This poem came in large part from some serious self-reflection I have had in the past few weeks about the chains that have continued to bind me throughout my life as a woman living in a partriarchial, sexist society. I liked to deny that I had ever faced real, sexist oppression. Yes, I believed I had encountered sexism in my life, but it was hard for me to see this as a deep form of oppression. It was hard for me to see this because I was not aware of how immersed in this male-dominated society I was, to the point that I was blind to the oppression seeping around me.
Maybe some of you can relate to this. But, there was something gnawing at my soul, telling me that the pain I felt was not “made-up” or ridiculous, but was real and rational; it comes from the scars of living in a broken world where evil exists.
When I first starting really reflecting on the oppression I have faced as a woman, I remembered a childhood memory that has forever stuck out in my mind. At the time I was five years old and my family and I were having a conversation about my parents’ education. They are both extremely talented, intelligent and capable individuals with degrees in chemical engineering. However, that night I distinctly remember turning to my mom and saying “well, of course daddy is smarter than mommy”.
While this past year I recognized this memory was clear evidence of how much socialization of gender roles affects young adolescents’ minds—even by the age of five—I never seemed to ask myself the much deeper question: what lies was I already believing about myself when I made that statement about my mother? Certainly I had identified myself with my mother, a female, as I was as well. I came to the conclusion that at that young age I was already beginning to internalize sexist oppression. I was beginning to accept my inferior status as a female in society. I began reflecting on my own personal past friendships, relationships, and interactions with men and then I began looking at that from a broader perspective.
Through this self-reflection I was able to realize some truths, much larger than my own personal experiences. I was able to see that all women—not just women who are trapped in sex trafficking, otherwise known as “prostitution”—have had to “sell their bodies” and have been robbed of their own humanity in the process. The “prostitutes” we continue to see on street corners today are the most transparent manifestation of the kind of oppression that all women face. While there are at least hundreds of thousands of women physically bound in chains due to sex trafficking every year in the U.S. alone, all women are held in chains—whether that be psychological or physical due to male dominance. Sex trafficking will not be put to an end until the sexist mentality that is fueling it dies; sexist thinking is at the root of all forms of oppression women face based on their gender identification. And it robs all women of their God-given gifts, talents and leadership capabilities.
It deeply disturbs me because God has given women so much potential, but they are constantly being put into a box, tied down, shut up and dismissed as “irrational”, “weak” and “overly emotional”. These are just a few of the lies we are told on a daily basis by the media and culture. But, the good news is that we can do something about it. We can actively engage in anti-sexist movements. And it takes both women AND men to overcome this and truly break the chains.
As I was writing this poem, God reminded me of the scripture verse in Galatians 5:1 where it says “it is for freedom that Christ has set you free”. Well, that night when I was writing this poem, God told me “Sarah, it is for freedom that I have set women free. Stand firm then, and do not let your sisters be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.
Yes, it is Christ who can ultimately break all these chains of oppression and injustice. And it is my prayer that as you read this poem God would continue to break down the lies you have believed—about yourself and about this world; and by doing so God would restore healing and give you a spirit of hope to continue the struggle for justice.
Resurrected: A Freed Woman
A slow death—it began
At the age of five—the first time
I was initiated into the world of women’s lies
That first time
I started believing in this hypocrisy
I remember turning to my mother
And as I said
You cannot be as intellectual,
as a man
I began to dehumanize
My own heart and soul
Death spreads like a disease
And this death—the death of female pride
Devours and diminishes countless trapped souls and minds
By the hypocrisy that fuels our mentality
We are told certain “truths”
from the day we take our first step to the day we draw our last breath
In elementary school we are trained to believe that lying to a teacher is a great felony,
So why do we tell men trickery and deceit are the prized goals? –to be anything else is seen as defeat.
By our parents we are trained to believe good manners are polite,
So, why do we tell men in order to be gentlemen they must silence us?—we must be seen, but not heard for our opinions are never “right”
In high school health class we are trained to believe that any form of abUSE is wrong,
So why do we tell men they must USE a woman to be made strong?
In college we are trained to believe that fascism is a great evil,
So why do we allow it, when men manipulate and control half of their own people?
In our social justice circles we are trained to believe that patronizing someone is oppressive,
So why do we tell men they need to “save us” from our own repression?
That first lie brought me on to the ringmaster’s stage
Where I would continue to be told I could not win the game
Unless I accepted the role
Of the slut, the whore, the prostitute
I was told again and again
This is what you do to win the fight
You beat yourself down
You wear the disguises
And do the rounds
You let your body become a commodity
So that when people walk by they know your worth
They know they can take you and abuse you and use you
They know they can manipulate, control you and hold you
Just enough so that you’ll always come back
Just enough so you think you have a voice
When really you sit in a chair, blindfolded, naked, distorted
Is this what they call a winner of the game?
See to them your vulnerability means their profitability
The more you lose part of your soul, the more they gain
The more they can tell you it is your role
To provide services
To look good
To die inside
They thrive—while you just beat your head against the wall, so dead
Now you know why I just shake my head and roll my eyes
when they tell me it is my fault
I chose this, yes they say, I am to blame
But how can someone say that to a person enslaved?
Yes, I wore the revealing outfit the pimps would demand
But it was because I had been stripped bare,
Only left with clothing from a master’s hand
Yes, I put on the mask and played the role to fit the game
But my mouth had been taped shut—I had no voice to claim
Yes, I walked down that same street night after night
Too afraid and ashamed
Not because I didn’t know the game
But because I knew I was the “main act”
I was the women on the trapeze
Always smiling, always laughing, always selling to please
But dying on the inside
Without me they would lose their fame
See, I was a part of the game, I played it well—but I was not to blame
For I was caught in a demonic ring master’s stage
Even though I have never been on the street
With only my body to sell and my strut to compete
I was that woman locked inside
Trapped in the industry of slavery
Within the mind
I was that woman
Oppressed, voiceless, dehumanized
Told to win the game I had to believe the lies
I had to believe that I could never be good enough
unless I let men take advantage of me
I could not speak, I could not see, I could not object, I could not breathe
I was a weak, helpless, human-less being
Today, I seek to release the chains
So that all my sisters may be freed, not slaves
But this mentality runs deep and wide
And it is easy to believe that it is men who are the enemy
But see my sisters, it is not men—but the lies that they believe
The lies that they need to enslave in order to gratify
In order to satisfy
In order to live or die
The REAL enemy prowls for a way to divide
And this slavemaster hunts to enslave his famed prize
But I cling to the promise the great Liberator provides
That I am beautiful—without the consent of a master
That I am intellectual—with gifts of reason sublime
That I am strong—with my own two feet I stand upon and say goodbye to defeat
That I am free—a freedom that releases all women and men from their chains,
A Divine freedom that stands through the fire and the rain
But the battle continues onward
So, I toil both day and night
To fight to stay alive
To fight to be human
To fight to be woman
A woman that no ringmaster can dehumanize
That no chain can hold down
That no cage can lock up
That no mask can disguise
Yes, I am woman, yes I am
And, I am Alive.