Run Women Run! You Can Do Better than a Mediocre White Man! by Carol P. Christ

When I was in graduate school, I learned to doubt myself. Despite having won Danforth and Woodrow Wilson graduate fellowships that paid for my tuition and living expenses, I was continually told by professors and male students alike that I would not finish my degree and that if I did I would get married, have children, and never use the degree I had earned. I tried hard to maintain my confidence in myself, but it was difficult when I was the only woman in the program. There was one other woman my first year, but she was older than I was, a nun, and I never saw her in class or at social events. My self-esteem was gradually eroded. If I had not had a fellowship, I would probably have dropped out.

Fast forward a few years. There were several more women in the program, but only one in theology, my friend Judith Plaskow, and she too struggled. I was working on my comprehensive exams and wondering if I had what it takes to pass them and then write a Ph.D. thesis. After the initial shock of being treated as if I was not the equal of the male students in the program, I began to look around me. A few of the male students seemed really bright, many of them were average, and some of them were plodders. I hate to admit it, but I looked at the least competent among them and said to myself, “If he can do it, then surely I can.” And I did. I passed my exams. A few years later my Ph.D. thesis was approved.

If contributions to the field are any indication, Judith Plaskow and I were not only as good as the most mediocre men in our graduate program, we smarter than the average ones, and at least as smart as the smartest ones. But we didn’t know that then. Men have been getting degrees and being promoted and moved up that ladder because other men like them, identify with them, feel sorry for them, and for lots of other reasons having nothing to do with excellence, and sometimes not even do do with competence.

Last week I heard Cecile Richards say something to Lawrence O’Donnell that reminded me of this. Speaking of the huge numbers of women who—inspired by the women’s marches–will be voting, registering voters, campaigning, and running for office in 2018 and beyond, she said women “totally understand that they can do better than who’s in office now.”

photo by Marie Cartier

For far too many years women have been held back by lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. We didn’t think we could and we didn’t. We don’t think we can and we don’t. We thought men were smarter than us or had more time or more drive. The founder of the Society of Women Engineers at San Jose State told my classes that women who got even one B+ in an engineering class were likely to drop out of the program, while men graduated who graduated with C averages went on to get great jobs.  Now we see truly mediocre white men holding public office all across the country and in its highest offices. The harm they are doing to women, to children, to the elderly, to people of color, to the environment has been a wake-up call for all of us. There are so many mediocre white men in office that women–of all colors and ethnicities–are realizing that we can do better than that! Once we begin to see what we can do when there are large numbers of us holding office all across the country, there will be no stopping us!


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer and educator living in Molivos, Lesbos, who volunteers with Starfish Foundation that helps refugees, assisting with writing and outreach. 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 Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger.



Categories: Abuse of Power, Activism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General

Tags: , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Love the title – it made me smile!


  2. Self confidence and lack of self esteem – we didn’t get this way by ourselves. This male dominated society has no intention of letting go of its pitiful excuses for men who still run this country. What we need is woman solidarity and that we have not achieved as yet – but we must. We must, so that women can begin running this country and the values of cooperation and compassion are returned to a truly lost society.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your words ring so true! I am a couple of years older than you, and when I graduated from high school, there wasn’t even the slightest thought in my family that I could do any better than becoming a clerk typist. There was never the idea that I could be a doctor, lawyer or engineer, in their heads or in mine. I eventually became an R.N., and that was a profession that my family thought was the highest thing that any woman could aspire to. When I went on to be a nurse-practitioner, and a nurse-midwife, my mother was confused, and thought that I had finally become an LVN. In retrospect, I probably could have mastered any profession that I aspired to, but initially, I didn’t have the confidence. I am well satisfied with my profession as a nurse-midwife, and now that I am retired, I am very glad that I did not let my family pull down my aspirations any lower than they did. If I was a young woman, getting out of high school today, I would have a much different outlook.


  4. So happy to read this today, and so appreciative of women like you who are setting such a great example. I am a late bloomer and finally came to the realizations that you did on your journey. I have achieved much more than I thought I ever could, and even at this stage in my life I plan to do more! Very inspirational, thank you, Carol. Amy


  5. I think I may have mentioned one of my bumper stickers: THE ZOMBIES ARE WINNING. JUST LOOK AT CONGRESS. I suspect that’s true of many state legislatures and city councils. (I signed a recall petition for my city council member yesterday.) “Mediocre” may be too charitable a word in the context of your post. I’m glad that more women are running for office.

    Thanks for writing this Monday morning post. It’s just what I need first thing Monday morning.


  6. Thanks Carol, enjoyed this post of yours — “Run Women Run!”

    Also saw this headline at TIME MAGAZINE — “A Year Ago, They Marched. Now a Record Number of Women Are Running for Office.”

    And apparently more black women are running for office too — hooray!


  7. I wish I had followed your example and hung in until I got my Phd. I am one of the ones who didn’t. And I regret that.


  8. A wonderful and so true post. I remember in elementary school being told that girls can’t be good drummers – it took me 45 years to get over that and start drum lessons. And then in high school my counselor told me to take typing because “all girls need that,” with not a mention of college or a profession. Fortunately, I had a great circle of pals and we all ignored those comments and many of us went on to chase our dreams (one of us is now building spaceships for NASA) but there was always that struggle of wondering “am I really good enough?” I hope things are different now – I see so many young girls with so much confidence, such bright smiles, and so many accomplishments at really young ages. I hope they can hold onto it and don’t have to find it again after decades like so many women of my generation did.


  9. sooo agree! nice piece!


  10. The devastation caused to women’s lives by gender-codified beings who think they’re the universe is brought home with a bang and a thud. Been there, so has my sisters and friends. It’s still hard to withstand.


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