When Women Tell The Truth


Some of my posts come from the heart, some from the head. This one comes from the gut. It’s difficult to write because I’m swamped with strong emotions I don’t quite know how to express. So I’ll simply tell you the truth. I’ve recently come across three troubling blogs. One is written by a woman who describes the sad and dangerous life she lived as a prostitute in New York City for ten years.  A second expresses a woman’s disenchantment with her religion because of the oppression she’s experienced. A third is by a woman who is regularly abused by her husband and wishes she lived in America. None of these women make excuses or plead for sympathy. They simply tell the truth about their lives. And the truth is shocking, painful, and scary.
It’s shocking to know how many women suffer at the hands of men who fear and hate them. Shocking to know how often the authorities responsible for protecting women feel justified in not doing their jobs. Painful to know that so many women in today’s world are mistreated simply because they’re female. Painful to realize I’d rather turn away than face this truth. Scary because it reminds me how vulnerable I am…because I’m a female.
I started this post a few hours ago and was almost finished when I accidentally deleted it. So I had a little inner discussion that went like this:  “Oh, darn! It’ll take too long to try to rewrite it. I should just start over with another topic that’s easier to write about.”
My conscience responded with,  “Are you sure you didn’t unconsciously delete it accidentally on purpose so you’d have an excuse not to post it? Are you perhaps feeling a wee tad cowardly?”
Oops. We bandied this about until the doorbell rang. It was my daughter, granddaughters and granddog who’d dropped by for a brief visit. I told my daughter  how I didn’t know if I wanted to re-create the post and she said, “Why don’t you just write another one about how conflicted you’re feeling?  Wouldn’t that be appropriate for your blog?” Yes, indeedy it would! How’d she get so smart?
So I’ve decided to tell the truth I don’t want to think or write about. A web site called Archetype in Action has been publishing posts of mine for several months in the hope of raising psychological awareness about the unconscious forces in ourselves and society that perpetuate the abuse of women. Last week they posted an older one about the feminine principle in men and women, only to have their site hacked. Someone deleted my article and replaced it with a formal-looking notice saying it was inappropriate! The site manager provided another link and the problem was solved. But is the real problem solved?
This morning’s e-mail contained the latest post from the blogger who’s experienced oppression by her religion and culture. In it she expressed her anger at the hypocrisy of a religion that makes scholarly pronouncements emphasizing women’s rights while dismissing the women who do not experience these rights. After I read it I clicked on the link to her site so I could make a comment.  Guess what. The post was gone and there was a notice that said: “Not Found, Error 404. The page you are looking for no longer exists.”
Here I am, a well-intentioned, well-loved, well-treated woman in 21st century America, afraid to express my anger about injustices against women for fear of becoming a target for misogyny. Is a world where women are afraid to tell the truth the kind of world in which we want our daughters and granddaughters to grow up?

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0 Responses

  1. A Hard Frost – Cecil Day Lewis
    A frost came in the night and stole my world
    And left this changeling for it – a precocious
    Image of spring, too brilliant to be true:
    White lilac on the window-pane, each grass-blade
    Furred like a catkin, maydrift loading the hedge.
    The elms behind the house are elms no longer
    But blossomers in crystal, stems of the mist
    That hangs yet in the valley below, amorphous
    As the blind tissue whence creation formed.
    The sun looks out and the fields blaze with diamonds
    Mockery spring, to lend this bridal gear
    For a few hours to a raw country maid,
    Then leave her all disconsolate with old fairings
    Of aconite and snowdrop! No, not here
    Amid this flounce and filigree of death
    Is the real transformation scene in progress,
    But deep below where frost
    Worrying the stiff clods unclenches their
    Grip on the seed and lets
    the future breathe.

    1. A lovely metaphor for the invisible changes in attitude occurring deep within us beneath the shiny trappings of progress toward gender equality. Jeanie

  2. I recently found an online poster (the whereabouts of which have slipped my memory) where it says something along these lines:
    Women make 50% of the world’s population; do 3/4 of all work hours; earn 10% of all income; and own 1% of all property. It really, really, made me think — even if some numbers are a bit off, they can’t be that wrong!

    1. I know. In reality, the world is, and has always been, full of injustice and inequality, and the lot of women is just one example of it. Yet it is one that effects me most profoundly, so it is the one I write about. I think my message is that all of us who experience oppression on any level can choose to stay silent or make our voices heard. The voices don’t have to be strident or combative—that’s one way, it’s just not my way—but at least they can be truthful. Truth resonates in all of us and I believe is the most effective catalyst for healthy change. Thanks for writing, Jeanie

    1. The image that comes to my mind is that of the caryatids, the pillars shaped like beautiful draped women who hold up the entablatures over some of the most beautiful temples in Greece. They cannot move or speak but they can stand silently, supporting all the activities of life that go on in the spaces they keep free, open, and safe. Yes, women can do that, and this too is holy work. Jeanie

  3. Thank you for writing this! I fel it so much in my heart. At the moment I am writing a film script based on my own book and life story of abuse. The film is in production, a charity is supporting us, but there has been a voice of warning, ‘some people may try to prevent this!’ I am looking and watching, so your blog feels very supportive of this. Caroline

    1. You’re welcome Caroline. I hear this voice too, both from within and without, and am very grateful for the many supportive ones that bring me back to center. I think this is just the way of life, this tug between competing forces. It gives us life and births our creativity. May yours come to full fruition in your new film. Jeanie

  4. Hi Jean,
    Earlier when I read this post I was upset because in our short conversations I felt that there was a resonance between us based on our approach to being women but afterwards I thought I am probably just feeding into stereotypes about Islam and you reading me as an example of an ‘oppressed Muslim woman”. I appreciate that you didn’t name the religion in this post, this indicates that you were trying not to discriminate yourself. Yet in your words I feel like you have taken my own words as a blanket judgement about the religion. I do appreciate your sensitivity and we are in agreement about what we want for our daughters and granddaughters but my writing is very emotive and about cathartic release for me, it’s not about balance or providing a true picture of the religious communities that I have been part of. It’s as much about what I bring to it with my own biography (I was conditioned in a very liberal anti-religious environment) as what I have encountered, sometimes we play out our biography in our current circumstances, perhaps to resolve it.
    The post you read and that I then set to private was a ‘rage post’ and it was actually our conversation about making people uncomfortable that prompted me to set it to private! There are so many layers of truth in everything. What I write about are my subjective truths, this doesn’t equate to Truth itself. This doesn’t mean that my writing is lies either, but it is about me, my sense of my own lived experience and that sense changes based on where I place my attention, it’s not all bad, but this anger I have has to go somewhere and I chose to put it in a blog.
    Where we can agree is in many area’s, women suffer, women experience systemic discrimination, women fear telling the truth about their lives.
    A lot of my anger is to do with feeling suspended between worlds, my blog is the place I’d like to be able to let out the emotion without feeling I need to be reasonable or defensive. I could have been a convert to Christianity with similar experiences, but most Westerner’s because it’s an insider religion know that there are many shades of Christianity and not all of them are oppressive to women.
    My culture is actually Anglo Celtic and my blog explores some of the feelings I have had about living within Middle Eastern and Asian communities that are particularly traditionally minded when it comes to things like gender roles. So I guess I am just trying to say it is all so multi-layered. I know people living in the same communities as me who feel so empowered as women because there are just one or two circumstances that feed into my resentment and colour my perception that they don’t experience.
    More and more I am realising that my feminism is very radical, even by the standards of my own Anglo culture, my blog is as much about coming to terms with that and what it means as it is about religion. I am very subtle, I pick up on things that many people don’t and I see discrimination where many people don’t.
    I’m drawn to your blog because of your own subtlety, it resonates with me!
    So please don’t feel uncomfortable about what you read and also don’t feel you have anything to fear through communicating with me or writing about me, as is the case here!
    Best wishes and love in sisterhood

    1. Hi Artemis,
      I, too feel a resonance between us and am so sorry to have upset you. Your writing is very powerful and stirs up strong emotion in me. That’s a wonderful gift you have! As Jung says, “emotion is the mother of all change.” Or something like that! I’m grateful for this because it inspired me to write this post, which I needed to do to release some emotion of my own.
      I get it now that what you’re saying is as much about your personal struggle with your past as it is about religion. Obviously I was projecting my own fears about how my writing is perceived onto the fact that your post disappeared so quickly! I’ve been hearing a lot about hacker mischief and political shenanigans directed toward diminishing women’s voices and rights and it simply didn’t occur to me that you might have stricken it yourself!
      I’ll try not to feel uncomfortable about what I read on your posts but I can’t really control the way I feel! Your writing brings out some of my own unresolved discomfort!
      By the way, Artemis is my favorite goddess because of her fierce strength, independence, love for the wilderness, and maternal protection of those who are weaker and more vulnerable than she. I can see why you chose her as your “avatar.”
      In loving sisterhood,

  5. Awesome job Mom!!! If we all shared more about our personal truths and struggles maybe we would see more of our connections than our differences in this world. Hmmm – sounds like a book I know of 🙂 Love you! Julie

    1. Thank you, my darling! And thank you for suggesting how I could write about this. You always seem to find ways to inspire me! Yes, your comment does sound a bit like a book I know something about……. 🙂 Much love, sweetheart!

  6. Jean, thank you for your honesty and courage, your willingness to feel all your feelings – even the conflicted ones. Thank you for sharing what you see. I have this to add to the conversation:
    I understand what it is like to live in fear of your husband. I understand what it is like to have the patriarchal religious leaders I’d always trusted treat me as “other” and refuse to protect and support me when I told the truth about the abuse. When I decided to leave the marriage, my own father condemned me. I understand how hard it is to graduate yourself from these kind of experiences and completely re-create your life.
    I worked for years to integrate those parts of myself that needed respect and healing, that needed to feel and harness the power of anger. And, viola! Once the inner partnering was complete, my outer experience transformed: My father sincerely apologized and is now loving and supportive. I’m now remarried (10 years in May!!) to loving man who treats me with deep respect. We are founding members of a non-demonational spiritual community. And my work in the world is all about partnering with deep respect (for the land we live on, the spaces we live and work in, and those we live and work with).
    What do I do when I notice abuse still happening to the feminine? I feel it–and I allow myself to feel the deep sorrow that is appropriate when any life form is disrespected. And then I put my attention back on what I can do. I am a part of the Transformation From Patriarchy to Partnership that is happening on this planet. I have my part to play: I model for others how to graduate from systems that aren’t nourishing, how to create your own garden and bloom. I acknowledge all others (including the abusers, including the victims who right now feel they will always be stuck) for the role they are playing in this transformation. And then, I put my attention back on what I can do today, and I do it.
    Thank you, Jean, for who you are and for all you do.
    With Gratitude,
    Melody LeBaron

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Melody! It’s a hopeful model for other women who are in situations like this.For those who don’t know you, I’d like to mention that what happened to you was in a Christian family in contemporary America. You were very fortunate to have the legal system behind you, as many women in other parts of the world do not. However, I know the pain of being betrayed by your church and father was nonetheless devastating! Women have come a long way, but stories like yours need to be told lest the younger generation take their situations for granted. We still have a long way to go. Love and blessings, dear Melody, Jeanie

  7. Jeannie-
    Thank you for overcoming the obstacles you faced in writing about this difficult subject. I know the perils of facing and dealing with the truth.
    I have lost every “tangible” asset I have ever acquired because I decided to “Be True”* to my own heart and remove myself from an abusive situation…which is something that we at least have a right to do concerning divorce law in the State of Florida.
    My divorce was final in 2009 and still I meet with and work hard to pay attorneys who have to fight through the court system to get back what has been taken from me by a person I trusted to do the right thing. All this conflict has manifested because I told the truth. A simple truth that so many women cannot bring themselves to do. I decided not to take the abuse any longer. But making that choice has been firghtfully frightening!!
    I will never give up fighting. There are days when I feel totally defeated. Then that Chumba Wumba song pops into my head…”I get knocked down, but I get up again…nobody’s gonna get me down…”
    What happens to the poor soul who yearns for America? What becomes of the woman who lived the degrading life as a prostitute? Once they have found their own “truth” do they, too have to sacfrice everything?
    The truth is maybe. How ’bout that? I am sorry about what IS happeneing with your attempt to tell the truth via your blog. Can it really be that truth is so frightening?
    Yes, it obviousy is. But I will never give up on pursuing my own truth and I appreciate you writing about it and encouraging us to never give up.
    I love you and your Blog, but you KNEW that, right??
    * Be True was part of the “secret” motto of the Tri Delt Sorority at Gainesville….I have known such power form adhering to that one, simple principle.

    1. For many women, telling the truth feels like blasphemy and the worst kind of betrayal to all we hold dear. Certainly it can be the most difficult challenge we ever face. Congratulations to you for finding the courage within yourself to do it. While these kinds of crises can take us deep into the abyss, they have the potential to empower and fulfill us in ways we never imagined.
      As to my reluctance to talk about my own lingering fear, I know that compared to most women I’ve had an extraordinarily blessed and abuse-free life. Believe me, I’m grateful for that, and there’s every reason for others to wonder what I have to be afraid of! But how can I escape it when it’s in the news every day? Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to this issue, but what I know and have personally experienced is that the world around us subtly lets little girls know they’re more vulnerable and less valued than boys. I knew it by the age of 10. It’s so easy to ignore this when you’ve been well-protected, but when we’re compelled to move into a new space we never dared approach before, many of us find that suddenly a frightened little girl pops up seemingly out of nowhere. You’d think I’d have gotten over this by my age, but I don’t think we ever completely escape the unconscious conditioning of our youth. Sometimes the best we can do is just recognize the fear and choose to move forward anyway!
      With much love and many blessings my friend,

  8. LOL I just wrote a reply and my internet connection went out! I think I’m probably projecting my own fears about why I make people uncomfortable onto your discomfort, so please feel whatever you need to!
    It’s nice to be in contact 🙂

    1. Yes, we’re undoubtedly both projecting. That’s what humans do! So we have an agreement: I’ll feel what I feel and you’ll feel what you feel and we’re both totally okay with that! It is nice to be in contact. Ultimately I think it’s really all about the pleasures of connecting.It’s what reminds us we’re alive. Jeanie

  9. Thank you for this Post. Yes women suffer some places, and it’s true I am one of them. It’s true in some countries other women can’t even imagine what we are going through. I can see that in the comments on my blog. I really appreciate every small effort one can put in bringing awareness. Thank you

    1. I am so sorry. Writing this post is nothing compared to what could and should be done. Your recent post, “Just Hit Me” is the one that inspired this post. I feel so helpless and wish I knew how to help. Sending you sincere compassion. Jeanie

      1. Thank you Jeanie, You are doing what you can do, and I am really grateful, but the most important thing is that you care. Sometimes, it’s all I need, just to know someone cares, because i am used to people who just try to ignore the truth when it hurts, and It makes me feel so alone. Much love

  10. Jeanie: Thank you so much for your post! As we talk about suppression, I am wondering what it means that at this hour 4:00 p.m. on April 28, 2012, I can find no news mention of the War on Women Rallies, that have been scheduled across the country. Perhaps it’s just me not finding what is actually there. But I “Googled” and found nothing. It does make me wonder.

    1. That’s very interesting, Skip! I knew nothing about the War on Women Rallies so didn’t even notice the lack of news about it. Are you wondering if there might be some deliberate avoidance of this issue on the part of certain media in order to keep it from entering collective awareness? Considering the extremes of political discourse these days, I guess I wouldn’t be surprised. Jeanie

  11. Jeanie,
    Thank you for sharing your heart and this blog post! I came across this today when your current fb post took me to a sight listing several of your posts. I am sure this is not an accident!
    I love your daughters comment, “Awesome job Mom!!! If we all shared more about our personal truth and struggles maybe we would see more of our connections than our differences in this world.” I so agree!
    I love your comment – “Truth resonates in all of us and I believe is the most effective catalyst for healthy change.” — Sometimes truth takes us into the abyss, as you said in the following comment – “While these kinds of crises can take us deep into the abyss, they have the potential to empower and fulfill us in ways we never imagined.” —- I resonated with this comment. This I know and feel with all my heart too!
    Thanks again for your love and commitment to sharing your heart, your deep truth, your knowledge, and your courage! It is inspiring! Thanks to the other commenters too.

    1. Thank you, Sandy. I’m glad you found this. There’s a quote I love by Muriel Rukeyser: “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” We need to share and hear each others’ stories. That’s where the life is and where we discover what our own lives are about. Love, Jeanie

      1. Oh Jeanie – thank you. I love that quote by Muriel Rukeyser. I feel the truth of it! I am thinking deeply about stories, personal stories and those deep personal truths embedded in fiction. I’ve been thinking seriously about writing fiction. I am open, willing and waiting to hear and discover my new myth. We’ll see. I was in awe with that quote and needed to think about it for a bit before I responded. Thanks again for your reply and for sharing another golden nugget. What a gem. What a gift!
        Are the three blogs you mentioned open to the public? Love, Sandy

        1. I feel sure that whatever genre you decide is right for you, your writing will be filled with passion and heart. You are obviously endowed with both! Just keep listening. The answers will come. Can’t wait to see how you manifest them in your own unique way! Love, Jeanie

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