I wish I’d written these sentences:
Although women’s words have been censored or eliminated from much of [our] heritage, in the midst of the pain of dehumanization women have nevertheless always been there, in fidelity and struggle, in loving and caring, in outlawed movements, in prophecy and vision. Tracking and retrieving fragments of this lost wisdom and history, all in some way touchstones of what may yet be possible, enable them to be set free as resources for transforming thought and action. ~ Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is
This is probably NOT the stuff that keeps you up at night. It does me, though. Not every night, of course, but still, I do ponder the subject, do pull books off my shelf to bolster my thesis (and remind myself to stay the course), do recognize how tightly woven it is into my writing and thought.
I am quick to realize that this is not the stuff of most dinner parties, not what I see in the news, and definitely not what I hear being bantered back-and-forth while in line at Starbucks.
What if it were? What if this WAS the conversation we had – women together, women with men, even men together? What if we were consumed with the painful history of womens’ dehumanization? What if we were determined to “track and retrieve fragments of lost wisdom and history?” What if we believed that this was crucial to “transforming thought and action” – which all of us know must happen? What if, indeed.
But we are not talking about it, not devoting our every waking moment to its promulgation, and definitely not losing sleep over it.
Our lives are busy. They are full. They overflow with struggle and frustration, celebration and joy. They are often overwhelmed with schedules and to-do’s and responsibilities. They are rich with friends and lovers and children. And they are subsumed by so much else, so many other messages that either elate or exhaust our souls.
So how and why would we take the time to talk of old stories, to find the threads of our own history as women, to somehow weave them back into our day-to-day lives?
I wish I knew.
Here’s what I do know, though:
If we do not, if we ostensibly forget from whence and from whom we came, we are destined to repeat the same patterns. The plight of women does not improve. The conversation does not change. The world does not transform. And I, for one, think all of these things need to happen.
To shine a spotlight on the censorship and dehumanization of women is the very thing that helps us – now, in this moment, in our day-to-day lives – understand why we think the way we do, why we feel the way we do, why we make the decisions we do (even when they are not the ones we want to make), why we often feel slightly crazy, why we struggle with ways to articulate our position or stance, why we are disconnected from our bodies, why we witness people in (hoped-for) power deny the harm they inflict and attempt to silence the brave women who name such anyway.
It’s hard: the work of remembering. We want to move on, move forward, make headway, not have to look back.
I get it.
I’m not all that crazy about having to remember my own story, in having to look back and honestly acknowledge the places in which I’ve known harm and perpetuated it against my very self (and others, to be sure). And yet, it is only when I do so, that I experience any kind of transformation and growth; it is only when I do so, that I am able to hold enough perspective and wisdom to make different choices today – not only for myself, though that is paramount, but also for my daughters, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my community.
If this is true for me, *just* one woman, how much more – all of us together?
Imagine this multiplied times the infinity of women’s stories – past, present, and future! That image, that possibility, that future? That’s the one I want and the one we deserve.
I still wish I’d written these two sentences, but love that Elizabeth Johnson did. Hear them one more time; more, believe them.
Although women’s words have been censored or eliminated from much of [our] heritage, in the midst of the pain of dehumanization women have nevertheless always been there, in fidelity and struggle, in loving and caring, in outlawed movements, in prophecy and vision. Tracking and retrieving fragments of this lost wisdom and history, all in some way touchstones of what may yet be possible, enable them to be set free as resources for transforming thought and action.
May it be so.