Wake Up Sleeping Beauty

“When Sleeping Beauty wakes up,” writes the poet Maxine Kumin, “she is usually almost fifty years old.” If not fifty, then she’s definitely over forty. It takes years for most women to wake up and face the truth that’s been staring them in the face. What truth? That Prince Charming isn’t coming. If he is, he won’t be what you’re expected. What truth? That you don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate. What truth? That there are men out there who actually hate women, and there are women who love them. What truth? That there are men who don’t hate women, but do believe women are inferior and that’s the way God made it. What truth? That there are women who defend their own subordination.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was, by the number of women who sent emails to me protesting my blog piece the other week on submission, taking me to task for questioning the church’s teaching on women’s subordination. At worst, submission is a misdemeanor, not a crime. Sexism is mischief, not a sin. Racism? Now, there’s real injustice. The mind-numbing emails came from those in the deepest sleep possible for a woman, the unconscious state, arguing that what I fail to understand is that there is “good submission” and there is “bad submission.” A few emails came in from men, but I wasn’t surprised by those who defended the way things are. But the women who wrote accusing me of flouting the Bible and not appreciating the mysteries of submission were the saddest. Unconscious is the only way to describe a woman who stands up for her own oppression. She’s oblivious to the way she has been wounded by the tradition she defends.

It’s easier to flail at the person who’s disturbing your sleep than it is to wake up on your own. “Leave me alone, I don’t want to wake up.” “How dare you disturb my sleep?” It hurts to wake up from a deep sleep. I know. It’s disorienting. Everything is fuzzy. It’s frightening. The truth sets you free, but first it hurts your feelings. Sleep keeps the pain at bay.

I was nearly forty before I started noticing things around me. Why hadn’t I noticed when I was a girl that only men were in the pulpit? Why didn’t I notice that men led devotions and held the important church positions? Why didn’t I notice that even my father who didn’t go to church and berated my stepmother for going all the time, that even he knew that Adam was created before Eve, that Eve was the reason “man” was kicked out of the Garden, and that there were scriptures somewhere in the Bible that said that my stepmother had to submit to him? I’d read all the “great books” in black literature classes: (Baldwin, Hughes, Ellison, Gaines, Baldwin, X, ). Why had it never struck me as peculiar that they were all written by men? Why did it take years for me to notice these things? For the same reason that it doesn’t faze my daughter that Snoop, Diddy, Jay-Z, and Nelly are moguls in the music industry despite their mediocre talents, whereas talented women like Beyonce, Eve, Mary J. Blige Missy Elliott, and Mary Mary fade off the scene once they begin to show signs of aging and/or start asking questions about their royalty checks.

When a girl child is taught throughout her life to be submissive, sweet, silent, sexy, pretty but not too smart, she is put to sleep. Whether the lessons come to her from the pulpit or from music videos, the message is the same: shut up and lie down.

It takes turning forty and beyond to gain enough experiences in life and in love to see past the myths and fairy tales. Prince Charming ain’t coming, not on a white horse anyway. Somewhere between forty and fifty years old, a woman shows signs of beginning to rethink her life and dreams of taking back her soul. (I’ve written about such a woman in my book Showing Mary.)

Sleeping Beauty stirs to a noise that disturbs a sleeping woman’s slumber. Sometimes it’s a noise loud enough to yank her awake completely. Infidelity. Divorce. Death. Cancer. Unemployment. Violence. Sometimes it’s a faint noise, but it’s enough to make her toss about and shift position in bed. Noise makes one woman bolt up in bed, disoriented but awake. Another stirs, but chooses to go back to sleep. After all, it’s just too painful to wake up. She isn’t ready to do anything about the noise and drifts back to sleep, but it’s a fretful sleep.

A few of you have written wanting to know why none of the well known male televangelists have come forward and spoken out against the physical assault upon one of their colleagues by her minister husband the other week. Good question. Good recognition. Good insight. That’s it. Come on. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.

Edited@2:00pm on Wednesday, September 5th: Click here to read Bishop T.D. Jakes’ “Domestic Abuse is Unholy” which appeared yestereday in the AJC.

26 Responses to “Wake Up Sleeping Beauty”

  1. Chandra Says:

    Dr. Weems:

    Here’s my two cents. There is a particular comfort that comes with playing it safe, which is what a lot of women, especially Black women do. For a Black woman, it’s about making sure you don’t rock the boat too much so you won’t lose that ‘good’ man that you have been blessed with. With all of the depressing statistics regarding suitable marriage options for Black women, the concept of submission is actually gaining momentum. It’s almost if sistas are trading in their God given rights by catering desperately to the notion of submission simply to warm their beds with a man—a husband.

    I have been equally surprised and disturbed by the countless posts and comments made by women re: the Bynum/Weeks issue and how ‘we don’t know all of the story/facts’. I actually talked to one woman who said that it probably didn’t look as it seems–that perhaps this was the last straw for Weeks, who may have been putting up with a bad behaving Bynum, and sought to rectify the issue with his fists. Her admission left me speechless as I am certain she was completely oblivious to the fact that she has justified the vicious attack of this woman.

    Apparently, a lot of us are not reading all of the Scriptures in Ephesians. While Paul is stating that wives obey their husbands, he also stated that husbands are to love their wives as themselves even as Christ loved the church. Paul blatantly said that a man who does not love his wife does not love himself. Much, too much attention has been given to the submission Scriptures, but I have yet to read a noteworthy account of the loving husband Scriptures that will adequately address this issue. It is apparent to me as far as I can tell, that men both inside and outside of the church do not really love themselves….at all. Therefore, according to Scripture, they are not able to maintain a good and fruitful relationship with a woman. With that being said, doesn’t that make submission from the woman void? If he can’t love himself and God, then that means that he can’t love me. Therefore, what exactly am I submitting to?

    See, these are not the kind of questions that women or men are asking themselves and each other as it is my belief that a significant portion of the church are not avidly studying the Word of God and seeking Spirit-filled revelation. Instead, they are relying on their leaders—mostly men, to teach them in the ways of the Lord. Since we are all bearing the moniker of Christ, we are to follow the Way, the Truth and the Life. I don’t readily recall anything in Jesus’ messages that spoke of submission. The Apostle Paul addressed issues as they arose in the churches that he was planting. It is vital that context of the Scriptures is used appropriately. It is my belief that you have used them correctly.

    You wrote in your blog that when a woman becomes forty or fifty, she wakes up. I’m not so sure if I agree with your age range. I, being 34 and still single, have begun to look around me and notice some things too—so have many of my 30ish friends. We are realizing that maybe we should have a backup plan for life b/c it is indeed possible that we probably just won’t get married; not because we don’t want to—but because brothas have a particular inability to love us beyond the light that we have been given.

  2. crt Says:

    This has been an interesting kind of day; the kind of interesting that nudges me to pray “Lord, this all has to mean something.” I got an email that Dr. Linda Hollies, Pastor, Author, Preacher, and Founder of WomanSpace in Grand Rapids, MI who was a minister in the United Methodist Church, while on book tour and preparing to preach the following day suddenly died this past Saturday at the age of 64. This news for me on today definitely seemed to knock the wind out of me. I haven’t heard her in years, but the first women in ministry conference I ever attended, only months after being licensed, was one that Dr. Hollies organized. And for me, as the scared, uncertain, and overwhelmed 26 year old that I was at the time, the conference in general and the women that ministered including Dr. Hollies in particular were just what I needed to take another step into this thing called ministry and call, knobby knees, snotty nose and all. Dr. Hollies was bold, brilliant, and feisty, and she spoke publicly about things that I only privately questioned but had little courage to admit and language to express in public. Her journey, by no means, was an easy one but it was because of her testimony that I marveled all the more at tall and certain she stood among the masses. Now a little more than 10 years as I approach my 36th birthday and look at my own life, ministry, goals, dreams, setbacks, and distractions I wonder if the last years of being awake were spent up, but sitting on the side of the bed deciding between whether or not I “needed” fifteen more minutes before embarking on a new day, or whether the lateness of the hour demanded my immediate attention. The events of the last couple of weeks (including the comments by women who defend abuse for any reason), as well as the events of last year for me personally, dictate that the time on the side of the bed, with the sleep in my eyes, and only one slipper on have completely passed and the demands, the challenges, and prayerfully (please God) the dreams of this day call me forward. Some years ago I heard Dr. Weems minister on Esther, and during the service she mentioned some of the sentiments in this blog, that a woman usually wakes up around 40 or 50. I have been and continue to be in awe of 50 year old women who speak their mind, stay their course, live thoughtfully, courageously, and without apology. And even as I listened some years ago, my mind circled around the same question that it does now as I reflect on Dr. Weems’ entry… “What if I don’t have until my 40’s or 50’s to fully awake?” The hope is that God would grant me 40, 50+ more years but I am reminded all around that tomorrow really is not promised and that the most that I can do is get a move on and work while God has given me the opportunity to do so.

    I was shocked to read in one of the articles that Dr. Hollies did not enter the ministry until she was 40 years old. I am not certain if the writer meant ordained ministry or not, but one thing is certain that woman of God made great use of her time once she awakened!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I’m not asleep, but I remain somewhat taken aback by the women, particularly young women, who feel that a woman is too emotional.Perhaps provoking a beating.Perhaps ‘out of God’s order. Perhaps to run the USA for example.I’m thinking ‘what?’ The world is not ready for this country to be headed by a woman I’ve been told. Yes this is mostly from ‘religious’ women.What about women in other parts of the world running countries? The USA is different, we’re world leaders…we’re not ready for a woman…
    We can discuss misogyny,being asleep, being comatose,being ignorant,sexism,ageism, racism and whatever other type of bondages we can think of, but the truth remains that people treat us the way we teach them to treat us…there is a collective quality that we can’t really deny. We all know that a major resistance to the leadership of women is other women. Unenlightened women perhaps, but women nonetheless.

    Like most big problems, the greatest impact will come from working on the problem from the inside…women’s perception of women and womanhood…then I believe we can speak to the “other” power/gender/system etc as ‘one band with one sound.’Not to say that we shouldn’t continue to speak to the issue at every opportunity created and given, but the problems aren’t all external.

    Lauretta

  4. Min. D.Mo Says:

    I applaud your commentary Dr Weems, and I appreciate that it was provacative enough to awaken the senses to this vicious cycle of how women ’some how’ have forgotten their “places” What place is that? I have always been compelled and driven by the fact that God said we all were made in His image. To me that clearly states that we are no different in the eyes of God. No one is no more or no less than the other, so could some one please enlighten me, when and where did all this submission stuff begin that gives Men the right to declare that they are superior to women. Truth be told; if men really knew the heart and soul of a woman (a real woman, his woman) He would know that it is her joy to move heaven and earth to care for, protect and nurture her family with little more than a thank you, I appreciate you, I treasure you in return. It is when we get looked over, stomped on, criticized, pushed to the back and forgotten; that we rise and say, ‘wait a minute, something is out of balance here.’

  5. Ms. Irie Says:

    Letting go of long held religious beliefs and biblical interpretations is no small endeavor, no matter how oppressive they may be.

    As a pastor, sometimes I feel like before I can teach or preach a liberating word, I must first de-program the people from prior brainwashing. Most of the people I encounter (especially those who espouse a more conservative and fundamentalist perspective on scripture), sincerely believe the traditional interpretive approach to Ephesians 5:22 (for some reason they never begin at verse 21). They’ve believed a certain way since they were children and view non-traditional interpretations as false doctrine. It’s extremely difficult to convince a brainwashed person that they have been brainwashed. It takes time, persistence, and a commitment to the liberation of the oppressed–brainwashed people are an oppressed people.

    My prayer is that those of us who are thinking men and women of faith who are also pastors, ministers, scholars, and activists will not sell out. Let’s not sell our birthrights for a bowl of beans-the beans of power, prestige, money, fame, a parsonage, retirement benefits, a pension plan or any such thing. Why, because we’ve got some de-programming to do!

    I pray we will not only speak the truth on this blog, but in our own congregations, where it really counts, where people are looking to us for hope, healing and resurrection.

    Blessings & Peace,

  6. Fal Says:

    Ashe to all the proceeding comments

    When did I wake?
    Or better yet,
    When am I waking?

    I use both questions because I realize that waking is a continual cycle for me.

    Black Girlhood:

    At an early age, I remember hating being born female. Why? Women could be beaten black and blue like my mother, aunts, and grandmothers. Why? Because my cycle came each month and my mother cautioned me to wrap Eve’s transgressions in multiple rolls of toilet paper to discard immediately in the outdoor garbage. This act was to be done in secrecy because no one could know I was on my cycle especially Adams or new born babies. Why? Because men including uncles and deacons could look with piercing eyes through clothes and imagine unholy things with female adolescent flesh. I hated being born a female.

    I would wish to be a boy. Boys were tough and strong . . . not victims. Adams did not bleed each month or have to wear baggy clothes to hide their blossoming male bodies. Oh no they could stroll with ease bare chest down the street all times of the night, while I, girl, was admonished not to wear certain clothing around the house because your grandfather, father, uncles, men, boys are near and we need not tempt them with acorn breast. (Side note: Isn’t funny how we make girls/women responsible for men’s sexual appetites/discrepancies/socializations.)

    Man, I wished to be boy, but yet I was a girl child. And being a girl child means sleeping . . .

    Black Womanhood:

    I awoke gasping for air. You know the type of awake where you’ve been running in your dream only to realize that the thing that was chasing you was yourself. And you automatically jump out of your dream heart pounding a mile a minute. Scary, huh.
    Well, that’s how I woke up.

    Before awaking, I dreamed of being the Black man’s senatorial wife who was polite, beautiful (long straight black hair even if I had to buy it), assertive (outside the home, of course), and intelligent (only to upgrade the quality of my professional successful Urban Black man). This was my dream, but honestly it was nightmare filled with endless promises of man as savior . . . only if you are good, naïve, sweet, virgin girl . . . that is.

    As a mid twenty-something black woman, I now realize that being naïve is more destructive than being a rebellious woman. You see, being gullible keeps you in perpetual state of victim hood where you’re always dreaming of man coming to save you even if he is the most brutish, abusive, ole goat in the flock . . . “now bit is better than any bit.”

    Well, shit, I woke up.

    I woke and knew that I had been asleep. And see that’s the most painful experience to realize that you have been asleep while your feminine soul endured degradation upon degradation.

    My eyes opened and I saw what I knew as a girl child that there was more privilege and more power attached to being a man then being a woman. Furthermore, men can get away with countless atrocities committed against the female’s being, psyche, spirit, and passion. The experience of waking was/is quite painful, but is/was needed for me to dive deep within myself to hear my inner feminine spiritual voice saying, “Hey there kiddo being a woman is being connected to a linage, tradition, primordial essence that’s powerful and transient. Being woman is wild, furious, lewd, ferocious, rage. Being woman is Le Que Sabe, La loba, and the dreaded Baba Yaga and Kali. Being woman is being awake, alive, attentive, instinctual, and downright killer and life giver and killer and life giver.”

    Yes, to say the least I awoke and continue to awake . . . .

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I have been waiting to see what you would say next, Dr. Weems, knowing inwardly that you were going to come up with something exceptional today. I was not disappointed!

  8. Thema Bryant-Davis Says:

    Thirty something and awake

    Take heart
    there are some who awaken early
    what woke me up?
    growing up hearing the word of womanist liberation theologians
    what woke me up?
    sexual assault by a member of the church
    what woke me up?
    reading, studying, reciting, writing black feminist theory, poetry, practice
    what wakes me up?
    the hard stare of a girl named sky
    the prayers of grandma
    the cursing of auntie
    the hollering of momma
    whether by mentoring or violence
    by divine appointment or earthly realities
    some of us wake up in our 30’s

  9. Febbie Says:

    I have come into the revelation that some of my contemporaries don’t speak out against injustices or imbalances for fear of being called a “feminist.” It’s better to let the issue go than be saddled with that God-awful label. We are constantly inundated with the news of crimes against women. Pregnant women missing, women disappearing, etc. No one taps into the realm of asking “what is wrong with this picture?” Its all to common! In droves, women watch the cable station Lifetime…I ask the question why? Every movie is about a women getting the beat down and rising from that situation. Are the images from Lifetime really for women or do they reinforce the mentality of our culture? Should a women’s success always be dependent upon getting the beat down first? Unfortunately, these images are the norm and most are unaware. So, yes, it is easier for one to cling to a comfort zone because if one raises a voice, their last name becomes Feminist. Yes, it is easier for one to cling to the thought of good submission versus bad submission because then, one does not have to stand for a cause. Yes, its easier to say “that’s just the way it is.”

  10. Rev. Dr. Debora Hooper Says:

    I, Rev. Dr. Debora C. Hooper, woke up! Thank God Almighty I did! What did I awake from? Thinking that somebody (male or female) was going to come along and help me in ministry; share some words of wisdom or teach me how to avoid the pitfalls. Unfortunately, I was mistaken because my peers did nothing. Therefore, I had to go it alone (suffering many attacks along the way) but after 20 years of full-time evangelistic ministry, I woke up and decided to write my experiences to help other aspiring ministers (Hooper’s Evangelist & Minister’s Handbook). Wouldn’t it be an even worse tragedy for someone to wake up and then shut up? Isn’t it true that the first thing people do when they wake up is start talking? Well I did. What I talk about is what ministers (in particular women) need to do to be successful in ministry and what is keeping most of us asleep - the lack of information. It’s a fact. “You can’t do what you don’t know” and until you know it, you’ll stay asleep. I commend Dr. Reems and others who have woken up and are writing blogs and other resources to jar those of us who are sleeping. Because of them, we have to make a choice, either keep on sleeping or wake up and be empowered!

  11. The Philosopher Says:

    Thank you Dr. Weems for speaking TRUTH to POWER! For many young women, myself included until just recently, we grow up watching our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, big sisters who even after failed marriages, unsuccessful relationships, and at complete stand stills in life say that submission to the man is what God requires… “God said it and that settles it.” Well the concern is that many of us have never taken the time to find out what God really says even when God is yelling it in our ear. We protest any idea or thought that is contrary to what we were taught in Sunday school. Who needs men to tear down womanist theology when there are countless sisters who will sell tickets to the box office hit? I understand for some, the Bible must never be spoken ill against but while there are many passages that sound warm and fuzzy, there are those that are down right disturbing. Who speaks to the incidents of abuse, infidelity of husbands, enslavement, etc. of the women in the bible stories? Where are the mothers, and grandmothers…Who protects, loves, encourages, or even respects many of these characters?

    For most of us, there are about two days in the church calendar that women can be recognized…Mother’s Day and Women’s Day and in many of ours church the later is just a fundraiser to raise the budget…but in a bible that is so empowering, we have to listen to Proverbs 31 every year… “Who can find a virtuous woman?” In my opinion, the virtuous woman was a slave, who was pimped by her man. Who would want to marry this man? However the reality is that we were raised to be “virtuous women” not in a sense of the definition by Webster, but as a woman who does it all never with a question…Please don’t take it the wrong way, the qualities spoken of can be seen as admirable by some, but why should a woman who has a husband be his slave.

    The bottom line is that no matter what passage you decide to use, it does not change who God is today. However, the Bible was used and continues to be used to oppress women! I echo the sentiments of Dr. Weems …Wake your sleepy self up!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    I woke up recently. It was not painful just a little startling. Then I remembered that my joy cannot be in men, it must come from God and live within me. So, I am working on me, loving on me, accepting on me, and lifting up other women when I can reminding them that they are because God blessed them, not because a man loves, wants or desire them. The submissiveness, in some situations, I do not mind. I grew up with a dad who insisted that I speak up when I wanted to, so I do. My mom is a spitfire, so he got adjusted to that early. LOL. I gave my power away, and now I am gathering it back to me. It feels empowering, it feels good.

    About Proverbs 31. I guess I always read between the lines. If a woman is bargaining for land, selling materials and other items, she has to hold her ground and hold out for when the price was right. She reaches out to the needy and poor. She is generous from THEIR home with food and money. Purple is the color of royalty, and that is how she dresses and treats herself. She is not idle in her home - or by the passages even when she is out she is getting business handled. She is wise, strong, and kind. She knows what quality is and demands it for herself and her home. She is to be praised by her own works in her community. I like this woman. I am this woman ( I try to be) The passages (as usual) when it concerns women have been changed. I see a woman who handles her business, is wise, is shrewd when she needs to be, is kind, generous, intelligent, strong etc. The meanings have been changed to mean nothing but submissive in the church. Read between the lines: she was a strong, no nonsense, stand her ground kind of woman. Learn a little history of those times and you will look at those passages a bit differently. It was not an easy thing being such a woman back in the day. I admire her - this woman who excels beyond virtuousness. Just my two cents.

    Nikita

  13. Fal Says:

    I read T.D. Jakes’ Domestic Abuse is Unholy in the AJC and I’m slightly surprised that he acknowledged the need for parishioners to go beyond church walls to deal with domestic violence, but of course he did not say anything about theological beliefs concerning female submission and oppression.

  14. KBW Says:

    Dr. Weems: sleep deprivation LITERALLY kept me from appreciating this essay the first time I read it on Monday. I’m glad I read it again.

    You’re right it is so much easier to sleep. I know sometimes I have stayed asleep in the literal sense because it keeps me from facing the tough truths of life.

    Being AWAKE requires awareness and action. You have to respond to what’s going on. You can’t erase the truth from your mind.

    You’re right about Prince Charming. He ain’t coming. Charm is overrated.

    And if he did come, you better be ready for him to change and be someone else before it’s all over. I think I woke up to that one about five years ago.

    It’s highly possible that both people might change and you might not even want what you thought you wanted anymore.

    In the meantime and between time, you better prepare yourself not to lose your mind if it’s not what you expected.

    It’s easy to lose it if you are SLEEPWALKING. Or better yet if you are AWAKE, but you just have your eyes closed.

    That’s the problem with these lofty perceptions and ideals of Eurocentric royalty and fairy tales. They set us up to run for the covers when the light comes on!

    Blessings,

  15. Gyhatcher Says:

    This whole ordeal “re-awakens” in me each day. Something catapults it to the forefront of my mind and I am instantly angered and mad as hell. Indeed it’s time to wake up. I know this much even as I am still wiping the sleep from my own eyes at the age of 46.

    I am reminded of a book by Alice Walker entitled, “The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart”. It’s been a few years since I first bought this book and admittedly I have only perused it. It was however the title that sold me on the book. Alice can be too deep for this little country preacher. This title was enough to compel me to at least push forward from the sheets of tradition, resolve and “passivity”. Rev Dr Eleanor Miller who eulogized Dr Linda Hollies on this past Saturday recalled something that Rev Cecelia Bryant said more than 20 years ago. How appropriate it still is. She said, “No need in seeing and not saying”. Her challenge remains just as piercing. In other words you see injustices then wake up and speak up. After all, the way forward is with a broken heart. Waking up requires some form of resolve and/or reconciliation with a broken heart.

    As I mount various pulpits, my most critical, looking out the corner of their eyes, who does she think that she is, audience continue to be sleeping women who must get pass my lipstick in order to possible hear what thus saith the Lord. They want to relegate me to Women’s Day program once a year with white and orange as their colors. I “ain’t” going out like that. Sadly these same sisters go home and are content to be relegated to subordinate roles and subjugated treatment. I have a friend who seemingly is as free as she can be until her wings are clipped on Sunday morning when she goes to worship at a church that doesn’t even allow women to have a role in the worship; only the men are allowed to serve in any role. We tease about this, but inward I want to cuss.

    Forgive me sisters and brothers if I am on my way to wonderful (book by Dr Hollies) even as I struggle with the demise of my vision of Prince Charming. The way forward is with a broken heart and some truth serum. Honestly seeing the supposed relationship between Evangelist Bynum and her husband gave me some hope as a single-sister- preacher that maybe Prince Charming was still hanging around-somewhere. But the more that I had a chance to see their interaction; it was obvious that she had lost herself and was trying hard to do just that. I am not attacking her by any mean just making a point as to what happens when we as sisters take sleeping pills as a means of easing the pain that comes from the debilitating effects of the misdiagnosis of submission.

    Dr Weems your insight continues to be liberating. Thanks for setting the record straight on this matter…

  16. Georgia's Angels Says:

    Dr. Weems;
    As always you are like a cold stream in the desert. Saturday as I sat in the hair salon, the topic of conversation was Juanita Bynum. I sat there remembering my youth in the Pentacostal faith and could not help but remember that the worst treatment came from womem. There was a moment where we were all talking at the same time, about some ugly remarks that were directed toward us in the name of the Lord. I remember coming to choir rehersal, wearing a new pair of sandals my mother had given me, my aunt with her holy self called me Jezabel because my toe nails were polished. I was crushed, all the good girls looked at me in disgrace, “I asked her who was Jezabel”? her response “a whore.”
    I later learned the truth about who Jezabel was and I’ve been angry with her until this day. How dare she refer to a fourteen year old as a whore only to gain conrtol over her and kill her spirit. I remember a lady in that church that came every Sunday and sat on the side and cried, nobody ever asked her why. Finally one Sunday I heard that same aunt say “It’s a shame Deacon J is stuck with that drunken woman.” I learned years later that Deacon J was molesting all of his daughters and I guess her only refuge was a drink. There was nobody in that place that she could talk to. We must have talked about every ugly church memory we had, before we began discussing your blog and Just a Sister Away. We dedcided that as you pointed out regarding Lot’s wife what makes us look back when we know what we have walked away from. I’ve walked away from many things in my life, I’ve been called mean, told I don’t care what I say to people, and some things I can’t write on this blog, but I’ll tell you this through much pain I have no regrets. I love God with all my heart and thanks to you I realize that O don’t have to keep a cheating man, because when God made Eve he could have made ten more women if that was his intention for man. I remember being young and because of you we have a mentoing progrsm called “Jump for Joy” we use Just A Sister Away for our lesson plan as the older sister embrace the young sisters, these girls are in homeless shelters, battered women programs, teen pregnacy programs, and substance abuse programs. We close every meeting by telling them whenever they need us we’re Just A Sister Away. Tonigt one of the girls dealing with some very serious issues said “Ms. Ransome I love you and one day I’m going to be like you” “I told her no your not, we are going to help you find out who you are and you will love her too” Thanks Dr. Weems It’s been a long day but an enriching one. Please pray for my girls.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Wow! Heavy hitter. I also will tag with the under 40 crowd of women who are not sleeping or for that matter want take this lying down. All of us have some fight in us the question really is how much energy will we be willing to spend fighting. I think this causes for a little Delores Clairborne movie clip. The reality of sleep is many women will never even wake up long enough to surround themselves with thinking women of faith who could shed light to the situations of submission. Just think if the women who disagree with this blog you have presented even take one second to view the pro’s con’s and truth’s about submission they will then be responsible for claiming or looking for their own identity which in most cases has been defined by the man or men in their lives. Self awareness is a beast. Self Confidence in who you are as a woman takes risks. We as women have been presented with the opportunity to stop the identity thefts of our womanhood and reclaim the inheritance that the great women before us stood on. But all in all to do that self reflection in the mirror causes for some real deal enlightenment.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve never, never, bought into that whole “submission” thing. I don’t care if it is in the Bible. I love the Lord and know that he did not mean for me to be any less than the wonderful woman I am to make my partner feel “in control” “like a man”, the “head of the household” etc. As soon as I heard that in church, I knew that it was wrong and I was a child! I believe that in order for a relationship, marriage to work, both parties must be equal playing on a equal playing field. Mutual respect is the key. How can I respect a man if I know that in order for him to feel like a man, he must feel superior to me? Ridiculous.

  19. valerie bridgeman davis Says:

    ok, renita. i hardly know where to begin. i’ve been trying to post of a while (since your post, ‘wives obey your husband’). i’ll start with this memory; i include it in my one-woman show, ‘my mother’s tongue.’ I was about 12 and my dad was railing (verbally) against my mom. he decided to quote peter: ‘even as sarah obeyed abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are…’ my mother was cooking. she stopped stiring the stew. me and my 3 sisters were peering into the kitchen as this played out. my mother said, in the calmest voice: ‘well, i’m not sarah, you’re not abraham, and these are not abraham’s times.’ it wasn’t the first feminist moment i had with my mother, but it was a profoundly lasting one. my mother taught me the rhetoric of resistance. ok, second story. detroit drive-time show called me to talk about the struggles women in ministry face (this past tuesday). i don’t have to tell you what got said or asked about scripture, submission, yada… it’s all been said in these blogs. what i did end up saying is that black people can resist paul’s words on slavery (and the bible for that matter, since no where in the bible does god condemn slavery, just delivers israel–then give israel laws on how to treat slaves!); but those same black people will hold on to sexism no matter what. in order for slavery to work, the domininators must convince the dominated that there are dire consequences for resisting the sytem, and/or must convince them that the system is “divinely ordered” (as in all authority is ordained of god…). So, when chandra above says we should seek “spirit-filled revelation,” let me just say my mother taught me that sometimes the revelation is that peter or paul were wrong. i can’t fix eph 5 with 5:21, because paul bought into the roman household codes that said “free men were above all in society; women were subordinated to them; children even more subordinate; and then slaves.” jesus never used these metaphors (though there is plenty use of slavocracy in the gospels, but that’s another discussion). finally, i was sitting next to linda hollies at new creation in san antonio when cecilia bryant preached from habakkuk. the text was “the stones cry out from the wall.” the title was “if you see it, why are you saying it.” to say it was an earthshaking, wake up moment, is an understatement. you, renita, and women like you, helped me embrace the “f” word. i am gladly feminist, womanist, liberated, whatever the terms are that scare men into wanting to beat a woman down…. so, from one thinking woman of faith to another, thank you for moving the questions beyond the symptom (weeks/bynum) to the larger oppressive society.

  20. Fal Says:

    Ashe to all the preceding comments!!!

  21. rjweems Says:

    OMG.
    If y’all know of any other place in blogosphere where more thoughtful, passionate, insightful comments are being posted about gender relations and the church, about love and vioence, SEND ME THE LINK. This is rich stuff!

    Each of your comments, those here in response to “Wake Up” and those in response to my other posts dealing with relationships, convince me that we are mining somewhere in the area of the motherlode. The emotions are raw, the memories tender, your words poetic.

    Stay tuned until I figure out where to go with all of this!

  22. The Philosopher Says:

    Please forgive me if I have misunderstood an earlier comment made in a post about Proverbs 31. It is my opinion that while examining the virtuous qualities of the “ideal wife”, we often miss issues that continue to plague women of this day. I am forced to not read between the lines! Further it is my understanding that the importance of this woman in many regards is to be celebrated because her responsibility is to make those around her look good (especially her husband). I just can’t seem to compare or confuse her completely with a wife, or mother (single or married) who works multiple jobs and knows how to make ends meet at whatever cost with or without a man; a sister who sacrifices and gives above and beyond because she desires and realizes the importance of sharing her blessings with others. While we have a responsibly to honor our sisters, I would contend that at the time this passage was written it was not even really about “her”,but we have an opportunity to make it about her and countless other women. This passage was/is more so about the man who will find her. For she will not ever give him a headache. Let’s not forget that the husband is known in the city gates and he takes his seat among the elders. My Lord! Favor? Perhaps :)Can’t help but to read what’s on the paper but, I wonder if the slave girls mentioned in this passage would admire her? I know it would be easier for us to just overlook some things. Not saying that the qualities mentioned are not admirable but this description continues to be problematic and cumbersome for me! Beside this ideal woman/wife still only has what her man has given her. We must look deeper than what have been told (even if mama and daddy said it) to come face to face with what we have experienced as women.

  23. crt Says:

    Yesterday, as I walked back to my office after lunch I saw something that made me want to write again on the issue of “waking up.” The National Baptist Convention’s Conference has been in town this week (Philadelphia, PA) and as I passed the many women, wearing their conference badges and totes, women who seemed to have been cloaked in fatigue and weariness over their conference attire my mind began to wonder and wander as well I suppose. First I wondered, just how many of the women that I passed if they knew that I was a preacher would shoot disapproving stares and look for stones to throw for what may seem to them as an outlandish and inappropriate claim (the Convention has not been known for their support or even acknowledgement of women in ministry, nor is it known for it now). But the thought that struck me more was how do you wake up people, how do you wake up women who have been sleep for a long time and may have no interest in waking up. I wondered if in this instance maybe some Harriett Tubman liberation theology may apply…”you ain’t got to go to freedom, but once you start you sho’ can’t turn back!” I don’t know (and by the way, this is not a plug for the NRA of it all. Cleary freedom by gunpoint may not be the best model to employ). As a woman in ministry in the Baptist denomination, I find this aspect of ministry an interesting world to operate in; and though I am not limited to my denominational context I am mindful of it. So, I just wanted to put this out there… How do we, as women engaged in this practice of women’s empowerment deal with those who may not be ready for the alarm? Do we sound it anyway and whosoever will let them come? Or how much of our work has to be to sound the alarm and then shake others until they too arise?

  24. gyhatcher Says:

    In the morning when my alarm goes off, I, like many others push the snooze button. “Just a few more minutes”, I say and then roll over until the alarm sounds again.
    I know that I have to, need to get up but need just a little more time to snooze. One morning, I pushed snooze too many times and eventually the alarm no longer sounded and I missed an important appointment. The alarm did its part but I decided to keep sleeping.

    In answer to CTI’s question, we are held responsible for doing our part in telling what we see (speaking truth). Time Magazine did a cover not long ago about reprogramming the mind. Maybe this is a wonderful workshop for a “conference” somewhere. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”. My prayer of late is that Jesus who saved my soul also saves my mind.

    What if we became a consortium of churches, sister groups, preachers etc who come together somehow, somewhere and do some “live blogging (chatting)”. I hate to use the word conference because everybody is doing conferences and yet we are not “saved” from mindsets and paradigms that are crippling and deadly. Like Tavis Smiley’s State of the Union, what about a Renita Weems, “State of the Woman”. I would buy my ticket tomorrow.

  25. Ms. Irie Says:

    State of the Woman…my sister, I think you’ve just said something!

    Dr. Weems thanks so much for these blogs, especially the one called, Wake Up Sleeping Beauty! That post compelled me to begin a series of lessons for a group of former strippers and prostitutes that I teach every Wednesday evening. The series is entitled, Wake Up Sleeping Beauty: A Women’s Spiritual Empowerment Series. We had our introductory session last Wednesday. In that session we talked about what it means to be sleep and some things that can happen to a woman when she’s asleep. Let me tell you, Women who’ve made their living on the streets–trading sex for money and drugs, are some of the “realest” women I’ve ever met…and they keep it real!

    These powerful and resourceful women blew me away with their insights. They said things like, “when you’re asleep someone can take your stuff!” Wow! That statement brought to mind a scene from the play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow was Enough…the woman in Green-Somebody Almost Walked Off with all my Stuff! It was a powerful session.

    So thanks again for your mentoring, your honesty, and for stoking the creative fires of my spirit!

  26. lj Says:

    my sisters and i were raised by a pretty forward thinking mother and an extremely forward thinking father both of whom were raised by men and women somewhat ahead of their times. consequently, we had little time for sleeping. of course i snuck in a nap every now and then, but these outrageous folk i had in my life just would not let a sister rest. especially my dad. he was always asking about my plan. gotta have a plan for your life. i had a plan. sort of. i had a boyfriend whom i loved and i planned to help him be all that God wanted him to be. my dad loved him too. thought that was a great plan – for his life, but what about the plan for yours? talk about wanting some sleep.

    it’s been a little over 2 decades since my dad died, and i am still coming to terms w/ the truth that even a brief nap is too much time wasted in dreamland. little did i know that the years i spent with my boyfriend were just dress rehearsal for his real life, and he had no intention of casting me in any of the significant roles. by his own admission however, i did do extremely well during the rehearsals. hardly needed any coaching. i was clearly very well trained (for real life – by my real dad). but, it seems, he was looking for an up and coming starlet whom he could show the ropes. you know someone who could not make it without his backing. translation, i didn’t need him. except that i really did, but that’s for another time.

    anyway, if i may disagree somewhat, the moral of my story is that prince charming does indeed come, and you can indeed have him. but he only comes to dreamland, and you can only have him if you are committed to remaining asleep. i’m guessing that like me, not too many of the people on this blog - hosted by this thinking woman are all that fast asleep. you are awake (even if begrudgingly so) and (like my father) you are insisting that your daughters awaken too. so, i tend to be more preoccupied with thoughts of our rousing daughters than with thoughts of our sleeping sisters.

    since we are insisting that they wake up, how do we prepare our daughters for the reality that prince charming will only approach if he thinks that you are asleep, and once he realizes that you are awake he will probably back away? that’s how the fairytale is misleading. the storyteller allows us to think that sleeping beauty is awakened by the prince, but she really is not. princes prefer sleeping women. i’ve seen many a sister sleep her way into the castle. and, i’ve wanted to be her. except that i wanted to be awake; and dog gone it you just can’t have it both ways. you can wake up and have a plan for your life. or, you can sleep your life away with the prince: you will have life – just less abundantly.

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