Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: women against women

A vexing situation – Sexuality 5

I’m tired of dancing around the politics of sexuality, whether proclaimed by the church and church-related institutions, or by political parties on both sides of all aisles.

All my life I’ve lived by other people’s agendas. Toed the line (most of the time). Made sure I didn’t cause a problem for the powers that be (even though I did).

For a change, this is my agenda: As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am to

  1. love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind
  2. love my neighbor as I love myself
  3. love myself

It couldn’t be simpler or more terrifying than that. Those three, taken together, are my bottom lines. Any attempt to gain my loyalty or affirmation falls short if it requires me to add or subtract from this list.

If I were applying to teach at a seminary and made the first cut of candidates, I might say something like this to the search committee.

  • I would like to hear from each of you about your personal journey, including things you’ve struggled with in your life, and how this affects the way you relate to seminarians, particularly regarding sexuality. In return, I’m committed to sharing the same thing with you about my struggles, and the way this has affected my work with seminarians, both male and female.

Perhaps this is unrealistic or unfair. In any case, I don’t think I would get many takers.

I am now and have always been an outlier about sexuality. Partly due to my troubled past with my father. But also because of multiple friendships with gay men and lesbian women, my own troubled past, and fear of being drummed out if people don’t believe me or, more likely, find me unworthy.

When it comes to sexuality, no one has an undamaged mind, heart or body. In addition to relentless private victimization, the advent of ritualized, commercialized pornographic images and social media voyeurism makes a mockery of our felt need to root out those who flagrantly (publicly or privately) violate their own sexuality or the sexuality of others. We have been sinned against, and we have knowingly and unknowingly passed along our anguish.

Finally, though this post is about men as well as women, we women have more to lose when it comes to sexuality.

Nonetheless, if we women keep arguing and distancing ourselves from each other, we’ve lost even more. It doesn’t matter whether we’re homosexual, heterosexual, transgendered or bisexual. It doesn’t matter what color we are or how many husbands or partners we’ve had, or what we have or haven’t done in our pasts. What matters are areas of common concern, and taking initiative to meet each other around those issues, even though it may mean meeting some sisters for the first time.

I’m a dreamer. So was Jesus Christ. As one of his followers, how can I refuse to go where he went? Yes, it’s a kind of death. But the kind that passes life along to our daughters and sons, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, neighbors, and even to ourselves.

As always, many thanks for listening.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 April 2018

Women against Women

Quaker Woman Preaching in New Amsterdam

It’s the late 1970s in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m a religion student at Vanderbilt University, studying for my Ph.D. The pastor of my United Presbyterian church has asked me to preach on Women’s Day. It’s my first sermon ever, and he wants me to preach about women’s issues and women’s liberation.

I worked hard putting together a lively sermon, then shook in my trousers as I stood in the pulpit and delivered the goods. Because there were a number of ‘liberated’ women in the congregation, it never occurred to me that I would get any kickback.

Indeed, comments and hugs after the service reassured me that all was well.

I was wrong. One of my best female supporters was seething with rage. She was older than I, highly educated and married to a professor. She didn’t hesitate to speak her mind to our pastor and to me.

My sermon sounded angry, and I wore trousers in the pulpit. I also think she might have liked to preach a sermon herself. Not only was she highly educated, she’d been a member of the church longer than I. Why had I, a relative newcomer, been singled out?

Fast forward to my first year of teaching at the seminary. It’s spring 1984. I’m in Philadelphia, teaching at a multiracial, multicultural seminary that has over 30 percent women students. I’ve been invited to speak to the Women’s Auxiliary, a group of faithful, diligent, smart women who support the seminary in dozens of ways, including fundraising efforts.

We met in a parlor-like room. The group included many pastor’s wives who had been around the seminary for years. I’d been asked to talk about myself and how I see women fitting into the work and mission of the seminary.

When I finished, we had time for discussion. Though most of our conversation was constructive and positive, I’ll never forget one woman’s painful, angry comments.

Here I was, younger than she, teaching at the seminary. And here was the seminary supporting women for ordination. And here was the Field Education Office, wanting to send a young woman to do her field education work under the supervision of her husband.

And here was this older woman, educated, experienced and clear about her role at the church as the ‘first lady.’ In fact, she believed she could have been a pastor. She was probably correct.

Nonetheless, she didn’t want seminary women working with her husband, taking over the place that rightfully belonged to her as his spouse. She didn’t trust women, including the women at the seminary. Over the years she had found a way to make space for herself in ministry without the “Rev.” and all the trappings that go with that. I’ve sometimes wondered whether she trusted her husband, the pastor.

I’ve seen this anger many times in older, well-educated, even brilliant women who for many reasons never followed their dreams. How sad when we make it women against women instead of holding each other and weeping for what we’ve all lost.

The valley of the shadow of death runs deep through the history of women against women. And still threatens to undo us.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 March 2018
Image  found at

The Divide and Conquer Club

Thanks for visiting and commenting on Misfit and Misbehaving. And a big thank you to John in Australia who linked his blog to the post.

My grade-school experience began in my home. My father was the consummate divide and conquer ruler of the household. He made the rules. He called us out on the rules. He was the judge, jury and executioner of punishment. Four daughters. No sons.

My father ran a full-circle, all services provided under one roof enterprise. His best ally was my mother who couldn’t afford to go against him. She was already a wounded warrior—not just because of polio and its aftermath, but because of her own childhood deprivations and humiliations.

We four daughters learned early to survive by way of dividing and conquering. All we had to do was join forces against one of us. It worked wonders. The other way we survived was by not talking to each other about what was going on in our family. It was against Daddy’s Rules. No secrets. No chatter at night after lights out. No comparing notes or comforting each other. No plans to go against Daddy’s Rules.

What happened in my grade school classroom was a version of what I already knew. Only this time it was in a setting I perceived as safe. So much for safety.

The tactics of divide and conquer are so familiar we scarcely perceive them. Whether consciously or not, they cause division and divert attention from what’s really going on. Thus the divider has things his or her way.

Without knowing it, the girls in my classroom were reinforcing values of the upper class. Clarifying the dividing line between us and them. That may sound simple, but the other side of divide and conquer isn’t all that complicated once we understand how people abuse power and to what ends.

I’ve also experienced this in churches and in academic settings. It happens everywhere, often in ways that seem innocuous or even praiseworthy.

In the USA today, I see this tactic as a deadly weapon of non-warfare. No one wields it so skillfully right now as POTUS—with the possible exception of Russia.

But the subject I care most about is women. Women of all colors and nationalities have experienced the tactics of divide and conquer in the home and in workplaces, churches, organizations, academia, the government, human trafficking, prisons, retirement homes, and any other setting in which women work or live.

This constant division serves the interests of white male supremacy, not the interests of women no matter how fancy the rhetoric sounds. It’s no accident that the USA is steadily falling behind other nations when it comes to women having access to all levels of government, healthcare, and other vital services.

It pays, it seems, to keep women in their place. Especially if we do this by promoting them. Feeding them a little of what they want and watching them fight over it, while withholding equal and proportional participation in deciding what that is.

Not every male is a white supremacist. However, without women banding together across significant divisions, all the men in the world with good and noble intentions will never save us. We must speak and act for and with each other.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2018
Cartoon found at

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