They Struck a Rock

MeeksBy Catherine Meeks, originally published in Hospitality, the official newsletter of the Open Door Community

“When you strike a woman, you strike upon a rock, a rock that will not break,” said the Zulu/Xhosa women who protested the implementation of pass laws in Pretoria, South Africa. This is a truth that men such as Mitch McConnell, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Spicer and others are nding to be true. Though we might feel that women are un- der siege as in no other time, that would be far from the truth. Women have never had their rightful place in this land or in many others, though there are small corners of the world such as some West African villages and among some Native American communities where the roles of women were highly valued and the archetypal feminine was seen as important.

A few weeks ago, I was red from my ten-year-long columnist position with the Telegraph in Macon because the publisher did not like the tone of my truth telling. After all, a woman, and a Black one at that, needs to make sure to be pleasing. He was upset be- cause the Alt-Right folks in Trump’s administration were criticized in my column and he seems to have taken it personally. Prior to my ring, McConnell silenced Elizabeth Warren and had the audacity to be shocked when she kept talking for a while in spite of his efforts. In addition to these incidents is O’Reilly’s comment about not being able to pay attention to Maxine Waters’ speech because of her “James Brown hair.” Sean Spicer added to the litany by telling April Bryan, a reporter asking a question that he did not like and did not bother to answer, to “stop shaking your head.” All of these reject the notion that women should be pleasing to males and not speak or act in ways that are unsettling or threatening to them.

These males and many others fail to understand the truth of the South African women’s motto. They have struck rocks, though they never had a clue that there was a rock in front of them. Many of us understand quite clearly that the present day threat to the patriarchy has many males walking around in fear and trembling. They are horrified to discover that women are not their humble, subservient tools, a fact that they seem to have missed learning along the journey from childhood to adulthood. Some of the comments being made these days about women clearly demonstrate how far behind many men really are when it comes to under- standing where women stand in today’s world and how they see themselves in regard to their liberation.

The massive organizing efforts designed to forge a path of resistance
to Trump are being done primarily by women, and the ever-climbing numbers of women preparing to run for of ce are makng it clear that a strong wind of resistance is growing and that there are going to be many major changes in this country in the months and years to come as women take on more roles of leadership in all arenas.

Males such as McConnell, Trump, Spicer, O’Reilly and others dare to speak and act in denigrating and disrespectful ways toward women because they believe that this behavior is sanctioned, despite the loud sound of the last groans of the capitalist, racist, patriarchal world that they hold so dear. They have made a mistake.

The women have been struck once again and there will be no giving up or giving in. Just as a rock requires extraordinary effort to be broken, women will not be moved by insult, assault and all manner of male grasps for power that no longer belongs to them. The reckoning day is here.

This present moment is too serious to be comical. But one can hardly avoid seeing the irony and futility of the efforts being made to restore the past in so much of the present political arena. They remind us of the notion that “it is too late to close the barn door after the animals have fed.” The current efforts will prove to be far too little and much too late to quell the energy of women. In 2010, women were 50.8 percent of the population and they have a powerful energy that will not be silenced. That power is becoming clearer each day and demonstrating that numbers actually matter less than the energy and the sense of connection that is shared by women here and around the world when it comes to defying the patriarchy and its stalwart supporters who believe that their maleness grants them domination rights.

Women have always been willing to forge paths toward new frontiers, and this historical moment offers another grand op- portunity for the 21st-century woman to join her courageous ancestors in taking bold and brave strides toward new and deeper levels of liberation and healing. 

Catherine Meeks is Chair of the Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, and the retired Clara Carter Acree Distin- guished Professor of Socio-cultural Studies and Sociology from Wesleyan College. She has published six books and is editor of Liv- ing Into God’s Dream: Dismantling Racism in America (2016), which focuses on racial healing and reconciliation (reviewed by Nibs Stroupe in this issue on page 6). She writes for the Huf ngton Post and is a regular contributor to Hospitality. She is involved with prison work, visits regularly on death row and works for the abolition of the death penalty. (

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