As a teacher in an Evangelical Christian school, one of the beautiful things I got to teach my students was American History. The text I used was organized in chapters focused on early American heroes. There were few women in the mix but one of them stood out to me in a way I had never really appreciated before, Clara Barton. Clara was a nurse during the civil war who challenged male authority by going out into the battlefield to take care of soldiers rather than wait for them in the hospital as she had been instructed to do. For Clara the restriction of staying behind when her immediate interventions could save lives out in the middle of it all was ludicrous. However, the only way she could be free to go was if a man gave her his permission. Lives were literally lost because she wasn’t free to lead in the way her intellect, heart and profession demanded that she do so.
I’ve never forgotten that experience because from then on I have been a student of women’s rights, something one cannot study without discovering patterns of abuse, neglect, assault and domination at the hands of men. There are many, many Christian men who do not control their wives or do any of these things, and thankfully, I’m married to one. Our idea of a Christian marriage is one where both of us respect each other, both of us love each other and most of all both of us submit to one another as we go through our lives. Dean has never ever pulled rank in our relationship. Thirty three years and counting and though we’ve had lots of battles between us, I simply do not have one memory of such an event.
While keeping my observational mind engaged, I began to observe a interesting dynamic among many Christian women who claimed to believe in the literal mandate to submit to their husbands and male authority in the church. Sincere, devout women with leadership skills, creative minds, and incredible intelligence had developed cunning powers of manipulation and control behind the scenes. One primary way to win over a husbands gift of permission was to offer him the most highly sensual experiences one could muster in the privacy of the bedroom. As women, we all knew that our power rested in pleasing a man’s sexual appetite. We all knew that if we were good enough in the sack, exclusive enough in our looks so as to please him, he would be willing to do whatever it was that we wanted. We just never said that out loud.
Much of the talk validating this reality took place between women over a cup of coffee or in a Christian counseling session. During one such session where Dean and I were seeking to better our marriage, the (male Christian elder) counselor from our church quoted a scripture telling me that my body actually belonged to Dean and if I could recognize that our marriage issues would be resolved. What this man didn’t know about me was that at 5 I was forced into a shed and molested by a 14 year old male in my “safe” neighborhood. He also didn’t know that an uncle had repeatedly sexually abused me. I can tell you that it was incredibly devastating to hear the words that my body didn’t belong to me simply because I was married. It was even more disgusting to me that sex was brought up at all because our marriage had multiple facets to its beauty that needed to be addressed. Communication and values for one. Thankfully, both Dean and I were disgusted with that counsel and never went back. He has no desire to own my body.
In 2004 my daughter entered residential treatment for a life-threatening eating disorder. As our family entered counseling we discovered some very painful truth about our daughter’s reality. She was dealing with a very altered brain from a very traumatic birth and medical trauma. That in itself would be enough to devastate us but beyond that we learned that having taught her to obey authority without question, she had no way of communicating her pain to us. No way of communicating her confusion, her intense depression and anxiety over simple daily life experiences. The only way she found relief from the intense emotion was to binge and purge. When one binges chemicals are released in the brain that soothe us. When we throw up the very same chemicals are released. It is in this way that the eating disorder begins to take hold and control ones life. It is as powerful as drug addiction.
As time went on I began to see learn about countless women dealing with bulimia. In numbers that would astonish anyone, I heard story after story after story of women who had their bodies stolen from them as a child by an older, stronger male. Women who were bright, intelligent and strong, who were completely afraid of their own selves or unaware of their own selves apart from the thoughts and opinions of others. Not every person with an eating disorder has this as part of their story, but there are WAY too many who do.
Our experiences with H’s recovery brought us to a time when we found ourselves in Washington, D.C. in a room with a very conscientious senator who had altered her schedule to attend a briefing on eating disorders and their impact on our society. That senator was Hillary Rodham Clinton. Dean and I were still devout Republicans at the time and just the mention of her name made us shudder. We felt free to actually give her a hearing because none of our family members or friends from home were anywhere near us and this issue consumed us. Trust me, when someone you love has an eating disorder as severe as our daughter did, you have to rethink everything so for us being in the same room with Hillary made her just one more thing to reconsider.
Over the last decade I have become a student of this woman. Of course she is a politician and yet she is a woman in a world dominated by men. She’s been called everything imaginable by men – Dr. Dobson the founder of Focus on the Family made a statement recently saying that American has become too feminized and as a result she has to be stopped. What on earth could be so wrong with a country becoming more “feminized” unless one believes that the feminine is less than, evil etc.? So as a result of this, he has even endorsed Donald Trump who represents nothing good about morals or integrity but who has done what they wanted and “accepted Jesus” something that was of course seen as sincere regardless of his own quest for power and for the Evangelical vote.
Hillary is seen as a baby-killer without a heart because that is what Evangelical’s want her to be seen as. In reality she would like to make abortions rare but as women choose to end an unwanted pregnancy – say after a man like Donald Trump as raped them, she also wants them to have a safe procedure. I would never want to abort a baby for any reason but having never been raped and become pregnant, I have to understand that the choice is much more complicated than I would like to admit it to be for lots of women. The real craziness is that Trump IS a pro-choice Republican! He has said that the abortion laws should remain the same! When it comes to the whole of life, Hillary is much more interested in it that he is by a long shot!
I am voting for Hillary because it’s time that patriarchy in American politics topples. I’m sick and tired of men armed with biblical passages determining the fate of women’s lives. I’m sick and tired of being treated differently because I have female anatomy. I respect the Bible as literature and the testimony of the authors encounters with God and how they chose to lead the church in ancient times. I don’t think God is male or female and I certainly don’t think he is anything like Donald Trump or the Evangelical leaders who have twisted their scriptures to validate their own ends.
I’m with her because she is one amazing woman in a man’s world who is standing tall after all of these years.
I’m with her because the lynch mobs in the House and Senate haven’t found a legal way to hang her.
I’m with her because there is zero hope for our country to be anything but a pawn in Trump’s hands for his own benefit. He doesn’t care about America. He cares about himself, his power, his control and that is really all. He makes it clear every time he opens his mouth.
I am with her.