Thursday, January 7, 2010

Time to be a Lady

"Women have little voice in the Bible, and what voice they do have is given them only to illustrate the deviousness, silliness, untrustworthiness and general insignificance of their sex."
Alice Walker- excerpt taken from "Anything we Love Can be Saved"


Some people say that you remember the things most that caused strong, intense emotion. Well, I was an extremely sensitive child, so I think that I blocked out a lot of memories.

One memory I have is being twelve-years-old. I was going on a “date” with my dad- I think maybe one of about five or less where I actually spent time with my dad- to see a baseball game. I was so excited to be going out alone with my dad. Being the oldest of four at the time (my sister had just been born) I did not always get time alone with a parent (unless I was in trouble for something). I was wearing my favorite orange (hey, it was the 70s, give me a break) bell-bottom jeans and a t-shirt. It was spring time in Washington State and I felt excited to have a plan for the night. Then, I noticed my parents having a private chat and discussing something. My mom started acting weird and got her I-need-to-talk-to-you-but-I-am-scared-of-confrontation face on. She started talking; these are definitely not her exact words, but close:

“Um, Lori? Your dad and I (It was never just “I”) think that you are a nice, Christian young lady now and we have been reading the Bible a lot and talking to Christians at church and we think that you should start dressing like a lady. You should start wearing skirts and dresses, instead of pants” She looked hesitant, like she knew I would object.

“What? Why? What is wrong with my jeans? These are my favorite jeans!” I was feeling confused and wondered what was wrong with my parents. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach; felt a sinking, sad feeling.

“Well, the Bible tells us that women should be ladies in God’s eyes and that women should always wear dresses and skirts and look like a woman of God. Your jeans make you look too much like a man. Don’t you want to look like a young lady?”

Ha ha how do you answer that one? “No?” Then you are being disrespectful and perhaps you are too boyish or even (shock) a lesbian or something horrifying like that. “Yes” then you are conforming to their stupid rules. But I was a very shy child and I knew my dad had a temper (if only the church people could see how mad he got) so I changed my clothes into this ugly flowered skirt and went, begrudgingly, with my dad to the baseball game. But the night was ruined for me. I had an extremely difficult time climbing the bleachers and felt that if anyone was down below me, they must be able to see up my dress. Is this really what God wanted me to do? Did God really hate women so much that he wanted to torture us like this? I also think that this was the very beginnings of me feeling like my body was something ugly, something that I should cover up and not be proud of. It was also the last day for a very long time that I wore pants. From that day on, my mom had her friend sewing up some of the most geeky, god-awful (hmm pun intended?) "cullots" (looks and flows like a dress, but has a cut for the legs like shorts, but long and not easy to move or play in- see pic above- except the ones that I wore were more full and had flowery fabric- ew) you have ever seen in your life. Age twelve is not really a time when you want to start looking like a freak. But my parents made damn sure that I did. I envied my brothers, who had no wardrobe changes due to our crazy religion.

Something I have never been able to understand about Christians and the churches we attended was the way they acted like women were evil, lust-filled creatures who should be controlled and covered up, because it was unfair for the good Christian men of the world to see their bodies (I guess their lust would get way out of control if they saw our legs? And then what? We would deserve what we got?). What an extremely sad way to bring up a young girl full of hope for the future; to be ashamed of her body and to feel like a second-class citizen. Women were not even allowed to speak in our churches. They were seen as unworthy to speak in a room with men present. They were only allowed to sing, or address other women. I will write more about this later as well.

I also began to wonder about this all-knowing God. I pictured a big-bearded man up in heaven- filled with harps, golden gates and white robes- looking down at me with a scornful, disappointed face when I did something “sinful.” As you will see in my future blogs, sinful could be anything from rock music (ANY THING with a drum in it) to G rated movies (Produced by the same movie makers who made the R rated ones).

Slowly, very slowly, I began to wonder if this God was someone with whom I wanted to be associated.

3 comments:

  1. Man if there is one thing I despise its religions that are against things like rock music and dressing normally etc. You know what I mean? any religion that tries to tell you "you cant listen to this music because God does not like it" or "you should dress like this because it is what God wants" qualifies as a cult as far as I am concerned. Keep writing I am interested in heraing how you came to resist the brainwashing ;)

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  2. part of why, over 8 yrs after i became a Christian, i still don't have a 'church home' - nonsense - and i bet your orange pants were outlandishly awesome!

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  3. The type of Christianity you were taught sounds horrible. I'm a Christian and in my church, our music is so loud that it's deafening, and we still enjoy it to the max (for some songs it's "the more drums, the louder, the better"). Of course we have songs for which we don't use drums. But essentially, it's all UP TO YOU. No rules and regulations. There aren't any rules about how loud the music is allowed to be, or what instruments you're allowed to play.


    As for the position of women in the church, we have loads of women pastors, and many of the church leaders are women who are highly respected by everyone.

    With regard to your orange bell-bottoms story, in my church you can wear whatever you want. In fact the most normal type of clothing that teenagers in my church wear (both guys and girls) is t-shirts and jeans. Some even wear old, torn and faded t-shirts, shorts and slippers to church.

    I sympathize with the kind of treatment you were brought up with. I myself was brought up with very strict parents who said that I can't get a boyfriend until I'm 19 and that some of the t-shirts I wear to church are too casual and that I have to respect God with what I wear. Some of the adults/pastors in my church are also rather judgmental with a holier-than-thou attitude.

    I am still a Christian, and will forever be one, because I have received teachings (different from my parents') that tell me that God has already let Jesus bear the full punishment for all my sins, and therefore my present "sins" do not have any effect on my relationship with God, or how much He loves me. Technically, there aren't anymore "rules" or "laws" that Christians HAVE to follow, according to our faith.

    Therefore, I'm not surprised you became an atheist under that kind of treatment. In fact I think most of the people who deviate from Christianity do so because they had a bad impression of God. The God that you were taught to believe in sounds like a terrible one, and that's not the God of the Christian faith that I myself have.

    I'm not trying to convert you (and I know you are not trying to convert readers either). But I just wanna say that I sympathize loads with your childhood and I understand where you're coming from, though I probably didn't get it as bad as you. From your experiences, it's clearly evident that adults who teach kids that God is some sort of policeman who's out to catch you when you do bad things, looking down upon you with shame and disappointment, will probably see those kids leave the church like you did.

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