By Chelsea Forbrook, a Spiritual Director, and Liberationist-Buddhist-Universalist-Mystic-12 step-Queer-Christian. Playing with questions, answers, and surrender. Re-posted with gratitude and permission from Spiritual Subversive: a blog for 21st century seekers.
With the deluge of social media posts using #Metoo, women are hoping that men will finally understand that sexual assault and harassment happen to us on the daily. Perhaps they will wake up to the fear that women have internalized and had to accept as “normal.” Thankfully, I have not (thus far) experienced the horror of rape or physical assault. I have, however, experienced harassment as regular as sneezes during allergy season. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. Here’s a (partial!) list of my experiences:
~ After hitting puberty, I wore baggy pants and large shirts for 15 years in an attempt to keep roaming eyes and inappropriate comments away from me. It didn’t work. So I chopped off all my hair, and lots of people assumed I was a lesbian. It still didn’t work.
~ I bike everywhere, as opposed to taking public transit, because it has reduced the amount of street harassment I experience by about 90%. My bike makes me feel safe and free. However, there are still plenty of guys who shout at me while I’m riding past, “Hey girl, ride that bike a little slower for me!” or “Damn, girl! You look good on that bike!” or the classic dog whistle followed by “Hey girl, come back here and go on a ride with me!” Sigh…
~ I used to ride public transit for three years, and I was sexually harassed every day, often multiple times a day while waiting at the bus stop. Everyone wanted my phone number, and everyone had comments about my ass or my weight. One stranger walked up and said, “Ooo, I really want to suck on those sexy toes,” and I was even solicited twice for prostitution (while fully covered and wearing baggy clothes, breaking out in profuse acne, and sporting dirty dreadlocks. In case you were wondering, it’s not about what she wears.). Everyday before leaving the house I took deep breaths and prepared a response to this verbal abuse. Hyper vigilance became the norm.
~ I once had a van full of men try to kidnap me on a Sunday morning at 10am. They used a woman to try to lure me inside by having her ask me for directions. Luckily, my intuition told me to run right before the guy tried to reach out and grab me, and I was close enough to my church to find Sanctuary.
~ I got a dog for many reasons, one of them being so that I could walk alone around my neighborhood and feel a little safer. Even though I trust Chancho would try to protect me, I always bring my wallet with me when I walk, because I know I could end up dead and pantless in a country ditch somewhere and I want my ID there to make the identification process quicker. This thought feels quite casual, as it is routine. “Keys? Check. Phone? Check. Wallet-in-case-I get-raped-and-die? Check. All right Chancho, let’s go!”
~ I have been dumped because I didn’t wear tight enough pants. I have been dumped because I was “too old to be a virgin” at age 23. I have had a partner not believe that my “no” actually meant “no.” I have found out 5 times that the guy I thought I was dating actually had another real girlfriend, and I was just for fun. I have been cheated on in a committed partnership twice. Every day it’s a struggle to convince myself that I am good enough, and that I deserve respect. Not because I’m some man’s sister or daughter, but because I am a human being worthy of respect. It’s hard to feel worthy and whole some days when my experience keeps telling me otherwise.
Men, if you’re looking for a place to start contributing to the solution, stop calling grown women “girls.”
Girls = Children. This automatically implies that we are less intelligent, need to be disciplined, and don’t know what’s good for us. (If you’re wondering when to start calling us women, how about at age 21 when we are legal adults? Better yet, once girls hit puberty, start calling them “young women” as an added nod of respect.)
Men, also practice this line so you’re ready the next time you overhear another man harassing a woman or even talking disrespectfully about her when she’s not there (e.g. How fine her ass is). If you’re wondering if this is a big enough deal to address in the moment, it is. “Locker room talk” and “boys being boys” is how the culture lays the framework for women to become second class humans. Here’s your line, regardless of the situation:
“Stop degrading women. I don’t like it and nobody likes it. Show some respect.”
If they come back at you with some “your such a pussy” crap, just repeat your line, broken record style until they hear you. You will be our hero!
“Boys will be boys” is only one part of our cultural problem. Of the many contributing factors, the Church has played a huge role by CENSORING THE HOLY SPIRIT’S GENDER. (That was in all caps so you don’t miss the significance of the violence toward women in this intentional political move.) Long story short, the early Christians all believed that the Holy Spirit, the Mother of all Creation, Lady Wisdom, was in fact, well, a lady. She brings balance to the otherwise male Trinity. Father, Son, and Mother. Because, duh, nobody comes into existence without a mother.
The Hebrew word for Spirit is Ru’ah which is feminine. When it got translated into Greek, it became Pneuma, which is gender neutral. Finally, by the time the Roman Empire co-opted Christianity for its own political purposes of power and control in the 4th century, Her name gets translated into Latin as Espiritu Sancto. Male.
Many early Christians were adamant about keeping the integrity of the Divine Mother, and so in Latin they always said Espirita Sancta (Female), because the language allows for that. The Empire tortured Christians who refused to call the Holy Spirit male. Whole churches of faithful Mother worshippers were burned alive inside their churches, thrown into the colosseum, or otherwise murdered by the Roman army because they refused to say “Espiritu Sancto.” There were likely as many female priestesses and apostles as there were men, and a shit-ton of men were putting their lives on the line for these powerful women leaders.
So what’s the big deal? Why would so many thousands of early Christians not budge on one little gender pronoun, to the point that they gave up their lives to defend this? The answer lies in the way the early Church conducted their community. They truly believed in an equal society where “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” (Galatians 3:28). Stop for a moment and let that sink in. That is a group of badass radicals who are bucking the system and saying “NO MORE!” to any form of hierarchy. They knew that if the Holy Spirit lost Her gender, all women would lose their respect and sacredness within the Church! And they were right. We did.
For the last 1500 years, women have had to bow down to an exclusively male God. We have been going to church and never seeing ourselves as included in that select circle of holiness. We could never have the option of being sacred like men. Men had been going to church for 1500 years and having the privilege of looking at Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and having the warm fuzzy feeling that they were looking in the mirror, that they were good and lovable because they were made in God’s image. They also internalized that women were unholy, unclean, and unworthy, apart from the image of God. Men belonged in the circle of God’s trinitarian love. Women did not. Hearing all male pronouns and metaphors over and over drove this home to the point of defeat and degradation. (e.g. Lord, Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Father God, The Son, etc).
The Holy Spirit Mother, Ru’ah, Shekina, the First and Primal Force of all Creation, Espirita Sancta, Divine Lady Wisdom is calling us to bring her back from the grave where the Empire-Church buried her. She has been slandered, harassed, abused, mocked, degraded, and worst of all, erased. She is crying out with all the hurting women of the world, #Metoo!! #Metoo!! She is calling to all women (yes, including, and perhaps especially, trans women) to rediscover our sacred holiness, to reconnect with and love our bodies, to bring our unique and necessary healing power into the world!
The Holy Spirit Mother is calling to all the men of the world to get to know her, to bring her back from the dead! To find healing in her gentle and magnificent Love! To find their own gentleness and forgiveness. To find the courage and ferocity of a protective MamaBear, to channel the Divine Mother when they are called as men to stand up to violence against women.
Please, for the sake of all women, for trans and non-binary people, don’t mis-gender our Mother. For the sake of all men who need permission and encouragement to connect with their holy “feminine” qualities, please don’t mis-gender our Mother. Please, for the sake of the world, for the sake of balance and peace, stop mis-gendering our Mother.