all the women.
The women are tired. These weeks have been trying more than liberating. While I am glad that there is a small space in our culture for women to share their experiences of sexual assault and harassment and have others believe them, more than that, I am exhausted. Sexual assault and harassment does not surprise me. It disgusts me, it enrages me, but it does not surprise me. The women are tired of hearing about it because we already know. These stories are the stories of our friends and relatives. These stories are our stories. And hearing them over and over again only serves to remind us that they are true. It happens every day – a man says “Hey, Sweetie, how are you?” and follows me down the street; a man stares at a woman across from me on the train and licks his lips; a man assumes my silence means yes.
It is not news-worthy to us that old white men in power are using sex to control others. This is rape culture. This is patriarchy. We know what it looks like, even in sheep’s clothing. What are cat-calling and slut-shaming if not attempts to control women’s bodies? Nearly every woman I know has a story like this if not multiple stories, so it is far from liberating to hear that women I don’t know also have these stories. It is assumed. Though I am glad men are finally being held accountable by their places of employment for their dehumanizing actions, it is hardly enough. And for some reason, only some men are being held accountable. There will rarely, if ever, be legal consequences. Years after something like this takes place, there’s no evidence. And even if we report something as soon as it happens, the likelihood of a proper sentence slim. So, forgive us if we are underwhelmed by this sudden reveal of sexual predators and rapists. Because nothing was revealed to us. We have always known.
Mary, mother of Jesus, also knew her truth when no one would listen. For months, Mary knew, despite the famously mansplaining song, exactly what was going on. And while I do not wish to draw a parallel between sexual assault and the conception of Christ, Mary has great things to teach us about taking women at their word. The child she was carrying was a part of her, so it seems that Mary would’ve been more than privy to the well-being of the Savior. But remember her context: an unmarried young woman, pregnant, in a time when women found their worth based on their relationship to either a father or a husband. Her word meant nothing. Any attempt to proclaim what she knew to be true in her body would have been either received as a lie, insanity, or punishable sexual promiscuity. She held something inside of her but was forced to keep it a secret because no one would believe her. Because she was a woman. Undoubtedly, Mary was exhausted too – from carrying a child and carrying silenced prophecy.
Mary leaves us a bit of her thoughts, though. She was not entirely silent. She had a song to sing in Luke 1:46-55, and even though she sang it alone, she had a voice. She sang of bringing down the mighty and lifting up the lowly. She sang of filling the hungry and dismantling the prideful. Her monologue is short, but it encompasses the sprit of the entire book of Luke. Her voice sets the stage for a book full of calls to social justice – to bring in the marginalized and prophesy to those who misuse power.
In Mary, the exhausted woman in me finds hope. Mary shares in my oppression and in my desire for justice. Mary knows her voice is powerful, even when others might not believe her story. Mary understands that God’s vision for humanity is not one where women are second, but rather one where those who feel ignored can be heard. Mary believes in the ability of the child she carries to bring about a new heaven and a new earth – one where, despite our trauma, we can be made whole.