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Once again I find myself feeling mystified as to why women do what they do. A guy treats a woman badly, yet she sympathizes with him. Men come on to women in flagrantly demeaning and sexual ways, yet women are flattered by it. The culture objectifies women in every way possible, yet women think that dressing immodestly empowers them. What in the world is going on here? How is it that this kind of insance behavior has become common practice?

Well before I share with you my conclusion, let me tell you the strange but true story of a young woman named Patty Hearst. In case you have never heard of her, Patty Hearst was a millionaire heiress who was kidnapped from her California home in 1974 by an organization called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). SLA was a band of American terrorists who promoted their radical ideas through violence, murder, and bank robberies, in addition to kidnapping Hearst and holding her for ransom. What is particularly striking about this story is that several months after her kidnapping, Hearst was photographed holding an assault rifle in the midst of robbing a bank in San Francisco. It was later revealed that Hearst had come to sympathize with the goals of SLA, and was now fighting for them.

Eventually Hearst was arrested and put on trial. During the proceedings Hearst explained that her captors had locked her in a closet, blindfolded her, and sexually abused her during her imprisonment. For this reason her legal defense argued that Hearst had been brainwashed during her captivity, thus explaining the surprising shift in allegiance toward her kidnappers.

Now as strange as this story may sound, Hearst demonstrated a not uncommon phenomenon among victims of violence called Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome occurs when a person in an abusive relationship develops a kind of sympathy or love for their abuser. Rather than condemn the abuse, or flee from it, the victim feels an intimacy with her abuser, and remains in the abusive relationship, thereby enabling it to continue.

Now the story of Patty Hearst may confound our senses, for it is nonsensical at best, but there is a specific reason I bring it up here. As strange as the phenomenon may sound, a similar development has occurred within our culture. Women are not only wounded by both men and culture, but women have come to sympathize with them. Mimicking the actions of Patty Hearst, women have begun facilitating and even perpetuating unhealthy relationships with men, instead of fleeing from them. Likewise, women frequently partner with the culture in its objectification of them, actively turning themselves into objects of lust and sexual fantasy, wearing short skirts and revealing necklines in the name of feminist power. We feel as though we have control when we dress this way because we can command the attention of a room when we walk through the door. Yet these actions are no different than the crime that Patty Hearst committed against herself. In such a situation, your power is only an illusion, because you are doing nothing more than enabling the victimization, rather than freeing yourself from it.

So the reason I bring up this story is that we have got to name these unhealthy influences in our lives for what they really are–our captors. They are holding our self-worth in bondage, so we will never be free as long as we sympathize with them. For this reason, the next time a guy treats you badly, remember Patty Hearst. The next time you feel flattered when a guy comes at you with some totally sketchy line, remember Patty Hearst. And when you are tempted to embrace the lie that we are most attractive, sexy, and powerful when wearing the least amount of clothing, remember Patty Hearst. Because all of those mentalities are just as insane as Patty Hearst siding with her kidnappers. When we think and act that way, we are doing nothing more than sympathizing with our captors when we should instead be fighting for freedom.


  • Bethany says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I came across your blog through Clifford’s and am so glad I did! I very much appreciated this post as I see a lot of inconsistencies with our post-feminist culture and the utterly insane lies women choose to believe about themselves and their place in society. I occasionally broach this subject on my blog as well (the last time I entered this realm was titled “So I Have Some Insecurities”) and just wanted to say thanks for being an intelligent Christian who thinks about her faith and her culture. I’m looking forward to reading more!


  • Whitney says:

    Sharon…you rock! I’m seriously addicted to your blog because it brings the awesomeness! All the stuff you’ve been writing about has been amazing and has definitely given me great direction in my spiritual walk. I mean…i wouldn’t have a problem if you posted every day;) Thanks so much for doing it on a normal basis!

  • Sharon Hodde says:

    thanks girls! I appreciate the affirmation! I’ll try and keep it up!

  • Jenn Pappa says:

    hey sharon, i think it’s surprising to criticize sympathy for another person, no matter who they are. Compassion is something we need more of and should value. Sympathy is not what should change, just our response to it. What role does sympathy and understanding play in forgiveness? How can we forgive those who abuse us wtihout falling victim to them again?

    big issues

  • Sharon Hodde says:

    I don’t know…I think there’s a time to call sin “sin.” I don’t sympathize with a child molester, or a murderer or a rapist. Granted, they all need God’s love, but I don’t sympathize with their desire to hurt other people. Compassion for their fallenness is one thing, but the word “sympathy” means to agree with or to support. We simply cannot sympathize with evil.

  • Clifford says:

    Indeed…but perhaps…hmm…sympathizing with the sinner and not the sin? Not at all excusing or legitimizing the actions of a molester, rapist, murderer or the like, but there is a reason for everything. Or is that what you mean when you say we should have “compassion for their fallenness?” I could be splitting hairs here, or simply re-stating what you said in different words…

  • Chris Pappa says:

    Wow, that’s a bold comparison between American terrorists and men as a whole…

    Not a fan of sin, personally, but I’m not quite sure that “men and culture” are the forces to blame. I think you and I would agree that it is sin itself that is to blame.

    Still, to be fair, sin isn’t a masculine crime. On the flip side, women aren’t simply victims that need to break out of a system of oppression–even if that “oppression” is one of sin. Both men and women are sinners, and both can be victims. We’re messed up folk, one and all.

    But instead of shielding ourselves from the dangers of those who we consider enemies, we need to accept personal responsibility for the sin in our own lives and realize that Jesus told us to love our enemies. And love implies a sort of sympathy–certainly not a condoning of sin, but an understanding that, but for the grace of God, there am I.

  • Clifford says:

    If I may…(if I may not, of course, just delete 🙂 )…I think she’s just addressing sin under these specific circumstances and not necessarily in all situations – like narrowing it down from all of humanity to this kind of situation, yet still keeping it general for the sake of discussion. Sin is something we all experience and commit, but in this specific instance, Sharon is just mainly going after the times men do take advantage of women.

  • Sharon Hodde says:

    I would also like to add that I didn’t instruct people to hate those who hate you. The context of this post is *identifying* sin. That’s it. We have to identify sin lest we facilitate the sin. I didn’t tell women to go out and start hating men or isolating themselves for culture, but to recognize sin when they see it. Hence the use of the word “remember'”–we need to see the world for what it is. That is the first step women need to take so that they are not buying into lies, a practice which women do on a fairly regular basis. I am trying to help women resist that temptation.

  • Sharon Hodde says:

    First, at no time did I say we should condemn the people who hurt us. I never said that. What I did say is that we should not condone what they do. I am extremely wary of not naming something sin when it is sin because we then make their actions ok when they are, in fact, not at all ok.

    Second, of course i believe we should forgive people who hurt us, but that does not mean we belittle how they hurt us. To gloss over sin makes it no less sin. And even worse, to faciliate that sin is not forgiveness–that is itself sin.

    Third, concerning the comparison between terrorists and all mankind, I am not implying that when a guy hits on a girl at a bar bar it is the same as flying a plane into a building, but it nevertheless remains that Stockholm Syndroms happens everywhere. Whether with terrorists or abusive relationships, victims will sometimes sympthaize with their abuser and begin to believe they actually deserve it, so in this particular case, the comparison is apt. What’s more, it is not unreasonable to call any influence that promotes the demeaning of the image of God in humanity “evil.” Any sin that leads to the desecration of God’s name in any way is evil. It is evil when a woman hates her body, but it is also evil when someone tells her to. Again, I didn’t say the person is evil, but the sin itself, very evil.

    I think it is vital that we not belittle how the actions of our culture have thoroughly screwed up women. No, women are NOT perfect, which was also not a claim that I made, but almost every girl I know is captive to issues concerning self-image, to some degree or another, and many of them have struggled with anorexia horribly. And in the lives of the women I know who have anorexia, I can point to very tangible influences in their lives that led to it, so

    I have to admit I am shocked my the amount of resistance to this post. Granted, we live in a society of victimization which teaches people they are not responsbile for their actions, but that does not mean there are no victims. We do not blame a woman when her husband abuses her, and it is by NO MEANS a woman’s fault that the culture consistently teachers her you are only beautiful if you are thin and easy, and that she subsequently struggles with self-esteem. To tell such women to suck it up and forgive is not what we as ministers are called to do. Forgiveness is the eventual goal, but to get there you must first identify that there is something to forgive. THat is the problem here–women don’t realize that they are under attack. They think it’s ok when a guy treats her poorly or demeans her, and I am fearful that that is what your words are conveying here. It is NOT ok to be used or abused by men, or the culture. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forgive them, but in the same way that Jesus named our sin instead of blindly ignoring it, I am doing the same here.

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