Thursday, March 29, 2007

pondering on patriarchy

yesterday i was invited to write a woman i deeply respect and admire. i told her my story and knew that she would understand at least part of it because she was raised in the denomination that i grew up with. it was very cathartic. i longed to express my deep love for her and her husband because they helped me come out and away from that very backward world.

while i was writing i stumbled upon the idea that the demanding patriarchy my parents fell into when they converted to christianity caused a lot of confusion for not only me, but for both of my parents too. if you've ever read back into my archives you will know that my pseudonym here is my own mother's name. i am writing in her name to honor the words she was never able to own, speak or write. she entered the world of the silent and head covered when she was just shy of 30 and died when she was 43. neither of my parents had ever given any thought to 'creation order' or 'biblical hierarchy' before that time, they just found god and wanted to please him. they were told that this would make him happy and did their damnedest to follow along.

i realized as i wrote yesterday that this damaged their souls too. neither one of them "fit" the code or knew the rules. my mother was as passionate and outspoken as i am and my father was so content and happy behind the scenes helping everywhere he could. both of them were squeezed, prodded and shamed into becoming something at church that neither of them had the skills, spiritual gifts or natural inclination to be. respect for themselves and each other plummeted. and i could sense it like they sent of pheromones of falseness and fear, panic and confusion.

because my father wouldn't/couldn't "take leadership" in the home and at church, both my mother and i thought less of him, but i'm sure not nearly as little than he saw himself. because my mother and i just couldn't seem to pull off the shut-up and submit routine we lost respect in his eyes too, but again, not nearly as much as we lost in our own.

i began to wonder if the shame this type of enforced hierarchy brings imprisons not only the women forced into it, but also the men themselves.

the loss of confidence, the questioning of self, the assumed condemnation from your community and the wall that slowly builds between the self and god. what have we constructed?

i wrote in that letter yesterday about the little white box with the avocado carpet and the gold upholstered pews being the box that trapped god in. then i realized that i have always felt like a square peg in a round hole until i found the emergent discussion and the blogosphere. i realized that that little white box had defined me too. i finished that letter by telling her that she and her husband helped me kick down the walls of that box until i realized that i am me-shaped - no round, no squares, and definitely no boxes.

i hope that one day i can talk to my father and help him begin to dismantle that little white box too, so he can be free and get to know himself and god in a brand new way.


anj said...

Awesome insight, patriarchy kills women and mens souls, and I do think equality of the kind Jesus lived is the great shame reducer.

Tammy Jo said...

oh the words of my soul! you speak them so often. . . I love this post sista friend!

Jamie said...

Wow. I'm blown away. Powerful insight.


sonja said...

This is beautiful Bobbie ... I've felt this too. Patriarchy damages men every bit as much as it does women and you said that so powerfully here. Love this ...

Matt said...

Thanks Bobbie.

I remember one time talking to my Grandma who was one of the silent and covered. Her husband was a "lord". She would sit by the window and watch the birds. One day Grandpa was being "lordly" and I saw that she was not happy. I asked her about it. Her answered summed up everything. "I love him."

She was a bird trapped in a cage. She understood love and in her spirit she flew freely. Today she is truly free.

Thank you for working to see the freedom of the Kingdom come here on earth.

Alexander M said...

Both my parents were ministers.

My mother died way too young.

She was the best Christian I've ever known.

The "Church", as exemplified by my father's dominance, killed her...

~ Alex

Patchouli said...

You know what I think about patriarchy--my own mother was intelligent once (not a joke), but has given up her mind, soul, and children to the god of patriarchy and comfort. Yes, there is comfort in not being responsible for your own life.
Anyway, I applaud this post.

Trudging said...

You said it all prefectly

Chris Campbell said...

Well said.

pistol pete said...

Thanks for your sensitivity. We certainly need to be in prayer for all those we (as a Church) have put down

Sarah Louise said...

"she and her husband helped me kick down the walls of that box until i realized that i am me-shaped - no round, no squares, and definitely no boxes."

Sing it to me sister!! For so long I was in a box, the wrong sized peg--it is so much better to be me-shaped.

Blogging has really helped me see that--not that I didn't know it before, but I never wrestled with it as much as I have on the blogosphere.

I will pray for your eventual conversation with your dad.

Lydia2007 said...

This is another post that touches on my present day thoughts. In reviewing the dynamics that were in place at the time of my birth, I realized that my mother and my father were victims of that patriarchal system just as much as I was - how could the legacy be anything but SHAME! What one generation can't sort out and heal has to be passed on to the next generation to have another go at it.