Silencing Women With Shame: The Sin of Sex and Pregnancy
by Frances Robin
I manage a maternity home for pregnant and homeless women. The other day someone left the comment, “those women need to keep their legs close.” The comment is an example of the negative dialogue that runs through the minds of some about women who are pregnant and unmarried.
Some people have bought into accepting and making excuses for hate, harsh judgments, and negative criticism of others. For too long, women have suffered under shame, and abandonment particularly by other women for mistakes, and decisions outside of traditional or political norms.
Women and girls aren’t born to eventually become victims of abuse. For too long we’ve shamed and silenced the abused, the imperfect, the unmarried woman, or the pregnant teen. For too long, girls, children, and women have borne the burden and secrecy of those who preyed and pleasured themselves on their innocence? For too long, the innocent and abused have not been believed. For too long their cries for help have gone unanswered because they were expressed in unexpected ways? And, for too long, we’ve chosen to believe and forgive the abusers.
We’ve chosen to remain judgemental of the actions of the women who have been trafficked from childhood, some by their own parents! We have accepted a false sense of security in promise rings for fear of facing the fact that we ourselves, may have opened our own legs outside of marriage. We hold our children and others to a standard that many of us could not keep.
What if a woman decides to voluntarily open her legs and does so repeatedly? Does her life cease to have value? What if she terminates? Is she no longer deserving of love and forgiveness? Who has given authority to apply judgment that disqualifies another from experiencing genuine, authentic love? No human holds that authority.
Why do we communicate a message of unworthiness to women? In a time when we know that the countless women who were sent to grandma’s house weren’t on a vacation but a sentence. A sentence that ended with either termination or giving away of a life. A sentence for some that have caused irreparable mental and emotional damage. To the millions of people suffering from guilt and shame, you are worthy. Stand up! Tell your story. Share your truth. You were not meant to live in the shadows or under the weight of someone’s judgment.
To the countless women and men who have suffered and endured pacifying your parent’s ego to be a good boy or good girl, free yourselves. Your parents are adults. Let them work out their own mistakes. Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy writes, “We have all been broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. Our shared brokenness connects us. Our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing.
We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity. So many of us have become afraid and angry, fearful and vengeful that we’ve thrown away children, discarded the disabled, and sanctioned the imprisonment of the sick and the weak — not because they are a threat to public safety or beyond rehabilitation but because we think it makes us seem tough, less broken. We’ve submitted to the harsh instinct to crush those among us whose brokenness is most visible. But simply punishing the broken — walking away from them or hiding them from sight — only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too.”― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy