By Erika Martin
Becoming an advocate for higher education for women is something I have always been passionate about because it was something that was denied me when I was living in the spiritually abusive subculture that my parents raised me in. It was a dream that I buried down deep inside because I knew that if I brought it up, it would have been shot down by my parents. It’s something that at 34 years of age I am now fighting for and pursuing.
I grew up in a religious subculture that viewed women as less than men. The idea of higher education for women was frowned upon and viewed as evil and feministic. Women were told that their place was in the home, having as many babies as God would give them and home-schooling them. Women were discouraged from getting a driver’s license as it would only foster independence and that was also viewed as evil. Women were not allowed to work outside the home since their place was in the home. Pants, jewelry and make-up were also forbidden.
When it came time to finish my 12th grade home-education, a high school diploma was not in my parents’ plan for me. I had the typical home-school graduation. It was done in a church and I was the only student in the Class of 1994. I was both at the top and bottom of my class. I was handed a homemade certificate that my parents signed but as far as any state or colleges were concerned, it meant nothing. My parents had stopped reporting to the state for our schooling so any work that I did my senior year was null and void. Disallowing me a high school diploma was just another way to make sure that I wouldn’t pursue a higher education or make it harder to pursue one. Having a diploma simply meant that I could grasp independence easier and that was something that the patriarchal subculture discouraged for women.
Even more of a “catch 22” was that my sister and I were told that if we insisted on college, we would have to pay for it completely on our own but seeing that we weren’t allowed outside jobs, that would be impossible. No driver’s license, no high school diploma, no job- all of these things were enforced to make it impossible for any way out of the patriarchal lifestyle.
I eventually left home at 20 years old, got married at the same age and started having children a year and a half later. A higher education was something that was put on the back burner as I had babies to take care of and a catering business to run with my husband. Over the years, we put the catering business behind us and I now work full time from home as an artist. While I feel that I’ve done pretty well for myself without a college degree, there’s still a passion that I have to learn more and a passion to reach out to other women that have come out of abusive situations.
I’ve decided that it’s time for me to pursue that higher education that has been put on the back burner for so long. At 34 years old I am currently working on getting my high school diploma through the Adult Learning Program in my area. I have the option of earning a GED or a high school diploma and I chose the high school diploma because it was more of a challenge to achieve and it was something I had always wanted. I will be graduating in a cap and gown with the Class of 2011 at the school that my kids will graduate from when they are 18. From there, I plan to pursue a Masters in Psychology. I would like to practice creative therapy – using art and counseling to help people heal from abuse, just as I’ve found art to do the same for me in my own healing process.
Working towards getting my high school diploma has been intense and quite the challenge but I’ve embraced it, knowing that the work and effort I’m putting in right now will reap the reward and sense of accomplishment that I’ve been wanting for the past 16 years. I will be sharing my journey with you here at My Savvy Sisters in the hopes that others will reach out and embrace their passions and work towards them, knowing that they have the power within themselves to pursue and achieve their dreams.
About the columnist:
Erika Martin was withheld from attaining her high school diploma and a higher education due to living in a spiritually abusive upbringing. She is currently working towards attaining her high school diploma and plans to pursue a degree in Psychology after graduation this June. Erika will highlight relevant news and information that relates to education as well as chronicle her journey toward her diploma.