Sue Monk Kidd’s 1996 book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter is a work of nonfiction about Sue’s journey away from the Christian tradition and towards what she calls the ‘Sacred Feminine’. I was drawn to it because Sue is the author of one of my favourite books, The Book of Longings; an audaciously amazing work of fiction about Jesus, the man, AND HIS WIFE(!) Ana.
In The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue writes about how she was the “good wife” of a minister who played her role very well: running Sunday School classes, making cakes for her husband’s events, holding the household together. But towards the middle of her life she started to question the man-made rules of the church that kept women subservient and silent, and the way that she had set aside her own life to support her husband’s.
In a very Clarissa Pinkola Estés kinda way (for those who have read Women Who Run With the Wolves), Sue weaves her own personal story with an exploration of certain myths, giving them new interpretations and contrasting them with the old. The book is now 25 years old, and in its time would have been quite groundbreaking.
But for me and where I’m at right now, I’m wondering if it’s time to stop exploring what’s wrong with the world and start doing what I can to live my own way. I’m not implying that I am one of those women who say we should stop talking about feminist issues (while side-eyeing the men, hoping for a nod of approval). I’m just saying that for where I’m at right now, it was difficult to delve into this conversation.
I particularly appreciate that Sue Monk Kidd wrote this book for women, not men. She seemed to share the view that it’s time to move beyond trying to get men to understand as our predominant focus – which since #metoo many women have been doing through sharing stories of harassment and abuse – and move towards whatever we need to do to tend to our own souls.
In the book Sue Monk Kidd includes this quote from Mary Sarton, which I think explains it best:
[Women] have to come to understand ourselves as central, not peripheral, before anything real can happen… It cannot be woman against man. It has to be woman finding her true self with our without man, but not against man.”
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter is a lovely, heart-driven book that would have taken so much courage to write, particularly 25 years ago. I appreciate the book but think perhaps it’s best suited to the time period in which was written. That said, the story overall is quite uplifting, and I don’t regret reading it. For starters, it has helped less judgy of Christians, because usually they make me want to yell “WHAT THE FUCK,” over and over again. Sue Monk Kidd is a fiercely intelligent woman who was once a part of that world and just ignored the bits she didn’t want to see. It was her ‘normal’ and she didn’t question it. I think we’ve all done that in various aspects of our lives.
P.S Go read The Book of Longings! I’ll write a post about that one soon.