Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sometimes I Wish My Eyes Hadn't Been Opened

When I was in seminary in the early 1980's, the women at the school would sing together:

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
Sometimes I wish I could no longer see
All of the pain and the hurt and the longing of my
Sisters and me as we try to be free*

The words were a reflection of the experience we shared as women entering into a bastion of male experience: theological education.  While called into ministry and pursuing a Master of Divinity, many of us would be unable to be ordained because of our gender.  Still, God's call was too compelling to ignore.

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened,
Just for an hour, how sweet it would be
Not to be struggling, not to be striving,
But just sleep securely in our slavery.*

Being in seminary ripped open my life in ways I hadn't anticipated. I grew up in a church where I was nurtured and mentored into ministry. Even though I had heard my call to ministry long before I met my first clergywoman, I never thought that my gender would have an impact on the journey to ordination or my participation in the larger church.

Try as I might to ignore sexism and the power of patriarchy, it was too great to deny once studying in seminary.  As other women shared their experiences, as I read the work of women scholars, and as I studied history, the sacred canopy of my worldview was torn into shreds as I learned of the sin of sexism. 

But now that I’ve seen with my eyes, I can’t close them,
Because deep inside me somewhere I’d still know
The road that my sisters and I have to travel:
My heart would say, "Yes" and my feet would say "Go!"*

Mary Daly (October 16, 1928 – January 3, 2010) was one of the scholars whose work changed my life.  With linguistic creativity, Daly critiqued patriarchy and the Church.  She was a "Revolting Hag" who challenged us to see the damage patriarchy was doing not only to women but to the entire planet.  Reading Mary Daly cracked open my mind and made me consider what it meant to seek ordination in a patriarchal social institution.  Because of Mary Daly, I was able to embrace the word "feminist" and seek to live as a "Spin-ster" whose creative acts birthed gyn/ecological justice.

Mary Daly passed away on January 3, 2010 but she still reminds us that "Courage to be is the key to the revelatory power of the feminist revolution."  As I give thanks for her life, her words and witness, I am recommitting myself to the task of feminism and daring to live with courage so that those who will come after me will find a world unencumbered by oppression due to gender, race, class, or sexual orientation.

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened,
But now that they have, I’m determined to see:
That somehow my sisters and I will be one day
The free people we were created to be.*

*(Words and Music By Carol Etzler, 1974 published by Sisters Unlimited, RR 1 Box 1420, Bridgeport, VT 05734)


  1. Here's to a Life lived Courageously spinning and sparking our way toward Be-ing. Here's to Mary!

  2. Karen,
    I enjoyed your comments on culture and religion. I’m wondering if you’ve ever done a study of sexism against males and especially in American culture. I’ve come to terms with being different and acknowledge most of being different is just being a Third Culture Kid ( Now, I just ignore the stereotypes of what women and men expect of me. I enjoy working with kids but real men in this country don’t do kids and especially kids that aren’t theirs. Liking to cook is becoming more acceptable for men but I can remember when we graduated from college that this was something that men generally didn’t do.
    I’ve always placed myself in the Christian middle. People on the right think I’m far left and people on the left think I’m far right. It puts me in the unique position to challenge both sides. Being “head of household” for men on the right has always come with specific roles. I’ve often argued that if my wife can pull down 100K per year and the man is better at cooking, cleaning, and keeping the kids on schedule, shouldn’t a male “head of household” organize the household according to skill set? Somehow this gets labeled as role reversal and not common sense. Sometimes men are cruel to each other when it comes to expectations.
    I remember being back at Drew in the late seventies. I never thought of you as a feminist. My definition of feminism always had a women’s superiority complex that had to put men down. At Drew, I learned not to hold doors open for many women or even try to be a gentlemen. According to them, that was my male superiority complex coming out. It wasn’t okay to just be nice.
    After my first year at Drew, I decided to do my best to push through college in three years. For me, Drew was hell and I just wanted to get out. It wasn’t okay for me to be me. Again, I didn’t like the messages from both sides.
    I married another Third Culture Kid and now our two boys are grown. But, I still teach elementary Sunday school and the kids and I do have a good time. They keep me real just like the velveteen rabbit. I buck stereotypes all the time and just don’t worry about it any more.
    Getting back to the main point, does anyone know of research done regarding sexism against males. I’ve seen books like Iron John and others that are about men finding their masculinity again. This is different; this is can a man be accepted by other men or women if he is a stay-at-home dad type stuff.

    David Anderson, Drew '79

  3. Thanks, David, for your comments. I have not heard of the Third Culture Kid and appreciated your link. I remember the cultural straddling you had to do at Drew and the challenges that you faced as a result.

    I think patriarchy is harmful to women AND men, forcing us all into roles that are not helpful to individuals or communities. Gender studies, feminist studies and queer studies are helping us critique patriarchy and come to new understandings about gender.

    One book you might find interesting is bell hooks' "The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love".