A Time for Organized Rage by Gina Messina


Version 2With the recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and the torturous treatment of Christine Blasey Ford, we are reminded that we continue to live in a rape culture and very often, Christianity — and religion in general — is used as means to perpetrate misogyny and control the lives of women.

While there were many moments of the Kavanaugh hearing that made me gasp, one in particular was when Senator Kennedy asked the now Supreme Court Justice if he believes in God. Kennedy used Kavanaugh’s Catholic faith as the basis to vote in his favor. Rather than using his time to explore critical information revealed through testimony and investigative reports, Kennedy decided that God should be the focus of his questions and that Kavanaugh’s affirmative response meant that he did not assault Ford. 

I wondered what Dr. Ford thought of this line of questioning. She had been humiliated, threatened, and forced out of her own home; and then her testimony was considered of no value because Kavanaugh believes in God? 

Dr. Ford not only experienced a brutal assault that altered her life moving forward, she was then assaulted by the greater American community, the Senate, the President of the U.S., and the idea that a man’s faith trumps a woman’s experience (pun intended).

And isn’t this the case for so many survivors of sexual violence? From the physical assault to the assault by the community, the levels of victimization seem to be unending. And Dr. Ford’s case clearly demonstrates this — an assault that occurred when she was fifteen years old continues to re-victimize her decades later.

To injure a woman because of her gender is to wound her interiority, damage her self-concept, and belittle in a way that forces a woman into her “proper” role. It is reasonable to wonder why this level of atrocity has not been acknowledged and why there is no such thing as a hate crime against women.  Sadly, the response is that we live in a culture that has normalized such violence, especially for women of color who are disproportionately targeted. 

Religion must be acknowledged as a major culprit in this normalization by perpetuating the ongoing culture of violence against women. From “texts of terror” to the construct of virginity as the source of shame and honor for women, religion has led the effort to control women’s sexuality while maintaining the patriarchy.  

Justifying its misogynistic tone and the marginalization of women through problematic interpretations of scripture and theological teachings, religious traditions actively engage the rape culture in an effort to maintain a “boys’ club” and a global sociopolitical structure that relegates women to the underside of dualistic thinking.

Likewise, persons in power — like Kennedy — use religion as a means to maintain control and keep women from having their basic human rights acknowledged. And what could be more powerful than God? The teaching of complementarity has played a significant role in convincing society, including women, that our value is only found in our wombs. Likewise, it has been used in favor of keeping men in powerful positions.

As Mary Daly noted, if God is male, then male is God. The Kavanaugh hearing is a clear demonstration of this. No matter the accusations made against him, Kavanaugh was going to be confirmed because that is what the GOP — or the party of old white rich men — wanted.

As citizens have responded to such absurdity, the Trump Administration has sought to discredit them referring to dissenters as “angry mobs.” Newsflash: We are angry and anger is an appropriate emotion given the current state of our nation and the ongoing systemic violence that oppresses the historically disenfranchised. 

In her article, “Systemic Violence and the Killing of Michael Brown,” Xochitl Alvizo eloquently explains why anger is necessary: 

I cannot see another act of systemic violence as an occasion for remembering the victim with “reflection and understanding.” Instead my heart cries out in lament, it recognizes that this violence is systemic and it affects us all, and the experience of it is overwhelming. So it is right to be angry, to cry out, to go to the streets…Anger is a part of the work of love.

Trelawney Grenfell-Muir reminds us that even Jesus responded to injustice with righteous anger flipping tables in the temple. Christianity is often used to claim that we must be forgiving, a way of also keeping the oppressed under control. If we are forgiving and never speak up, never demonstrate our rage, those in power will remain in power. Thus, perhaps we need to follow Jesus’ example of responding to injustice. Forgiveness is a Christian value, but so are liberation and social justice. 

As Trelawney says: 

There’s 167 million women in this country. If even half of us rise, even 1/10, no one can stop us. No one can silence us. No one can hold his hand over our mouth to muffle our screams. No one can laugh while trying to gang rape us. No one can mock our trauma one day and assault us again the next. No one can enslave, torture, imprison, subjugate, abuse, oppress, and kill us with impunity.

With Xochitl’s and Trelawney’s words in mind, it’s time for righteous anger. It’s time for organized rage. Often we think we can sit back and wait for someone “qualified” to make things right. But here is the thing, who really is qualified? What does that even mean? 

Rather than waiting on someone else, we need to come together to create the change we want to see. Organizing action around rage is not unreasonable; sometimes it is the only thing that motivates us to get involved. This is not a call to voilence, but a call to interrupt violence. We need to come together, organize rage, reclaim power, and propel social change. 

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, activist, and mom. She serves as Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College and is co-founder of FeminismAndReligion.com. She has written for the Huffington Post and is author or editor of five books including Jesus in the White House: Make Humanity Great Again and Women Religion Revolution. Messina 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 of women around the world. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for peace building and spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @GMessinaPhD, Instagram: @GinaMessinaPhD, Facebook, and her website ginamessina.com.

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Categories: General

14 replies

  1. What is going on is out-rageous and democracy and morality are being eroded in front of our eyes. Those who voted for him did not care that Kavanaugh was lying through his teeth and incoherent. All they cared about was preserving white male power to do whatever white male power wants to do and whenever it wants to do it.

    Gina, can you please check your emails or contact me about providing books at my lectures in Minn. and discount or order forms of some kind for Newfoundland. Thanks.

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  2. Why any woman remains Christian or any other Abrahamic religion is beyond me.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes – the time is now!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Good pun–“a man’s faith trumps a woman’s experience.” And I think Daly is still right: we live in a phallocracy. Several months ago, I read an article that said we live in a “kakistocracy.” the “kakis” part (Greek) means “shit.”

    Thanks for writing this. Brava! Yes, it’s time for righteous anger. Let’s all be sure to vote

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Today we are voting for City Council members after four years of the most dysfunctional, asinine, group in our history. Our city has made news in other places like the NYTimes and the Globe and Mail. Not good news either.

    Who votes in Municipal elections? Last time it was something like 34% of eligible voters. This time, advance polls were crowded with long lines stretching down the street. I expect today will be equally busy. I hope so.

    I hope too that the extreme dysfunction of Trump’s family WH will arouse voters. With all the manure they’ve spread, there should be a good harvest.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I am with you, Gina!!! I am right with you!!!!!

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  7. Thanks for this inspiring post. My FAR post comes out tomorrow and has a suggestion for at least one expression of organized outrage.

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  8. I don’t think Mr. Kavanaugh was a good choice. However, could we please remember that we need to speak about Dr. Ford’s experience as alleged.l? “She allegedly experienced a brutal assault.” Or “we believe she experienced a brutal assault.” Or “she said she experienced a brutal assault.” The fact is, we don’t know for sure exactly what happened. As I understand it, it was nevet investigated by the police. It never went to court. Could we please remember “innocent until provern guilty”? Due process matters!

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    • Dear LN, I do not think it is necessary for me to refer to Dr. Ford’s experience as alleged. I heard her testimony and I believed her. I reviewed the testimony of the other women accusers and I believed them. I saw Mr. Kavanaugh’s rebuttal and I found it to be filled with statements I judged to be false. I mean did he never get so drunk he does not remember what happened. I believe those who say they saw him drunk out of his mind, including his roommate at Yale. I will not call him a legally convicted attempted rapist or rapist, because he is not legally convicted. However, I believe he not only attempted rape but also participated in gang rapes and the drugging of women to gang rape them. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. I imagine that Gina Messina wrote in this spirit as well. Carol

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  9. Regards your mention of “Brett Kavanaugh and the torturous treatment of Christine Blasey Ford.” I read that Ford has been receiving “constant harassment and death threats.” She is a great hero, when you realize how much courage she must need to have.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Gina, would LOVE LOVE LOVE to discuss this on Voices of the Sacred Feminine radio. Please let me know if you’d like to call in…..

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  11. “Women, when you begin to make fierce sounds on your own, don’t be surprised if it’s difficult at first. Start gently. Get close to the earth. These sounds may bring up memories, emotions. Have a way to work with them. When you get together to make fierce sounds with other women, experiment. Try a growl, a howl. You are sounding for all the beings that have no voice. It’s bigger than your personal story. The sounds of outraged women have not been heard collectively on this planet for a long time. Let them out. We are a force of nature. It’s time to quit being afraid of our power. Many women are terrified of their outrage. They confuse it with anger. Anger is a small, though intense, emotion. Outrage is rooted in love. It’s ok. Understand it’s time. Time for these sounds to come out.” –Rebecca Singer, founder of the Fierce Heart movement

    Full disclosure all credits to Elizabeth Cunningham in her article Fierce Heart. Love this quote and thought it was applicable to the article above!

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  12. Kennedy might have next asked whether Kavanaugh might have next gone to confession. There, Kavanaugh might have confessed his sin, received absolution (God’s forgiveness) and been given a penance – maybe some Hail Mary’s and comfortable forget everything. I wonder what retribution is ever required of confessed rapists?

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