I had a gorgeous hour on Skype with Amy Palko today. A quick skim of topics included online business, abortion rights, driver’s licenses, culinary delicacies, life with teenagers, passive revenue streams, archetypes, goddesses, and…romance novels.
She talked of her current intrigue in self-published romance novels (a burgeoning quantity within the past few years, she says). Previously controlled almost exclusively by major publishing houses, that choke-hold has loosened, if not completely broken free with the advent of self-publishing. Now, anyone (including me), can put their words into print! For women this is particularly significant: a forum in which we can say what we want with no need for permission or privilege.
This is not new. Amy told me of a lecture she gave about the gendered nature of blogging; the way in which it mirrors (and amplifies) what we’ve seen for centuries in women’s diaries and journals. Safe space in which women have articulated their coming of age, their deepest desires, their voice – unedited and unrestrained.
As women, we need a place to tell our stories – and hear each other’s. If it’s not provided or encouraged by the systems and structures within which we live, we will make a way.
As we talked, I felt a growing sadness within; truth-be-told, even a tinge of anger.
This does not happen in Scripture. Women’s own voices and candid, raw experiences have not been captured or curated. And because of such, we have no sense of how they experienced their own coming of age, their own desires, their own experience of voice (or not). We have no way of connecting to them. Not really. Or at least, not enough.
It’s no wonder we struggle to find ourselves within those pages. We’re not there! Not in the connective, resonant, “yes” sort-of ways we intuitively create and crave.
Lest you despair, know that I do not. (Well, not for long, anyway.)
This is what I do and why I do it!
Women’s stories desperately long to be discovered, told, and honored throughout the pages of Scripture for (at least) two reasons: 1) because they are there, often between the lines, and waiting to be told, but boldly, beautifully present nonetheless; and 2) without them, our stories are incomplete – so formative and embedded are these texts in our culture, our politics, our structures of power, our religion(s), our social systems, our everyday world.
Judy Chicago, feminist artist of The Dinner Party said
“…all the institutions of our culture tell us through words, deeds, and even worse, silence, that we are insignificant. But our heritage is our power.”
I could not agree more. And I could not hope more. Our heritage is our power. Our stories, past and present, can and must be told. Women’s voices, past and present, can and must be heard. It is not too late.
And I longed to read my Bible,
For precious words it said;
But when I begun to learn it,
Folks just shook their heads,
And said there is no use trying,
Oh! Chloe, you’re too late;
But as I was rising sixty,
I had no time to wait.
So I got a pair of glasses,
And straight to work I went,
And never stopped till I could read
The hymns and Testament.
Then I got a little cabin
A place to call my own—
And I felt independent
As the queen upon her throne.
An excerpt from Learning to Read by African-American poet Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)
Did I mention that this is what I do and why I do it? A queen upon my throne unearthing the heritage that is my-your-our power. Mmmhmm. And then some.