I despise the language of war. We use it all the time — a war on drugs, a war on women’s bodies, attacks on this, attacks on that. We draw lines. We pick sides. We approach politics and religion like the other side is an enemy combatant that we must defeat. In general, I find this kind of language counterproductive and alienating (in the best of circumstances) and destructive and soul-killing at the worst of times.
That said, I’ve been reading the news this week, and I have to believe that I am not alone in having moments where I am incredibly happy that I cannot be fruitful and multiply. I have to believe that I am not alone in wondering if we — and by we I mean every woman on the planet — are under attack and should arm ourselves for war.
Here’s what I’ve read this week: GOP Senate candidate Tom Smith say says that, for father, having a daughter become pregnant because of a rape is similar to a daughter having a child out of wedlock. VP wannabe Paul Ryan has refered to rape as a method of conception. Todd Akin has explained to the nation that a woman cannot become pregnant because during a “legitimate rape”, the body shuts of those abilities (the baby making ones). Add to this the man who told me, personally, that if a woman was a good wife, her husband wouldn’t have to hit her. Add to it the man who told a friend of mind that she wouldn’t be gay if she would just let him knock her up so she could feel the joy of “rightful sexuality in order to procreate”. Add to that the millions of girls who, every day, are told by policemen and judges and fathers and brothers that they shouldn’t have been where they were, wearing what they wore, smelling like they smelled if they didn’t want something bad to happen to them.
I hate the language of war, but it is becoming more and more clear that we are under attack. The question is what do we do about it? How do we arm ourselves?
When I first converted, I chose the name Rachel Ruth as my name in synagogue. I couldn’t imagine more impressive role models than these women. But they weren’t fighters. While they did what needed to be done, I have a hard time picturing either of these two women taking up sword and shield. It wasn’t their role. It wasn’t what they were called to be, to do.
I love these women, deeply and truly.
But as I think about war, as I think about protecting my body and my rights, the rights of any daughters I might bring into my family one day, and the rights of my beautiful nieces, I find myself turning more and more to a different kind of woman. It worries me. It worries me that the imagery in my head this week has been that of Yael driving a tent peg through the head of Sisera.
Is this what being a woman is going to come to — finding the (metaphorical) tent pegs that we can drive into the politicians who are attacking us? Will we have to be ever at the ready, as Yael was, so that when our enemies are sleeping, we can do what must be done? How do we even begin to arm ourselves against an enemy that is so all-encompassing? Because it isn’t just religion. It isn’t just politics. It isn’t just patriarchy. It’s religion AND politics AND patriarchy, and everywhere a woman’s body goes, the power belongs to these groups.
I don’t like thinking of my body as a battleground. I don’t have the vocabulary to fight this as a war. But Rachel and Ruth aren’t always enough in the world. Sometimes we have to pour out the milk, wait for the enemy to be sleeping, and remember that in every woman’s body is also a Yael waiting to do what must be done.