abuse

Breaking free(r)

I am the last person who should be writing about breaking free.

I have been separated from my abusive husband for nearly 7 years now, and I am just now taking a huge step to break free(r).

I did kick him out of the house years ago which took a lot of courage. This worked only because I knew he wouldn’t hire a lawyer. I had no legal right to kick him out of his own house, even though he promised he would leave any time I wanted to separate (which was a lie–I asked; he refused).

This weekend I am leaving this house, this town and this state to move near family (and away from snowy winters that isolate me further). I will be near my adult children and three grandchildren.

I will be mere hours away from my very sick mother and wonderful stepdad.

I will be only months away from enrolling in a 4-year college or university so I can finish my bachelor’s degree.

I will have access to unconditional love from my grandchildren (oh, the hugs they can give). My teenager will spend his last two years of high school surrounded by family (he is going to be one popular uncle).

This weekend I load up a truck with those belongings that I consider most precious:

  • kitchen stuff
  • personal library
  • knitting and quilting stuff
  • computer
  • my bed

Strange list, I know.

I have a well-equipped kitchen with old, functional small appliances: bread machine, flour mill, large Villaware toaster oven, 1950s Sunbeam Mixmaster, food processor and my cast iron and stainless cookware. I also have a decent supply of baking pans and dishes. I hope to regain enough strength to bake and cook once again.

Oh, my personal library. We have been separated for years. I packed up my books and put them away years ago because I have been waiting to move for years (and I had difficulty reading anyway — see below). I look forward to the day when all of my books are on shelves (that I picked out) where I can access them whenever I like. The joy!

I knit a LOT! It is something that I can do right now with limited strength and chronic pain. Knitting doesn’t hurt. I am keeping my quilting stuff, again with hopes that I will regain enough strength to make all of my grandchildren quilts.

My computer has been my connection to the outside world. Being isolated for years, the internet kept me sane when I was living in a nightmare world of a marriage to a mean, hateful man. When I got sick in 2006 with Lyme disease and then did not recover, I couldn’t even compose and type an email. I couldn’t write a sentence. I couldn’t read a paragraph.

My computer saved me. I joined an online gaming community. I started to reconnect with other people, nice people. I typed in chat occasionally (and used voice chat a lot).

I started by using my laptop while I lay on the couch (too tired to sit up).

After a few months, I was able to sit at my computer desk. I bought myself an inexpensive desktop computer. I kept hand weights on the desk and gained strength.

Eventually, my doctor ordered physical therapy which got me mobile again. I continued the exercises on my own and regained more strength.

A couple of years later, I found a Lyme-literate doctor who treated my chronic Lyme with antibiotics and supplements. She discovered B-12 and D deficiencies. After a few months on amoxicillin (which keeps my pain at bay but doesn’t seem to help me gain ground), she put me on clarithromycin (Biaxin). After 6 months, I had recovered my hearing, pain was minimal, I could walk without looking drunk, I lost 30 pounds, and I began walking 5-6 days a week. I recovered to about 60% of normal. This was a huge improvement. It was college coursework that helped my brain to heal.

My bed. I know that is a weird thing to put on a list of precious belongings, but there is a reason.

Months before the final separation from my husband, I had moved to the couch to sleep. He moved all night long (restless leg syndrome) and snored so badly that I could not sleep well. I wasn’t missing much. The bed we slept in was a freebie he had gotten from a coworker in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was at least 20 years old. It was bad.

What was really hard was near the end my husband had stopped coming home from work. He said he was going to the church to pray every night, often not getting home until 11 p.m. and even as late as midnight. He would then come home, stomp up the stairs (raised ranch), do his burping thing (he always burped when he came home and walked up the stairs), and wake me up because I was sleeping on the couch. He never offered to give me the bedroom so I could get one good night’s sleep. Not ever.

After my husband was gone, it took me a few months, but I finally made myself clean out our bedroom (with my sons doing the heavy lifting). I got rid of everything that had been ours. I threw away his broken, plastic headboard that he insisted we keep. I threw away that old, disgusting mattress. I got rid of every piece of furniture.

I went to IKEA and bought myself a bed of my choosing. I bought myself a NEW mattress. It was an act of rebellion against the husband-imposed poverty that I had lived in for nearly 20 years.

So, yeah, my bed is precious. It is mine. I picked it out and it is my restful sleeping place. [Amazingly, I began to recover even more of my health when I could get a full night’s sleep without interruption. Go figure.]

Of course, there is room on this truck for my teenager’s computer desk, his books, instruments, computer and clothes. He will get a new bed when we move into our new place.

The only other furniture we are taking is the kitchen table and chairs, the outdoor table and chairs, two IKEA chairs, an ottoman, a Singer parlor cabinet (treadle that I use for all my sewing machine heads – motorized and people-powered), and my coffee table.

Everything else in this house is either cheap, in bad shape or not worth bringing.

This move signals the recovery of a different kind of power: power over my own future.

I am so stressed that I am not sleeping well. I wake up all night long with adrenaline dumps, heart pounding. But I must do this.

I am moving out of a place that has been comfortable in some small part because it is known to a place full of unknowns. Yes, I am scared.

I am moving toward freedom to be myself in my own space.

I am moving.

 

 

 

 

 

Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence by Yvonne Sam

In keeping with the International Day of Violence against Women. Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence By Yvonne Sam When the word domestic violence is used or thought about, the general public usually thinks of physical abuse that gives rise to visible injuries to the victim. Sadly, this is only one type of abuse. […]

via Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence – By Yvonne Sam — Guyanese Online

Wounds that don’t heal

IImprisoned Spring by Arthur Hacker (1911)Heartbreak and loss come in many different forms: the death of a loved one, rejection by a lover or spouse, abandonment by a parent.

As a wounded woman, I know what it is to hurt.

I won’t bore you with tales of woe from my childhood, but all was not well at home.

By the time I was a young adult, I had been exposed to some pretty bad stuff, much of it a result of our male-dominated culture (exposure to pornography, sexual predators young and old, and male criticism of my female form and personality).

I was bullied by other girls, all older and bigger than me. I was also bullied by my family.

By the time I was 21 years old, I had what was termed”a serious chip” on my shoulder.

Believe it or not, I was judged harshly because I was not all smiles and compliance all the time.  Because I tried to fight back. Girls shouldn’t do that, don’t you know.

I knew the world was screwed up even when I was young, but I never knew how to express my concern. It festered. It fermented. I didn’t understand my discontent.

By the time I was in my early 20s, I wore a pretty hard, protective shell designed to keep me from getting hurt.

And then I found a church that promised “inner healing.”

Was there a chance that I could be freed from the pain that I worked so hard to keep hidden away?

I found a husband who was supposed to be loving, caring and a positive expression of patriarchy.

I believed that in this relationship, those wounds would finally begin to heal. I was in a safe relationship, a safe place, finally.

I let my guard down and exposed many of my wounds to this man.

I trusted him.

He used his power to control instead of love.

This is not a cautionary tale. I am not advocating the growth of dragon scales as a way to protect oneself. We can never truly love others if we don’t allow them to love us. And no one can love us if we don’t let down our guard.

From a psychological point of view, I am most likely dealing with abandonment issues exacerbated by fear of rejection. In a nutshell, when my father left me and my family when I was 7 years old, it affected me profoundly.

Back in the late 60s, it was not common for parents to divorce. I grew up in what was called a “broken home.” I carried that shame with me everywhere.

Thinking back, when my father was home there was an awful lot of yelling and fighting. I’m pretty sure things got physical. I don’t remember much. I liked the quiet better.

I heard a lot of stories from both of my parents over the subsequent years well into my adolescence when I finally reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually refused to see my father anymore. That estrangement lasted for about two years.

I got pregnant. I got married. I had a baby. I got divorced.

I needed the quiet.

When it wasn’t quiet, when there was conflict and discord, my wounds opened up and all the pain came flooding back.

Here’s the thing: we all have wounds. My wounds are probably nothing compared to someone else’s wounds. That doesn’t matter.

We are talking pain levels here and tolerance for pain.

In life, the good times are supposed to outweigh the bad times.

Everyone suffers. Everyone struggles. Everyone has pain.

The real issue is how much pain and how often. Does the pain ever stop? Are there respites from the pain?

For some people, the answer is “No.”

I didn’t understand the insidious nature of chronic pain until a few years ago after contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite. I ended up one of the small percentage of people who experience long-term symptoms. Mine include chronic fatigue and chronic pain. I know what it is like to live with pain all the time.

The physical bite site, the terrible wound that I had from that tick bite, did heal after three weeks of antibiotics. The cause of the initial wound (about the size of a softball) moved away from the bite site and penetrated deep into my body’s tissues and even my brain. There was no healing.

Too Much Pain

The other day, I woke up and realized that I didn’t have any noticeable pain in my body. I breathed deeply and smiled. What a happy day. I want more pain-free days. Who wouldn’t? I thoroughly enjoyed that day. But such days are rare.

There is more compassion for those who suffer from physical pain than emotional pain in our society.  If someone has a back injury and must take opioids, no one holds it against that person.

For those who suffer loss and are wounded by it (and how can one not be wounded by loss???), healing is supposed to take place over time, but there is an expectation of some conclusion where the person affected finds relief and can move on with no more symptoms of grief.

For most people, grieving a loss takes time and the support of loved ones. In most cases, the pain of the loss lessens until it is merely a memory with occasional bouts of suffering that abate after a day or so.

What happens when grieving doesn’t end? Sometimes the wounds just don’t heal.

What happens to those who never stop feeling profound and unbearable pain?

There are many different endings to this kind of story.

Many can find relief through mental health services: therapy, medications and lifestyle changes. For some people this works.

Some end in the body giving up and the person fading away (yes, people can die from a broken heart). Some end in self-destructive behavior that results in death. Some end in suicide.

For some people the wounds just don’t heal. For some people the pain never stops. The thought of living a life of never ending pain is unbearable.

But wait…

 

Even though many wounds don’t heal, there is hope.

And it starts with taking back one’s power…

2014-05-04 19.24.15

I wouldn’t have seen the double rainbow if I hadn’t gone outside

 

 

How the church silences women

shhh2I left the church, all churches, because of how the Christian religion views and treats women. I am just sharing this up front (if you haven’t read previous posts).

I have written many times about how the women in my church (and the pastor, who was a woman) used silencing behavior to shut me down, everything from intervening when I was trying to be honest with my husband in counseling sessions to handing me a list of Bible verses about “gossip” when I needed to talk to someone about my abusive husband.

There is something seriously wrong going on. It is common for women who are in bad marriages, some abusive, some not, to be pressured to remain in those marriages no matter what. It is a duty, marriage is sacred, it would be a sin to divorce.

Let’s first talk about the sacred institution of marriage. This is a doctrinal thing. Marriage is mentioned in the Bible, and it is likened to Christ’s relationship to the church. From that analogy, marriage has become primary while the people (and their children) in that marriage are secondary.

“God hates divorce!!!!!!!!”

God probably hates a lot of things, but I don’t think divorce is at the top of his list.

This is a symptom of a much bigger problem. People (individuals) come last in the Christian religion.

Yep. They do.

When duty, or doctrine, is more important than relationship, then you will end up with dysfunction of some kind. And those who put the marriage before the people in that marriage are being dysfunctional. They are encouraging dysfunction. They are perpetrating dysfunction.

I have declared to anyone who wants to listen that I reject the Pauline letters in the New Testament. I think they run contrary to the teachings of Yeshua (he was Jewish, and his name is NOT Jesus — I know, picking at gnats).

Women must remain silent in church. Women must obey their husbands in everything. Women must wear head coverings. Women must wear dresses. Women must…

This is all legalism. Paul was a legalist.

In all of the years that I tried to relate to and communicate with my husband, he often told me that I needed to submit: over and over and over again. He never quoted the verse that commands husbands to love their wives as Jeshua loves the church. He never quoted the verse about how a man who does not care for his family is worse than an infidel.

I was told that it wasn’t my place to discuss _____ (fill in the blank), how I should not do this or do that, how my prayer life was even under his purview.

But when spiritual leaders in a church use the same silencing behavior on their congregations, you end up with a bunch of unthinking, repressed people.

Do you know one of the leaders in my old church stood up and said how much she hated running into this one woman she knew because she was always so down and negative (this was the same person who shut me down with a sheet of scriptures on gossip when I needed to confide in someone).

Dysfunction is prevalent in Christian relationships because of the fear of truth. There is a fear of honesty. There is a fear of reality.

“Don’t interrupt my religious moment with your unpleasant reality, please!”

“Oh, your husband is abusing you? Your reward will be in heaven. You must do your best to submit to him anyway.”

“Shhh, women should be silent.”

The judicial system, encouraged by our Christian heritage (patriarchy in general), permitted husbands to rape their wives in the no-so-distant past.

A man who beat his wife was justified in the last century.

Hell, women didn’t even have the right to vote until 1920, and then civil rights, rights over their own bodies and personal life decisions, took many more decades.

Men rant about how unfair the judicial system is because they say it favors mothers in divorces. Have they not looked at history where a hundred years ago women had almost no rights at all? Children (and their mothers) belonged to fathers/husbands.

Women had to remain in bad marriages if they wanted to keep their children, not be homeless, and have any kind of financial support. There weren’t even many professions available where women could support themselves. Women still make a lot less than men today.

Inequality is ugly.

Why are men threatened by women’s rights? I do not understand why men are threatened by women who use their voices.

And religious men can be the worst. Actually, let me correct myself: religious women can be the worst. I wonder if there is some underlying fear that if a friend has justification for leaving her husband, she might question her own marriage. Things start to get shaky and undefinable when women have autonomy and self-determination. There is a loss of control.

Oh, and here we are: control.

Silencing women comes down to the need to control. And when the church (which is the corporate body and its individual members) silences women, it is exerting control over them, control that it should not have.

What if we let women speak and then decide for themselves? Would the world come to an end?

The justification for Paul’s letter, the historical context — at least what I was taught — was that women would just stand up and speak when gathered in the early church.

Gasp! Choke!!! Oh no!

Some kind of directive was necessary to keep them under “control.”

And today, the church silences women by insisting that they wear dresses, defer to their husbands, defer to their pastors, defer to… well, everyone. Heck, women should speak quietly and not make trouble. Women should…

Silencing behavior. Control.

How long will women put up with such ridiculousness? How long?

For those who are still skeptical, I challenge you to explore gender equality in the Christian religion. The Junia Project is a lovely place to begin.

I challenge you. What do you have to lose? Control?

The silencing of [abused] children

I saw this in my Twitter feed this morning. Of course, it intrigued me as I am focused on silencing behavior right now.

tweet wapo silencing children

This story by federal prosecutor Sarah Chang exposes society’s role in the silencing of abused children.

“Psychiatrists say the silence conveys their sense of helplessness, which also manifests in their reluctance to report the incidents and their tendency to accommodate their abusers,” Chang wrote as an explanation for why children in the videos she watched were often silent, showing little emotion.

It makes sense that these children would feel helpless. The very people who are supposed to care for them and keep them safe are the ones accused of abusing them. What power do children have in such situations?

But why do so many of these wounded, betrayed children remain silent?

But in reality, a voiceless cry is often the most powerful one.

Their abusers are master manipulators. Threats of losing even the abusing parent to prison is often enough to silence a child. That parent might be abusing that child, but he or she is the only parent that child has.

Fear of further loss silences victims.

Chang goes on to describe law enforcement officials, prosecutors and defense attorneys who judge victims based on their emotional responses to questioning.

“Silence can be the most devastating evidence of sexual abuse; it can be the sound of pain itself,” Chang wrote.

Some people close to me have suffered sexual abuse as children. Disclosures were made to me in confidence, in quiet times and in privacy. There was no emotion.

There was shame. There was self-condemnation. There was self-blame. There was little healing to be had because they just didn’t want to talk about it.

What was my part in this silent suffering? Did I bring up the abuse at a later time to offer further comfort? I must be honest and admit that I didn’t. I did not know what to do.

I carried some of the pain with me from that day forward because that is just how I am, but I don’t think I helped even a little bit.

Does society silence the abused? That is a very good question. What do you think?

I believe you

I watched the Season 3 finale of The Killing last night. This show is filled with twists and turns, misdirections and red herrings. I love it.

In one of the previous episodes, while Detective Sarah Linden is trying to prove that the man she helped convict for murder is innocent of that crime, her supervisor tells her, in a profound moment of deep connection, “I believe you.”

For those who have not seen any of The Killing, it is a police drama whose protagonist was a foster care kid. After becoming a police detective, she had been admitted for psychiatric care after becoming so deeply invested in a case that the obsession affected her health. That case turned out to be the one she is reinvestigating in Season 3.

 
As a former psychiatric patient, and as a product of the foster care system, Linden is not successful as a mother. She doesn’t have a nice group of friends that she hangs out with after work. She doesn’t belong to any book clubs or the PTA. She is, however, very successful as an investigator. Her past experiences, including her life in the system, developed in her a set of skills that aid her in seeing crimes, suspects, witnesses, and evidence from a unique point of view. But always, her instincts are questioned and second guessed by her police supervisors and even her fellow detectives because of her past.

In this moment when she is validated by her supervisor, I understand the emotions that Linden is feeling as she processes the new experience of being believed.

For women who have been abused, lived in controlling relationships, or been denied opportunities because of their gender, sexual orientation or lifestyle choices, the experience of another human being acknowledging a position, statement, observation, even a feeling, is profound in a way that is difficult to explain.

Imagine trying to tell someone, anyone, that something really bad is happening in your life and no one believes you, or they simply refuse to see what is going on. And then suddenly, one person stops what he or she is doing, really looks at you, and listens to what you have to say, and then says, “I believe you.”

Denying the experiences of others is a huge part of being human. We do this to preserve our sanity. That couldn’t really happen, right? A father would never really do that to his daughter, right? A husband would never treat his wife like that, right? All is well with the world and I can sleep at night in peace. We all do this to some degree.

For the individual who takes the time to really listen to another, to try to understand that other person’s experience, you are a special person.

It has been a big part of my own family dynamic (growing up and afterward) to deny the reality of some family members and impose a more comfortable reality, or accept the reality of one particular person (I call this person the pot-stirrer or nosy one). Most families have someone like this. He or she is the gossiper, the back biter, the self-righteous one, always trying to stir up trouble, and polarize the family. Never happy with just letting people live their lives, this person is always looking for ways to control others, have a hand in supposedly bettering the lives of those around them, but never in a nice way.

I was often at the receiving end of such attention. My brother was smart and moved 3,000 miles away. But me, nope. I stuck with it. I stayed. And I suffered the indignation of always being wrong. I guess you could say I was programmed to be wrong.

So when I was facing a very ugly marriage situation, when I needed to stand up for myself, I knew I would not have the backing of my family. I knew that no one would believe me. And I was correct.

These three little words hold so much meaning for someone like me:

ibelieveyou

Choices: Self-Determination for Women

For a woman, self-determination is a subconscious desire. When men identify, acknowledge and validate this primal need, everyone is happier. Wise men acknowledge this basic need and work it into their relationships with women. Not controllers. Controllers end up driving away the women in their lives, or killing them, sometimes emotionally and sometimes physically. When one person needs to exert control over the life of another, the end result will be either subjection or rejection.
chainlinks-white
Subjecting another to one’s will might seem desirous if one feels he or she is correctly oriented and the object of subjection is incorrectly oriented. What right does any person have to determine another person’s life? More importantly, how does a man earn the superior position of “head” or relational boss over a woman? Because the Bible says it’s so? I reject that position. It doesn’t fit my right to equality and my desire for freedom from oppression. That doctrine does not fit my belief that I have a right to self-determination.

Rejection is my final choice. If I refuse a life of subjection to the will of a man, then I must reject his doctrine. I have stated previously that a controller cannot function within a relationship in which he does not have control. He flounders, struggles, becomes completely depressed and eventually lost. Without external control over others, he cannot find any kind of internal control over himself. In my case, I must reject the man. He cannot love; he can only control. I do not need to be controlled; I need to be loved. With no understanding of this basic concept, there is no viable relationship. So I must choose.

Choices . . . I have made many of my life choices based on ideological concepts. Although living this way often causes hardship for me and my children, I cannot live any other way. I chose to keep my first pregnancy (against the sage advice of some resulting in judgment and rejection of me), lived as a single mom for nine years before remarrying, and then chose someone that I felt would share my life goals. I look back, as only those who have reached my age can, and see many mistakes I have made. I do not, however, regret any of my choices. I am who I am today because of every one of those choices.
dothisMy choices have, however, unwittingly caused my family emotional difficulty. My family cannot understand why I choose as I do because I am not in possession of their experiences and their values, ones that are more calculated to the results than the perceived right and wrong of the situation. Again, I tend to be an idealist. It is hard being an idealist. Oh, that is an entirely different post, one which I must explore separately. I have made many choices based on wrongly idealistic concepts. But they were mine. I believed thus and acted on that belief. I own those choices.

I celebrate that I can make tough decisions separate from the expressed desires of my extended family. On the other hand, I mourn that I haven’t received more respect and support from my family–do I have a right to expect this when I reject their advice? We all do this to some degree, I think. Some more boldly than others. I am lucky that I don’t care what people think as much as some. Not caring gives me a certain amount of freedom. Deep down inside, though, is that little girl still waiting for someone to notice her, delight in her, and celebrate her as their precious little girl. I never felt this and mourn this lack. This (lacking approval) has been a motivator for many of my choices. It has given me much freedom to make choices apart from a desire for approval and acceptance while deep down yearning for approval and acceptance. Oh, the conflict.

Choices . . . I will continue to make them based on my value system even as that system shifts. I do try very hard to understand the motivations and values of others in dealing with them. I cannot allow myself to be subjected to the values and beliefs of others, though. I am struggling with the age-old need for self-determination. I have given up a lot to gain this right. A lot. When I am 85 years old, I wonder if I will think it was worth it all. For now, it is what I must do. I can live no other way.

Self-Determination

According to Self-Determination Theory, the following is believed to be true:

“Within SDT, the nutriments for healthy development and functioning are specified using the concept of basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. To the extent that the needs are ongoingly satisfied people will develop and function effectively and experience wellness, but to the extent that they are thwarted, people more likely evidence ill-being and non-optimal functioning. The darker sides of human behavior and experience, such as certain types of psychopathology, prejudice, and aggression are understood in terms of reactions to basic needs having been thwarted, either developmentally or proximally.”
control
In a system where self-determination is disallowed, I believe moral and behavioral standards are threatened and personalities become twisted to some degree. We all acknowledge that overly controlling parents often raise a rebellious child. A man who attempts to control his wife often ends up with a wife who runs away or sneaks around. If the controllers had been less controlling, would the children and wife have developed differently, been able to be true to a moral standard of obedience for the children and faithfulness in the wife? Can we blame the wrong behavior of one person on the oppressive behavior of another? In some cases I believe we can.

What happens when a people are faced with a dictatorial ruler? A black market emerges. A resistance is formed. Lawbreakers are created either way. When prohibition was in effect in the United States, we all agree that it was a factor in the development of organized crime. Many believe the same situation has emerged because of the war on drugs. And now we have hundreds of thousands of new felons in Connecticut because of their refusal to register their legally-purchased and possessed long guns and high-capacity magazines. We can see what Stalin did in Russia when he declared the private ownership of land void and that the product of personal effort belonged to the state. Riots, rebellion and millions of deaths as Stalin endeavored to eliminate any threats to his plan for collectivism and Communism.

On a personal level, when one person oppresses or controls another, the results are often perceived immorality. For myself, I had to reject my church, my husband, and my extended family to some degree in my quest to be free from an emotionally-abusive marriage. I had to do what is considered taboo in America. Women just don’t leave their faithful husbands here. He didn’t deserve that. I have been told over and over again that he loves me and wants me back. Control is not love.

selfdetermination
And yet, in my quest for self-determination, freedom from oppression and rejection of subjection, I am true to myself. I suffer a lot for this choice as any woman does who fights to escape an abusive marriage. I risk financial devastation, potential loss of my children, and even death for standing up to a controlling, abusive husband. A woman is most at risk when she is fleeing an abusive husband. I know women who had to leave their children behind with an abusive husband to preserve their own lives. What horrible choices abused women face.

The good news is that here in America, a woman is free to seek escape from an abusive marriage. The courts support her right to be free from emotional and physical abuse. The police will enforce orders of protection, and when necessary, a woman can protect herself legally by owning a gun. I don’t care what you believe about gun control, a woman does not stand a chance physically against a man in hand-to-hand battle; a gun equalizes her chances of survival in many cases. I chose not to purchase a gun for protection when I was fearful but appreciate that I had the choice.

Self-determination is a basic human right, one that has been denied to women for thousands of years; it is a right that continues to be threatened by religious doctrines and controlling men even today. I celebrate my right to make choices for my life. I celebrate that I am free to make good and bad choices, and acknowledge that I will live with the consequences. Someday, maybe, women will feel even more empowered to reject male domination in our culture (entertainment, advertising, consumerism, career choices, politics, education). Controlling men are weak men (another blog post). Women who shake off control are strong women who pay a high price for their freedom and for their right to self-determination.

May we all be free to make choices about our own lives!

Cover yourself up! I don’t think so.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

I grew up in Miami. I spent a lot of time walking around beaches in nothing but a bikini from the time I was 12. All the girls did this. I did not feel ashamed or insecure. I was just walking around. I never thought about how my body could cause a man to sin. It just wasn’t a part of my upbringing. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini today (to the relief of all other human beings on the planet) not because I am more modest but because I don’t want to wear one. And that is the key. Self-determination. Choice.

As I read of girls and women around the world, such as in theocratic Iran, who are required to wear head scarves by law and burqas in some extremely conservative cultures, I am so very, very thankful that I was born, raised (mostly) and live in the United States, in a western culture.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Credit: Wikipedia Commons


And this brings me to the dangers of a theocracy, the very thing that our Founding Fathers worked hard to bar from taking root and growing here. I believe in the free expression of religion. I do NOT believe in the right of any person in this country to require any kind of religious expression from me. Do you see the difference? The wearing of head scarves is just a means of controlling women, marking and labeling them.

What does covering a part of our female bodies do to us as people? It labels us as subjugated, oppressed, controlled beings who must apologize for the core of our nature: being female. This kind of law or tenet places women in a place of shame. Shame, control, oppression…

These are all characteristics of an abusive relationship. If a religion is abusive, then it needs to be discredited. These organizations are not just religious, they are cults. The very nature of a cult is control and abuse.

When is religion cultish? I personally believe cult behavior occurs when an individual or organization requires something of followers that did not originate from followers’ own personal convictions, from their own relationship with God for only themselves. Does this make sense?

Indian Widows have been in the news lately. This Inter Press News article describes the nature of the problem:

“The women were married off at a very young age – some were just five or six. Their husbands, who were much older, married several times. When they died, they left dozens of young widows behind, said Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh International.

“These young girls were forced to shave off their hair, dress only in the coarsest white clothes, eat once a day and were barred from all social events as they were considered ill-omened.”

The practice of treating women who have been subjugated by men, treated like trash, thrown out as though they have no use anymore without their husbands is the nature of misogynistic culture and religion.

If I feel that I want to engage in any religious practice, i.e., cover my own head out of respect for God, not because anyone told me to do it and not because all of the other women cover their heads, that is one thing (I must admit that I despise the practice in strongly patriarchal religions that requires women to dress in ugly sacks and put stiff bonnets on their heads thinking that somehow that makes them more acceptable to God). But for a man to tell me that I should cover my head for any reason, I reject that. Why do I need to cover my femininity? I am not talking about nudity or walking around topless in a city or on a beach. I am talking about requiring that I cover myself, my hair, my arms, my legs, my female form because it is somehow shameful and might cause a man to stumble.

Do you see this misguided casting of blame on women for the sins of men? It is her fault if a man lusts after her. It is her fault if she is raped. It is her fault for being female, a shameful, disgusting, substandard human form.
 
shame
This is the very nature of the abusive man’s arsenal of controlling behavior: shame and blame.

The bottom line is that here in the United States women are free to reject control. Although for some it is very dangerous and even life-threatening to challenge religious abuse and control, women have legal rights and can request protection from abusers/controllers.

I recently saw an ad in a local newspaper showing a woman wearing a veil offering “instruction” in Islam. The ad included a picture of a woman wearing long, flowing clothes and a veil — she was smiling and looked so happy. Really??? Yes, I can’t wait to subject myself to male control over my female form. Really??? I think this kind of proselytizing is very dangerous. Actually, isn’t any kind of proselytizing to be abhorred? I know that if you went to Egypt and tried to talk to a Muslim about Jesus you could easily end up in prison; it is against the law there. Here in the United States, the awful, horrible, disgusting United States it is legal because of our Constitution. That is because we celebrate freedom of religion here.

You are welcome to tell me about your Hindu religion and I am welcome to accept or reject it for me. I am free to talk about how I am disillusioned with the man-made parts of the Christian religion that hurt people; you are welcome to argue with me. Men and women are welcome to freely express their belief in Islam and to share it with others, even engage in proselytizing. That is the kind of country that we are resulting in the good, the bad, and the ugly. That is what freedom looks like.

The really awesome part about this country is that I am free to reject Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, atheism, deism, and any other “-ism” I feel like rejecting. As a woman, I am not required to subject myself to the religious demands of any man (or woman). As much as we hate a lot that is going on in the United States, I completely and absolutely celebrate this freedom. Yes, I do.

For those of us who love to refer to original sources, here is the wording of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So, although I despise proselytizing of any kind, it is protected by the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America. That Muslim woman is free to place an advertisement offering “instruction” in Islam because she is in a country that celebrates freedom of religion — the free expression of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. I just hope, at some point, that she realizes that she is also free to cast off the veil and just be a person.

Celebrating freedom today!

Born to rule

King Ferdinand IV with his family

King Ferdinand IV with his family

In the 21st century we reject the idea that kings are born to rule, that some men were born to rule over others merely because of their bloodlines.  We tolerate royalty, look at them as though they are celebrities or museum pieces (at least in the western world – in the middle east, unfortunately, kings still rule in some nations), and read of the births of even more royal offspring with delight (why???).  I think it is similar to why people visit the Amish country here in the US, and think they are so quaint and precious because they are stuck in time, drive horse and buggy rigs, and don’t have telephones.  They treat their women and horses like crap.  Oh, how cute . . .  Huh?

I was a Christian wife who bought into the baloney that man is the head of woman.  I know.  I can’t believe it either.  Because a man is born with boy parts he automatically rules over woman.  Where did this idea come from?  It has been here for . . . well, almost always.  I think we can look back to caveman days when the strongest led the weakest.  Here we are talking about physical strength.  I know this is really simplistic, but it really does make sense.  As time went on men realized that while they may be physically superior (in the strength department – they aren’t so good at birthing babies), women were really smart and could turn a man into a puddle of mush by merely batting her eyelashes (sexual power is a whole other topic).  Cliché, I know, but I think there is truth in this.  Women have great power, and it scares men.  I think it scared early man and ancient man and medieval man and Enlightenment man and revolutionary man and continues to scare modern man.  I think the power of women scares women, too.  With great power comes great responsibility.  I think we give up much of that power because it scares the poo out of us.  I know it scares me sometimes.

In hand to hand combat, a woman rarely stands a chance against a man.  His size, weight and physical strength via muscle mass typically make him superior in this kind of combat.  He has that testosterone thing going on.  In our modern age, we are not limited to throwing rocks, spears or sword fighting, though.  We have different kinds of self-defense methods and even weapons available to women now.  I call these the great equalizers.  So do we need men to protect us?  Do we need men to rule over us because we are so weak and cannot be trusted with our power?  These are good questions.  Gun control advocates don’t consider this when they work to outlaw and confiscate privately owned firearms.  [This is not a pro-gun essay, but I just wanted to mention this as an aside.]  My point is that today women are not weak, are definitely not inferior to men in any way, and do not need to be protected if we are taught to care for ourselves, to protect ourselves, and to celebrate our innate strength.

King Arthur ready to defend his lovely Guinevere

King Arthur ready to defend his lovely Guinevere

I challenge all those who adhere to headship theology to consider rejecting the rule of man over woman because “the Bible says so!”  Jesus never said so (and if he supposedly did who said he said so?).  Paul supposedly said so (he also said women need to wear head coverings, and none of my Christian friends wear head coverings.  Hmmmm . . .).  I challenge all of my male and female friends to consider how you interact with the opposite sex.  Are you an egalitarian?  If not, what stands in the way of embracing this mindset, this way of life?  Just sharing some thoughts on this snowy Tuesday.

Check out The Junia Project for more information on equality in the Christian home (thanks to my friend Connie for directing me to this site months ago).

Postscript: I regret that I stayed in my dysfunctional marriage so long as it harmed not only my daughter’s perception of herself as a woman and the role of men in her life, but my sons were exposed to abusive behavior for much too long and have serious anger issues now as a result (they are conflicted about how men and women relate, why their father was harsh to them and me, and why God would allow such a situation to continue for so long — I ask this one myself). Parents need to consider what they are modeling for their children, and the marriage model is the first and most important that children are exposed to as they grow up, in my opinion.