“I’m very grateful she’s a woman
And very easy to forget…”

~ Professor Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady

24-cosby-lede-feature

On the cover of New York Magazine is this striking photo of 35 women who have accused Cosby of drugging and raping them. Read the full article here. But, I don’t want to talk about Cosby. I really don’t. Not his issues, motives, what he did or didn’t do for America in terms of race, his moralistic judgements or even the Jello commercials. If I didn’t have to mention his name, I wouldn’t.

But let’s talk about the women that don’t have dozens of others backing their story up for a minute. Why, why, why do we not listen to women?

Sexual assault statistics, are astounding, yet we still live with the myth that women are calling “rape” the way that Peter cried “Wolf”.

What I can say is that women live in a culture were when it comes to sex, we are not to be believed.

Women are not to be believed because we are all whores and sluts- It is believed that women say we are waiting for our knight in shining armor to save us when really we desire the dark knight who will “ravage us”. The more handsome, popular, famous, successful you are, the more entitled you are to release a woman’s inner whore. The more quiet and conservative she may be, the more repressed she is. Some women really like sex, I would dare to say most, just like men, still not a reason to assault. Women can proudly claim their love of sex and still be believed when assaulted. Even if she was raped by a “such a nice boy.”

Women are not to be believed because they were asking for it- Yes, this one again… “Did you see how she was dressed? She was asking for it.” Sometimes women dress up to go out, sometimes women wear low cut shirts or they wear short skirts, or stiletto heals because they like the way their legs look. OR sometimes they wear yoga pants and sweatshirts. You know what? We are not sexual objects. We are not just boobs and butts and vaginas. We have eyes in our heads that you should look at when you talk to us, even if there is a little cleavage showing.

Women are not to be believed because they are too emotional- Women are emotional creatures (as are men, by the way…Which begs the question of which a man is using when he sexually assaults?) But as we *all* know feelings are not as important as thoughts. We may have a mouth but it’s not connected to our brains.  We easily write women off because they are being “too sensitive.” They should develop “thicker skin” and “not take it so personally.” When a man tells a woman he’d like to bend her over the board room table and hold her down moments before she is to give a presentation. “It was just a joke. Don’t be so sensitive.” We are irrational and therefore not to be trusted. We’re ambitious and will say anything to get ahead.

Women are not to be believed because we less than people– It is believed that women were created for companionship to the man (Genesis 2). I am not agreeing with this interpretation necessarily, but this has been the common cultural assumption. Men don’t understand women’s bodies- smaller muscles, hormones, menstruation, just to name a few differences. My ex-husband used to say, “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for 5 days and doesn’t die.” That one caused a big laugh. We are to serve at the pleasure of men, we are to “receive” their will and “give” of ourselves. Feminism has taken us a long way,  but the cultural assumption is still there. Women’s bodies do not belong to themselves, they are compared to voluptuous mountains, delicate flowers, and the curves of fruit. Things to gaze upon, to be desired, plucked and devoured.

I’m so proud of these 35 women on the cover of the New Yorker, I honor them and their stories. I also honor the thousands of women who go without anyone to believe them, not one. I honor the women who continue to believe these assumptions about themselves. I honor the women who should be protected and won’t be in the future. I honor them all, and mourn. Oh, and if someone tells you they have been sexually assaulted? Have compassion, and sympathy, and above all, believe her.

(a note: not all sexual assault is male to female or heterosexual, I am not assuming that, I am however talking about that dynamic specifically in this post.)

*****

The Rev. Meacham
The Rev. Meacham

A rock star from the start, the Reverend Shannon Meacham belted out a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a minor in religious studies, from the University of Louisville and a Master of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Shannon is the mother of two beautiful children Maggie and Gus. She has served churches in Kentucky, New York and currently serves Ashland Presbyterian Church in the safest part of Baltimore, the suburbs. She blogs at Pulpit Shenanigans where this post was originally published.

*****
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8 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: Believer? I Hardly Know Her…

  1. The cover is riveting — I hope this will be a lesson in believing the first woman, and the second, and not waiting for dozens of women to speak up. (I’m also mindful that character assassination of people of color is a time-honored technique to discredit people. I suspect that’s part of why some people were so reluctant to believe.) The stories have an eerie similarity — I’m grateful for the courage and persistence of these women.

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  2. “Women are emotional creatures (as are men, by the way…Which begs the question of which a man is using when he sexually assaults?)” … Thank you for this observation. I get so tired of the theme that emotions are a sign of weakness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This takes me back. I was sexually assaulted by the priest with whom I was working as a seminarian at the time that Anita Hill was testifying about Clarence Thomas. I’m not sure how things would have gone for me or with me if the timing of those two things hadn’t coincided. The conversation women began to have out loud then gave me the courage, ultimately, to report the priest to my bishop. I did worry about my future in the church, but was beyond fortunate to have excellent support to the people to whom I first confided, and then others with whom I shared my story (faculty and staff at the seminary, and a few others). There are so many stories out there, languishing behind the fear of consequences and the long, long history of disregarding a woman’s life and her story. Her truth is our truth. When we deny her, we deny ourselves.

    PS – on a separate note, the cover and article is on/in New York Magazine, not The New Yorker.

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  4. I too join in honoring women who have the courage and the support to stand up and speak their truth. Free of re-victimized keeps women from speaking out and therefore, abuser are able to continue to assault and harass others. As a female clergy person I am too aware of Clergy Sexual Misconduct and I stand alone and with other sisters to expose it for the evil it is.

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