fundamentalist circles. There are a host of reasons for why they argue for this, and most of them go all the way back to Victorian oppression. To those who are gung-ho patriocentric, Victorian society was the crowning moment of man. Everything was better back then– the clothes, the food, the education system, and especially marriage. Women were always keepers-at-home, and it was an admirable– nay, necessary–goal for a young woman to be “accomplished” in all the home-making arts. I remember our church hosting “Old Fashioned Days” when we would all dress up like characters from Little House on the Prairie and go around extolling all the virtues from a time gone by. My friends all kept “hope chests,” to prepare for their marriage one day.

However, women were supposed to ignore the fact that, in Victorian society, they were property. They had no voice– in fact, a woman being able to voice her opinion was an even more ridiculous notion than racial equality. A woman in Christian patriarchy is still little more than property. She is inferior to men in every way– in fact, she is so inferior, that supposedly the most biblical form of marriage is one where a woman can’t even be held responsible for her decisions. That is, if she’s allowed by her husband to make any– the husband, after all, is the one who make the ultimate decision. Women are emotional, not rational. You can’t trust her to make the most wise decision, as she’ll be fueled only by her matronly, nurturing instincts. Our emotions are so volatile, too– we’re basically incapable of controlling them. In fact, to be safe, women should surrender every area of their life to first, their father, and then their husband. Isn’t it just so nice not to have to worry about anything, dear? Just keep submitting, dear, and you’ll be fine. God will honor your submission, even if your husband is evil.

And I believed all this, once. To my core I believed it– I could not trust myself to make decisions. I laughed about this gnawing fear, jokingly telling people that I just wanted my father to “pick someone for me,” and that I honestly didn’t mind the concept of an arranged marriage. After all, the one time I had “fallen in love” had been a horrendous mistake that left me “damaged goods” for any other man. I couldn’t escape the fear, though, that I was, by nature, untrustworthy. That I could not trust my mind, or my instincts, or my emotions. My gender rendered me mute.

And then, one day, I met someone.

He asked me if he could write me letters– and we wrote for months and months, and I asked him things, asked him what he felt and thought and believed. And I fell in love– fell in love so quickly it frightened me. I was doing it again– thinking I could make a decision this monumental. Eventually, he kissed me, and told me that he loved me, and that he’d be crazy to ever let me go. I held onto him as tightly as I could, and promised myself that I’d never lose the certainty I felt in that moment.

I called my father to tell him what had happened to me– that I had fallen in love, and I was happy, and I was so utterly sure that my parents would love him, and I couldn’t wait for them to meet him. And then, suddenly, we were arguing, because how could I trust you to make this decision. Look at what happened when you thought you could this before. Look at all the pain you caused yourself when you thought you’d found someone. History has proven that you’re not capable of making this decision, Samantha. You have a track record. 

And, for a moment, all the certainty was gone. I had gone outside my father’s approval. I hadn’t waited for his permission– no one had even bothered to ask him for it. I had made my parents superfluous, like they didn’t even matter, and just gone off, willy-nilly, thinking I could do it all by myself. How rebellious was I being? I should be ashamed of myself.

But in another flash, all that doubt flew away. No–no, I refused to go back there. I knew myself– I had spent the last two years discovering who I was, and I was not about to let all of that go to some ghost from my past telling me that I’m the weaker vessel, the woman who was first deceived. I didn’t need my decisions rubber-stamped. Even if it was a mistake, it was my mistake, and I would own it.

Turns out my parents did love him. My mother helped him plan the proposal, and my father walked me down the aisle. Turns out– I was capable of making up my own mind. And when my husband asked me to marry him– he was asking me, and not “me” plus some patriarchal authority system. And I said yes, all on my own.

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

my own feminist awakening

In order to finish my grad school application, I had to take one more English class, and I chose to take American Women Writers from an online university, as it seemed the most interesting– the literary canon at my undergrad was dominated, nearly exclusively, by WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant– I’d never heard this term until grad school). The only time I remember reading anything by a female author was an excerpt from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor for my American Literature class, and Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch by George Elliot for British Novel. Everything else I read was written by men– even in my English Literature class, as we completely passed over any of the female Romantic and Victorian writers– and didn’t cover post-modernism at all, except for T. S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men, as he wrote that post-conversion and was acceptable. I was totally unaware of the sometimes revolutionary achievements of women in literature, and the first time I heard references to women writers was in the context of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti — and the only thing she could say to describe it was that it was a “disgusting, horrible little piece and you should be glad I didn’t make you read it.”

I didn’t even realize that this was a gaping hole in my education– that eliminating the feminist writers after 1850 was a deliberate, universal choice made by my university’s professors. I had no real idea the lengths they went to in order to nearly deify the men in the canon. Charles Dickens and Mark Twain were the best, most important writers in English and American literature– and that’s all anyone need know. We even avoided male authors who wrote somewhat feminist views into their writing, like Oscar Wilde. Lolita was treated as barely more than erotic fiction. We never discussed the systematic oppression of women in Victorian England– not even when we read The Mayor of Casterbridge and the main character sells his wife in the opening chapter. My professor made a brief comment on how selling your wife was a common legal practice, and then she moved on.

Even though I wasn’t aware of this gap, I still somehow felt the lack, and my curiosity compelled me to take a class on women writers.

I hated it.

It was one of the most miserable experiences I’d ever had.

I hated most of the books we were required to read. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath repulsed me– Esther’s character was so… so blind. Why wasn’t she grateful for all those amazing opportunities that just landed in her lap? I grew angry with the characters in The Joy Luck Club, as every single one of those daughters spent the entire book disrespecting their mothers. The events in Sethe’s life of Beloved shocked and horrified me. How could she possibly do that to her child? Don’t even get me started on The Poisonwood Bible (stupid book making Christians look bad).

But no book infuriated me more than The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I had trouble even reading it through until the end, and when I reached the final scene when Edna begins swimming, I threw it down in sheer disgust. Her character and all of the events in the plot disgusted me. Edna Pontellier was the absolute worst character I’d even encountered in literature. I despised her.

I also didn’t really like any of the other characters in the book, but the only character I could stand at all was Léonce, Edna’s husband. He could still be maddeningly difficult, but I could at least sympathize with him.

So you can imagine my dismay when most of the postings on the online discussion board were about how much my classmates disliked Léonce. I had trouble taking that in. They liked Edna? How in the world could anyone like that insufferable woman! So, I wrote this:

It was difficult to read about these characters because I reacted so viscerally.  I was drawn to Léonce Pontellier for mostly negative reasons—I liked him because I did not like anyone else. Edna was a selfish, childish, petulant, ego-centric person before her “awakening” and that transformation only exacerbated serious character deficiencies. Adele forces her opinion on other people. Mademoiselle Reisz encourages self-absorption and illicit sin. Robert is a manipulative cad. Léonce is the only central character that acts with morals, principle, character, and is also the only person to have the true motivation of love.

Although he was a man of his time, and hence a bit controlling with a great many expectations, none of those expectations were out or proportion or overly demanding. He is devoted to his wife—he sends her chocolates when he is away, and the night that she refuses to accompany him to bed, he sits with her. When he does express concern over Edna’s complete disregard of responsibility, he does it reasonably. He doesn’t care if she decides not to receive callers— he just asks that she offer an explanation. He doesn’t mind if she pursues art—but he does mind the complete neglect of the household and the children. He tries to keep her focused on the value of her family and her friends. After he consults the doctor, he does his best to “let her alone,” hoping that Edna will come to her senses and see how much he loves her. Not without his own faults and shortcomings, he does his best in a difficult situation. Even after his wife tells him that weddings are a sham and to “go away, you bother me,” he tries to do what is right by her. Maybe if Edna had been mature enough to recognize that she possessed the heart of an honorable man she might have responded differently.


Holy…. mackerel was I BLIND.

Son of a biscuit.

If you’re familiar with patriocentric and complementarian rhetoric, you should easily be able to see how it came spewing out of me, here.

I’ve since read the book again. I’ve read all of these books again, recently.

Esther was a woman born into a society with mountainous expectations and a complete disregard for her suffering.

The Chinese daughters in The Joy Luck Club were caught between two worlds, two cultures, and struggling to make sense of their reality– to love and honor their mothers, and yet still be their own person.

Sethe knew her daughter faced a lifetime of horror, abuse, deprivation, and shame– and in an act of loving desperation tried to save her.

The Price daughters grew up in a household of tyranny and oppression, but still managed to escape and find fulfillment.

And Edna . . . oh, Edna . . .

Edna was me.

Edna Pontellier is every daughter affected by the patriocentric movement. She is every woman who has been told, her entire life, that she can have only one possible purpose, and that purpose is in being the perfect wife and mother. She is every little girl who grows up comfortable and familiar with the lies of people like the Vision Forum who tell us that Victorian society was the brightest moment of human development. She is every woman who has been trapped, controlled, oppressed, and abused by a system that exalts men and tells husbands to “expect their due.”

She was me when I refused to leave my abusive fiancé, when I accepted the curses and the shame he heaped on me. She was me every time I was put down from the pulpit, every time I was told my existence, my body, did not belong to me, that I was the property of some faceless, future man.

Fundamentalism and Christian patriarchy’s worst nightmare is that a woman could realize that she is independent, that she is valuable, that she is a person with wants and wishes and dreams all of her own.

Since my first reading of The Awakening, I’ve had my own. I’ve been lost in life and beauty, overcome and transformed by ethereal powers, drawn, pulled, and caressed by an ocean of new ideas, new thoughts. I can proclaim, with all my heart, that I am woman, hear me roar.

Photo by Tracy