Monday, February 12, 2018

Vagina Monologues

Vagina Monologues

On Saturday February, 3rd DeeJae Cox, of The Los Angeles Women's Theater Project,  directed a production of  The Vagina Monologues. She asked me to create a display that would tell the stories of sexual assault survivors. The first thing I thought of was a quilt. Quilts were an expression of women's art when there was no openness to or interest in the artistic expression of women. Quilts were a way that women could share the company of other women at a time when they were isolated from each other in farm, field or kitchen. Quilts were a way women kept their families warm. Quilts were a way women were good stewards of every scrap of fabric they possessed. Once constructed, quilts hold memories and tell stories.

There was not time to construct a proper, cloth quilt so I made one from paper. The pictures of the survivors on the quilt have jagged edges to represent the jagged marks left in their lives. The pictures are mounted on red paper, I think the red is self explanatory. And pink yarn tries it all together because I couldn't tie the quilt together with pussy hats.

I also constructed  a resistance banner and encouraged guests of the after party to have their picture taken in front of it and be the "I" in resist.  I was inspired by Coachella Valley Artist Clarissa  Cervantes. She had a beautiful resist banner at the 2017, Women Rising Event. 


Two different groups shared their stories. Some of them are #MeToo and some of them are #MeAt.  #MeAt, "Is a campaign to give a visual to the innocence lost by pedophiles." Susie Q Spite is the founder of the #MeAt campaign.  Some of the #MeAt did not share a story, simply a picture of themselves and the age at which they were assaulted. Following are some of their stories.

#MeAt 12 
when my teacher began molesting me. I have a recent confession from him that I provide to the LAPD. Because of the statute of limitations he is free to molest.
#MeAt 7 
when my neighbor molested me. He was my babysitter.
#MeAt 15 
when I was assaulted by our neighbor.
#MeAt 8 
when my father began molesting me and my sister. I told my mother but she didn't believe me. It has been a hard life for me and my sister. I hope more women speak up so that mothers will protect their children.
#MeAt 25 
when I was raped by my neighbor. 
#MeAt 2 
my uncle was caught abusing my sister and jailed. I was 2 when he took to me.
#MeAt 15 
when my brother molested me. It happened to me much younger but for now I remember this as the time it stopped because I ran away from home.
#MeAt 19 
when I was raped by my boss. I never said anything to anyone until recently.
#MeAt 16 
when my stepfather molested me. My mother knew and did nothing to save me. She has since passed. Mothers must try and help their children heal when complicity exists.
#Me At 5
when a family friend molested me at a family party. There was lots of drinking and my mother was drunk. I still carry resentment towards my mother because I told her. She didn't do anything and it happened again.
I don't have a picture of being molested by my father as a child.
#MeAt 10
when my aggressor, stepfather forced me to perform oral sex. He decided this was something he was going to continually do and he blackmailed me to keep quiet and not tell anyone, or my siblings and I would be separated from our mother. He continued doing this for fifteen years gradually increasing his desires to touching forced oral sex and eventually forced intercourse. At age 24 I met my current boyfriend,who, although he knew nothing of what was going on with me, understood me. He decided to take me in to live with him. Within a couple months I told him everything I had been through. He has been my rock and has helped encourage a positive change in my life. With the help I have received from CVSAS, my way of thinking and being is stronger and better than I would ever imagine.
#MeAt 60
I was caring for my mother in New York when I was awakened by the pain of something being inserted inside my vagina. My nightgown was pulled up to my neck and I was totally exposed. I froze and was disoriented. All I could hear was his voice saying, "doesn't that feel good" and "don't you like that?" That moment changed my world and left me powerless which led me to being homeless. One minute I was in New York and the very next moment I found myself riding a Sun Line bus in Palm Springs and ended up in a homeless shelter - and there is where my healing began.
The perpetrator was a man with whom I was interviewing for a job. He tried to rape me but I was faster. I left and told no one. It was 1983.
The perpetrator was a man, the store manager where I worked who said all I needed was a good stiff dick - his, to be exact - to knock me out of my lesbianism. I left and told no one. It was 1979.
The perpetrator was a fifteen-year-old boy who molested my four-year-old daughter. I told someone. I called the police. He was arrested. It was all I could do to not become the next perpetrator and kill him. It was 1977.
He was my cousin. He was a teenager and I was so young I don't remember my age at the time. He took me into the barn. I told my mother and she believed me but my aunt, his mother, did not.
The reason for my book cover.
He was one of our families' best friends. I had known him since I was three-years-old. He called me into the laundry room during my parents' Christmas party. He tried to kiss me. He put his hands on me.  He told me his marriage was not working. When my father confronted him about what he had done he said, "I can't believe she is bringing this up now."
Left vulnerable at age 6.
I was sixteen-years-old at church camp. We were all in the pool playing volleyball. I felt someone grab my crotch. I got out of the pool and told the female counselors. Later, when I was sent to the camp director for counseling, he told me he was the one who grabbed me. He said he was surprised by my reaction.
Sexual assault survivor, Cosby survivor, Women's advocate, Mother, Grandmother, Warrior Woman speaking truth to power! Now, no better time.


Many of the women who shared their stories for the quilt are fearful that they will be recognized and do not want their names or stories shared. Understandably, many of us have lived with fear and shame for a very long time. Some of the #MeAt stories are those of men who were molested as boys.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

For if You Keep Silent at Such a Time as This Esther 4:14

For Such Times as These

When I started writing this I was angry. I asked the sisters and brothers of EEWC Christian Feminism Today to talk me off the ledge. I was afraid I would post a picture of MT, standing on the wing of an airplane, wearing only a thong, holding a gun with the words, "N**** Woman" under it and that is not me. I felt angry, frustrated, helpless and humorless. That was a dark place. The continued attempts to roll back women's control of their own bodies, the threat to children who have grown up in the United States, some of whom I know and love, gun violence and the sick, misguided people who perpetrate that violence, the continued assault to health care that could help mentally ill people and so many other atrocities of the current administration had me near the edge. 

Then I read some tweets from women that made me laugh and helped me realize that if I loose my mind it will not help anyone. The funniest tweet was, "Maybe if we tell the Republicans that the pill is like a tiny, little gun that protects the vagina they will quit trying to regulate it."
So, hopefully on the lighter side...

"We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced any more." DT

In 1843 Joseph Smith announced that, "God had revealed to him that no virgin could enter Mormon heaven."1 That's bloody convenient isn't it? Is that the person of faith DT is talking about?

"Women who appear in public, with uncovered ankles, are to be whipped." Taliban
Are these the people DT is defending?

The people of faith DT and his administration are protecting are the Christian, Religious Right who want to have control over women's bodies and reproductive powers. Don't get me wrong, patriarchal religions and governments have always tried to control women's bodies. They decide what we can or can't wear, where our voices or our laughter can be heard, where we can sit or stand or pray.

Other Times Like These

In 1877 Annie Wood Besant was arrested for printing and distributing a pamphlet on conception. The British court found the pamphlet to be a, "Dirty, filthy book." Ms Besant "lost custody of her daughter because the court decided she was a bad influence on a growing girl."2
In 1916 Margaret Sanger founded the first American birth-control clinic, "for which she was imprisoned."3 On January, 21 2017 women and men around the world marched. We imagined what lay ahead. Some of our worst expectations have been realized. We will not go back to a world where women are to be kept barefoot and pregnant. Our lives and reproductive powers can no longer be a political football.

1. Jean F. Blashfield, Hellraisers, Heroines, and Holy Women: Women's Most Remarkable Contributions to History (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981), 7.
2. Ibid. 12
3. Melanie Parry, ed., Larousse Dictionary of Women (New York: Larousse, 1996), 581.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Save the Children of DACA

Children of the American Dream

Their parents brought them to the United States when she was in preschool and he was a toddler. Their brother was born a couple of years later. She plays basket ball and has plans to go to Pepperdine University on a scholarship. He is a baseball fanatic with plans to go to the local community college before pursuing his physical therapy license. Their parents were lawyers in Mexico. They did not want their children raised in the corruption they observed in the Mexican government. It was never their intention to be undocumented. Through a series of errors, theirs and the governments, they found themselves undocumented with no legal option but to return to Mexico and start over.

They have a successful business. Their children are in school and living in the only home they have ever known. They are members of a community with friends and family. They are members of a church. They made the difficult decision to stay. A decision that meant living in fear of being discovered, of being arrested, of being deported.


When President Obama instituted the Dream Act (DACA) the two older children signed up immediately. When the opportunity to get a drivers license presented itself they went right down and took the test. When Trump was elected they went to the Mexican Conciliate to make sure their papers were in order in case they needed to take the family to Canada.

Their story is not an isolated incident. I taught kindergarten for thirty-plus years and stories like this abound in my memory. Parents who desperately want the best for their children and get caught in a system they cannot navigate. My friends, mentioned above, are smart, educated people and the system overwhelmed them.


 Many Sunday mornings you will find a San Diego priest saying mass on the beach by the fence that separates the United States from Mexico. Separated families come to that mass. They cannot touch each other but they can pray together. Some of the people, on the other side of the fence, are deported  retired U.S. military. I pray for all the people who are being harmed by a heartless administration. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Are We Making Any Progress?

I woke up at three A. M. praying that no one would molest her at church camp. 

I have written about this before. I thought once I admitted it to myself and others I would be fine. Then I woke to this early morning prayer. My great-niece left for a week at church camp the day before. I am exited for her. Church camp was a very special part of growing up. My last year as a camper the director of the camp grabber me between my legs much as the current inhabitant of the White House brags about doing to women. 

I have received many comments and questions about the cover of my book, Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers: Questioning Teachings About Biblical Women.
I gave answers like, "Women have been hurt by patriarchal interpretations of women's biblical stories. The woman on the cover represents the pain I have seen in my own eyes after a particularly harsh chastisement of women based on patriarchal interpretations." I gave an answer like that to  Marg Herder, a woman I greatly respect and the Director of Public Information for the Evangelical Ecumenical Women's Caucus: Christian Feminism Today. She was writing a review of my book for the EEWC web page. The review can be found at this link.

Muscles Have Memory

After that correspondence with Marg I went to the gym. It is a good thing that the weight was really heavy and the music was really loud because I burst into tears. Not just tears, but the ugly cry. The flood of memory and emotion surrounding the grabbing incident and what followed, overwhelmed me. That was the first time I wrote or even talked about the experience. First to Marg, then on this blog. 

What Has Changed?

Almost 50 years later and I am praying for the safety of a fourteen-year-old girl at church camp. Almost 50 years later and the occupant of the White House brags about grabbing women's private parts. When I asked Marg if I could use her name in this blog she told me of a therapist friend who has seen an increase of women with PTSD because of experiences like mine. Having a man in the White House, who brags about molesting women has brought all those long buried feelings to the surface.
I am a Christian Feminist and I pray no one molests her or any other little girl or woman. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dangerous Women

It's Biblical

"If a man come upon a maiden that is not betrothed, takes her and has relations with her, and their deed is discovered, the man who had relations with her shall pay the girl's father fifty silver shekels and take her as his wife, because he has deflowered her. Moreover, he may not divorce her as long as he lives."
Deuteronomy 23:29

This art exhibit was created by Mirelle Honein to protest a law in Lebanon which, "allows rapist to avoid jail terms if they marry their victims." John, Tara; Time Magazine: May 15, 2017.  The exhibit features wedding dresses hanging by nooses. In April the cabinet of Lebanon revoked the law and  Parliament is scheduled to vote on it in May. 
What kind of horror would that be for a women to have to marry a man who has so horribly violated her? After a 16-year-old girl committed suicide when she was forced to marry her rapist the law was overturned in Morocco. According to the Time Magazine article referenced above, at least six countries in the region, "retail the loophole."

And now in Manchester, England

"Women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hairstyles and gold ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds." 
1 Timothy 2:9-11

Under Taliban rule women may not go out of the house without a male family member to escort them. They must be covered from head to toe, their shoes must not make noise, their laughter must not be heard. The moment I heard of the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert I believed those young women and girls were targeted because they were not controlled by a man, they were not covered from head to toe and they were not silent. Ariana's concert tour is called, "Dangerous Woman Tour." These young women and girls are dangerous to the men who want to control their lives, their bodies and their reproductive abilities. 

Holy Books Used to Control Women

As a Christian I have experienced patriarchal interpretations of the Bible that are used to control and subordinate women and girls. I will not critique the Koran because it is not my holy book. I will critique the inhuman results of patriarchal interpretations of holy books which harm, seeks to control, subordinates or marginalize women. I will not be controlled!! I am a dangerous woman!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

Who were the Apostles?

Why do we believe what we believe? That was the original subtitle for Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers.  I was inspired to use that title while listening to a radio preacher. I don't do that very often but sometimes I torture myself. He asked, "Why do we believe that?"  And answered, "I don't know why we believe that, we just do. You don't have to know why we believe that,  just believe." I don't know what they were believing, I was busy screaming at the radio, "You don't know why you believe what you believe?" YIKES!!!

 The April 23, 2017 bulletin of St. Joseph Catholic Church brings to mind that radio preacher.  It states, "Today we listen to the teachings of three apostles - Luke, Peter, and John - who remind us that even though we have not seen Christ, we nonetheless are filled with joy as we place our belief in his saving death and resurrection." I believe the implication is that these three men were friends and contemporaries of Jesus.  If a parishioner took the bulletin at face value, they would be deceived.  

Luke is not recorded in any list of Apostles found in the Gospels. Some traditions say he was a doctor who traveled with Paul, others that he was a late second century Christian from Antioch. We know he was not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus because he tells his reader he is attempting to compile a narrative, "Just as those who were eyewitnesses." The approximative date for Luke's Gospel is between 80 - 130 C.E. That would mean the Gospel was written 50 -100 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Scholars believe that 1 Peter was written by a follower of Peter based on "language, content, style and theological development." An example of  this is the polished Greek in which the letter was composed and allusions to persecutions which date between 81- 96 C.E. Peter was an unlettered and probably illiterate Galilean fisherman martyred in Rome between 64 - 67 C.E. That would mean Peter was dead thirteen years before the persecutions started.  The date for 1 Peter is the same as the Gospel of Luke.

In the introduction to the Gospel of John, The New American Bible: St. Joseph Edition, a Catholic publication, states, "Other difficulties for any theory of eyewitness authorship of the Gospel in its present form are presented by its highly developed theology and by certain elements of its literary style." Scholars believe that this Gospel was written by a disciple of John between 90 - 120 C. E.

Scholars of the Roman Catholic Church know this.  The New American Bible for Catholics says of  
1 Peter, "Some Modern scholars however, on the basis of a number of features that they consider incompatible with Petrine authenticity, regard the letter as the work of a later Christian writer." The introduction to the Gospel of John says, "Critical analysis makes it difficult to accept the idea that the Gospel as it now stands was written by one person." And of Luke, "The prologue to the Gospel makes it clear that Luke is not part of the first generation of Christians disciples but is himself dependent upon the traditions he received from those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word." 

We did not see Christ and we are filled with joy.

Perhaps that is why the church bulletin reminds us of the joy of  believing without seeing. Whoever these ancient authors were, they did not know Jesus and are relying on the words of others for their writing. Does that disqualify them as Apostles? In the Greek Apostle means, "One who is sent." According to that definition these authors could be considered Apostles. Why does this matter? Because, we are being misled into believing that the authors of Luke, I Peter and John were eyewitnesses to the life and teaching of Jesus. Taught to believe something that is not true. Why do we believe what we believe? Because we read it on the front of the bulletin or hear a radio preacher tell us that is what we believe. 

In Matthew, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are "sent" by an angel of the Lord to go quickly and tell the disciples. In Mark, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are "sent" by a young man to go and tell the disciples and Peter. Luke says it is Mary Magdalene, Johanna and Mary the mother of James who are "sent" by two men in dazzling garments to the eleven and all the others.  Finally, in John's Gospel it is Jesus who "sent" Mary Magdalene to tell his brothers.  

What makes an Apostle an Apostle?

Is it gender? Is it being an eyewitness to the life and teaching of Jesus? Does being sent to proclaim the life and teaching of Jesus or the resurrection make one an apostle? Romans 16:7 refers to Junia as, "prominent among the apostles" and in I Cor. 15:8-9 Paul calls himself an apostle. 

So what is the answer? If the authors of Luke, John and I Peter, are apostles, if Paul is an apostle, if Junia is an apostle then Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Johanna are all apostles. They were eyewitnesses to the life, teaching and resurrection of Jesus and they were sent! 
Why is this important? Because gender is so often used to deny women full participation in their faith communities and deny their importance in the development of the Christian Church.  Believing the authors of Luke, John, and 1Peter were contemporaries of Jesus is Biblical  illiteracy and a contributing factor to limits on the full participation of women. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Body Language

 The Toast Masters' (I call them Toast Mavens') handbook, uses as the title for each speech the new skill to be learned. This is the speech I will be giving at the next Toast Mavens' meeting.

Bodies Talk

The title of this assignment in our Competent Communication handbook is,"Your Body Speaks" and they are not talking about bad gas or hunger rumblings. When I was teaching kindergarten I would ask the children if hands could talk. They would always assure me that hands can not talk. So I would put my finger to my lips and ask, "What is my hand saying?" They would respond, "Shh." I would hold my arm out with the palm of my hand facing them and ask, "What is my hand saying?" and they would respond, "Stop." Then I would close my hand except for my index finger and wag it from side to side and ask, "What is my hand saying now and they would answer, "No." At the end of this lesson we all agreed, hands can tell us many things. 

Facial expressions are as important as hand movements in communication. One of my kindergarten mommies teaches American Sign Language at College of the Desert. Her face is fascinating to watch as she signs. Her expressions are extreme. I suppose those facial expressions, fill in the communication blank that vocal variety would fill.

Hands talk, faces talk, bodies talk. Women are taught to stand small. We stand with our legs together, our arms at our side or clutching our hand bag. I was at a gas station the other day and a man was approaching every women who was either pumping gas, sitting in her car or going into the mini mart. He was asking them for money and he was very insistent because he had a dog that needed food. I did not want him to approach me so, I spread my feet apart, put one hand on my hip and the other hand on my car, making  sure I took up as much space as possible. When he looked over at me I looked right back. He did not approach me.

Women are taught to sit small with our legs together, crossed at the ankles, our hands in our laps, so as not to take up too much space. Have you ever sat in a plane, or a train, or a theater where you have to share the arm rest? Men are allowed, even encouraged to sit and stand big. Have you ever had to walk down the aisle in a plane or a bus or a theater, or a church and the men are sitting with their arms across the back of the seats beside them, both legs spread wide and sticking out as far as they will reach? Are men trained to take up as much space as possible?

Women are warned that when we are walking alone we should walk with confidence, our back straight and our head up as if we know where we are going. The irony is, we do know where we are going. This warning is usually given on the evening news in the context of another woman found dead, or disappeared, or raped. 

Patriarchy, especially religious patriarchy likes to control women's bodies which effectively controls their movement, their self expression and their reproductive freedom. When I was a lector at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, the lector coordinator asked me if it were appropriate for me to cross my legs when I was sitting behind the altar. I told him to find out and let me know. If the church has a problem with me closing my legs he could take me off the lector roster. I never heard another word about it. That was just his little way of trying to control my movement. 

The Taliban put sever restrictions on women's movement and self expression. Women can not laugh in public, their shoes can not make noise, they have to be accompanied by a male family member and they must be covered from head to toe by a burka. The burka has a tiny slit, covered by mesh, for them to see through. I often wonder what it must be like to breath inside a burka, in the summer, in Afghanistan. Have you ever pulled the sheets up over your head? How long did it take before you had to pop your head out because it was hard to breath?

Bodies Liberated

We all know I am a feminist and we feminist have a saying, "The personal is political." Body movement, body language, self expression and reproductive choices do not get much more personal and therefore not much more political than that. So sisters, don't stand small, don't sit small, cross your legs if you feel like it, laugh out loud, wear clacity shoes and take up space. After all, it is your space too.