Throughout history, the Bible has been used to justify patriarchal cultural patterns that seek to keep women “in their place.” Many churches still do not permit women to exercise the same types of leadership roles and oversight that are available to men. There are many churches where women are not allowed to preach or to teach men. Many women also feel that the beliefs and attitudes towards women’s roles and responsibilities in the church have been transferred to women in corporate America, where often the roles considered appropriate for women are not those of leaders but rather those of submissive followers.
As a professional woman who had spent many years in the corporate workplace, I’d heard all the cautionary tales: how women would never be able to genuinely take a seat at the table with men; how strong women who wouldn’t display proper subservience to their male superiors—or peers—would eventually find themselves locked out of meaningful opportunities; how women—especially black women—almost always faced the choice of “playing nice” and being seen as unimaginative drones or standing up for their principles and being labeled uncooperative bitches. I had apparently landed in the latter category, and that was the reason I was now out of a job.
Listening to these stories of the brave, pioneering women who have gone before me has changed the way I see my experience. These stories have taken me on a journey of self-discovery and reevaluation… a journey that has resulted in the writing of MisBehave: Speak Truth to Power.
Was I the first woman in history who had found herself in a similar situation? As these new stories began to find their way to me, I learned that I most definitely was not alone in my predicament. In fact, I stood in a long line of women who “acted out”: who refused to be defined by the stereotypes assembled by their patriarchal societies; who decided that their own dreams were better and more worthwhile than the dreams the rest of the world told them to have; who broke the rules and violated expectations in order to shout to a world that refused to listen, “I matter more than you think I do, and nothing you can do to me can change that!”