A Chrysalis called Clarissa, by Gareth founder of Northern Ignorance
“What’s all the complaining for?” The seventy year old man pushed his weight into his cane and looked at me with clear twinkling eyes. “Women won their freedom in the 70s and they’re still not satisfied.” Apparently the Joan Chittister video wasn’t the biggest hit in the men’s bible study.
My throat clenched. Does he want to discuss feminism? Or does he just want to vent? I watched the corners of his mouth spread into a smile. “You’re a breath of fresh air,” he added as we stood in my secluded office. I couldn’t find the quick witty words to push back. I knew my quiet agreeable demeanor makes me more attractive to some men, even as it poisons me from within. And afterwards I judged myself harshly, like the feminists who rail on their sisters for propelling patriarchy.
I am not yet liberated.
I’m still becoming the woman wrapped inside the chrysalis.
Recently Pat Robertson had another tantrum on TV when he announced the real reason marriages are in crisis: women are not pretty enough for their husbands. If beautiful women have more faithful husbands, then why do so many men cheat with less attractive women as a new study in Business Week recently revealed. Pat also defended the Petraeus affair by saying: He’s a man! And it seems to me his real argument, shamefully done in the name of Christianity, is: men can’t help it. (So get used to it, ladies.)
We are not yet liberated.
My mother, (who watched Pat Robertson when I was little) has come a long way in her own liberation, recently posted Jimmy Carter’s article Losing My Religion for Equality on her Facebook wall. He writes:
“This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.
At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.”
And an old family friend, deacon and spiritual mentor replied by posting a Puritan article from the 1800s arguing that women are anatomically different from men, God created them for the home, not for preaching. The addendum was added: some men just can’t respect the authority of women–as if that was sufficient justification for silencing the oppressed.
We are not yet liberated.
I have worked in the Episcopal church for ten years. The first denomination to ordain women in 1976. The first denomination to ordain LGBTs. And still, our prayer book uses only male warrior imagery in our corporate worship. Imagery that Carol P. Christ argues, in her article Why Women Need the Goddess, “Religions centered on the worship of a male God create “moods” and “motivations” that keep women in a state of psychological dependence on men and male authority, while at the same legitimating the political and social authority of fathers and sons in the institutions of society.”
We are not yet liberated.
When I am unable to speak the name of the man who sexually abused me as a child because the statute of limitations has run out, when the law protects him from the defamation he did to me, I know we are not yet liberated.
When our white sisters rail against black women like Michelle Obama for choosing to cultivate a garden because we are still blinded by elitism and racism, we must behold our wounds. When we fail to remember that for centuries black women had no choice but to work outside of the home and had no land of their own which to cultivate, we fail to see the liberated woman standing before us. When we still try to fit all our sisters in a one size fits all pants suit, we know we are not yet liberated.
As India springs with protests against the lethargy of justice for women who are raped, we know that we are not yet liberated, but we can hear the bells of freedom ringing on the wind.
Listen to the sound of it. As women are freed from the male gaze and able to define themselves from within, listen as we claim our own voices and speak our own truth, listen to the chains falling to the ground as we are liberated from the idolatry of the dollar. Listen as the great walls of class crumble before us, joining the worlds of human pain and inalienable dignity, listen to the rising symphony. Listen as we refuse to remain scapegoats, as we return the gift of wholeness to others, listen to freedom’s bullhorn as we carry light into darkness, as we companion with others through the valley of the shadow of death, to find the feast that sustains all our lives, then, then the chains shall finally break and we shall know we have won.
In a few short seconds I wanted to say all of this to the gentleman at church. But just because the moment was lost, my voice is not: We are not yet liberated. But, oh we shall be. Let freedom ring. I will listen to the sound. And I will sing the melodies I hear.