Can feminism help victims of betrayal trauma?
Feminism isn’t hating men or demanding special treatment: feminism is simply the belief that women are equal to men and should be treated like human beings.
Misogyny and entitlement to women and their bodies is at the core of pornography, betrayal, and relational abuse.
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, meets with Tracy, a member of the BTR community. Tracy shares her powerful experiences and captivating research on feminism and trauma to empower women to find safety and healing. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
What Is Feminism, Really?
Understanding and living the truths of feminism, helps women to reclaim their right as equals who can and should be treated with respect at all times. Anne describes feminism:
Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a women’s empowerment organization, and to me, the word ‘feminist’ simply means that women have equal rights, that women are seen as human.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
How Does Misogyny Harm Women?
Culturally, feminists and feminism are frowned upon and even feared by many. Why? Because feminism simply isn’t understood.
The harm that misogyny causes to women and children is real and devastating; when women are not treated as equal human beings, they are victimized by men through violence, betrayal, sexual abuse and coercion, and emotional abuse.
What Does Misogyny Look Like?
In today’s society, misogyny doesn’t necessarily mean that women aren’t allowed to vote, or are forced to wear certain clothing (though this is a sad reality in some parts of the world). Instead, misogyny rears its ugly head in the victimization of women, and the appalling aftermath:
Women are not believed. Women are not taken seriously when they experience this extreme victimhood, they are blamed for it. There is no ability for women to find justice; if we talk about [the betrayal and abuse], they say we shouldn’t talk about it in that way. If we complain about it, they say we’re complaining about it too much. If we stay silent about it, they say we were in denial.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Pornography Use, Sexual Coercion, Emotional Abuse: Misogyny
When women can effectively understand the truths of feminism, they are more clearly able to understand that pornography, sexual coercion, and other forms of abuse are anti-woman and are literally keeping women oppressed.
Anne explains that sexual betrayal, coercion, and other forms of relational abuse are an indicator of men’s entitlement to and objectification of, women:
Men feel entitled to be able to use women’s bodies how they choose to and they don’t really have to answer to any other women for their sexual misbehavior or their compulsive sexual acts. They feel entitled to be able to use their sexuality in any way that they choose, and they use the defense: “it’s not hurting anybody,” because apparently, their wife isn’t human because they say, “I don’t get why she’s so upset about my porn use”.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Sexual Coercion Is Anti-Woman
Before men have sexual contact with their partners, they must disclose their sexual history. Why? Because women aren’t able to give informed consent unless they know the full truth about who they are going to experience sexual contact with.
There are many ways that men can sexually coerce women. Many women are victims of marital rape, sexual coercion, and sexual assault and don’t know it, because it has become so normalized both in society and in their relationship.
How Can Feminism Help Me?
Victims of betrayal and abuse deserve the truth – the truth about their own worth and the truth about how they deserve to be treated by a partner.
When women build the emotional framework of a deep understanding of who they are, they are more inclined to create and hold effective boundaries that will simultaneously protect them from abuse and invite empowerment into their lives.
For women who are uncomfortable with the word “feminist,” I want you to think about why. I want you to consider the term “feminazi” or the gaslighting that has taken place that would say “feminists are bad.”. Who is telling you feminists are bad? What is that about? I think if you really think about it, you’ll realize it’s this gaslighting effect by society in general, and also men in general, to try and say, “No, women cannot be equal to me.”Anne Blythe, Founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal and Abuse
At BTR, we understand how degrading and horrifying it can be to experience sexual betrayal, sexual coercion, and marital rape. This trauma can be intense and difficult to deal with unless women have support.
The Betrayal Trauma Recover Group meets daily in every time zone and offers women a safe place to process trauma, ask questions, share their stories, and make connections with other women who get it.
Join today and being your journey to healing.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
I have Tracy back on today’s episode. We’re going to talk about Jesus Feminist, which is a book by Sarah Bessey, and how Sarah Bessey contends, and we are contending as well, that you can be a Christian and follow the Savior and also be a feminist, which is a little bit of a radical idea but we’re going to be talking about that today.
Resources For Victims of Betrayal & Emotional Abuse
Before we get to that; I had a woman talk about her experience with my book Trauma Mama, Husband Drama, which is available on our website.
A woman posted about her experience with Trauma Mama, Husband Drama, and this is what she said. I’m actually not reading it word for word to protect her identity, but this is what she said. “I ordered and received Anne Blythe’s Trauma Mama Husband Drama book 2 days ago. I showed it to my husband. He was literally shocked to see how much it resembled our life together. He tried to see if he could play it off a tiny bit and wanted to know if I got it from the church. That’s been one of his excuses before; that I wouldn’t feel this way if I wasn’t brainwashed by churchy stuff. When I told him I ordered it from a site for abused women he got really quiet. He said that it showed him what I’ve been saying all along. It wasn’t just me overreacting. Whether he chooses to change or not, it helped me validate my experiences with him to him, which is what I’ve been searching for. Very grateful for that chance. I showed him the abuse cycle circle in the back of the book and again he got kind of quiet. It looked like he had this realization of sorts of what he was doing to me for the past 12 years because it wasn’t just me calling it abuse. He said I was overreacting, exaggerated, and just plain making up but now there was proof that it was all actual abuse in a visible cycle of actions that he knows he does. I didn’t think anything would get him to understand even the tiniest amount, but this book really helped. He just kept saying that’s us in that book. It’s like they made it for us. He even brought it up with the church leader saying that up until now he believed I was just making things up and complaining, but that now he sees that what he was doing was abusive. So now he seems to be having his eyes opened, so we’ll see, I guess.”
BTR Advocates For Women’s Safety
Of course, like all of us, she’s not sure what to make of this and if he really does understand it or not, or if just confronted with it he had to admit it, and who knows what will happen in the future. That is one woman’s experience sharing the book Trauma Mama Husband Drama with her abusive husband. It’s not necessarily something I recommend. I recommend that women, rather than try to get their abuser to stop, that they get to safety. That is what I would recommend, but this is this woman’s experience and I wanted to share it with you.
Victims Can Choose “Safety First”
The reason why it’s so dangerous to try and help your abuser understand his abusiveness is because it could put you in danger for further abuse. So, that’s a tricky situation. At the same time, all of us have tried that. All of us have tried saying to the man in our life who is abusive, “Hey, this is what you’re doing to me, can you please stop?” So, in her experience Trauma Mama, Husband Drama really helped, and we don’t know what the long-term implications of that will be. Who I do recommend it for, though, is clergy or family or friends who really have a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that this is an abuse issue and this is an abuse scenario. That it’s not a pornography addiction problem, it’s not a communication problem, or a problem that can be solved in couple’s therapy.
Discomfort Surrounding Feminism
Now Tracy and I are going to have a discussion about the concepts we learned in the book Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey.
Anne: Welcome back, Tracy.
Tracy: Thank you.
Anne: We’re going to talk about Jesus Feminist a little bit. So many women and men, a lot of men, have this negative feeling of the word “feminist”. It just feels wrong. Like, “I don’t want to use that term, I don’t really like it.” A lot of them are because of their religious leanings. They feel uncomfortable because of parts in the Bible that talk about how women need to submit to their husbands or other factors. There are some other societal factors that have made women feel uncomfortable about the word “feminist”.
At BTR, ‘Feminism’ Means Women Are Human Beings
I would say that Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a women’s empowerment organization, and to me, the word ‘feminist’ simply means that women have equal rights, that women are seen as human.
Tracy: Yeah, it’s the radical idea that women are humans too.
Anne: Yeah, it’s this radical, crazy idea (good point) that women are humans too. They have rights and feelings, and that they deserve to be heard and taken seriously. I think it’s really important to talk about this because the heart of abuse is men’s entitlement to a few things. Number 1: men’s entitlement to women’s bodies. That they are entitled to be able to use women’s bodies how they choose to, and they don’t really have to answer to any other women for their sexual misbehavior or their compulsive sexual acts. That they are sort of entitled to be able to use their sexuality in any way that they choose, and it’s not hurting anybody because apparently, their wife isn’t human because “I don’t get why she’s so upset about my porn use”.
Misogyny Is At The Heart of Abuse & Pornography Use
When it comes to abuse, sexual acting-out, and sexual coercion, the misogyny piece cannot be ignored. It’s not something that we can take separately. This isn’t a man who respects women in general and has this view of women as equals, who is able to abuse women, both his own wife and also abuse women, by masturbating to them being abused and exploited for entertainment or sexual gratification. So, the misogyny piece cannot be ignored. So, I really appreciated Sarah Bessey’s book.
I’ve invited Tracy back to talk about feminism within this context.
Let’s start there. You interjected, which was fantastic, and said, “the radical idea that feminism means that women are human”. Can you talk more about that?
Societally, Feminism Is Taboo
Tracy: First of all, just my own experience growing up was very much what you just described. It was an absolute aversion to the word. To the point that I never did any due diligence in even learning about it. I just accepted that it was a bad thing. Feminism was a bad thing. I grew up hearing the word “feminazi” used by people close to me, which is a really derogatory, mean thing to say. Even in my adulthood when I started opening myself up a little bit to some ideas in feminism, I thought is there another term that we can use? Is there another term or another word we can use, but now I have come to embrace and love the word?
What Is A “Radical Feminist”?
I do consider myself a feminist. Not just a feminist, I consider myself a radical feminist. Let’s see what Sarah Bessey says about it. She says on page 13 of her book:
Feminism is complicated, and it varies for each person much like Christianity. It’s not necessary to subscribe to all the diverse and contrary opinions within feminism to call oneself a feminist. Feminism gained popularity as a result of secular work and scholarship, but the line between sacred and secular is man-made because God is the source of truth. Christians can still give thanks to God for the good works associated with feminism such as the gaining of status for women as persons under the law, voting, owning property, and defending themselves in a court of law against domestic violence and rape.
As Canadian theologian, John G. Stackhouse Jr. says, Christian feminists can celebrate any sort of feminism that brings more justice and human flourishing to the world no matter who’s bringing it, since we recognize the hand of God in all that is good. Modern Christian feminism is alive and well from social justice movements to seminaries and churches, to suburban living rooms worldwide. At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people too.Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist
Feminism Means Equality
Anne: I was talking with someone about it, they were really uncomfortable about the word ‘feminist’, and they said, “Well, I just don’t want it to swing too far.” I said, “The pendulum cannot swing too far on equality.” Do we always have to keep women a little bit below men? No! It can swing as far as it needs to swing, and currently speaking, women are not believed. Women are not taken seriously when they experience this extreme victimhood, they are blamed for it. There is no ability for the oppressed class, that would be women; it’s basically like if we talk about it, we shouldn’t talk about it in that way. If we complain about it, we’re complaining about it too much. If we stay silent about it, we were in denial.
There is no way right now to appropriately protest it without being blamed in some way.
Tracy: Right, because it sounds radical.
Victims Are Traumatized By Cultural Anti-Woman Norms
Anne: Yeah, it sounds extreme. “Oh, she’s using this word ‘abuse’, it’s not that extreme.” “No, that’s actually what it is and I’m not being extreme.” Yeah, the pendulum can’t swing far enough as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think that it can go too far when it comes to equality. So, until women have the ability to be equal, literally equal, as equally believed, as equally understood, as equally taken seriously, the pendulum has not swung far enough.
Tracy: I agree. I love what Sarah Bessey says. She names one of her chapters Jesus Made a Feminist Out of Me, and I’m like, me too. Me too. This was part of the transformation, the post-traumatic growth. It was tapping into this truth that society had been suppressing in me for most of my life leading up to that point.
“Jesus Made a Feminist Out Of Me”
She also talks about that moment. On page 111 she’s talking about a difficult experience for herself, which had to do with pregnancy, but for me, it was betrayal trauma. She says, “But the truth remains. Regardless of the circumstances unique to us, the voice of God has a habit of breaking through the noise of our lives, giving us a turning point, and ethics so that we mark the rest of our lives differently from that moment on. When we talk about these moments in our lives, we begin our stories with the words and then everything changed.” And that was betrayal trauma, and I’m a feminist now. Jesus made a feminist out of me. That was a natural result of healing in my life.
Anne: I’m going to take a break for just a second to read a review that came in on Apple Podcasts. I love hearing from you, so if you’re so inclined please leave a review on Apple Podcast or your other podcasting apps because every single review that you leave, especially your comments, helps isolated women find us.
Leave A Review For The BTR Podcast
This woman said “My eyes were opened. For years I thought my husband, now ex, had a sex addiction. The pain and suffering myself and my children have experienced is catastrophic. It was not until I listened to this podcast that I learned that we are abuse survivors. Calling it abuse instead of addiction has been a game-changer for my healing and my children’s healing. It has been crucial because now we get the types of resources we need. The sex addiction route left us feeling more wounded and more abused. It was like we really didn’t matter, and only he mattered. Now we understand that safety is the most important goal and that my ex is an abuser who has sexually, physically, mentally, and emotionally abused us for years. Thank you BTR for doing the hard work of getting this message to the public.”
I’d like to thank this woman for sharing her thoughts and I’m grateful for her. Please help us get this message to every woman who needs to hear it by sharing this podcast on social media.
Now back to our conversation.
Why Does Feminism Make People Uncomfortable?
Anne: For women who are uncomfortable with the word feminist, I want you to think about why. I want you to consider the term “feminazi” or the gaslighting that has taken place that would say “feminists are bad”, and exactly what about that is causing that issue. Who is telling you feminists are bad? What is that about? I think if you really think about it you’ll realize it’s this gaslighting effect by society in general, and also men in general, to try and say, “No, women cannot be equal to me.”
Feminism Is A Threat To Abusers
Tracy: It’s because it’s a disruption of the status quo, and that makes people uncomfortable. Also, it infringes on power structures as they are. It’s a threat to patriarchy. I agree though with Sarah when she says patriarchy is not God’s dream for humanity.
It took me a while to come to that. For a while even after I was beginning to embrace feminism, I still was like but is there a way to make it work within patriarchy? Is there a way that patriarchy is still the right way and we just have to tweak this or tweak that? Ultimately, no. I believe that patriarchy is a result of the fall. Like, that’s not how God intended for men and women to interact with each other.
Anne: And when you say patriarchy?
Feminism Means Equal Partnership Of Genders
Tracy: The hierarchy, yeah. Men are in charge. Legally, they make the laws. Spiritually, or religiously rather. They are the organizers of the structure of society, and for most of the human history women really didn’t have much power. I mean, they weren’t counted, as you were saying before, as humans. We’ve been literally treated as property. You can’t vote. You have no say in how the laws are actually written that affect you. This results in a terrible, terrible experience for women and girls, but I would say that it’s not healthy for boys and men either. Like, it’s not what God intended. It also sets these really strict defined gender roles. I don’t think they are helpful to men either. Even though men, I believe they were a creation of men, I don’t think that that’s even very helpful for them. It’s comfortable for them because it was made to be more comfortable for them, but it’s still not the way that God intended it.
Men’s Abuse of Power Harms Women
Anne: Right. Well, and you think about that you’ve got the class that is in charge, men, and they are able to define these roles and so they want to define the situation that is the most comfortable for them, not for other people, and so they are telling women, “Well, you would be most comfortable if you acted like this and if you did this,” rather than letting the women have a voice. The most logical way of doing it, let’s say in a partnership with a husband and a wife, would be, “Okay, we’re going to get married so let’s sit down and talk about each of our talents. What are the things we really enjoy and what are the things we’re good at?”
So, I might say I’m really good at yard work. I’m excellent at gardening and I love being outdoors. I’m not so good at cooking and organizing food. That’s just not one of my talents and it’s also not something I’m super interested in. Then he would say, “These are the things that I like: I also like being outdoors, I also like doing yard work. Great, we can do that together. I also don’t like cooking.” At that point where there is this thing that’s like, we both don’t like cooking, then the answer is not, “Well, you’re the girl, so you have to do it,” right? The answer to that is, “Interesting, neither of us really likes it that much, so how are we going to manage these household tasks that need to be done?”
Feminism Supports Equality In The Home
The other thing that I’ve been thinking of a lot lately is you can work and be a mom. I’m not saying that you should. A lot of women really would prefer to stay home, and they should have that right. We want to protect women’s ability to choose the kind of life that they want. If you’re talking about household tasks, a lot of people are capable of holding a job and being a parent and taking a shower and doing their laundry and eating. So, this idea that there is this thing that women must do and they have to be in charge of basic household tasks like laundry and cooking and cleaning and stuff like that because a human isn’t capable of doing basic self-care things and having talents and exploring their talents and doing anything else is ridiculous. Everyone should be free to be able to explore their own talents, and what they’re good at, and what they are interested in, and also be able to do regular household tasks. The entire epitome of that person should not be just basic household tasks.
Feminism Advocates For Partnership Between Husbands and Wives
Tracy: Right, and if both the husband and the wife approached marriage in that way, approached life in that way, then they could work that out together and form some kind of equilibrium, but forcing people into these very specific gender roles; like, there are plenty of men who don’t feel comfortable being shoehorned in that way either.
Anne: Yeah, they don’t know how to use a hammer, or they don’t know how to fix the air conditioner, and so what do you do? You call an A/C guy to come and fix your air conditioner; but then to say to a woman, “Well, you’re a woman and so you should be forced to cook,” is like, no. You’re not forcing me to fix the air conditioner, so what can we do to work this out? I’m not saying you hire a cook. I’m just saying there are just so many other options for people if they are willing to accept that people have certain talents, certain interests, and that people don’t have certain talents or certain interests and to look at it on an individual basis.
Feminism Celebrates Individuality
That seems to be more in line with what God wants for us because he’s created each of us as individuals with talents to do his work. He hasn’t just said, “All women, the only purpose that you have on Earth is to make sure that your family gets fed.”
Tracy: Right, and then we go if you get beyond the few decades of a women’s life when her children are young and at home and she has these traditional household duties. You know, once you move beyond that even, women talk about feeling empty, like, “Where is my purpose anymore?” How sad is that?
Worth Is Not Dependent On Fulfilling Misogynist Gender Roles
Anne: Unlike my mom, she’s only worked outside the home for a very short amount of time, but she’s very handy. She knows how to tile, and she’s a kitchen designer, and she does electrical and plumbing and all sorts of things. She remodeled our house a ton and she’s helping me remodel my house right now. In fact, that is what the construction you can hear in the background if you’ve heard any of it. My mom is finishing my basement right now. So, has she fulfilled her own dreams and talents and things that’s she’s interested in? She’s super interested in construction. She loves it. Is she the best person at making dinner every night? The answer to that is no, she’s really not that great at that. That’s not one of her talents, but that doesn’t make her a bad mom. She’s an excellent amazing mom and she loves construction, and I’m really grateful that even if she didn’t work in the construction industry that she’s been able to explore her talents even by not working outside the home.
Feminism Rejects Misogynistic Gender Roles
So, I’m not trying to say that women have to do it in a certain way or a way that they feel uncomfortable with, but having a man look at you and say, “Well, you have to clean the toilet because that’s your job, because you are a woman” is crazy.
Tracy: It is.
Anne: It can be anyone’s job.
Tracy: Yeah, she talks a lot about this in chapter 6: Patron Saints, Spiritual Midwives, and “Biblical” Womanhood. She says,
“The phenomenon of being a stay at home mother is relatively new and unique to the prosperous, right along with daycares to provide childcare. It’s a mark of our privilege to be able to decide or to make adjustments to our household budget to keep one parent at home full-time with the children. I believe that it is a worthy pursuit, good work, holy work. I hope so, it’s my own daily work, but it’s not the same thing as biblical womanhood is it? If the title can’t be enjoyed by a woman in Haiti or even by the woman healed in Scripture the same way it can by a middle-class woman in Canada, then biblical womanhood must be more than this.”Sarah Bessy, Jesus Feminist
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Anne: Tracy and I are going to continue this conversation next week, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we appreciate your support. Until next week, stay safe out there.