God Calls Me to be a BITCH by Gina Messina-Dysert


Version 2I’m often called a bitch.  No surprise really.  I am a woman working my way into roles that are considered men’s. As a woman in leadership, my decisions are rarely respected.  I am just a bitch making unreasonable demands. As a woman in the academy writing about gendered issues, I am just a bitch with an axe to grind.  Who do I think I am? Well, the truth is, I am a bitch.  I am a woman who is “Being in Total Control of Herself,” and it is this that makes others so uncomfortable that their only response is to demean me.

There is no doubt that a double standard exists in our society.  But where it stems from is what I think we must discuss.  Complementarity, as I have written about before, is the foundation of our ideas about gendered roles in society.  The Christian ideal that men and women have distinct but complementary roles relegates women to the underside of dualism.  Women must remain in the home, be wives and mothers, cook and clean, and care for their families.  And so, a woman who attempts to share her gifts with the world in any other way is breaking the norm.  In doing so, the reaction is simple:  You are not following the rules. You are not keeping your mouth shut.  You are a bitch.

And it is more than this. As women, we are not supposed to be in control of our bodies, our sexuality.  How dare we ask for foreplay, an orgasm?  Don’t we know that we are simply objects to be poked and prodded on demand – at the will of men?  Lie down and take it.  Don’t speak.  Don’t respond.  It is the male orgasm that determines when it is over. 

Purity legends and virgin martyrs have taught women about our sexuality.  Our hymens should be protected at any cost, including our lives.  As Church Father Jerome says, not even God can repair a broken hymen. For women, we are supposed to live quiet, obedient, and pure lives.  To not do so is to sully ourselves for God.  Like men, this male God wants women all to himself, for HIS pleasure, we are to be obedient.  

But is this God?  Does God demand such roles for women? Or is complementarity a male construct that has become a substructure of our society?

A question I am often asked is: “Why stay?  Why be part of a system that is so damaging for women?” 

The thing is, I cannot quit society which I find equally damaging.  My society deems me a bitch.  My society says I do not have a right to control my body.  My society says I do not have value.  But I cannot say, “I quit.  I am leaving.” No, I have to participate.  I have to be strategic.  I have to find ways to subvert these misogynistic structures.  

Likewise, these substructures of society are founded on religious ideals.  So to subvert one is to subvert both. 

We each find different ways to work towards dismantling such structures.  Every action counts.  My personal battles are waged within the Catholic Church.  I refuse to accept that my religious tradition calls for me to simply be an obedient passive object that exists only for men’s will. 

And so, I am a bitch and I am okay with that.  I make choices every day that allow me to be in control of myself.  I will not be valued less.  I will not forego my gifts in favor of a dualistic ideal. I will not bow down.  Not to man, not to society, and not to a misogynistic God.  

My God is not a woman-hating, demanding, possessive God. My God calls me to be a bitch.  And it is that call I answer. 

 

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Religion and Gender Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for The Huffington Post, has authored multiple publications and is the co-editor of the highly acclaimed Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. Messina-Dysert is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina-Dysert is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website ginamessinadysert.com.

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Categories: Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Women's Voices

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13 replies

  1. Love your defiant spirit, thanks.

    You are correct that things are set up as: “It is the male orgasm that determines when it is over. We need to get rid of concepts like “foreplay,” which define sex in way that makes acts that cause maximum female pleasure and satisfaction as secondary.

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  2. So excellently and clearly written. The best argument I have yet heard for remaining within the church.

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  3. I am so happy to see you write this!

    Next up…stay tuned…..: “God Calls Me a Bitch!”

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  4. Hear, hear! Gender complementarity is not a Christian value but sexist 19th-century philosophy and outdated sexist science, masquerading as an “egalitarian” justification for inequality.

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  5. Good for you! Be in control of yourself and succeed in everything you do! This post was inspiring to read first thing in the morning, when I usually click on FAR. It really doesn’t matter, we all know, what that jealous god calls any of us, but to call oneself a woman Being In Control of Herself–brava!

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  6. Go, Gina! Here is another acronym invented by my narrative character Maeve: WITCH Women Inclined To Create Havoc–a good thing to do when we find ourselves confronting oppressive structures and systems. Brava, BITCHES and WITCHES! Let us answer our divine calling!

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  7. Well said! As they say, “nice girls rarely make his-story”.
    But why not change the name of Deity? A God, mono or poly, is still a male construct, a male notion of divinity, which is the only deity I read about in the Bible. Something happens when we look to that name for empowerment, and too often find it lacking.

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  8. You are so right, Gina, and I love your definition of Bitch, and Elizabeth’s definition of Witch!

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  9. And what of the God of antiquity who was female? And of the feminine characteristics of the Holy Spirit? While reciting the creed in church, I say “With the Father and the Son She is worshipped and glorified. She has spoken through the prophets” because I don’t identify with the God who makes women less.

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  10. Thanks Gina, I also know the God that you know, Who calls you (I suppose then me as well, in my own way) to be a bitch! Halleluja

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  11. I very much like your response to “Why stay?” and the links to society when you wrote:

    “Likewise, these substructures of society are founded on religious ideals. So to subvert one is to subvert both.”

    BRAVO!

    What does this say about a society when a person who demands dignity is called a bitch? Your definition, “Being In Total Control of Herself” is befitting the dignity requirement.

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  12. You are super-intelligent. It is time you seek your answers on a higher level! Sit in silence and let the truth come to you! Ask yourself what is the next level above this one!

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