"At once personal and universal, Dancing on our Fathers' Feet is infused with individual emotions and intimate details that wouldn’t speak as loudly without the foundation of research, statistics, historical events and other data. While no single book will conquer the mountain of gender-inequality it strives to climb, this one might have found a seldom-used trail: asking women to stop accepting (or helping to create) their own victimization."
Program Director, Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and
author of Various Men Who Knew Us As Girls and Something Wrong With Her
"A fabulous book!--So important for women and men of all ages. The tricky part about writing or even talking about this subject is that it is so easy to be dismissed as an 'angry, man-hating feminist'! But because you calmly use a combination of facts as well as personal experiences, you have succeeded in making this subject very approachable to both sexes. You have done a remarkable job. Brava!!" ~Robin Farwell
"I truly believe this is an extremely important book, I believe the world needs to have this book, and I believe it needs to take its rightful place among other books that cause one to learn and grow--Camus comes to mind. . . . I loved the book, and as soon as it's available I will be sending it to everyone I know." ~Linda Jewett
"I have never read anything like Dancing on Our Fathers' Feet. It is fascinating, insightful, very impactful, and very special." ~Tracey Schoen
"Ellen, your story speaks beautifully to me and to my own journey. And those same words of yours will certainly land on plenty of other women as a wake-up call, and, for many, as a challenge to reconsider their faith. I so admire your willingness to share your personal experience of betrayal and then, rapid-fire, to name the foundation of self-betrayal that you know lies beneath it. When we women see ourselves as fragile victims of men (or of wicked women), I believe we only perpetuate the myth that we are unequal. Reading your words, I could nearly feel your epiphany, a ripping back of the bedclothes level of insight and exposure. In your story, I see myself, my former relationships with men, and decades of self-loathing. What you have shared is inspiring and brave." ~Blair Nichols
“I began your book and am anxiously awaiting the release of the full text. The first two chapters left me with goosebumps and tears as I related to what you so eloquently express. Thank you for putting into words my thoughts as I struggle with some of these issues and endeavor to raise my two daughters and son in a world that still doesn't respect women.” ~ April Lynn
Everything we believe arises from a male-centric ethos grounded in myth.
It’s called patriarchy, and it has crippled men and subjugated women for thousands of years. Dancing on Our Fathers’ Feet explores the myths behind patriarchal beliefs to explain why Arizona businesses refuse service to gays and lesbians, why pharmacists deny birth control to women, why sexual slavery still exists, why women submit to polygamous marriages, why men have affairs, why women participate in those affairs, why wives and girlfriends put up with those affairs. Why women take part in pornography, why we still are not paid the same as men, why people are leaving the church, what it means to have male Catholic priests "giving birth" by baptizing in chapels ironically designed to represent a woman’s womb. I want to help others understand why we—especially women—believe as we believe, and behave as we behave. And why we don’t have to.
By tracing patriarchy from pre-history to current day and deconstructing the belief systems we have erected around this false framework, I show how worshipping an anthropomorphic male “God”—a mythological being that evolved from a pagan god of war to become the all-powerful Almighty One—fosters male privilege and affects who we are as people, as communities, and as nations.
Patriarchy has forced men and women into cages, religions have hoodwinked and blinded us, and both have kept us off balance and at war with each other and the world: homophobia and sexism, the fundamentalism and terrorism of Islam, the xenophobic and theocratic policies of the Conservative Christian Right. I dig down to the bedrock beneath it all—the pagan mythology upon which the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran are based, the historical context from which they arose, the ancient political maneuvering, the self-serving motivations of early church fathers, the superstition and fear of the Middle Ages—all of which underpin our most deep-seated beliefs.
As a former fundamentalist Christian and graduate of Oral Roberts University, I began my journey away from Christian dogma when I was eighteen. For many years, I marched for women’s rights, campaigned against sexism, and taught women’s studies to high school juniors and seniors. My great grandfather practiced polygamy as a Mormon; Oral Roberts taught me the business of religion; and irony of ironies, while I was writing this book about why women embody misogyny and hurt other women, a younger woman began an affair with my husband of more than twenty years. I think and write from the inside.
And Dancing on Our Fathers’ Feet captures it all.
I grew up dancing on my father’s feet. I’d plant my bare toes on top of his leather shoes, and he’d swirl me across the living room floor. We became perfect dance partners because I followed his lead. As I clung to his waist, the world melted away, and all that was left was music, dancing, and my dad.
My first brush with reality began innocently at a ballet, as I watched dancers on point, painting circles with their toes. Soon the colorful dance collapsed and dark figures emerged in black leotards—one woman and six men. Before my ten-year-old eyes, the male figures descended on the woman, raping her and dragging her from the stage. I felt as if they were violating me. I asked my mom why men do those things, but her response could only be, "I don’t know." I would never be the same.
I’ve been writing most of my life: questioning the discrimination and violence women suffer at the hands of men; researching and teaching classes in mythology, American and world literature, writing, and women’s studies; recognizing the inconsistencies within our Christian society—the hawkish xenophobia, the racism, the homophobia, the blatant misogyny—that religion paradoxically seemed not only to support but to inculcate. Early on, I rebelled against the idea that Eve had manifested women’s inferiority to men, and I resented Church Fathers who used her story to subjugate women.
How can we deny human rights based on gender, race, and sexual orientation? How can nations profess to love God or Yahweh or Allah, while terrorizing and enslaving others? After thirty years of researching and teaching, I found the answers in our stories--the myths that form our religious beliefs. Dancing on Our Fathers’ Feet exposes the truth behind those beliefs.