Religion as Power and My Place as a Young Woman

A few disclaimers about this piece before you read:

  • In no way am I making a generalization about the morality of young Christian boys. I am, however, pointing out issues that arise with religion and misogyny through my own experiences. If you do not believe my intentions right now, do NOT continue to read this piece.

  • If you believe this to be a personal attack then, in the words of Dua Lipa, you’re probably doing something wrong. Reflect. If you do not believe my intentions right now, do NOT continue to read this piece.

  • If this piece doesn't make you uncomfortable, I am the one doing something wrong. with that said, I am here to chat always if you need it. My experiences may trigger different things for you and that is okay. reach out if you need support.

  • Names have been intentionally changed. timelines have been changed to maintain anonymity, although all events remain the same

  • Trigger warnings: messages of conflict & sexual harm

ethan

thirteen years young and transitioning into the hardest four years of my life, though I didn’t know it yet. the summer before high school, my family’s home was being renovated. the heat was insane, but i put on a beige tank top with lace around the shoulders and i went for a walk to the ballpark in my town.


ethan was to meet me there.


i didn’t think it was smart to try a relationship before we got to high school, but i would never want to disappoint him. he was popular, on the hockey team and had the kind of connections you feared and were attracted to at the same time. i would never want to disappoint him.


september came quicker than i was prepared for. we ended within a week or so. i had a great group of friends that i didn’t dare isolate myself from so early on. i needed those connections. i really wasn’t too hurt by the actual breakup. but, i wasn’t ready for what it would be like on his bad side.


i wish i could remember the exact moment when i found out that ethan told his entire hockey team that i went topless for him at the ballpark ...at thirteen years young. i believe it was one of my friends from the team, but all i really remember was the fear and panic afterwards.


all the power to young girls who do this, your body is yours. but my body was mine, and i was being made to feel the opposite by this rumour.


no, i didn’t question ethan's character. my knees gave out, my heart pounded through my chest and i didn’t know where to start. all i could think about was my own character - why i wore a shirt with lace, how i let this rumour spread and what that hockey team was going to do to a girl like me. this was the information they bonded on and used to their advantage.


no, i didn’t question ethan's character. i didn’t question any of them.


for a scared young woman, i showed strength. i called him that night. i told him that i would call the police for slander and i would not hold back. i didn’t believe him when he said that he would personally apologize to the whole team for lying and tell them that it wasn’t true. i knew how those dynamics worked and the personal sacrifice he would be making to do that. he wouldn’t do it.


then ethan said the words that i’ll never forget: “please, i’m a good person. a good, christian boy, i promise. i can’t get in trouble from my family for something like this.”


the grace that i gave him for the rest of the phone call after hearing those words is something that i still think of to this day.


i never called the police. he never told his team, i told them all myself that it was all a lie.


we never spoke of it again.

lukas

for my school’s leadership council, there was a celebratory end-of-year party.


i saw lukas and his friends sitting on one half of the room and on the other half of the room were those I was more comfortable with. i sat with them. we played games and chatted. the air was thick with words unsaid.


a friend group - lukas’ friend group - was sitting on the other side of the room for the whole night. it hadn’t always made sense to me as to why we were separated. i hadn’t always known why i was on this side, but i did now.


my group sat together and started to talk. it was hard to hear each other over the laughter and inside jokes echoing from the other side. they all glowed, but we didn’t have a whole lot in common besides our mutual discomfort.


passive comments were made about the clear divides in the room, and there was an understanding from all that i was never to be included by this opponent crowd.


i would never understand god and use it in public, daily interactions often enough to be accepted. i knew my place because of this, inside and outside of that loud room.


lukas and his friends took religion as their power & their pride. i was less of a person because of the space they took up with their faith. for the longest time i never questioned that.


though i had my own spiritual understanding, it wasn’t the same as theirs and was therefore inferior. if having faith in a god is to be humble and give up control, then why did they seem to have so much of it?


we put labels on our understanding until we feel so different from each other that it divides us. we can’t possibly be united.


my god isn’t your god, unless i refer to her as a he. my god isn’t your god, until i talk about her admiration for a conservative lifestyle. my god isn’t your god, until i tell you that i believe women shouldn’t get a choice over what happens to their bodies. my god isn’t your god, until i believe that i must be healed from my own inevitable evil. my god isn’t your god, until i believe that man and woman should be the only legal union.


well, my god is your god, but my religion isn’t your religion. we put constraints on our god. we tame Her. She tells us her stories and we interpret the way we should be living our lives from them, and then use Her as our explanation for exclusivity when the people around us see it all differently. all She ever wanted was to offer guidance and unconditional love for our journeys...


isn’t it sad how the only thing preventing us from understanding and caring for each other as She wanted us to, is ourselves?

dean

i had never met anyone quite like dean. someone who could captivate a room without trying hard or ever becoming drained of energy. someone who knew what they were doing without knowing much of anything at all.


i started seeing dean and it became clear that i needed to set boundaries. i made the mistake of explaining to him that, based on his innocent history, i trusted him to make judgement calls at the time. however, i was very specific about areas on my body that were mine only no matter what.


i wanted to love myself before i let someone else and until i could get there, he couldn't.


it’s never black and white when these things go wrong.


but, multiple shades of grey later, boundaries were crossed. as a people pleaser and constant listener, i forgave once. then twice. then i got angry.


men are encouraged to get mad; in business, sports, gambling. women are encouraged to smile; for magazines, family portraits and overall male comfort.


i was a young woman who was angry that my boundaries were crossed. i clearly expressed my outrage to dean.


the next morning, he tells me that he was up all night crying with his sister because he doesn’t know what makes him such an awful person. he follows in the word of god and doesn’t understand why someone like me entered his life. my anger was, apparently, unacceptable in the eyes of both him and his sister. my claims were outrageous.


i’ve healed my body of this, but not my mind. forgiveness is private and so is closure. i’ll need time and space. i’ll need to understand that my god may forgive him before I can. i’ll admire Her for that.


i’ll be able to comprehend how more opportunities presented themselves for him. how he could be the son of an officer and i could play out the situation in my head from start to finish if it were made public.


i’ll be able to see how all of it has little to do with me if i don’t let it connect in my head. i don’t have to make it a part of my story.


i’ll maybe even forgive my mind for the expectations i put on myself, understanding both my youth and his. i’ll show myself compassion for the amount of time it takes to fully heal. i’ll understand how my god will help him and i.


i had never met anyone quite like dean, and i don’t think i ever will.

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