What do Quiverfull rape apologists and Michigan rappers have in common? Well, this article included both on one page and got me thinking. There are so many subcultures in our society that act like protecting women and children and their “traditional roles” are of utmost importance, and then use this guise of protection to turn around and treat them terribly. Looking at all the stories out there within my own subculture, it’s logical to conclude that the Quiverfull movement generally eats its own children and chews up and spits out many of its wives.
The rapper Angel Haze is not Quiverfull, and was apparently raised in the Greater Apostolic Faith, a Pentacostal denomination. When I listened to her song “Cleaning Out My Closet,” based on a sample of Eminem’s song of the same name, dealing with his own experience of child abuse, I was blown away. For anyone who can’t handle vulgarity, real descriptions of what life is like for a sexually abused girl, or raw and very well done rap lyrics referring to such things, don’t listen to it (same goes for the Eminem song about his mother’s physical and medical abuse of him as a small boy). For anyone else, give it a shot. It’s an amazing piece and she is a powerful artist. Rap isn’t normally my thing and I am totally struck by it.
I was never sexually abused, but found her lyrics spoke to feelings that can result from being in situations where sexual abuse happens around you or you experience other types of abuse and neglect, and these can include not wanting to grow a female body, being somewhat afraid of strong men, getting violently angry at times, having fear shape life in weird ways, wanting to become someone else, etc. I figure those are pretty common reactions to many different types of abusive situations. Anyway, I think Angel Haze is so strong and amazing and real and I had to share her work.
Rather unsurprisingly to me, her song started out with a reference to God:
When I was ten, shit, I believed I could fly
I would just flap my fucking arms and try to meet with the sky
And in my mind I’d envision that I was speaking with god
And then I’d chop his fucking fist off and beat him with mine
But this is just a fucking portion of the war with my mind
Her lyrics got me remembering how as a child I also wanted to fly away. I would sit in the back yard and feel so jealous of birds for their ability to do so, and I too was becoming increasingly angry with what I understood to be God at around age 10 or 11. At age 11 I decided to read the whole bible (KJV, of course!) to figure out what was going on around me. The story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac made me very uncomfortable, but when I landed on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and then an almost identical one in the book of Judges, except for how the concubine was treated, I thought for a long time about these stories and how young women were offered by the supposed “good guys” to be “used” by that crowd of awful men, and I was horrified. I remember thinking I’d rather be straightaway turned into a pillar of salt (often spoken about in church as a horrible end for a disobedient woman) than endure anything like the gang rape and torture (almost never discussed by our pastors in detail) that that poor concubine had experienced before she died, and the disrespect done to her dead body afterwards.
Even though I’d never heard the words “rape culture,” I felt that the bible itself was very much part of the reason the situation around me was derogatory towards women. Yes, I was a philosophical little kid who thought about such things, but since I was only 11, homeschooled, and very isolated, I had no one to talk to about this revelation or my theological crisis. The closest I got was telling my Mom that I thought the bible was “very barbaric,” which resulted in getting yelled at and sent to my room for disrespect.
Now I realize a lot of people say that God is love and so is Jesus, that it would never be God’s will for such stuff to happen to anyone, that these were biblical things from barbaric times that are long gone and we should use these stories as parables, look at them in a historical context, and treat all women with respect for their minds and bodily integrity. That may be true, but for many people such a discussion is neither here nor there. They are literalists. I know for a fact that there are too many people who still interpret the bible as being “accurate” in all its old barbaric ways, including its depictions of women and their roles. I believe that Todd Akin is such a man, so thankfully he is out, and joined by a few others, like Richard Mourdock and Rick Santorum, who, in addition to being booted out, found their way into a hilarious bit of public post-election mocking. All funnies aside, there are lots of examples of people like this who pretty much consider themselves good Christians, family-oriented, and generally nice guys, but who have picked up this literal interpretation of the bible and believe what womanhood consisted of back in biblical times is the right thing for women today. So they get this gender discriminatory
biblical idea that women aren’t people who are in charge of things. Instead, women are helpers, sort of half-people that life circumstances simply happen to and then in order to be righteous, these half-people must react in the “right” way after dealing with hardships or abuse. Also, sometimes, because they’re all emotional and stuff, women need to be “led” to do so and that’s where helpful (former) lawmakers such as these guys expected they should come in. (Disclaimer: I want to note that the purpose of this blog is not politics, and I am just fine with people whether they vote “red, “blue,” or third party, but this particular type of paternalistic and controlling perspective on women totally makes me sick and has since I first encountered it.)
Anyway, so being taught to interpret the bible literally, after reading about these stories of young women being expendable, I decided that God was a mean man who probably didn’t exist, and even if he did, I wanted nothing to do with such a figure. So I lost my faith right there at age 11 and can honestly say that I never got it back. Maybe I will write another time about spiritual abuse (I did. It’s here) and what going to church or being preached at feels like for me, but for now I’m just appreciating the quality and intensity of Angel Haze’s work.
Angel Haze is a woman who awful things happened to, she handled it like real people do, and now she is in a place of strength and healing, able to speak the truth of what being devalued and abused, treated like an object and that her plight was nobody’s business, did to her. Sure it is stark to listen to and puts some very ugly pictures in your mind, but she’s obviously doing that on purpose. She knows we need to see it and feel it on some level, know what that’s like, how bad it is, so we can stop it.
I think we need to get to where we can read the story of Sodom and Gommorah and the one about the Levite’s concubine, and instead of going and railing against gays, stop and truly feel for the concubine and the daughters and all women (and men too) who have endured threats of rape and/or experienced it, then decide what we can do today to prevent such awful things from continuing around us, because if you look at the stats, Angel Haze’s story isn’t some rare thing. Almost half of the sexual assaults we know about in the United States happen to women under age 18, and 15% are to girls under age 12. One out of every six women has been raped or had someone attempt to rape her in her lifetime. As a woman with more than the average number of sisters, I’ve gotta say these stats scare the living daylights out of me and they make me very angry. If its this common, why didn’t I hear about it before?
Plenty secretly twisted men, particularly in patriarchal environments where they have control by virtue of marriage and fatherhood, or maybe get ordained, elected, or hired to positions of power, think the female body or the child’s body is theirs for the taking and owning, in whatever form they choose, and that the bible somehow grants implicit permission through some side stories, cherry-picked verses, and its often-ignored harsh realities. Thing is, while this might happen to those “other” people more often, it certainly happens among your people, and it’s happened among my people too.
We must stop these stories of abuse from being mischaracterized or glossed over in churches, ignored in homes and offices, unspoken in schools and in the streets, because if we don’t deal with it in those places, those are the places likely to have such horrors happen. And when it happens, people’s first instinct is usually to try to ignore it, wish it away, be like Angel Haze’s own mother who did nothing because she just didn’t know what to do.
So yeah, the Quiverfull rape apologists and this Michigan rapper have one thing in common. They’re both talking about rape and God, and I’ve gotta say after hearing all the fundamentalist guys’ noise, and then Angel Haze’s story, it is both a shock and a relief to hear from someone with lived experience who has decided to speak the raw truth of what such circumstances are really like.