Gauntlet (n.)-a double file of men facing each other and armed with clubs or other weapons with which to strike at an individual who is made to pass between them.

Recently I read about a Baptist minister in Missouri who preached a sermon and in so doing sailed right off the cliff of his evangelical, male privilege, without ever realizing there was a cliff’s edge. He now lies stunned and battered below on the rocks of “on leave and seeking counseling”. A metaphor about a barn door and a horse and timing comes to mind.

I won’t link it here because I don’t want to give his words any more attention than they have already gotten, but a simple google search should summon more than you want to know for the interested. The substance of the message was to instruct the women of his congregation on the importance of maintaining attractiveness and sexual availability to husbands as these are things God has decreed that men are entitled to and what they agreed to when they married. That though you may not ever be able to achieve Trophy Wife status, with effort you might at least be a Participation Trophy. Yeah. I know.

Apparently neither he nor any other staff member saw a problem with his words and the sermon was posted to the church’s website. From there it was picked up and taken to the World Wide Web via Social Media, and the rest is history. Enter the digital mob, with their torches and pitchforks and their outrage and he has been well and thoroughly dragged. The general theme of said dragging being that his own appearance was somewhat lacking. And while it’s true that in taking such a stand on appearance one should be a near perfect physical specimen oneself (think young Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise), it’s hardly the point.

I thought about the women of his congregation there that day (61% of most churches if statistics are to be believed) and wondered how they felt. Did they sit there feeling stunned and exposed, eyes straight ahead, tight smiles at the “funny” parts, his words falling like drops of blood on their heads? Had they thought that they were sitting in the one place where they might not be judged, listening to the one person that might look on them with love? Agape love. And it made me sad, sad.

You see it starts with us at puberty, maybe earlier now, and there is hardly a day of a woman’s life where she is not evaluated, judged, dissected, approved or dismissed, based on how she looks. The constant measuring and sifting, sometimes from forces without and often forces within.

The first I realized that I wouldn’t do was in the early days of 7th grade. In halls teeming with hormones and the sociopathy of youth I received a quick education on the very narrow ideal for beauty and that that was all that matters. Not that you were smart, or funny or kind. Just how you looked.

Every day I rode to school on the bus. I waited with my friends and we were the last stop. The seats were full of boys, the alpha boys, and the only seats left were toward the back. We would walk down the center aisle, a gauntlet, and pass through the Greek chorus of body shaming, raked by eyes. Each body minutely and openly evaluated, commenting on the merits or lacks thereof. Their words fistfuls of glass to the tender flesh of adolescence, as we fell into our seats, bleeding from 1000 tiny cuts. Each coped in her own way, some with tears, some lashed out, and I, stone faced, chin up, shoulders back, pretended not to hear, pretended not to care. Indifference my costume for my teens and 20’s.

And so it has been for me almost every day since. In some form or fashion it comes, the evaluation, the valuation, the devaluation, for every woman I know. I’m of an age now where I largely go unnoticed, and it’s fine with me. An Invisibility Cloak the costume of my 50’s.

But for my younger friends it’s louder than ever. The impossible expectations, the cacophony of social media, swipe left, swipe right. Every day, every woman will walk the gauntlet, be it long or short, in her school, on her job, on the street, in her own mirror, and apparently even to her seat in church.

6 thoughts on “Gauntlet

  1. margaretturner3744

    I can definitely relate to the part about being a teenager and the body shaming and thinking I needed to be perfect. I love you friend. By the way, I think you are beautiful, inside and out🥰

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s