Please welcome author and blogger Sarahbeth to the blog today as she shares her story of rape culture and feminists.
I was raised by a strong woman: a mother of two who was also a full-time nurse, and later a full-time college professor. She drove my father to dozens of chemotherapy appointments while working on a PhD and still found time to work out, clean house, and walk the dogs. She’s superwoman, as far as I’m concerned.
Yet I never considered her or myself a feminist. Perhaps due to my early fascination with mainstream Christianity, I viewed feminism as a movement of angry man-hating women who burned their bras and loved abortion. In college, this view did not change much, since my university was known for being extremely liberal – with emphasis on extreme.
At the same time, I supported women’s roles within churches. I enjoyed being able to vote. Minus the so-called bra burning myth, I agreed with basic feminist tenets that women are people too, and deserving of equal rights in both the home and the work place. I just couldn’t bring myself to identify with “the F-word” label, because I wasn’t angry and didn’t want to give up shaving my legs.
It wasn’t until a five-year long abusive relationship ended, leaving me devastated, scarred, and broken that I had something to be angry about. It wasn’t until I sobbed to a therapist while describing what my ex had done to me, and she shook her head and told me “Honey, that’s rape,” that I realized my life was permanently altered: my entire worldview had shifted.
As the lyric from Defying Gravity goes, “Something has changed within me/something is not the same/I’m through with playing by the rules/of someone else’s game.” I was done playing by the rules of rape culture, which for years taught me rape was something that only happened to a particular kind of girl; rape only “counted” if committed by a stranger hiding in the bushes with a weapon, not a man who claimed to love me and kept repeating “You’ll change your mind” until I realized there was no other way out. I was done playing by the “rule” that healing meant keeping my head down and my mouth shut, because speaking out would open me up to blame and shame while my rapist is free to abuse other women.
Rape turned me into a feminist. Rape opened my eyes to a not-so-hidden underworld where it is more convenient for a woman to mention she has a boyfriend to a street harasser because “Leave me alone” isn’t sufficient enough. Rape opened my ears to stories from friends I’ve known for years who believed they were “dirty” and damaged from sexual abuse, and no decent man would want them.
Embracing “the F-word”
Yes, I’m an angry feminist all right. But one need not be labeled an extremist for being angered by injustice. If I can embrace the title of “Christian” despite the stains from followers who get the message wrong, I can embrace the title “feminist” despite the new wave of misguided people who think it’s all about making men slaves and not allowing any woman back into her own kitchen, even by her own choice.
I wish it didn’t take years of soul-crushing shame for me to understand this, but at its core, feminism is about restoring basic human dignity to women. Whatever your religious or political stripes, we can all meet there and discuss how to move forward.
About the Author:
Beth Caplin is a Denver-based author and blogger. Her first novel, Someone You Already Know, follows two teenage girls on their journey to heal from rape culture. Find her on her website, sbethcaplin.com, or engage on Twitter @SbethCaplin.
Janie Junebug saysJune 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm
What an excellent post. Thank you. I am a Christian and a feminist. I particularly detest the label “feminazi”. Standing up for our rights does not make us nazis.
Rachel Thompson saysJune 3, 2014 at 10:25 am
Thanks for responding, Janie. I’m not a fan of that term either — it’s so incredibly condescending (and it started w/ Rush Limbaugh, so that explains so much). My dad took me to see him once (he was trying to convince me of Limbaugh’s brilliance) and I fell asleep! lol.
Women’s rights doesn’t need a religion or political affiliation — it just needs to continue to move forward. #hugs
Caroline Slee saysJune 2, 2014 at 7:24 pm
Sarahbeth, I think you’re incredibly brave and just as much a superwoman as your mother is to be able to share your truth and speak up. Thank you for sharing this post.
Rachel Thompson saysJune 3, 2014 at 10:27 am
I agree, Caroline. Really honest and brave for Sarahbeth to share her story. I’m thrilled she picked my blog to do it!
Beth saysJune 3, 2014 at 10:31 am
This comment made me cry. Thank you for the encouragement Caroline! And thank you Rachel for letting me share this.
Jeanne Marie Spicuzza saysJune 2, 2014 at 7:28 pm
Thank you for your courage in sharing your experiences. It is exciting to read a young woman’s journey into depth and discovery. God bless you!
Rachel Thompson saysJune 3, 2014 at 10:27 am
Thanks Jeanne Marie — I’m honored Sarabeth chose this venue to share. Hugs, woman!
Cathy Nerujen saysJune 3, 2014 at 3:51 am
This is a great post. I know women who so much relate to what this guest poster experienced. This is sobering advice and wisdom we can all learn from as women. That soul-crushing pain is so real for so many women. And trying to get men but really get people or anyone to take it serious seems to mean having to resort to megaphone diplomacy. Most other things seldom work. I am a fan of this blog so much.
Rachel Thompson saysJune 3, 2014 at 10:31 am
Thanks so much, Cathy. Such a good point about megaphone diplomacy — love that term, BTW — none of us wants to get up on the soapbox (it’s scary up there) but sharing our stories is so important to quantify our reality. Social media and blogs help quite a bit — but there will always be naysayers who consider reporting rape ‘whining’ which is horrific. Sigh.
thanks again for reading and commenting.