Slacktivist at Patheos did a great job of putting my vagina creed in context, much better than I could have done at the time I wrote it because it was all I could do to channel my energy into writing the creed; I simply couldn’t dispassionately collect links and try to illustrate the full ridiculousness, pathos, and bathos of the situation. But I had to say something.
In another link from that same collection, a Christian woman points out that “different but complementary” (a slogan used to summarize the “complementarian” version of Christian patriarchy) sounds inescapably like “separate but equal.” But later in that post, she writes:
There is no way for me to write about this subject and keep my anger out of it. So I will direct you to a post written by a man.
The link goes to an article by a man clearly struggling to reconcile his experiences and his intuitive beliefs in equality, with what he’s been taught about Christianity and gender and everything else. Kudos to him for struggling with that. And he clearly says that Biblical understandings of gender are incredibly outdated. But the most illuminating moment, for me, was when he wrote:
I’ve had this argument with people before and the “goto” for men (women rarely argue this issue) is Paul’s numerous statements in his letters diminishing a woman’s role in the church.
He spends the rest of the post engaging with Paul’s statements and interpreting Biblical texts. He parenthetically observes that women’s voices are lacking, but does nothing to try to remedy that. And this was pointed to by a woman who limited her own speech because of her anger, because in some way her anger supposedly made her arguments less valid, less important, less acceptable parts of the dialogue.
So the man ends up being unsure how to deal with patriarchal texts from antiquity and doesn’t want to “roll things back” too much. He seems to indicate that women achieved “equality” in about the 1920s, presumably with the right to vote, which simply shows that he hasn’t actually engaged with women’s experiences of oppression in any meaningful way.
I think that when women refrain from writing because they can’t help but take things personally – and be angry about it – they contribute to the perpetuation of this situation. This guy has probably never been confronted by the sheer burning rage of someone who has spent her life being told that she’s not worth it, that sure, she’s “equal” in the sight of their god, but that here and now she’s destined to be
separate complementary, which means disempowered.
This is part of the problem.
It’s not just Republican state lawmakers saying that they wouldn’t use the word vagina “in mixed company.” (So they would feel free to use it when making a good ol’ boys joke, when no actual vaginas are present? WTF?)
It’s not just the Senate and the media refusing to actually acknowledge women as part of the conversation about, you know, women‘s health – which means women’s lives and women’s deaths.
It’s deep down inside us, where women themselves have internalized patriarchy to such an extent that we can’t be trusted, or allowed, to speak about our own experiences and emotions, our remembrances and our rages. Our silence – not just being silenced, but silencing ourselves – is part of the problem.
Being angry isn’t just valid, it’s vital. It’s one of the things that can empower us and energize us to engage this situation. And we have to do that, because obviously if we don’t, most of the people who are more privileged won’t do it for themselves.
This isn’t a call for women to blame themselves. It’s a call for women to channel their emotions, including their anger, into speech and action. I’ve seen a lot of creative examples of that on the internet in the wake of the “don’t say vagina” issues. Find your own way to participate; find your own way to engage. But don’t keep yourself silent because you think you don’t deserve to act, to speak, to be heard. You matter, and because of that, your thoughts and feelings matter. We have to say something.