Why is my body sexualized even when I wear the most modest clothes? Is it because of the way that I stand? The way I conduct myself? Is it my age? Is it the way I smile/don’t smile? (I was once told that I shouldn’t smile at a man because it gives them permission to do what they want to you). Does being attractive for a woman mean that men get to do whatever they want to the woman in their heads without the woman’s permission?
These questions I have regarding the power relations between men and women come from past experiences and it obviously frames men in a negative light. It’s true that I have been hurt by past experiences/interactions. It’s true that I have cried many nights, feeling used, abused, and manipulated. It’s true that I don’t know many men who can say they’ve had these questions about women, or have felt trapped in the web of the “male gaze”. It’s true that I don’t know many men who would even care if women do sexualize them.
But it’s also true that I know many women who also don’t care. It’s also true that I do know men who have been incredibly hurt by women. It’s true that I do know men who can’t function around women out of complete and utter fear that they will be intensely controlled and manipulated like they have been in the past. People use, abuse, manipulate and destroy no matter their gender, sex, religion they claim, race, class or sexuality. People are human. People are hurt, and hurt others out of that place of hurt.
Am I making excuses for the incredible pain, and darkness happening in the world today due to oppressive systems in our socially constructed hierarchies? No. Am I denying that these hierarchies of privilege exist or think they should be ignored? Absolutely not.
But I AM choosing to recognize MY part in it. And I’m sorry – not the generic Canadian kind of sorry, but the deep, sorrowful sorry – for the times I don’t recognize my own privilege, for the times I blindly follow what society says is fine, for the times I let my frustration hurt those more privileged than I, for the times I’ve thought I was better than those more privileged than I and thought “at least I’m not like them”, for the times I’ve let my past experiences generalize men and put them in a box, for the times I’ve never stood up for those who are mocked, ridiculed, discriminated against, and treated as basically animals. No one deserves to be treated that way, and I cannot apologize enough.
I AM choosing to forgive. I forgave those who hurt me (and who will hurt me) a long time ago. Forgiving doesn’t mean that what they did was okay, it means I am letting go of the past because holding onto a grudge means that those people have control over me. And before anyone tells me that its too hard to forgive and let go, let me tell you about Corrie Ten Boom, the woman who forgave the monster that raped and killed her family. Let me tell you about Jesus who forgave not only the people who betrayed him and killed him, but all of mankind. I forgave because I myself have been forgiven. I forgave because no one can be filled with love for people with a bitter heart. And love is what heals the wounds, the darkness. True, genuine love starts with forgiveness and forgiveness starts with me.
I AM choosing to take a stand now. We all have our hurts to bring to the table. We all have pasts with wounding in different areas where we think our wrongful anger (from having our pride knocked down) and bitterness is what drives us to take a stand. But it shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t be anger and bitterness, instead it should be the GROWTH from our forgiveness that drives us forward. Our hurt not forgotten, but instead channeled with anger for injustice (the right kind of anger) into something good, something purposeful and beautiful.
I’m not here to point fingers – we all make mistakes. I’m here to draw attention to the power struggles people face every day without even realizing it. And to be completely honest, I’m writing this because (even if people don’t agree with me) I selfishly feel like I just need to get off my chest that (in my opinion) we ALL, including me, need to be doing a lot better job at loving each other as brothers and sisters.
For me, I find purpose in Jesus Christ. He is the only way I can truly forgive and be filled with genuine love for others. “Only by Jesus could I forgive” said Corrie Ten Boom. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH9nwFb87u4) Am I perfect? No. Do I love people perfectly? Absolutely not. But Jesus does. And so I will continue to go to Him for the energy to push forward, forgive, love others and take a stand for justice. It’s a daily battle for sure, in more ways than one. But this is what it means to be a Jesus Feminist, and that’s who I want to be.
For more info on why I believe, see my blog post “Why I Believe” @ https://annamariesarah.com/2017/09/21/why-i-believe/ , and for more on being a Jesus Feminist, I recommend reading “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey and listening to the “Undiscussed Podcast” on feminism by Power to Change, available on the following platforms: