Monday, December 01, 2008

A sombre trio

Here are two articles I read today and another one from October that suggests the same premise. The first is Nujood Ali, 10 years old, and Yemen's most famous divorcée.

Women of the Year Fund Honorees

Nujood Ali & Shada Nasser
The second is Facial acid attacks in Pakistan. And the third is from Wade Burleson's blog in which Wade writes a special post for Miss Tartar of the CBMW gender blog.

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Our Southern Baptist women need to understand that nowhere in Scripture does God order a woman to be subordinate to a man because of gender. Let me repeat: There is not one scrap of evidence - not one jot or tittle of the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures - that should ever cause a woman to feel she is subordinate to a man because of her gender. To militate against a woman's subordination to a man is not feminism. It is respecting the equality of the man and the woman.

For my part, I wish Miss Tarter was more like Elizabeth Keckley. Elizabeth, an African-American seamstress for the Lincoln White House, was born into slavery in 1830. Her story is an incredible journey from slavery to the White House. Without comment, I will simply encourage you to read Keckley's own words as she describes her spirit while being beaten by a very poor North Carolina Presybyterian minister in 1850. At the time of this beating, Miss Keckly was the same age as Miss Tarter. She had been given to the minister as a slave gift, the minister and his wife being unable themselves to afford any slaves. Miss Keckley was unsure as to the reason for the beating described below, but believes it was because she fell asleep while rocking the Presbyterian minister's small child.

"My master was a good-hearted man, but was influenced by his wife. It was Saturday evening, and while I was bending over the bed, watching the baby that I had just hushed into slumber, Mr. Bingham came to the door and asked me to go with him to his study. Wondering what he meant by his strange request, I followed him, and when we had entered the study he closed the door, and in his blunt way remarked, "Lizzie, I am going to flog you." I was thunderstruck, and tried to think if I had been remiss in anything. I could not recollect of doing anything to deserve punishment, and with surprise exclaimed: "Whip me, Mr. Bingham! what for?"

"No matter," he replied, "I am going to whip you, so take down your dress this instant."

Recollect, I was eighteen years of age, was a woman fully developed, and yet this man coolly bade me take down my dress. I drew myself up proudly, firmly, and said, "No, Mr. Bingham, I shall not take down my dress before you. Moreover, you shall not whip me unless you prove the stronger."

My words seemed to exasperate him. He seized a rope, caught me roughly, and tried to tie me. I resisted with all my strength, but he was the stronger of the two, and after a hard struggle succeeded in binding my hands and tearing my dress from my back. Then he picked up a rawhide, and began to ply it freely over my shoulders. With steady hand and practised eye, he would raise the instrument of torture, nerve himself for a blow, and with a fearful force the rawhide descended upon the quivering flesh. It cut the skin, raised great welts, and the warm blood trickled down my back. Oh God! I can feel the torture now - the terrible, excruciating agony of those moments. I did not scream; I was too proud to let my tormentor know what I was suffering. I closed my lips firmly, that not even a groan might escape from them, and I stood like a statue while the keen lash cut deep into my flesh. As soon as I was released, stunned with pain, bruised and bleeding . . . I exclaimed "Master, what I done that I should be punished so severely?"

I would not put off thus. "What have I done? I will know why I have been flogged."

I saw his cheeks flush with anger, but I did not move. Without an explanation, he seized a chair, struck me, and felled me to the floor. I rose, bewildered, almost dead with pain, crept to my room, dressed my bruised arms and back as best I could and then lay down, but not to sleep. No, I could not sleep, for I was suffering mental as well as bodily torture. My spirit rebelled against the unjustness that had been inflicted upon me, and though I tried to smother my anger and to forgive those who had been so cruel to me, it was impossible.

The next morning I was more calm, and I believe that I could then have forgiven everything for the sake of one kind word. But the kind word was never proffered, and it may be possible, that I grew somewhat wayward and sullen. Though I had faults, I know now, as I felt then, harshness was the poorest inducement for the correction of them. It seems that (the pastor) had pledged himself to the Mrs. to subdue what he called "my stubborn pride."

On Friday following the Saturday on which I was so savagely beaten, I was again directed to come to the study. On entering the room I found him prepared with a new rope and a new cowhide. I told him that I was ready to die, but that he could not conquer me. In struggling with him I bit his finger severely, when he seized a heavy stick and beat me with it in a shameful manner.

The following Thursday, again he tried to conquer me, but in vain. We struggled, and he struck me many savage blows. As I stood bleeding before him, nearly exhausted with his efforts, he burst into tears, and declared that it would be a sin to beat me any more. My suffering at last subdued his hard heart; he asked my forgiveness, and afterwards was an altered man. He who preached the love of Heaven, who glorified the precepts and examples of Christ, who expounded the Holy Scriptures Sabbath after Sabbath from the pulpit refused to whip me any more."
The question is whether it is better to defy or to submit. Only the one who suffers the consequences can make that decision. Not the pastor or the theologian. Sometimes there is a place for rebellion. But the one who suffers must decide.

2 comments:

Kate Johnson said...

what a powerful story. I appreciate your comments, and it gives me cause for reflection. As one who was beaten, not so savagely, but none the less beaten, (by my former husband) any time I tried to rebel against the treatment, the result was worse, once ending up in the hospital. I chose to no longer rebel, until I could leave once and for all. But your point about "the one who suffers must decide" is a point we all need to remember. Thank you.

Kate Johnson

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks for commenting, Kate and sharing some of your story.

These articles represent the difficult decision. On the one hand there is the little girl who eventually escaped and regained her freedom. And then the other woman who is damaged for life. What a dilemma. I think there is a book about slavery that is called submission and defiance, but I haven't read it. Such a space to walk between.