According to poet Muriel Rukeyser, “the world would split open.”
This poem accurately describes what many women experienced in consciousness raising in the 1970s and what many women experience today in the #MeToo movement.
For many of us the world did split open. We began to take ourselves and our experiences seriously. To do so we had to question received wisdom encoded in such questions as: “What was she doing there in the first place?” “Was she drinking too?” “Why didn’t she change out of her bathing suit?” Underlying these questions is the assumption that: “whatever happened, she must have asked for it.”
A lot of people are wondering why congressmen and voters who claim to uphold Christian principles are not more outraged about credible allegations of sexual assault against a child whose name was Christine Blasey. What this question fails to address is the fact that the Christian principles (if any) held by conservatives are steeped in patriarchy. Liberals may argue that Jesus would have cared about the girl, and I believe they are right. But the Christianity that developed after his death was centered on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all of whom are male. This Christianity is patriarchal to the core: its deep message is that power belongs the hands of males and that male power is not to be questioned.
My mother loved her mother, her sister, and me deeply. But she also loved my father who was a patriarchal male, and she raised two sons who, though they loved their mother deeply, also became patriarchal males. If she and my father were alive, she would be one of those Republican women who doubt Christine Blasey’s story, or who dismiss it because it happened a long time ago, Blasey was not actually raped, and we all know that boys will be boys.
Many years ago a friend in her twenties who was visiting our family was pinched on her bottom by a friend of my father’s at a Christmas party. My friend said nothing at the time and only told me several decades later.
This admission made me wonder: had this happened to my mother too? My father’s friend was patriarchal to the core and a heavy drinker. I did not want to be near him because he bullied me and ridiculed my father when I surpassed my father in height. I find it hard to believe that this man did not touch my mother and other women in her circle inappropriately at some time too.
But if this happened, then why did she and my father continue to socialize with this man? I doubt that my mother would have told my father. I doubt that she would have told anyone. Even my friend did not tell anyone for decades.
What is going on here?
When I first became a feminist, I tried to share my new insights with my mother in letters. Finally, she wrote back, “Are you trying to get me to leave your father?” That was the end of our conversations about feminism.
My mother understood, as most Republican women do, that sexual abuse and rape—and other forms of abuse–occur. But she refused to continue our conversation about feminism for one simple reason: she was not going to leave my father.
She understood that if we continued it, her world would split open.
The world splitting open is cataclysmic: nothing can ever be the same. For my mother, divorce would have meant losing her home, her financial security, and her position in the community as a married woman. We all know that none of these things are easy. Besides that—my mother loved my father. So she denied or refused to take seriously the socially sanctioned abuse of women (including of herself and of me) by men. (What the psychological and physical cost to her health was, I can only guess. My mother died four months after her 72nd birthday. My father survived and thrived for another 26 years and died four months after his 98th birthday.)
This is why white married women continue to support the Republicans even in the face of clear evidence that Republican men care more about their own power than they care about the abuse of women and girls.
It really is as simple and as complicated as that.
They are afraid.
They do not want the world to split open.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator living in Greece. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger. Carol will be speaking at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Re-Imagining Conference at Hamline University in St. Paul Minnesota on November 1 and 3; on at the Parliament of World Religions in Toronto, Canada on November 5; and at Memorial University of Newfoundland on November 7-10.