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This week, like many, was heavy. That is why this post is covered in flowers. We need beauty between the madness.
Ever since I first became aware that we live in a world of blatant inequality, I have tried to see the silver linings. And there are some. Silver linings, I mean.
Women have taken what is available to them and worked wonders with it in many areas of the world. I have much to learn from so many of them. This is a key part of the way I want to travel.
To see some of what I’m talking about, follow Mihaela Noroc on Instagram, and read her book, The Atlas of Beauty. She’s a photographer who travels the world in search of the amazing things women do in their day-to-day lives.
But there is still deep pain. And this week, I could not ignore it as well as I usually can. Within the past year, I’ve wondered more and more if I should ignore this. Because maybe, just maybe, to ignore is to tacitly go along with systems that are not worth supporting.
“I Wasn’t the First Preacher’s Wife to Run Away”
On Humans of New York, a woman named Detra shared her story. There are 15 installments. I won’t spoil them for you, because she deserves to tell her story in her own words.
But I will say that the abuses reported from the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church (you’ll notice Detra calls it the IFB in her first post) are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. And I try to stay up to date on cases such as these.
Detra got away, but she had to fight hard for freedom. And she is an outlier—so many women don’t get out of these situations.
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey
Then, Netflix released its docuseries on the FLDS cult. Its full name is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I referenced this series in my second summer reading post for this year, because one of the titles featured is Under the Banner of Heaven.
The docuseries title, Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, references a propaganda slogan taught by Rulon Jeffs, the prophet leader of the FLDS. His son, Warren Jeffs, took over when Rulon became ill and passed away. This cult is known for practicing polygamy, which is illegal in the USA but is decriminalized in states like Utah.
In this show, there are many young women and underage girls who are horrifically abused under male headship. The consequences are vast, and they last for a lifetime. The leaders of this cult have forced underage girls to get married, usually to become the second or third wife to a man much older.
Boys are also harmed under this system, because men in power have a numbers problem. It’s simple math, really: if there is roughly an equal amount of women and men, then not all men in this group can have 50 wives (50 is not an exaggeration—both Warren and Rulon Jeffs had more than that.)
This means that leadership must get rid of a significant amount of young men, resulting in a group called the Lost Boys. The docuseries barely touches on this topic, but Brent W. Jeffs, nephew of Warren, explains this in his memoir. I read it last year, and it is amazing. Content warning for child sexual abuse.
Alyssa Wakefield, In Her Own Words
I’m a frequent reader of Sheila Gregoire’s blog, To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. She also has a podcast, Bare Marriage. On the past two weeks of podcast episodes, Alyssa Wakefield shared her story in her own words for the first time.
Alyssa was raised under the teachings of Bill Gothard, a known abuser and all-around creep. He taught an umbrella model of patriarchy that is a quick Google Search away. I cannot bring myself to link it here.
Know that, while this guy is considered fringe, there are mainstream pastors teaching his model without knowing who coined it and the abuses he is responsible for.
Because of the extreme control that comes with this cult, Alyssa’s father chose her husband (now ex) without her consent. He was ten years her senior. Alyssa wanted to go to college, but her father said she couldn’t. Instead, she had to marry this man, who ended up abusing her. This is just scraping the surface of everything she has survived.
You can listen to part one here and part two here. Content warning for abuse of many forms.
Femicide in Mexico
As I was working on my next She Reads article, I came across a blog about Mexico City from an expat. If you’re interested at all in Mexican and Central American literature, Lauren has many on her blog.
After seeing some of Lauren’s book recs, I clicked around for a bit. And came across this post on her experience visiting an exhibit on femicide in Mexico.
Some of these stories I read slowly, then over again to take in what happened to these women. We have so much work to do; it is heartbreaking.
The Women of Chateau Lafayette and Other Books
Around the same time, I finished Stephanie Dray’s The Women of Chateau Lafayette. I won’t summarize it here, because I already did in this issue of From the Aisle Seat. But I do want to share a takeaway that goes along with the topic of this post. I can’t get it out of my mind.
Adrienne is one of the three protagonists, and she is married to Lafayette. He is a symbol of freedom to both France and the USA after being a volunteer foreign fighter in the American Revolutionary War and being an important figure in the French Revolution.
Unlike most noble marriages at that time, Adrienne and Lafayette fall in love genuinely. They have a bond other couples don’t.
And Lafayette still takes a mistress. In real life, he had a second mistress, as well.
But what really is so sad to me is that in French culture at this time, noble wives considered it a positive thing for the husband to have a mistress that she, as his wife, could have lunch with.
I know this was a few hundred years ago, but these were real human beings, with real hearts, that were expected to live this because of their gender. What they wanted for their lives simply didn’t matter. How they felt about the betrayal was completely irrelevant. Every time I read things like this, my heart breaks a little more.
In the hopes of reading more women’s stories, I plan to read Amber Scorah’s memoir on leaving the Jehovah’s Witness, as well as Dr. Katie Gaddini’s book on the struggles single evangelical women (🙋🏽♀️) face in the church.
To top it all off, I came across a very disturbing piece of information that I’ve since started to research. I can’t share much with you about it now, but am placing it here so I remember when it all started. I anticipate I’ll be studying it for quite some time before it’s ready to share with anyone.
Overall, I’m trying to remember that there are people who exist outside these mentalities, but dang it was hard to remember that this week. Day after day, it seemed the sorrow heaped onto yesterday’s.
I don’t have a neat conclusion to a post such as this one, but I do know I’m trying to work towards something better. To do my part in healing. I invite you to partake in this work in your own way, as well. Who is hurting around you? And how can you contribute to healing?
P.s. Summer reading, both fiction and non. There are also two new From the Aisle Seat issues here and here.
P.p.s. The title of this post is a hat tip to Bernardine Evaristo’s award-winning novel.