Sometimes I Think I Am a Voice Crying in the Wilderness … by Carol P. Christ


Just last week I was dumbfounded when an acquaintance told me that his philosopher partner calls a woman leading a workshop on labyrinths “a tree hugger.” “What,” I wanted to say, “is wrong with being a tree hugger? Are we not all interdependent in the web of life? Why should we imagine that trees or the cells of trees have no feelings at all?” But the tone of contempt and dismissal in the man’s voice told me that I would only be creating another “fuss,” the kind that can make me persona non grata among the ex-pats in my village.

Moreover, I could not have made my point simply. I would have had to discuss Plato’s assertion that the mind of man is destined to rise above the body and nature and modern science’s conclusion that nature is mere matter for man to use as he chooses. I might have needed to cite Susan Griffin or indigenous worldviews. This could have been a very long discussion indeed.

*

A few days later, a friend’s daughter told a group of us—professors and journalists and artists—that she did not change her last name when she got married in Greece a few years ago. Her mother and I immediately interjected that in fact, in Greece, the family law code of 1983 states that a woman will keep her own name for all legal purposes when she marries. At the time of marriage in Greece, the couple chooses what name they will give their children: his name, her name, or a hyphenated name. A male professor at our table immediately responded, “That is just as bad as making a woman take her husband’s name. It should be a matter of free choice.”

I was about to respond that the reason the Greek family law requires a woman to keep her own name is that “choice” is rarely “free.” The authors of the family law recognized that, given the patriarchal nature of the Greek family and the centuries of patriarchal laws requiring women to change their names at marriage, a woman’s choice on her wedding day would most likely be constrained. She might feel pressured by her husband or in-laws to change her name. She might feel that it is better to take her husband’s name so there is one “family” name—without knowing that the origin of this “custom” is to be found in the idea that a wife is her husband’s property.

The intent of the revised Greek family law is not to enable a woman to make a choice at the time of her marriage, but rather to take affirmative steps to ensure women’s equality in the marriage. Similarly, the 1983 family code states that husband and wife shall be equal in marriage. It does not give the couple the opportunity to “choose” that the husband should make all of the decisions or to have the right to beat his wife and children if they disagree with him. The 1983 family law code also outlaws the dowry, which had been an important part of marriage negotiations between families for centuries. If the law had simply said that families could “choose” whether to give a dowry, the custom would have continued.

I was about to say all of that when the other women at the table murmured and nodded affirmatively towards the professor, so I held my tongue. I could see that I would get no support if I challenged him and that I would once again be categorized as making a “fuss” where none was necessary.

*

This brings me to US Representative Barbara Lee of California. Sixteen years ago, following 9/11, she cast the only vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Terrorists (AUMF), arguing that this law would allow the President and his cabinet to pursue “endless war” with no oversight from Congress. Though there were those who said at the time, “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me,” Representative Lee was viewed as making a “fuss” over nothing by her colleagues.

This week Barbara Lee was vindicated when the House Appropriations Committee in a bipartisan vote approving her amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill to nullify AUMF. Lee’s long struggle to end “endless war” is not over yet. The amendment must be passed as part of the Defense Appropriations Bill in both the House and Senate if it is to take effect. But even if we lose this time, Barbara Lee and her supporters can take heart: Barbara Lee’s voice is being heard.

*

I believe it can sometimes be the wiser course to hold your tongue. There is a time and place for conversations about fundamental values. Still, being silenced or silencing yourself has its own costs. This is why I am speaking out now, even though I chose not to “pick a fight” on two occasions this past week.

Barbara Lee’s persistence reminds us of the value of making a “fuss”—even when it feels like you are crying in the wilderness!

* * *

 Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger

a-serpentine-path-amazon-coverGoddess and God in the World final cover design

Carol’s new book written with Judith Plaskow, is  Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.

FAR Press recently released A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess.

Join Carol  on the life-transforming and mind-blowing Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Space available on the fall tour. It could change your life!

 

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Categories: Activism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, War and Peace

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. the same thing happened to me at a dinner party last night. I sat next to a couple whom I have had disagreements with before about the rights of transgender people and gay people (the husband says “do bees want to be butterflies, do cats what to be dogs?”) and this time the wife answered for them by saying “It is not something for POLITICS, these are private matters for the family not for politics” with a look of disdain on her face. I tried to explain the need for legal rights and then when it was simply ignored I did not continue the conversation. You are right – it has a difficult internal effect and fermented inside me until now that I am able to share it with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Living in rural South Africa in the midst of patriarchal Christianity, I have learned to hold my tongue… where I do speak loud and clear is in my art, and I am always surprised when women come to me at my exhibitions, thanking me for my voice… goddess, body, nature…

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  3. I can never hold my tongue…I always “make a fuss”.

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  4. I continue to make a fuss when my heart starts pounding over an issue especially one concerning trees, plants, bears (again), and any other living creature but I usually do it through words rather than conversation. My blog helps a lot and whenever I have something published elsewhere which I am happy to say occurs regularly I DO feel heard. However, whenever I write a column in response to a local issue (Maine – I have just returned from 11 months spent in Abiquiu New Mexico – a place that feels like another country because diversity is a reality there) I too have learned that it takes energy to “make a fuss” that doesn’t ever change anyone’s mind. And it has the added effect of creating hostility that I have learned to live with only because I feel I have no other choice… my silence would destroy me.

    Thank the Goddess for this blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. When to speak, when to let something go, always a discernment. Thanks for speaking out here, Carol. I will be sure to hug a tree today!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Carol. This wonderful FAR is not in the wilderness, it is out there brilliantly on the worldwide internet for all to read and a place for all to share to their hearts delight.

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  7. but without the ‘fuss’ their would be no change. Im a loud mouth and Im the first to admit it and yes sometimes I fill as if cries are the lonely voice, but on the other hand, silence leaves decisions in the hands of others, now as to weather their listening, is another matter ?I think our world has become more complicated and it seems their a fight or voicing taking place on ever level, weather this be equal rights,or religion or just plane politics either way its bound to create chaos but as the old saying go’s we can’t always get what we want, but without the lone-voice we surly wont .

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  8. This philosopher partner was having a rude opinion of a person behind her back. I think I would have wanted to ask the philosopher, if he would have said that in my presence, why be rude about a person who does things differently ? as for the tone of the acquaintance repeating the philosopher’s venim, I might have wanted to ask : why repeat this kind of offensive opinions ?

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  9. We need lots of voices “crying in the wilderness” – now more than ever. I find asking questions rather than making statements works better for me.

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  10. Call me a tree hugging dirt worshipper any day! I wear it proudly. Does this make that commentator a proud nuke sucking bobbing head?

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  11. I have a reputation in my family for “stirring the pot.” I don’t always “speak out.” Much depends on the setting. However, I’ve learned not to get involved in conversations where I perceive people not to be open. I do state my case, though, and then leave it there. Sometimes, I also have to physically leave the group. I often feel like a “voice crying in the wilderness.”

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  12. Goddess bless Wonder Women like you and Barbara Lee!

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  13. As an older woman, I also choose when to speak out and when not. But I still usually state my feminist opinions, if at all possible. In my youth, I always “spoke truth to power,” giving me a reputation as an outspoken feminist. The hardest person for me in this regard was my extremely opinionated, conservative mother-in-law. Even before I married, I decided that I had to simply disagree with her, give my reasons, and then let the discussion drop. It worked well, I think. I didn’t feel like she rolled over me, but I didn’t start and argument either.

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  14. Marie Fortune, Founder if Faith Trust Institute, feels the same. Since 1976 she has been efucating church leaders about their role in domestic violence. Gloria Steinem has the gratification of the womens march but this current political situation is really disheartening. As an educator with Divine Balance, I see the Divine Feminine work as just starting, but we are rising and are the future.

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  15. It’s VERY hard work speaking out. In most cases it alienates one from mainstream culture – so be it. The little town where I live has learnt to run when they see me coming – which isn’t often these days. There were cases of child-abuse, blatant and blunt racism, Christian entitlement to supremacy of their religion. And one does get tired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Petrujviljoen, my heart goes out to you. My similar experiences happened in the 1970s. As a graduate student, I was always pointing out the sexism in works we were reading or the sexist assumptions of people around me. And by the end of one seminar, when someone said something sexist, all heads turned in my direction. At the time, this embarrassed me, but I realized later that I had educated that entire group of people to recognize sexism.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. It is hard to always be the one speaking out against sexism, racism and bigotry, especially in a small and somewhat closed community setting. I will claim myself as a tree hugger to anyone, any day. FAR is our oasis in the desert. I had no idea that Greece had changed their marriage laws Glad to hear it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greece reformed the Family Law in 1983 due to the work of the wife of the Prime Minister Margarita Papandreou and the PASOK feminist group. Equal rights for women was also made a part of the constitution due to their work.

      Of course people change more slowly than laws, but the laws that are on the books relating to women’s equality are very good.

      Under SYRIZA Greece recently approved gay and lesbian civil unions and then in a later separate action granted most or many of the rights of married couples to those in civil unions. The Greek Orthodox Church remains opposed. Gay marriage is prohibited by the Church and gay couples are not yet eligible for civil marriage ceremonies presided over by mayors or other public officials.

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