Women’s Issues

Lincoln Journal Star Article (April 1, 1995)

Women Forced Into Stereotypes

Connie Backus-Yoder

I want a book called, “You, too, can be photogenic.”! Cameras are fully unloving and unsympathetic to my form and person. I see an image of myself bordering embarrassment and shame on unloveliness of my person. A camera may not lie, but it is certainly more generous towards some and not at all towards others.

I also want a book called, “You, too, can be….”, and insert the potential fulfillment of my heart’s desire. Unfortunately, my desire could not be fulfilled, because to women, society is the unloving and unsympathetic camera to our form and person. We often have to live, and die, with our gender images bordering embarrassment and shame of the patriarchal unloveliness of our person. Society is generous towards some and not at all towards others.

Researching women’s theological issues, I realized that society was not generous towards and had no respect or inner love for women. I found the Church an avid partner, if not primary initiator and justifier, of male behavior treachery towards women. In the church the feminine is shunned, set aside as worthless and treated as though she is invisible and doesn’t exist. Women were “defective beings” (Aristotle); incidental beings, not of the first order of the creation, [thereby justifying the dominance of the first order male] (St. Thomas Aquinas); the devil’s gateway (Turtullian); an instrument of the devil’s design [only to be used as sex object by her husband as a member of the earthly city] (Augustine); a necessary evil and a burden to man (Francis Bacon); and creatures to be used for man’s pleasures as he sees fit (Martin Luther, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Other men, too, have used their powers to proclaim and promote the “we”, male good vs “they”, female bad, dualism. Durkheim, a Sociologist, declared woman a “biological creature”, hysterically subject to silly whims and fantasies of the “female hormonal sex”, a teaching that has filtered into our school systems for the past 150 years. Freud declared women as the object of our son’s pathologies.

I say, however, that women have had to lapse into silly whims and fantasies because there was no other place to go. Women did not, do not have a liberating status giving freedom to be that which we might be, instead of that which is expected of us. For many women that is a boob carrying, hairsprayed lipstick holder. Most women will never be able to fulfill their Jefferson given rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” unless those rights are coupled with children, dishes and missionary second sex bed sharing with the male and sanctified and baptized with the religious beliefs of ten thousand years.

Because of these views, I believed that being female was something to be overcome. An oxymoron transcendence permissible, only into a lower being of submission, I was permitted, if not required, to be weak, silly, frivolous, half-hysterical, helpless, dependent upon men for my information, and upon their mercy as stronger physical beings having the power to maim, or destroy me at the snap of anger. As a reward for my behavior of inferiority, I was allowed to endure mistreatment by men, ranging from certain abuse from a step father, to physical, emotional, and verbal abuse and indignities from men’s behavior betrayals. Betrayals from men who were still inner immature junior high aged boys just beginning the quest for their sexual-social place in society with their, “Icky, pooey …. girls …. what good are they?” attitude; men who grew up to become overgrown testosterone virus’s with their, “Women (!) what good are they”, attitude, instead of allowing themselves to become a most cherished partner or friend.

There are some in society and in the churches who are doing their best to include women into their theology and practices, but yet it is not enough. The church still has the feminine image of Father Protector, an all sufficient male God pretending to be a woman, (since He nurses nations at his breast and bounces children on HIS knee [Isaiah]), the feminine being relegated to the outer spheres of the fertility earth goddess, or to the over-desired virgin mother-God totally unrelated to women in their manifested place in society.

This under-symbolism of the positive feminine and over-symbolism of the testoterone governed negative male image, with his gene misplaced in ignorance and tradition, has caused society to suffer. Can we believe that the suffering can be corrected? Let’s hope so.