Being a Woman in America

Last Thursday, I was inspired by some righteous women. One was homeless, two were formerly trafficked for sex, one survived child abuse. In their own ways, they were on a path to wholeness, recovering from injustices the world laid upon them. Mostly what caused their suffering and the thing from which they were recovering was being treated like a woman.

Does that sound harsh? It should. Because the day after I was inspired by these women, a California misogynist murdered seven people because women didn’t treat him the way he wanted. For some, this heinous act was deviant, but for lots of us it seemed more like a predictable outcome. Latent hatred of women simmers below the surface of our lives all day long every day- the lives of all women and girls are marinated in it. Sometimes the hatred bubbles up and everyone notices – some for the first time. (YesAllWomen has been a great response, allowing women to describe how omnipresent and oppressive misogyny is in our culture.)

So, Thursday I am inspired by women who are rising above this hatred for women. Friday the news airs a horrific story of misogyny taken to the extreme. And then Sunday…

On Sunday, a 10-year-old girl I know found out what it means to be a woman in America. A man approached and spoke to her inappropriately, as if it were totally normal. In his mind, he didn’t need permission to talk to her, photograph her, or say provocative things to her. He did all this in front of his girlfriend, who didn’t even notice – that’s how ordinary his behavior and assumptions are.

I was there after it happened and consoled her, remembering the same thing happening to me so many, many times. But I couldn’t tell her it would not happen again. Because it will. It isn’t the kind of initiation into womanhood you imagine for someone you love. But it isn’t surprising either. On Sunday, this girl was crying, wondering how and why such a horrible thing could happen. And all I could wonder was how long it’d be before she just learned to accept that it is part of the way things are.

I hope she never does.

Four righteous women taught me that telling the truth is a powerful tool to overcome injustice. It takes an awful lot of fearless truth telling to overcome the lies about women that are embedded in our culture – that we are weak, that we don’t know what we want, that we rely on men to define us. In fact, it takes generations of truth telling to make a dent in the wall of lies telling us who we should be. Sometimes it feels easier to just ignore the misogyny and pretend it is normal.

A 10 year-old girl taught me something, too. She taught me that being treated as less than human is worth a good cry; that type of behavior should be shocking. It isn’t something to get used to. I’m grateful to be reminded and hope she and I can stir up some righteousness together.

P.S. If you want to help some righteous women, Thistle Farms is a great place to start. Started by my friend Becca Stevens, all sales benefit Magdalene House, a sanctuary that helps women heal from sex trafficking, addiction, and prostitution.