So What If You’re A Bette?
APRIL 5, 2018
“It’s better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you are not. It’s a sign of your worth sometimes, if you’re hated by the right people.” – Bette Davis
Bette Davis has become one of my favorite feminists in recent history. She was a pioneer for women in Hollywood during the 1960’s. I read her autobiography this past year and while it’s clear she still had residual misogynic language, many of the things she dared to say then are still fairly radical even now. She had an amazing sense of humor, sharp wit, and wasn’t afraid to say exactly what was on her mind. Bette refused to fit into a mold and pushed against it at every turn. She knew who she was and what she wanted in life, she worked hard and met every goal despite a system that held women back. I truly admire her because I see a lot of myself in her words.
“I had no time for pleasantries. I said what was on my mind and it wasn’t always printable.” — Bette Davis
I think one of the hardest parts of coming out of fundamentalism was other people’s sheer disappointment in the person I was apart from the system telling me who to be. I received lectures about not putting my husband first while trying to figure out who I was apart from strict gender roles and codependency. I lived through the comments about getting a tattoo and the judgment about my new love for wine and the way I had eased up on my children. Most of all, people seemed to be turned off when I stumbled across “outspoken Sarah”. I found her hidden under the pile of rubble that was my former way of life. I dusted her off and handed her a microphone. There hasn’t really been a shortage of frowns since.
Fundy women, if you’re unaware, don’t ever give their unpopular opinions, they only give canned answers sprinkled with syrupy sweet phrases. Women who are quiet and soft-spoken are considered godly within these types of cultures. Nearly every conversation was scanned for traces of gossip, which we’d be certain to call and seek forgiveness for later. Every feeling shared was invalidated. This made honesty impossible, and the fear of misstep was unbearable for me.
“..anything genuine was taboo…all my life, I had detested pattern-cutters.” — Bette Davis
The truth is, the woman I became after 10 years within fundamentalism really wasn’t at all who I had ever been. I was convinced that the real Sarah needed to be caught, bridled, and tamed in order for God to love her, for people to love her. I had to become someone that I wasn’t to be accepted. You slowly lose your personhood underneath the rule-keeping, though you’ve no idea what’s gone missing. You just keep ignoring the groan inside to break free and run, and work harder at keeping up the usual appearances. They call it “dying to yourself” and joy, you’re told, is found only in obedience to these rules. If you’re unhappy, you must be failing somewhere, so repent.
“Hollywood always wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.” – Bette Davis
Being set free from this mindset by the truth of the gospel, is incredibly painful. Besides the panic attacks that come with leaving a community and all you’ve known as an adult, is the anger you’re trying to process from being duped by a false gospel, and now the ultimate rejection of the person you’re trying to reclaim from all the lies she’s had to tell about herself, to herself, for decades. No one cares about any of that though, they just want you to fall back in line and stop interrupting the utopian society they are still living in. So they frown, and in many cases, just disown you completely. Or you just slip away quietly because you know you’re viewed by many as an enemy for speaking out against the rules. I do understand why people frown. I would have frowned at me too years ago, because compliant conformity is vital for that community.
“They asked me to be a good girl. Their patronization was as undignifying as the role I was refusing.”– Bette Davis
If you’ve experienced this or are experiencing it now, Bette has a brilliant point. It is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not. Living a fake existence to please people or try to gain favor with God isn’t Christianity, it’s bondage. Maybe a community like that doesn’t want opinionated women who think for themselves, ask the hard questions, challenge what doesn’t compute, or the ones who laugh loud and then wink (yes, I got scolded for that). But Christ does. Christ welcomes all women.
I have some good news for women. God created many types of women, all of which, are acceptable. God never requires that we change our personalities in exchange for love. People who are afraid of women do, and then they attribute their standards to God, which causes great damage. When I look at the women who were part of Jesus’ entourage, I find them to each be different from one another, there is no special mold they fit into, yet Christ extended love and care to them without partiality to their dispositions. While these women were bold, some were more outspoken than the others. I certainly do not see Jesus shaming the loud ones for being loud. He doesn’t shame women for being outwardly emotional. He just loves them. He embraces them.
The sisters of Lazarus, are a good example of two women, completely different in personality, but completely loved by Jesus. We all know Martha is the outspoken one, and she gets a bad rap for complaining to Jesus to get hostess help from her sister. Usually, that’s what we focus on and we scold Martha for “not getting it”. But Martha was one of those women that gets stuff done. She takes charge of situations, and yes, sometimes when she gets overwhelmed with all of the things that are on her plate, she needs to be reminded that its ok to stop. Which is why Jesus lovingly calmed her worry, and reminded her of what was really needed in that particular moment. Jesus wasn’t shaming her out of her strong personality, he was caring for her. Mary was sitting in a place of honor, learning from Jesus, and he wanted Martha to leave behind her domestic duties and join her. I suppose to Jesus, women don’t “belong in the kitchen”.
The personalities of these two come out even more in the account of their brother’s death. Martha heard Jesus was coming and she rushed to meet him outside of the village, while Mary stayed behind and waited to be called by Jesus. While Martha and Mary confronted Jesus with the same phrase, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”, their dispositions were very different. Martha, true to form, just came right out with her open thoughts, without skipping a beat, and then had an entire conversation with Jesus about the resurrection on the last day. When Mary finally approached Christ, she fell at his feet, weeping. There were no other words exchanged between them, but Christ was so moved by Mary and the crowd around them, that he began to weep too.
When Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away on Lazarus’ tomb, Martha spoke up once again, informing Jesus that her brother had been dead for four days, that his body would be rotten and the smell would be horrendous. This is the part of the story that makes me laugh through tears and I always picture Christ softly smiling back at her when he says, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
One thing is undeniably certain, these women were free to be real with Jesus. They don’t seem to hold back in their interactions with him because they knew that he loved them. I’ve heard people scoff at Martha’s boldness and attempt to turn everything Jesus said to her into a harsh rebuke. Frankly, I don’t see that at all. I see Christ interacting with women in a way that coincides with who they are. He knows them intimately and loves them.
Back to the end of my Bette Davis quote, “It’s a sign of your worth sometimes, if you’re hated by the right people.” I can see where that would be true in some cases. But it’s also a sign of our worth if we’re loved by the right person. In fact, I’d say, being loved by Christ is where our worth is found. So what if you’re a Mary, or a Martha, or a Bette?Jesus knows exactly who each of us are in an intimate way, and he loves us, too.
Read more from Sarah Taras here