Litany

Harvey Weinstein is not why I knitted four beautiful hot pink pussy hats and marched in the Women’s March last spring. I didn’t know about him last spring. Donald Trump was not why I marched in the Women’s March, either, but he was part of it.

Bobby, the neighbor boy who climbed the rough bricks outside our bathroom to peep in when  I was seven to see what a girl looked like after I told him, “no” when he offered me a dime to show him—Bobby started it. And Mark, the high school choir friend who was pretty immature but nice enough to hang around in a group until I told him I didn’t want to go with him to prom and I didn’t want to date him at all, after which he began loudly taunting me across the cafeteria so badly I retreated to one of the music practice rooms to eat my lunch for the rest of the year, and who yelled his usual taunt, loudly enough to be heard across the Civic Auditorium as I crossed the stage to receive my diploma at graduation. Mark added another verse to the litany being written deep inside me.

Then there was the nice divorced man from the church who had joined while I was away for my sophomore year of college who started showing up at my work place just as I clocked out at eleven pm. He was older and I didn’t like him “like that.” But, if somebody went to my church, I trusted them, because well, they went to my church and I had always trusted the people in my church. “Let’s go to coffee,” he’d say. “Sure.” I’d say. I had “go to coffee buddies” at college, why not at home during the summer, too?  Except one night he said he needed to stop by his house, did I mind tagging along? It turns out, I minded. I was ashamed. I should have known better. I didn’t tell anyone. Litany verse three.

Verse four, later that summer at the city pool. Shaken, I decided to leave after a man cornered me and would not accept my pleas of “leave me alone.”

Verse five, on my twenty-first birthday, when on a boat on the Baltic Sea as part of an  overseas study program, I left our group to return to my cabin alone and was followed by a drunken fool who tried to force his way into my cabin after me.

Verse six, the date with an exchange student during my senior year of college that turned ugly fast.

Verse seven, the seminary professor and admissions counselor at a school I visited, who looked me in the eye not once, but stared at my chest the whole time he interviewed me.

Verses eight and nine the man who tried to trick me into following him into an old barn to see some things he said were being stored there that belonged to the church where I was the pastor, and the used condom I found on the seat of my car in the pastor’s parking space outside the church a couple of weeks after I’d rebuffed him.

Litany verses ten, eleven, twelve, they’re all just more of the same. More of the same old rotten thing. More of the same thing women just chalk up to “the way things are.” Unless there’s violence, unless there’s long lasting physical harm, most of the time we women just move on and try to be “smarter” the next time—because so far, there has always been a next time.

I never added up the verses of my very personal litany, I never brought them out to see the light of day. I left them, unremembered deep in the dusty file cabinet of my life’s forgettable moments until last November, when enough people were willing to excuse a self-admitted “pussy grabber” to elect him President of the United States of America.

I marched in the march for many reasons. I knit and wore my hat for one. It was a proud defiance against the litany of disrespect shown me and women throughout the ages.

Now, let me preach a moment with the fire-like passion of the prophets:

This is not the way God intended things to be.

“At last this is flesh of my flesh,” the cry of joy from Adam in meeting Eve is not a cry of domination, but of mutuality, of partnership, of communion, of shared respect and shared pleasure.

“This is my beloved and this is my friend,” the delighted words of the bride about her groom in the Song of Solomon is not about power and possession, but about the tenderness and equality of true partners, willing the very best for each other.

“Wives submit to your husbands, Husbands love your wives like Christ loves the church,” the letter to the Christians in Ephesus is not proscribing subservient women pleasing dominating men, but, in true poetic reciprocity, each loving and serving the other with self-giving love like Jesus.

How about we start a new litany? A litany with verses about respect and tenderness?

How about verses where we march to a deeply humane beat?

How about verses in which we no longer keep quiet?

How about verses where we sing the truth?

How about verses about love?

Simply love.

What a litany.

3 thoughts on “Litany

  1. Thanks for listing your verses because in reading your list, I realized that I had my own litany. It was one I had pushed aside, but yes, it is still there. When I saw others on Facebook typing “Me too” as a post, I thought that it didn’t pertain to me……. but now I remember my litany. Thanks, Becky.

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  2. Thank you! I am moved by your words of witness to the experience of every female I know. My litany also began early and unfortunately most of those verses where written within the church. May the simply litany of God’s Love rewrite those hateful verses and transform humanity into the love song we were meant to be.

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