Hubs and I have been taking the kids to an Episcopal church. I’m even less religious than he is but in a small town it’s about the only way to get to know anyone.
The Episcopalians are nice. They preach a lot about being accepting of differences and emphasize the eternal life part over the hellfire part. They are a small but friendly bunch.
Somehow everyone there seems to be over 50 or under 20, but I’ve almost gotten used to that (where is everybody, anyway?)
There’s nothing much in the services I relate to. Plenty of familiar faulty arguments and false dichotomies. Then last week they opened with a reading of Proverbs 31:10-31:
“A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain …. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away …. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue …. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a [capable wife] is to be praised. Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.“
My husband wasn’t there to smirk at me. He’s been working and going to school and was tired and sore. Plus he had homework. But I sat up a little straighter in my seat. Finally, something relevant to my life. Feminist passions do not much change the practical details of raising a family.
If I were looking for something Christianity had to tell me, even as a parable or metaphor, I might begin here.
A little while later when the Preacher started his segment, he opened by saying how glad he was that lesson from Proverbs was read by a woman. “I don’t know if a man could get away with that.” Pause for laughter.
“And I’m not even going there! It’s a minefield and I’m not going to go into it and risk saying the wrong thing.” Or words to that effect.
Wait, what? I’ve been sitting here week after week for six months and that’s the first passage that sounded like it was written by anyone who had ever met anyone remotely like me. And you’re just gonna roll on by it with a wave and a lame excuse about not wanting to offend people?
As if the teachings of the church aren’t problematic! St. Paul the apostle wrote, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.“
Our church also runs a school which is headed by a woman. The deacon is another woman. They pick and choose which parts of their gospel they follow, just like all religious people. And thank goodness! Trying to follow the whole thing, even just the New Testament, would be insanely impractical!
And they will happily explain how all this makes perfect sense and isn’t implicitly admitting they know it’s just an ancient rule book. Why they go on about death all the time because of eternal life. About how studying the story of a brutal execution made them a better person.
Sure, whatever. I may not feel like you’re doing the world many favors pouring your energy into a tradition that oppresses millions, but it’s not my responsibility to save your soul any more than I want you to try to save mine.
But then don’t stand there and tell me that the topic of what makes a good wife is too controversial for you.
After service they meet for coffee and cake, it’s all terribly civilized. It’s the part I actually enjoy because they really are nice people.
One of the older members just happens to be the guy who owns the local paper. The paper for which I’m supposedly a correspondent but I never so much as saw a contract. After my interview I called back a couple times a week for three weeks before giving up.
My husband made sure to introduce me to this old man as a writer. I was prepared to kiss his ass but he never gives me the chance. He said one sentence to me when he gave me the name of the editor to talk to.
Which is fine. Maybe he’s forgotten who I am. Maybe he doesn’t care. I can deal with one more old white man not caring about me.
But he loves to talk to my small son, in that high-pitched repetitive coo that doesn’t expect an answer. Often while the baby is in my arms. And we are the only redheads in the place so, even if he didn’t live on my hip it would be hard to forget who he belongs to.
I can’t help but wonder, if I had a penis, if this old man and I would be friends. Or he might at least acknowledge my existence once in a while.
These and my innumerable similar experiences together don’t begin to compare with what some women go through. This story isn’t looking to illustrate how hard my life is (I’m doing alright!) but to show the attitudes of nice, everyday people.
Too often topics dealing with women are brushed aside as complicated or ignored as unimportant. Even I didn’t say anything in the moment, being the one cantankerous person in a room of nice people is not how to engage anyone.
So I’m saying it here on my little soapbox.
And while I was writing, Hubs was sitting beside me reading Antigone for a school assignment. Scrawled in the margin was the idle thought of the previous owner of the book, “Kreon’s casual misogyny bores me.“
And after a while, it does get boring. Just being left out of lots of little things in life because, for some reason, only males are felt necessary to be included. Because, as crazy as it seems, too often people just don’t seem to notice you.
It’s nice that there are so many executive women in this church, and sometimes they are the ones on the deas. It’s a perfect example of Liberal Feminism in action, I think — They are powerful as any man, in the system men designed in the first place. The system that encourages them to stay silent.
I’m digging into the Woman’s perspective and expressing it as best I know how. I feel no loyalty to making a God happy who would give me a voice I may not use.