This letter has been 27 years in the making, it comes with no malice or hatred, just a determination to tell the truth, to come out from behind the shroud of shame and secrecy.
To take back what was taken from me the day I was born… choice.
The definition of a cult is:
‘A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with it’s followers often living in an unconditional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.’
‘A system or community of religious worship and ritual’
If you look online you can find many different versions of what a cult is supposed to be or how it’s supposed to operate, for me being in a cult meant many things.
First and foremost it meant that being the owner of a vagina had already decided my life path, future and place in a closed community that hinges on gender inequality. I was to be a mother, a wife, a teacher of children, obedient and subservient, never to be seen as anything other than the lesser half of two people joined in holy matrimony. I was never to speak out publicly, never have an opinion or voice that is valid enough to ever warrant being heard above the male voice. I was a second-class citizen with no rights or chance to change my situation. My Father owned me until my husband took over, all under the banner of Yahweh.
I was taught to hate and fear ‘The World’ and the heathens that made it. We were god’s chosen people and they were not, their influence would lead to the grave with no hope of redemption. We were an autonomous community and outsiders were not welcome unless ready to conform. I was born into it and expected to live, marry and die within. It wasn’t an expectation; it was a fore gone conclusion. How I spoke, dressed and existed was already mapped out for me before I was even a twinkle in my parent’s eyes… all because I was unfortunate enough to be born female.
Fast-forward 18 years and I was sick.
I didn’t have a cold or cancer or a tummy bug, I was very mentally unwell within a community that didn’t acknowledge or have the tools to deal with mental illness. I was severely anorexic, swinging between deep depression and mania. I thought about suicide but the fear of a vengeful god’s commandments over ruled the fear of living through it.
Around this time I had the make or break moment that sparks many people’s life changing choices, the context doesn’t matter but what does is the realisation that I had to walk away or I would die.
Severe repercussions considered, it didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter I would be instantly shunned and left behind by the only people and existence I had ever known, or that I was woefully ill-equipped to exist outside that bubble, or that my family would hurt a lot and be unable to understand my motives at that time.
However, I finally decided that my life mattered. It mattered more then the dogma I’d lived with and had been made to genuinely fear. And I was shunned.
I lost best friends, the only sense of self I had, people I'd grown up with, my home, my past. It was all gone.
When I was 26 years old my Father had to face the questions I couldn’t not ask anymore…
Why did you let three beautiful, strong, intelligent and individual girls live like we did? Why did you let them box us in because of our gender and tell us our worth and measure? Why did you let rampant sexism (at the very least) touch and surround your daughters? Why didn’t you see our possibilities outside our reproductive system? Why didn’t you give us a chance to be more? Why didn’t you give us choice? Why didn’t you build us up instead of letting the system tear us down and define us before we had the chance to even dream?
He didn’t have an answer because there is no right answer. He was part of the system that told us we were second-class citizens, told him he was the boss and that he had god given rights we didn’t because he was a man.
The man who groomed me for years for abuse used to write me letters, in the last one he sent me he said "You are built to stand on a soapbox, made to save others from dragons’. Irony aside, he was right. We ALL are but we let people take our voices from us. Whether it’s nobody loved you right, or even deliberately hurt you, your parents were shitty, your partner steps on it or even just your own brain sabotaging it… we were all meant to stand on a soap box and let our true voice ring from the rooftops, no fear, no judgement, no shame, no stigma
It’s taken me 27 years, a lot of therapy, medication and many nights letting my past bring me to my knees crying to realise the power of just one voice.
The power of what one voice would have been to me and any young girl struggling within a repressive community is unquantifiable. So I asked myself how does this happen? Where do you plant that seed? Where do you start?
You start with your own.
I need feminism because the repression of women and young girls is in our own backyard. I need feminism because it taught me I AM worth more then the ideal’s that were imposed on me. WE need feminism because without it thousands and thousands of voices still aren’t being heard.
To the community I grew up in. Stop. To the fathers of daughters. Stop. To the husbands. Stop.
To the girls, I am a lone voice but I am not alone. We are ready.
Today I decided to share an article I've been working on for a little while. First and foremost this is one persons experiences - I don't and would never claim to speak for anyone else. Secondly I have nothing but love and respect for my family, they are wonderful people. My hope is that maybe after reading this someone else will write about why they/we need feminism with their voice using their story because it's the most powerful tool we've been given.
This is for all the amazing, brilliant, deadly, talented, intelligent, fierce, hilarious and beautiful women who helped me find my voice. I owe you the world.