Following all of Fundamentalism's written and unwritten rules is hard enough. But when you're a woman, the rules are double. Minimum.
I remember hearing constantly that women should be certain things and not be others. For example, I was once told that it was a sin for a woman to laugh too loudly. I was denied a job as a wrangler at camp because I was a woman. At Fundamentalist University, male students were allowed to do a great many things female students were not - like go off campus their first year without an upperclassman accompanying them, for starters. Most women's sporting events were not allowed to have a "mixed" audience; the reasons I was told were #1 - not enough faculty chaperones available and #2 - nobody wants to watch girls sports anyway. I got in a great deal of trouble once for asking why the men's sports teams received money to purchase uniforms when women's teams did not. (I wish I still had the reply letter I was sent, it was atrocious.)
But those are the relatively innocuous differences. I heard multiple sermons on women dressing modestly because it was a woman's fault if a man had lustful thoughts. I heard a lot fewer telling men to control themselves, and I never heard it was primarily their responsibility. I heard endless sermons on wives submitting to husbands. I rarely heard sermons on husbands loving their wives and never ones telling husbands it was wrong to abuse their wives and what abuse looked like. I saw rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence victims get blamed and told to forgive and "move on". I was told women were not as spiritually minded as men - in fact, I beat myself up with that enough to actually believe it for a while. But, God bless my Bible Doctrines teacher at Fundamentalist University - he actively repudiated that particular belief in class one day.
And see, that's the real difficulty with this topic in Fundamentalism. On the one hand, many Fundamentalist men sincerely think they believe that women are equals and that they treat them that well. They say that women and men are equal, just with different roles. See? Isn't that egalitarian? I used to fall for it, sad to say. It was the gag for my conscience every time it would scream in protest during a sermon, because "...he doesn't really mean it that way."
But you know what? When I finally started looking at their actions instead of their words, I realized the truth about Fundamentalists. They *don't* believe women are worth as much as men. How else could one explain the constant belitting, unfair restrictions, and most of all, rampant abuse of women? How does the Tina Anderson case make any sense other than that Tina was a young, powerless girl and everyone else was a man?
Just this morning, I saw this little gem posted on a friend's social networking wall. Go ahead, listen if you want to be depressed: http://www.wmuu.com/blog/2011/09/30/compete-or-complete/
"Look at them. Out there, all around you. Women competing with men. Oh, you see them everywhere. Climbing telephone poles, loading trucks, directing traffic, driving heavy equipment, operating gas stations. Now a Christian woman automatically senses the inappropriateness of such behavior to her testimony."
Seriously? This was aired September 30, 2011. Not September 30, 1951.
The best part is that I know firsthand that the Fundamentalist University associated with the speaker has women on the campus security force who direct traffic. I've seen women on the grounds crew driving heavy equipment and loading trucks. The school has admitted women to and has graduated women from majors like criminal justice, carpentry, accounting, and pre-med. Even if you happen to agree with the sentiment that women shouldn't be doing those things, the hypocrisy is astounding.
And then it keeps going. Worrying about who your kids like better? Really? Requiring validation from your children reveals severe emotional insecurity. That's actually something called covert incest. The rest is so snide - and frankly, so very sad. Her recommendations for wives have nothing to do with being righteous and have everything to do with rolling over and playing a dead floormat.
Frankly, I was despondent after listening to this. I felt worthless.
And then I went to church.
As the pastor and deacon came in at the beginning of the service, I noticed the deacon's stole.
It was decorated with the names of Biblical women.
Mary of Magdala.
With every name I read, the chorus of women grew louder and clearer in my head. These women of faith sang of a God who loves His daughters and knows their contributions are not inferior - and they're certainly not competition. How does Mary's Magnificat "compete with" Joseph? How does Ruth or Naomi's faith obscure Boaz? How does Esther's courage demean any man except the deservedly villainous Haman? The answer is that they don't.
It was as though God reached down to comfort me and reassure me that women are valuable. "Look how many great women of faith I told you about! Remember them! Don't believe Satan's lies! Look!!" What an amazing difference to be in a church that doesn't hate women.
If you really think about it, the Fundamentalist line of thinking actually demeans men - they are treated as such fragile creatures that they can't handle anyone in any position of power other than themselves. You know what it means when someone has to be in control all the time and can't allow competition? Means they're an abuser, that's what.
It is not of God to make women constantly worry about overshadowing or "competing with" men. God asks all of his children, male and female, to do what needs to be done - not look around first to see if a man approves or is threatened. That's the very definition of "the fear of man", yes? And its snare nearly swallowed me whole. Praise God that he crushes traps and releases His daughters from prison! Alleluia!