“Ain’t I a woman…?” Sojourner Truth
This famous line spoken by Sojourner Truth comes to mind as we begin to prepare for the Advent season that will start this Sunday. Sojourner’s words point to the complex question of what does it mean to be a woman?
This question resonates with the glimpse of Mary we receive in the Gospel stories. A young woman pregnant and unmarried in a culture that had no room for that reality. A young woman of resistance who calls out in her visit to Elizabeth “God has thrown the rulers down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly…” A young woman who chose a path with no guarantees because she believed it was the right thing to do. A woman of faith, integrity, and passion whose life is a story of creative resistance and resilient faith
And yet often, so very often this is not how Mary’s story is told. We receive an edited Mary, one whose eyes are cast down and whose love is mistaken for passive submission. A story that kneels before thrones instead of calling them into question, a story that does not speak.
The difference between Mary as empowered and Mary as waiting could be seen as simply two ways of understanding her life. Two divergent understandings from the same root. And yet we know how stories, images, and symbols create cultural realities. How those cultural realities in turn can enforce discrimination, violence, and injustice. The Jim Crow laws were as much laws in the books as they were cultural norms that gave people permission to denigrate people of color. Stories and their telling can be a profound source of social change or social control – Sojourner is not just asking what is means to be a woman but who has the power to tell the story of women?
When we think of the reality that women face today…we see that often what is means to be a woman is to face poverty, educational disparity, sexual violence, physical violence, and a profound lack of sustainable opportunity. We see that the story of women is often not told by women, especially women who are made economically poor, but rather by a larger cultural force that wishes to enforce an understanding of passive waiting rather than loving action.
Today begins a campaign by Amnesty International with other supporting groups to work together for the next sixteen days, until December 10th International Human Rights Day, to pass the International Violence Against Women Act that would provide stronger legal vehicles for women seeking justice, safety, and access to live independently.
This is a chance for us to live into the inheritance we receive from the story of Mary’s life – an inheritance of passion, love and resistance as we join with women around the world to begin to tell the story of women differently. As we call on the story of our ancestor, Mary, to speak loudly to the issues of our day we begin our journey of expentant hope in Advent with an act of resistance against the forces that remove hope from the lives of so many…Blessing on your Advent Beginnings…Peace Liz
FSPA JPICC Coordinator
8th Day Center for Justice
205 W. Monroe
Chicago, IL 60606