Going to Seminary | Part 16

by Elouise

California Style Clothes in Savannah 1974/5

California clothes in Savannah, GA, summer 1974-75. Photo taken by my father.

Just reading Part 15 made me wince. I’m in a no-win cycle. From my point of view in 1974-75, I had three choices as D’s wife:

  • Repent of my insubordination, resubmit myself to D, and give up this seminary nonsense.
  • Sleep with the enemy and pay the consequences.
  • Give my husband what he wants. Flaunt it for all you’re worth, baby. Surprise him at the front door with a saran-wrapped gift—You! Try it! You’ll like it!

Taking these lovely options one by one:

  • Repent? Resubmit? This sounds all too familiar. Besides, D would never buy it! Thanks, but no thanks. The quit-seminary suggestion isn’t even worth an answer.
  • Hmm. So are all married women guilty of sleeping with the enemy (men) and therefore unfit to call themselves feminists? If so, it’s too late! I fell in love with this enemy and despite challenges in our marriage, I love him. I also reject rhetoric that makes me part of the problem, not a ‘true’ feminist.
  • Suppose I give my husband what he wants? What about what I want? It sounds like I’m supposed to pretend (until I ‘enjoy’?) being his on-demand bunny popping out of the birthday cake! Right? No way! This is Not For Me. In fact, it makes me feel like vomiting.

Back then I wasn’t this clear about the options, but I considered each of them at one time or another. In my heart I felt guilty and desperate. Afraid that most if not all the stress in our marriage was my fault.

It didn’t take long to dismiss the first so-called solution. I’d been there and tried the repentance and resubmission cure. D didn’t buy it in 1972, and probably wouldn’t buy it now in 1974.

Besides, D and I just wrote that exhausting and exhaustive study of what the Bible says and doesn’t say about women and men. We also agreed we would have an equal partnership marriage. Done.

The third option didn’t appeal to me at all. In particular, the dynamics of sexualized marriage stoked my memories of childhood and teenage humiliation and shame. I thought I’d left all that behind, but there they were, still hanging around the edges of my life with D.

Sometimes I gave D what he wanted, even though I was exhausted and had unresolved issues that raised their ugly voices and emotions at will. Why did I do this? Because I loved him and I was miserable.

I do not applaud the sexualizing of marriage. Sex does not heal everything. Though it sometimes soothed me, it didn’t resolve unfinished family business lying beneath the surface. In fact, giving in for the sake of temporary peace simply sent my family business underground as though it were dead. It was not.

I didn’t know how to tell D what was happening inside me. I hoped that if I ignored my feelings of humiliation, shame and disgust about sex, they would go away. Besides, I now have two wonderful children to care for and am happy being in seminary. I’m doing great, all things considered!

So now I’m left with the second option. I was then and still am a Christian feminist. Women are equal to men in the sight of God. We alone are responsible for our actions. The men in our lives are not. In the eyes of the law, we’re entitled to the same human rights as are men. Marriage is not an agreement between unequal partners. It’s a relationship nurtured within the framework of equal partnership before God and before other human beings.

Yet I carried conscious and unconscious anger against men. All men. Could there by a grain of truth in that second option? Whether I like it or not, maybe I’m married to the enemy. If so, it doesn’t matter whether he supports me as a feminist or not. According to some feminists, men aren’t eligible to be feminists. They’re the enemy.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2016
Photo taken by JERenich