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TruthSeeker0

My slow liberation from the patriarchy

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You can take the woman out of religious patriarchy, but you can't take the patriarchy out the woman, at least not very easily. That's what I've learned in the last two years. I want to speak about this topic, because I've considered myself a liberated woman (even before I left religion, as ironic as that is). But sometimes, you don't see the ropes, until there's another mind shift, and only then do you see the ropes that were tying you down. I want to speak in particular to any women out there, particularly those of the ex fundamentalist variety. Maybe they might benefit in some small measure by this insight.

 

The patriarchy is so invisible sometimes, that even we women don't recognize it, or how it works. In particular, it's difficult to see if it has been upheld in some ways by the women around you, who have played a large role in your life. I have a relatively forward thinking mom. She always impressed upon me that it was OK to desire the best of both worlds, a career, a husband, and a family. However, even if it wasn't said, it was taken for granted that every woman in the church wanted a husband and family. You were abnormal somehow if you expressed another wish. I was one of the ones that actually wanted a husband and family, so I never struggled with that issue. I always struggled more with what I wanted in building a career. But I excelled in education and I loved learning and would have continued down the academic path as a career, if things hadn't become so challenging on some levels.

 

Anyway, fast forward to my mid 30s, and deconversion, at which time I started to pick apart the patriarchy on a whole other level, and recognize how religion had influenced and ordered my life. One of the first things I did relatively soon after escaping the church was join the dating world. That can be summed up in one word: disillusionment.

A few people close to me questioned this. Didn't I want to find out who I was without religion first? Why didn't I take some time? I myself figured I was doing it because, well, I could (dating outside of the church was outlawed and I had no interest within the church).

Well, fast forward one year later, and another mind shift, and I can tell you guys, I'm unsure how many fetters of the religious patriarchy are left to tie me down, but some clearly were. It's so difficult to recognize how deeply we have internalized all the messages in religion, culture, the surrounding world around us. I somehow thought I was immune to all the messaging in the church that a woman is less/diminished without a man in her life, but no, I had internalized that on a deep level, and the first thing I wanted to do after getting the hell out of the church was find myself someone, and prove that I was an equal to all those women (and the system as a whole) that had made me feel less than. In hindsight, it's so easy to recognize this motivation. But, I've only been able to recognize it now that I've made a more conscious decision, because I really want to, to exit the dating scene and focus on my own life and finding my own happiness.  It really doesn't matter how much of a liberated woman you tell yourself you are. You're only liberated when you begin to truly believe that your value isn't tied to any other person, or relationship. And the patriarchy, particularly the religious variety, will have you think otherwise.

 

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Excellent! There is a saying that the unexamined life is not worth living. Finding out what you are about, what makes you resonate, is key to enjoying life.

 

I've seen women leave husbands after years of marriage because they had married out of expectations. They said that they needed to explore who they really are inside. One lady discovered she was gay, another is straight but needed a new direction in life that her previous husband wasn't part of. The church is so big on ROLES, but that is such an antiquated view of life. We have so many options available today. So here's to you finding yourself!

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On 10/5/2018 at 1:13 AM, Fuego said:

Excellent! There is a saying that the unexamined life is not worth living. Finding out what you are about, what makes you resonate, is key to enjoying life.

 

I've seen women leave husbands after years of marriage because they had married out of expectations. They said that they needed to explore who they really are inside. One lady discovered she was gay, another is straight but needed a new direction in life that her previous husband wasn't part of. The church is so big on ROLES, but that is such an antiquated view of life. We have so many options available today. So here's to you finding yourself!

Thanks! It's actually pretty thrilling and exciting to look at life in an entirely different way than I have previously. But it also makes me sad for all the women (and men) out there that are still stuck in these roles and haven't realized that they don't have to play them, and that their lives aren't failures in any way if they don't live up to cultural or social norms or expectations. The key thing here is not to give a fuck about the messages that the surrounding society or people give you. First it was religion, but now I'm finding that I've started re-examining/critiquing my views and expectations in a lot of other areas. The really great thing about it is that risk taking, and daring greatly, as Brene Brown puts it, aren't nearly as daunting anymore. Half of our fears/limitations are likely based on "what should I do?" instead of "what would I like to do?"

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14 minutes ago, TruthSeeker0 said:

Half of our fears/limitations are likely based on "what should I do?" instead of "what would I like to do?"

 

Let's engrave that one on a brass plaque!

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Even after my husband and I worked together to reconfigure our marriage, he still has to remind me sometimes that we don’t have to have the same opinion. I don’t have to stroke his ego. Dismantle the patriarchy!

 

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Hi, TS0!

I too thought I was fairly progressive. However, patriarchy and misogyny have a way of infecting the deepest processes in our psyche. I suspect I'll be "housekeeping" my brain until I die!

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On 10/6/2018 at 8:50 PM, TruthSeeker0 said:

Half of our fears/limitations are likely based on "what should I do?" instead of "what would I like to do?"

 

On 10/6/2018 at 9:05 PM, older said:

 

Let's engrave that one on a brass plaque!

 

Yup! I'm afraid that with most of the major decisions I've made in my life, my primary way of determining what to do next is to ask "what should I do?" That isn't necessarily a bad question, but I've mostly answered the question by imagining what is expected of me, rather than what I actually wanted. And often that imagining is just that... imagination! Who knows whether people really expect one thing or another, or whether anyone cares!? It's a stupid way to do life.

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1 hour ago, Lerk said:

(Is there no way to delete a reply?)

 

 

Not as far as I know.  But you can edit a post to remove everything except maybe a "Deleted!" or "Duplicate Post!" note.

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Patriarchy has poisoned too many years of my life. I’m working towards personal liberation. Learned helplessness is a *thing* and it sucks. 

Reading and learning about the amazing women who have gone before us has helped me. 

 

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On 10/4/2018 at 8:18 PM, TruthSeeker0 said:

The patriarchy is so invisible sometimes, that even we women don't recognize it, or how it works. In particular, it's difficult to see if it has been upheld in some ways by the women around you, who have played a large role in your life. I have a relatively forward thinking mom. She always impressed upon me that it was OK to desire the best of both worlds, a career, a husband, and a family. However, even if it wasn't said, it was taken for granted that every woman in the church wanted a husband and family. You were abnormal somehow if you expressed another wish. I was one of the ones that actually wanted a husband and family, so I never struggled with that issue. I always struggled more with what I wanted in building a career. But I excelled in education and I loved learning and would have continued down the academic path as a career, if things hadn't become so challenging on some levels.

 

This resonates with me strongly. My youngest sister and I were the smartest (in terms of raw intelligence) of our siblings and so she and I both took those are marks of our identities. We never competed directly as we were six years apart so she was always ahead of me but we did compete by trying to gain as many accomplishments to compare to each other as we could. But she was extremely sharp and dynamic and let no boy get the best of her. Any who tried to assert dominance she could easily reduce to a husk of insecurity and self-doubt. ((Once I witnessed a boy hitting on her, trying to assert himself and she smiled and asked what he had in his ear. He proudly told her it was a stud. She replied, "Well, if you can't be one...")) She decided that she wanted to become a Constitutional Lawyer, earned a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious school and worked on her law degree. Even did an internship with the ACLJ and sat in witness to a couple Supreme Court cases. Then she stopped. 

 

One day she called home and told us that she was switching her major to youth education and wanted to become more family oriented. Her reasoning was that she did want a career and a family but being a Constitutional Lawyer was extremely time intensive and she wouldn't have much of a home life. She decided a family was far more important. She went into youth ministry for a time and is now a home-schooling, stay-at-home mom.

 

This is were I am conflicted. If that really was what she wanted, what gives her happiness and fulfillment, who am I to say she was wrong but I can't shake the nagging feeling that keeps saying, "...what a waste." Even as a Christian I thought this and that was when there was no higher purpose than raising godly children and having a godly family. This did put doubts in my faith even then that I had to actively dismiss every time they cropped up. Because, if that was really where she found happiness, fine. But... how much of that decision was influenced by the church?

 

I just don't know. But I feel like, on some level, that she's been... I don't know. I just don't know. But I feel conflicted. I feel like something wrong happened. Perhaps you have more insight into this than me. 

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9 minutes ago, Dexter said:

This is were I am conflicted. If that really was what she wanted,

 

This is what needs to be fully answered.  Is this what she really wanted, or did she just decide to fulfill a church/societal role because she was uncomfortable being outside the roles "they" expected for her.

 

One way to maybe get to an answer for this would be to imagine her living outside of the church structure.  No outside influence or pressure.  If she was in such an environment, would she be happy and fulfilled in this role?  Would she of chose this role on her own?  If yes, good for her.  If no, then she is not living for herself; and is totally dependent on "them" for her own contentment and happiness.  She will forever have limited her potential happiness and joy.

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12 hours ago, Dexter said:

 

This resonates with me strongly. My youngest sister and I were the smartest (in terms of raw intelligence) of our siblings and so she and I both took those are marks of our identities. We never competed directly as we were six years apart so she was always ahead of me but we did compete by trying to gain as many accomplishments to compare to each other as we could. But she was extremely sharp and dynamic and let no boy get the best of her. Any who tried to assert dominance she could easily reduce to a husk of insecurity and self-doubt. ((Once I witnessed a boy hitting on her, trying to assert himself and she smiled and asked what he had in his ear. He proudly told her it was a stud. She replied, "Well, if you can't be one...")) She decided that she wanted to become a Constitutional Lawyer, earned a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious school and worked on her law degree. Even did an internship with the ACLJ and sat in witness to a couple Supreme Court cases. Then she stopped. 

 

One day she called home and told us that she was switching her major to youth education and wanted to become more family oriented. Her reasoning was that she did want a career and a family but being a Constitutional Lawyer was extremely time intensive and she wouldn't have much of a home life. She decided a family was far more important. She went into youth ministry for a time and is now a home-schooling, stay-at-home mom.

 

This is were I am conflicted. If that really was what she wanted, what gives her happiness and fulfillment, who am I to say she was wrong but I can't shake the nagging feeling that keeps saying, "...what a waste." Even as a Christian I thought this and that was when there was no higher purpose than raising godly children and having a godly family. This did put doubts in my faith even then that I had to actively dismiss every time they cropped up. Because, if that was really where she found happiness, fine. But... how much of that decision was influenced by the church?

Your sister still belongs to the church, correct?

If she does, it's reasonable to hazard that the church has considerable impacts on her life and decisions. Tbh she may not be willing to examine just how much herself, because she might be doing what I was doing for a good long while- being ok with the influence of others because it was just so normalized and acceptable to you. Until you're able to get out of that headspace and realize that others shouldn't control your decisions, you almost willingly blind yourself to that influence. This happens to people who aren't religious as well. Keeping up appearances, keeping up with the Joneses etc. 

12 hours ago, Dexter said:

I just don't know. But I feel like, on some level, that she's been... I don't know. I just don't know. But I feel conflicted. I feel like something wrong happened. Perhaps you have more insight into this than me. 

You could ask her, but it might make her extremely uncomfortable. She could have made the choices independently and on her own as well and is happy with her life. In some ways it's impossible for others to know, even close ones. We sometimes or even often end up fooling ourselves that we're happy with our lives and made the right choices. Society, advertising, people, we are always in some ways receiving messages about what we should and shouldn't be doing. This is relevant

 

 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, TruthSeeker0 said:

Your sister still belongs to the church, correct?

 

Yes. And I do not think having that conversation with her is wise. She's buried herself extremely deeply into the home-school, S-A-M and church culture and I know at this point that many of her responses will be canned responses. I guess the feeling of wrongness in me is the observation that the fiery independence I once knew her for has regressed. Not like she was beat down, do not misunderstand. But like, she choose a corner to put herself in. But again, I am extremely cautious to take this view as I cannot know her thoughts and I do not presume to think that I know what another person should do. What I do know is the sibling rivalry that we once had has long been settled. Her school was far more prestigious than mine, but I never stopped learning. She did. 

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12 hours ago, Dexter said:

 

Yes. And I do not think having that conversation with her is wise. She's buried herself extremely deeply into the home-school, S-A-M and church culture and I know at this point that many of her responses will be canned responses. I guess the feeling of wrongness in me is the observation that the fiery independence I once knew her for has regressed. Not like she was beat down, do not misunderstand. But like, she choose a corner to put herself in. But again, I am extremely cautious to take this view as I cannot know her thoughts and I do not presume to think that I know what another person should do. What I do know is the sibling rivalry that we once had has long been settled. Her school was far more prestigious than mine, but I never stopped learning. She did. 

If that were my sister, I would be sad as well. But yes I agree it's likely better that you don't broach the subject. It's a really tricky area, asking people if they're happy with what they've chosen. I think probing too deeply can sometimes have negative consequences particularly when someone already has a lot of familial responsibility etc. 

I could have easily been your sister. My younger sister and I have always been quite competitive academically and both of us loved studying. Her studies largely lead her down a route out of the church when they resulted in her viewing our personal history from a very different perspective than the narrative we were taught. And her leaving the church was a large part of the catalyst that led to my questioning. It's very difficult I would argue for women to get far enough outside of the patriarchal mindset if there aren't factors such as education and personal history that cause them to examine things. Many of them are comfortable staying there due to community and social support and the praise that they get from raising good little believers. The role of the mother is idealized and put on a pedestal in my ex church. Of course the other side of the coin is that you lose your freedom when the choice is made for you, particularly in fundamentalist churches where there is no birth control. 

 

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Checking back in on this thread. I have brothers, but no sister. I’ve always been. Sry sensitive. I totally absorbed the lesson to achieve - but not more than your husband. 

 

Its frustrating to think about for me. If I had a dream of my own, maybe I would not have met my husband in college. Maybe I would have pursued a career.  

 

Life is hard. It’s definitely harder when there is an ironclad role that you have to play. 

 

Sending thoughts your way. 

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Even 10 years out I still find cognitive dust bunnies or worse still lurking in dark corners of my mind. Patriarchy has shaped my very behaviours that it takes massive effort and self monitoring to recognize its impact and change my behaviours. The layers are endless!

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3 minutes ago, Positivist said:

Even 10 years out I still find cognitive dust bunnies or worse still lurking in dark corners of my mind. Patriarchy has shaped my very behaviours that it takes massive effort and self monitoring to recognize its impact and change my behaviours. The layers are endless!

Yeah, they are, and ten years down the road I know I'll still be dealing with its impact, likely for the rest of my life.

Here's what I wonder: how many men who have left Christianity pause to think and reflect on the patriarchy that they grew up in, how it has negative influences both on them, and the females in their lives? How many truly try to deconstruct that narrative so that it doesn't continue to play out in their relationships and lives endlessly?

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