Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Whether you call it the road to Zion, to wholeness or to "thy kingdom come" it is unarguably a long and winding one. But it's the road we've been called to to journey -- as individuals and as a community of faith -- as we follow the One who went before us. And last Sunday our friend and former-All Saints colleague Maggie Cunningham was in the pulpit and gave us this great beginning to a wonderful sermon with some fascinating food for thought as we make that journey together:
The [Road to Emmaus] gospel concludes with the two disciples returning to Jerusalem where they find the eleven and others exclaiming excitedly, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” They have no doubt about the veracity of Simon Peter’s report – but it is a different story in the verses immediately preceding our section of the gospel.

There, we are told that “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women with them” had gone to the tomb first, found it empty, and heard two men (presumably angels) say to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen.” The response of the eleven to this report was predictable: “These words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them.”

In the first century, the testimony of women was not only inadmissible – it was impossible. The words testimony, testify and testament are etymologically related to the word testicle. In the ancient Near East, a man would grab his testicles when swearing a solemn oath. Lacking the necessary equipment, women were incapable of testifying.

As fascinating and amusing as this information is, it would be more so if that belief system behind it had completely disappeared – but that is a topic for another day.
And I decided today was the day. And here's but one of the reasons. Have you seen this?

It's the picture the White House released of the President and senior staff watching the Navy Seal raid that culminated with the death of Osama bin Laden.

But wait ... there's more! Have you seen THIS ...

Same picture ... photoshopped in a Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish weekly called Di Tzeitung to cut Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason (a female member of the National Security Council) out of the picture.

Why? Because Maggie was spot on. Because the 1st century belief system that made it impossible for a woman to testify is alive and well in the 21st century.

The newspaper has "regretted" the editorial decision, as the New York Times reports in its piece "Newspaper 'Regrets' Erasing Hillary Clinton." And well they should. But what about all the other less obvious times and more subtle places where women are erased -- ignored -- dismissed -- silenced.

I know, I know. "There she goes again -- get out the feminist soap box."

Yep. That's why I led with the "me with a megaphone" picture. Because whether we like it or not -- whether we admit it or not -- whether we're willing to confront it or not -- sexism is alive and oh-so-very-well in this world -- this country --and yes, this church.

And it's our job -- ALL of our jobs -- to work to end it. And we will. We have the power. We have the determination. And we have the megaphone. That's all the "equipment" we need to put an end to women being erased from photos, being ignored on Boards, being dimsissed by bishops or being marginalized by those who have not yet gotten the message that we're STILL on the journey toward wholeness -- toward Zion -- toward "thy kingdom come."

The GPS that guides us on that journey will not speak those longed for words -- "Arriving At Destination" -- until we've left behind (once and for all) the sexist baggage of our past as we move ahead into God's future. But we WILL make it happen.

And to that I testify: "So help me God."


bnichols23 said...

You tell 'em, lady. I can understand prejudice (even though I don't like it), & I can understand the 1st Amendment (their excuse), & I can understand feeling you have a perfect right to effectively "covet" other people's lawful intellectual property. (OK, you caught me; I can't understand that last one at all. -grin-)

What I can't understand is the attitude that it's fine & dandy to cherry-pick specifically selected parts of one's faith to justify illegal actions while at the same time using one's faith as an unchangeable monolith as a defense. That's just wrongheaded. And so is demanding your own rights while at the same time willfully denying others'. You go with that megaphone any time you want, & send me the invoice for the batteries. :)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Susan, I'm probably going to get slammed for this comment, but you have hit a Very Sensitive nerve with this post.

I suppose it's because I have come to expect sexism and even misogyny from straight men. Indeed, my bar is set low - to misogyny - that when I "only" encounter sexism, I'm actually kinda relieved. It's the micro-oppression of sexism - those little tiny paper cuts - that wear me down over time.

My other problem, however, is that I expect no misogyny and very low levels of sexism from Gay, Bi and trans people . It's even substantially lower for those with whom I work on issues of justice. Because I don't expect it - BAM! - it hits me out of nowhere every time.

The really frustrating thing is that, when you call straight men on their sexism/misogyny, mostly they 'get it' immediately - well, they 'get' that they've crossed the line. Most apologize, in my experience - like the Orthodox newspaper. They may not be actually 'sorry' but they get they have crossed the line.

Some Gay,Bi and trans people look at you like, "Whaaat?" and "Sheesh!". Like YOU'VE done something wrong in pointing out their sexism and/or misogyny. They are the first to diminish something by talking about 'political correctness'.

I have further experienced, over the years, that Anglo-Catholic Gay (the older, formerly closeted are the worst), Bi and some trans people who are Anglo Catholics are most dense about sexism and misogyny. They act as if lesbians are actively persecuting THEM if we bring up issues of expansive language or having a balance of men and women in leadership roles. Indeed, the loudest voices in the communion against the ordination of women continues to be closeted gay men. It was ever thus.

It's disheartening when you ask some of the brothers to work with you in working to secure better pay for women, or to march to raise funds to fight Breast Cancer (the #1 cause of death for lesbian women) or to sign onto the push for the ERA or even when you complain that an LGBT event or gathering is priced waaaayyyy over the pay and grade of most lesbian women - and you get blank looks.

When I was on the board of Integrity, one man actually insisted that we STOP saying "LGBT" ("Ladies first") and IMMEDIATELY start saying "GLBT" or he would cancel his membership. Thankfully, the ED at the time took it to the board and said, "Whaddya think?" And, we said, "Are you kidding?" And, it stayed LGBT. The man canceled his membership. Oh, well.

Thanks, Susan, for raising this. I know you probably didn't mean it for the LGBT community specifically, but, as you know, this is one of the reasons I do my work for the LGBT community using vehicles of justice that are mostly not specifically LGBT. I much prefer a broader justice base. I'm tired of the micro-oppression and blatant forms of sexism/misogyny from my own Tribe. I don't know how you do it. You have my admiration.

Oh, and about that picture? Hillary says she has her hand over her mouth not because she was shocked but b/c she has seasonal allergies and was stifling a cough/sneeze.

Thanks for letting me rant.

Kay & Sarah said...

PLEASE, stay on the feminist soap box!!! We need all we can get.

Muthah+ said...

Well, sistahs. Thank you, I really needed that. Now that I am back in TX, the sexism is so rampant and not just from the bubba crowd. It is from as Elizabeth has said from some of my gay friends. It is as if there is a hatred towards all things feminine and mostly towards their own feminine side. But some how lesbians get caught in the double bind.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You inspired this piece on The Way Women Lead