Saturday, July 10, 2010

"I'm not bitter, I'm mad as hell."

Warning: This is likely to be contain some profanity, images you'd rather not consider and some seemingly irrational thoughts.

I've been reading a lot of feminist writings lately. I'm not sure why. I just know I've been drawn into it, and I haven't resisted as strongly as I might have years ago. Part of me has considered myself a feminist for years - hell I was labeled a "feminazi" in college by some of the more conservative white boys. But I don't know that I think I ever really got it. I think part of it has to do with the realizations of the past year concerning the role I played in my marriage and its destruction. Part of it comes from a wellspring deep in my soul that I've been struggling to hold down for years...perhaps my whole life. The problem of course is that one cannot hold back the water forever. Even with the best constructed levees, dams and fingers stuck in the dike, the water leaks out. And in my case it feels a bit like the levee has given way to a deluge of water.

From the time I was a little girl, I was been conditioned to be less than, subservient, submissive. Whether at home, in church, at school, it was all really the same in the small, subtle ways. Cook and clean for your man, women weren't allowed to be in lay or ordained leadership and girls were to be seen and not heard.

The line I used as the title of this post is from a Tyler Perry movie called "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" - and the woman in the movie is talking to a man who is dismissing her as "another bitter woman." I've watched the movie many times. In some ways it has been healing for me. In other ways it simply perpetuates stereotypes that I have grown to resent.

At no time in my life have I been more aware of all the things women endure that men don't seem overly concerned about. From the skinny, childlike girls who give blow jobs in porn movies to the girl children who are prostituted in the streets all over the world to the girls who are raped, mutilated and abused to the women who are beat on by their angers me. I'm not certain what to do with my anger. It doesn't feel very instructive or able to be utilitarian...all I know is I'm mad as hell. For the parts I was assigned in these sorts of horrors, but much more so for the collective whole of all of us who are women who have had to endure such things. Throughout history we have been oppressed, abused, raped, tortured, killed for nothing more than being born female. Just this past year a woman was kidnapped and murdered 100 yards from my office by her spouse. I have been the guardian of countless girls who have been victimized by men - whether sexually or physically. I continue to be involved in divorce cases as guardian for children whose fathers beat their mothers. I lived in my own "traditional" relationship where I was secondary to his primary. I have survived my own abuse at the hands of a man years ago. I don't get it. Where the hell is the outrage among women, men, the church, society?

I remember arguing with my ex husband years ago about pornography. His view (as is seemingly common) is that ordinary porn is not degrading to women. I remember seething at the time, but not really expressing it. I mean really, these women on their knees performing all manner of humiliating acts on men who hold their heads and occasionally slap or demean them. Really, this is not degrading to women? I'm amazed at how acceptable pornography continues to be in our society. And the same things goes for strip clubs. Hell, I'm not certain I've met a man alive who hasn't ventured into one of these places at some point. But, I've been largely silent about these things. Why? I can't explain it entirely other than to say I blamed women for their participation and I didn't figure it affected me by and large. That's the mistake, really. To assume that the oppression of one woman doesn't impact all of us in some ways.

But back to why I didn't express myself years ago - as is common with even educated, seemingly independent women like me, we are indoctrinated from the day we are born to be nice, speak quietly, not contradict the men in our lives. And I think the thing that has me the most incensed is that my religion preached this shit. Girls were dirty from day one - after all we ate the fruit - we allowed ourselves to be manipulated and then we tricked our man into eating too. I recall vividly my ex husband saying more than once to me, "Well, it was all Eve's fault." REALLY? The downfall of our entire species was a woman's fault. I suppose that's why so many of our churches still relegate us to the backseat, where we are told to keep our mouths shut and our opinions to ourselves. Look pretty, speak softly and above all serve the men in our lives.

What happened to God - our Mother? And why precisely is that so threatening for people to say? I'm not suggesting we upend all of our tradition - well perhaps I am. And what of it? Isn't it about time we let go of the patriarchal, misogynist, sexist theology of the past 2,000 years? Hell, we have so little recorded history of the women who lived in the first 1,000 years of Christianity, one would think men birthed themselves. And even the women in the Bible were rarely central or integral to any story. Why? Surely they existed. But in so many ways we have not advanced much since that time. We still dumb ourselves down. We still struggle to make our appearance acceptable to the standard created ... and perpetuated We still try to be seductive and "serve" whether it's in sex or in the kitchen or at the workplace.

As I said earlier, I'm not certain where all this anger in me is going. I just sense it there, stronger than I've ever felt it. And for the first time I'm choosing not to push it back down. I am noticing the little nuances and not ignoring them. When my father waits for my mother to clean up after him or a man I know well cannot stop ogling the women around him or the fact that most of the men I know take their position in the courtroom, church, society for granted. I want something different for my daughter than what I've known than what my mother has known, than what her mother knew. I'm not certain how to show her something different. It seems oftentimes that even the stereotypes and ways of conforming are so a part of me, it's difficult to separate my soul from it.

This is incomplete and unfocused and largely a product of a lot of reading and insight in a short period of time. But none of what I have to say is untrue and all of it is rather painful in many ways. As I struggle with my anger, I hope that I can learn where to direct it and how best to change my life and affect the lives of the women around me in good and loving ways. Regardless of how I got this far in life without having this awakening sooner, I recognize it for what it is awakening and opening of my spirit. God as Mother, Sister, Woman. It's still difficult for me to imagine, but all the more important for me to imagine. So that one day my daughter can realize it on her own. So that awakenings like mine aren't necessary at some point in our collective history.

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