I love the story of the hemorrhaging woman. It appears in all three synoptic Gospels, juxtaposed with the story of the healing of Jairus' daughter. In the story, Jesus is on his way in a crowded street, following Jairus, and the woman--we never know her name--comes up and touches his cloak. He feels the power go out of him, healing her of twelve years of nonstop menstrual bleeding. At least we think it's menstrual bleeding; of course, no biblical author would be quite so descriptive.
When I was a child, I heard the KJV: an "issue of blood." The language is antiquated now, except women's blood is still an issue that only gets talked about among women. The hearing going on right now, the reality of what happens when women speak out about sexual harassment and assault, has me thinking so much of the women's issues we talk about behind closed doors. "Mixed company" my mother would say. There are things we don't talk about in "mixed company."
The list is long, so very long, and crosses a wide stretch of biology: menstruation, childbearing, nursing, menopause, breast health, and of course, anything to do with sex. Yet, when the doors are closed, when it's women with other women, we talk. Women my age talk about contraception--all the time. It's one of the more universal subjects, actually, because it matters so deeply to us. What works? What doesn't? What tools do you use? I know the contraception choices of at least four other women who go to my hair salon; I don't know their names.
We keep each other company while nursing babies. Like many women, I choose seats close to women nursing in public, smile to show I'm safe, and help them hold a safe space for feeding their child.
Older women make mammogram and lunch plans together, keeping each other company through this odious task. It hasn't been that long ago that my friends and I conquered first pelvic exams the same way.
I am so aware of the world of women that happens behind closed doors.
Behind closed doors, we search out tampons for each other.
Behind closed doors, we help teenagers figure out all the ins and outs of menstruation.
Behind closed doors, we tell our stories of assault and harassment to one another--at least some of us do.
Behind closed doors, we devise plans to keep each other safe: public places for dates, escape plans for long-term relationships, well-timed phone calls with safe words.
There is so much that goes on behind closed doors.
And what I'm guessing many men don't know is that on the other side of those closed doors, there are often posters taped. They have help numbers for issues that disproportionately affect women: domestic abuse, human trafficking, and sexual assault. Bars have started posting lists of drinks you can order to ask for help. One drink means call me a cab; another means call the police. Things like that.
Great hope and great pain meet there, behind closed doors.
Here is a truth of the Gospel spoken through the hemorrhaging woman: women's issues are not to be locked behind closed doors. Her issues belong in the public square. And when they finally make it there, she is believed, healed, and the world is transformed.
May it one day be true.