Culture 06 May 2018
I am a lesbian and the daughter of a Rabbi. I feel compelled to write the sentence, “I am lucky because my parents are loving and supportive of who I am." But writing that sentence, thinking about writing that sentence, makes me angry. It makes me incredibly angry actually. Being loved and supported by your parents regardless of who you are and how you love shouldn't be a matter of luck. It should just be.
I saw the new film “Disobedience." Having seen the trailer and thus knowing the plot, even the title made me cringe. Disobedience. A word that should be used to refer to children or pets. Not grown women. And not behind the guise of religious zealotry. Disobedience is defined as a refusal to comply or as a transgression. Its connotation is negative. To obey is to be “good." To not obey is to be “bad." But what about what about the rules? We judge those who do not follow them as bad. But it is high time that we instead began to judge the rules, as some of them are simply unacceptable.
The film is about the daughter of an Orthodox Rabbi, Ronit (played by a Rachel Weisz), who is disowned by her father and shunned by her community for being a lesbian. She returns home for her father's funeral, which she only finds out about because - spoiler alert - the woman who she was with when she was young, calls to tell her. This woman, Esti (who is played by Rachel McAdams), is now married to the man with whom both women were once friends. Ronit stays with the couple and, as you might imagine, great difficulties ensue.
"This is a film about when fundamentalism in religion outweighs common sense and what should be the unbreakable bonds of parental love." Photo Courtesy of thegeekiary.com
I spent the film both desperately sad and incredibly angry. This is a story that is all too familiar and absolutely unforgivable.
This is a film about when fundamentalism in religion outweighs common sense and what should be the unbreakable bonds of parental love. The film itself is beautifully written, shot and acted. There is a dread that hangs over the film from start to finish, a weight that the characters bear and therefore so too must the audience.
My father is a reform Rabbi. We don't keep Kosher. The women don't wear wigs and long skirts and they are not treated as second-class citizens. We don't hate or look down on people who are not Jewish. We don't think there is one way to live. We interpret the Torah as was intended. We don't fear God. We live in the real world. We change with the times. We honor one another's differences. We don't shun people for who they are or for the choices they make.
In the film, Ronit's father felt it better to have no daughter than to have a daughter who is a lesbian. In the film, Esti felt it better – at first – to live in misery and denial rather than to honor her truth. In the film, blind obedience reigns over intelligent thinking and common sense. I find this unforgivable in the film. I find this unacceptable in real life. At the end of the film, Ronit frees herself and is able to because her husband “allows" her a divorce, another despicable “rule."
"In the film, Esti felt it better – at first – to live in misery and denial rather than to honor her truth." Photo Courtesy of Variety
Ronit's father died and he missed out on being her father. He missed out on her being his daughter. He missed out on life. There is no greater sorrow than to lose a child. And yet, this foolish man purposely threw her away. No God wants that. You'll just have to trust me when I say that. No God of any religion or denomination wants that. God is good and he is love and he is forgiveness and he demands that we are kind to one another and to ourselves, that we live gently and treat others as we wish to be treated. The rest is window dressing. Hate is nowhere in the Torah. And, if you don't believe in God, then this is what the universe wants from us, graciousness and gentility, not violence and hate. Never violence and hate.
So many people live in such great fear that they all but forget to live. God did not command people to disown their children. God did not command that people are heterosexual. God did not command that men rule over women. These are scriptural interpretations by man, by men, and they have no place in the world. None.
"So many people live in such great fear that they all but forget to live."
This film is painful. Ronit's father and the members of the congregation who shunned Ronit are pitiful. A bit of me feels sorry for them. I feel sorry that they do not have the strength of character to stand up for what they must know is wrong. Or I feel sorry for them that they do not have the ability to even know that it is wrong. Denial and brainwashing are powerful tools.
We only get one life. We get one chance to live and love and be who we were designed to be. “Disobedience" shines a light on just one of many religious groups who allow ancient manmade rules to dictate people's lives in a way that runs counter to any sense of true humanity. If you belong to a group that demands hate, there is something inherently wrong with the group.
When I came out to my parents, the only thing my dad asked was whether they needed to set another place at the Thanksgiving table for my girlfriend. My father teaches love and acceptance. My father teaches that in the end, it won't matter who was right or wrong. It won't matter who blindly followed the rules. The only thing that will matter is that we lived and loved with kindness and joy.
Some say art imitates life. In the case of “Disobedience," I know this to be true. I see the hate disguised as religion all around me, especially these days. Others say life imitates art. When it comes to this film, I challenge you to avoid the latter. There is no prize at the end for “being good." There is only the prize that is itself a reward, doing good.
I challenge you to be disobedient when the result is love over hate, good over evil, acceptance over rejection, peace over violence. I challenge you to be disobedient when there is no logical explanation, only an ancient rule. I challenge you to be disobedient. I challenge you to love. For today, love is an act of defiance.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."