My WomanTheory Story: Sarah Beresford on ‘The unknown woman’

Which female thinker has THE most impact upon me and my thinking? In all honesty, it has to be the unknown woman who graffitied a toilet wall in Bradford University in the early 1970s. I was about 7 or 8 years old. My father (who lectured at Bradford Uni), took me into work one day and I needed the loo. As I entered the women’s toilets I was transfixed by the graffiti on the walls. As I gazed at it all there was one line of graffiti that literally took my breath away. It read “God is a black women”. Although I had been brought up by atheist parents; a communist father and a feminist mother, this was the most radical thing I’d ever encountered (including ‘Gyn/Ecology’ and Dale Spender’s ‘Man-Made Words’ which I read before I hit my teenage years) . As I stared at it, I realised that notwithstanding my upbringing, I had been duped and brainwashed by society in unquestioningly accepting an image of God as a white man floating on a cloud. Whoever this woman was who wrote on this toilet wall, I thank her profoundly; from that moment on, what she wrote caused me to question all that society presents to me as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’.

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