Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"You're Just a Bitter Woman"

By Anonymous

You’re just bitter.” This is a phrase commonly used to silence women.

Another variation says, “You are so unforgiving.”

The bitterness accusation is used to bully a woman and tell her how she “should” feel instead of asking her how she does feel. Someone who uses this label expects her to pretend there has been no harm, no foul. She is expected to pretend the one who hurt her is a great person, even if she knows he is a terrible person. If she does not pretend, it is because she is “bitter and unforgiving.”

Abusers nearly always sling this accusation at their victims. She may have accepted him back with open arms after a dozen violent episodes, but the first time she hesitates to “forgive and forget,” he will tell her she is a bitter and unforgiving person.

If only it stopped there. The world does not want to hear the voice of the abused, either. Let her speak of abuse in the divorce hearing, and the judge may roll his eyes. When he makes his ruling concerning child support and visitation, he will keep in mind that the woman is “bitter.”

Let her speak of it to the church, and they will label her a feminist – even if she firmly believes in male headship and supports all the patriarchal viewpoints.

The fact is, no one wants to hear it. In most circles, she can say, “My former husband was abusive,” and only be labeled a feminist. But if she ever says, “He backhanded me across the face when I disagreed with him, and he dragged me through the house by my hair” – now, she is “bitter.” Her words are interpreted as angry and violent, as if only a violent person could speak such awful words.

The message to abused women: Shut up about it. Go back to being ashamed, as if that hand across your face had left a nasty stain that made you evil rather than him. It is not dignified or proper to speak of the ugliness of abuse. It offends our sensibilities. By making us hear about your experience, you are violating our sheltered little world. We can forgive the man for hitting you, but we cannot forgive you for having the bad manners to actually talk about it.

Speaking the truth is not a sign of bitterness. It is a sign of wholeness and stark, unblinking courage.

It takes guts to go beyond “He abused me” and say “He held a pillow over my face until I thought I was dying,” or even “He did things so unspeakable, I cannot make myself say them.”

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” A woman may know the truth without speaking it, and she may in silence escape her own situation. But a lone woman with sealed lips will not change the world. It is not only the woman who must be set free; society itself needs to be set free from a culture of violence against women.

We must speak the truth to our society, so that we can all be set free.