“Life is a journey for us all. We all face trials. We all have ups and downs. All of us are human. But we are also the masters of our fate. We are the ones who decide how we are going to react to life.” – Elizabeth Smart
I recently read an article about Elizabeth Smart on Vice.com. Her story is unforgettable, for all the wrong reasons. She was abducted on June 5, 2002 in the middle of the night, at knife-point, from the safety of her home and subjected to months of rape and abuse at the hands of two maniacs.
It’s anyone’s worst nightmare, and many might wish themselves dead than deal with the trauma and hopelessness.
Meanwhile, on the side of the living, people indeed thought she was dead. But on March 12, 2003, she was found on the street in Utah from a tip on America’s Most Wanted. Finding a missing child still alive is unfortunately rare. Since then, Elizabeth’s popped up in public periodically, advocating for sex abuse education; she published a memoir, she founded The Elizabeth Smart Foundation.
Largely, though, she’s kept to herself. You won’t hear about her gracing many public events or dropping her commentary on cable news specials. She enjoys being a wife and mother. In my opinion, her subdued presence works in her favor, lending weight to her words when she does speak. You know she wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t important. To that point, her perspective in the article about religion and purity culture is a necessary voice in giving women fresh insight or strength to work through their own pain.
In feminism, a lot of attention gets paid to sexual liberation–how free a woman is to use her body how she chooses. Therein is the irony, though, that if a woman chooses marriage and family, monogamy, or celibacy, there’s little room for acknowledging those as a valid, personal choices. Isn’t “personal choice” the pinnacle of women’s rights in general? Elizabeth and women who have chosen or do choose abstinence, and their experiences in that, are just as welcome in the feminist conversation as any other. Let’s get over the idea there is a “right” and “wrong” way to live as a woman. Picking and choosing who is fit to be a spokesperson only perpetuates the problems we claim to work against.