“You do not have to be good.”
Being in community brings with it the opportunity for personal growth. Though not always pleasant, it can mirror back to us our narratives that we might otherwise be unconscious of holding, and might not want to be holding anymore.
As a pastor of a church, each Sunday I return home from being “on” and inevitably begin reflecting on all the ways I showed up, the conversations I had, my own dynamics, the old narratives (eek!) that raised their heads again.
During one of these debriefs with myself, a voice came from within as if straight out of a Mary Oliver poem, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to be pleasing.”
The narrative that we are supposed to be good, supposed to be pleasing, is one that plagues many of us, and many women in particular. It’s part of our social training. And being the empowered woman that I believe myself to be, it is maddening that this narrative is still knocking around inside of me. And where did it come from to begin with? When did my belief that girls were equal to boys, just as capable, just as intelligent, just as worthy of being leaders, just as free to do what they wanted without excuse or apology begin to be eroded? How is it possible I would exchange my own Power, my own Freedom, my own Dignity, for a modicum of power from men, from those “cool” kids, from those I was supposed to be pleasing to?
My mother was an evangelist of girl power, of feminism, so much so I wanted nothing to do with that conversation. Why should I speak up and claim women are just as capable? Of course we are. That’s been settled, I thought.
But here I am, and the conversation is still necessary.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. A couple of facts put out by the Department of Justice and the National Network to End Domestic Violence:
- Young women between the ages of 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
- According to data collected between 2003 to 2012, 82 percent of domestic, dating, and sexual violence was committed against females, and 18 percent against males.
- The vast majority of domestic violence assaults are committed by men. Even when men are victimized, 10% are assaulted by another man. In contrast, only 2% of women who are victimized are assaulted by another woman.
According to the philosophy held by the movement to end domestic violence, the root cause of domestic violence comes from the gender norms we teach and are trained to follow which reinforce a belief system that men are superior to women. Expanded out further, it is training that teaches that one person, one group, one race, one ethnicity, one sexual identity, one socio-economic class, one religion is superior and others are inferior.
There is so much more to this conversation. So many ways this shows up. So many hidden aspects of which to become conscious. I didn’t realize the gift my mother was offering was that by talking about it, we could practice recognizing when attempts are made to erode the truth that we are equal. We could take responsibility when we have adopted a belief of superiority. We could have the courage to let go of our power and control over others in exchange for peace and equality. And we, all of us, could be empowered to proclaim a different narrative and create a healthier community.
In the spirit of peace in our world, in our relationships, and in ourselves,
We’re pleased to present the February 2019 issue of our Seventh AveNews newsletter. Click here to keep up with what’s happening!