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To Be Revered

Clearly, a woman’s real problem lies just as much in being too revered as it does in being too reviled. To be revered means to meet the expectations of those who really have respect in a society. To be revered means, then, to be allowed to be only half of who you are. It is not a simple choice: To be what other people want you to be gets approval.
“I’m not a feminist, but…” I said for years, eager to keep my credentials as “good sister,” and “nice woman.” Then one day I noticed that I was for equal pay, equal rights, equal representation, equal protection under the law and a theology as respectful of women as channels of grace as it was for men. There was no way out. I could no longer exclude myself from the ranks of those who believed in the full implications of the fact that women were also rays of God’s energy on earth.
“I don’t want you any place near my daughter,” a woman said to me. “I want her to be a good wife and mother, not a feminist.” As if the two were irreconcilable. But the situation was clear: To be what you are, to say what you think, to do what you need to do to be your most developed self means to risk rejection.
The remnants of that kind of social mentality lurk everywhere yet. Little girls still get to be “ladylike,” meaning docile and quiet when they may most need to learn to be assertive and loud. Adolescent girls still get catcalled down one street and up another. Adult women still leave marriages after years of disapproval and they still leave churches, too, after hearing throughout their entire lives that even God has rejected them. The problem becomes how to keep self-respect in a society that claims to revere you but does not respect you.

                                 —from The Story of Ruth, by Joan Chittister