I had tears in my eyes as I listened to Michelle Obama at the Democratic convention.
For a lot of reasons.
Many have already covered her brilliant speech. But I was remembering Jesse Jackson and Oprah, with tears in their eyes when President Obama was elected.
We are now poised to elect the first woman president of the United States. And that is no small thing. Just 20 years ago, Wal-Mart refused to carry this shirt because the message “goes against Wal-Mart’s family values.” N0w, Wal-Mart no longer stands by that statement. But if you think we’re a post-sexist society, think again.
So when I think about Shirley Chisholm’s run for the presidency in 1972, I’m overwhelmed by her courage. I remember it well. Back then, I couldn’t even be an acolyte, let alone a pastor. That was the way it was. As a kid, I’d learned what I was allowed to do and not allowed to do (or wasn’t proper) because I was a girl. That continued into womanhood. So Shirley Chisholm was a revelation. Maybe that’s why that’s the same year I helped the young girls of the First Lutheran Church in Jamestown, NY make and win their case for becoming acolytes. It sounds so dumb now, doesn’t it? But it was a battle then – and a sweet victory.
I was ordained in a church that has declared it would never call a woman pastor. After the service, Bishop Ed Perry came up to me and said, “Well, I’ve walked all around the building and I didn’t see one crack in the foundation.” Ask any woman in ministry her stories, if not of outright discrimination, then of sexual harassment, inappropriate comments and touching, commentary on clothing and hair, and inquisitions about relationships, possible pregnancies, etc.
And let’s not even begin talking about authority and power.
Or rather, let’s. Only “uppity women” aspire to positions of authority and power. You’d think we’d be beyond this by now, but we’re not. Read this article about Hillary Clinton (written by a man, by the way), especially beginning with the tenth paragraph: “My current conviction is that the main fuel that powers the anti-Hillary crowd is sexism. And yes I’m serious. So go ahead and roll your eyes. Get it over with. But I think the evidence supports my view, and I’ve seen no other plausible explanation. And just to be clear, I don’t think it’s ONLY sexism. But I do think that this is the primary force that has generated and maintained most of the negative narratives about Hillary.”
So even when Hillary is elected (please God!), make no mistake, she will face the same kind of obstruction that President Obama has faced from the neanderthals among us – even though, as a Huffington Post article proclaims, Americans Are Finally Comfortable With The Idea Of A Female Presidential Nominee.
Sheesh! I used to wonder years ago, after one more person (usually an older woman) came out of church where I’d been a guest pastor and said, “I never thought I’d like a woman pastor, but you’re alright.” It was meant as a compliment, but I always wanted to ask, “What did you think a woman pastor was going to do?”
So I’m remembering Shirley Chisholm as I continue to watch the convention with smiles and tears. And I’m honoring her witness. As her book – and her gravestone – proclaim “Unbought and Unbossed”
Hooray for uppity women!