Kveller recently published a piece entitled, “How I Lost My Daughter to Religious Fundamentalism.” It is a firsthand account from a woman whose daughter became part of what is described as a very strict Orthodox Jewish group — so strict, in fact, that she was forced to estrange her family.
The piece has received a lot–a lot!–of comments since it’s gone up, many from people who believe the story was in some way fabricated because of the extreme nature of the events described. Some aspects of the story really disturbed them, and that made them uncomfortable. So, they concluded the account was false.
However, for every few comments we received that doubted the account, we also received ones that validated it from people who have undergone similar experiences with their loved ones. They inspired me to write this post, because they helped me remember why I do something I feel is very important.
I always choose to believe women, even when it is difficult or inconvenient. I choose to believe their stories of love and loss. I choose to listen, and carefully. I do this because I think people all too often fail to trust women to talk about their experiences in an intelligent and clear manner. They’re always poking holes in their accounts, waiting for the “other side,” of the story. They’re always asking, “What’s missing?;” “What’s she hiding?;” “What was she wearing?;” “How much did she have to drink?”
They assume women are catty and dishonest, that women spin tall tales so they can play the victim or to make themselves look better. They assume this even when the stories are so sad or humiliating, these women couldn’t possibly have anything to gain from making them up.
They do this, we do this, because we live in a society that has spent a lot of time invalidating women who threaten the status quo. We are all conditioned by it, myself included, and I really hate it. We should be encouraging one another to speak about our respective experiences, not chasing women away because they are saying something that is hard to hear.
I love Kveller because it is a place where women (and men) are given the opportunity to share their experiences: the good, the bad, and the sometimes really ugly. I love the community on this website because it is full of other like-minded people who take time out of their day to support strangers they barely know in the form of encouraging feedback. So when I saw the responses to this piece, I felt a bit defeated. It was so un-Kveller, so not attune with our spirit. But I understand why those responses exist, and I don’t fault those people. I only wish it was different.
As a woman who is heavily invested in the happiness and advancement of other women, my heart breaks for the author of this story, because not only does she feel the immense pain of losing a relationship with her daughter, but she also has to live knowing many people don’t believe her.
Nowadays, more women have the courage to tell their stories, and it is so vital that we make sure we are ready to hear them. Does this mean that no women ever lie? That everything you read on the internet is true? Of course not. But until we are given reason to believe otherwise, we must trust women to tell their own stories the way they are meant to be told. This is part of why I love working here, because I get the opportunity to bolster women’s voices so they can be heard by the people who will appreciate them.
That all being said: I stand by this writer, and I think it is important we as women stand with her too. I stand with every writer we have or ever will have. I believe you. I believe your stories, and I look forward to hearing more of them.