Carrie Fernandez’s blog, WOMEN ENTER BOLDLY: THE TORN VEIL & DIRECT ACCESS TO GOD, in the Junia Project, got me to thinking about something that happened to me back in the 80’s that literally changed my life and perspective on things. My daughters were very young and we were attending our parish’s Holy Thursday Liturgy as we did every year. As always we were running late and the only seats available were in the front rows, seats which I had always assiduously tried to avoid. Being a mother of two little ones at the time, I tended to sit in less conspicuous areas of the church in case one of them “acted up” and had to be quickly escorted out before disturbing the congregation.
We settled into the fourth row and joined the prayers. As we were standing, something came over me. To this day I can’t explain what it was. All I know is; suddenly I wasn’t in a church anymore. I was at a mosque, praying. Only it wasn’t just any mosque. In this one the women and children were up front giving praise to God and we were among them. But I turned around to look at the men who were in the back, imprisoned behind what looked like bars in a jail. Furthermore the men were clanging cups across the bars to get attention, yelling that they, too, should be given their equal rights before God.
The whole scene seemed so ludicrous to me that I started to laugh and laugh hardily. After all, the idea that one sex could deliberately deny the other sex access to the Divinity was so outrageous, so ridiculous, so unreasonable that it defied comprehension. I just had to laugh at loud!
I felt a tug on my sleeve and looked down at my six year old who asked, “Mommy, why are you laughing? We are in church and everyone is praying.” I immediately came out of my reverie and looked around; a bit sheepishly, I must confess, in case I had disturbed anyone. To my relief no one commented so I again concentrated my gaze at the altar. And what did I see? The altar was full of men and older boys with not a single woman or girl in sight! Women may not have been put behind bars, but we certainly were imprisoned by the patriarchy for the ultimate “crime” of being “female.” It was so ludicrous that I laughed out loud again.
Unfortunately that unjust imprisonment continues to this day. In many ways it has become even more entrenched. My laughter has now turned to tears… And my daughters? Well, they have freed themselves from the “imprisonment” altogether.