Breaking Free From Patriarchal Rule: Cait West’s Escape from Spiritual Abuse

“I personally think telling your story is one of the most important and powerful things you can do to heal.” – Cait West

Episode 01

Welcome to the For The Love of The Matriarchy series where we’ll explore all the different aspects of women working to embrace agency and celebrating their worth. As we celebrate the power of women and their accomplishments, we’ll also look at the challenges women have faced in a patriarchal society (and still face) and what that means for their bodies and autonomy. 

Cait West is an author who grew up in an extreme patriarchal Christian community. She was taught from a young age that her sole purpose was to become a submissive wife and mother. This pervasive sense of having no agency or control over her own life, combined with the constant messaging that she was inherently sinful and unworthy, took a profound toll on Cait’s mental health, causing severe anxiety and depression from a very young age. Jen and Cait delve into how families can fall into toxic belief systems, and what recovery can look like.

Jen and Cait discuss:

  • The impact of being raised in a fundamentalist, patriarchal environment that severely restricts a woman’s autonomy, education, and life choices.
  • The healing power of finding community, sharing one’s story, and reclaiming agency after experiencing spiritual abuse and trauma.
  • The difficult but important choice of breaking free from oppressive systems, even when it means severing ties with your own family

If you’ve ever been a part of a toxic belief system, or felt the oppression of not having agency over your own life, Cait’s story will be a balm toward healing those wounds.

Episode Transcript

Hey, everybody, Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love podcast. Welcome to the show. 

I officially kept my guest 16 minutes longer than our scheduled time, and I wanted to keep for another four hours. This conversation was so fascinating. We are in the throes of a series that has a lot of facets when it comes to who we are as women and how we were raised. I know in this particular community, a bunch of us spent a lot of formative years in a culture, spiritual culture, a religious culture that was largely patriarchal. Despite the slow and steady progress in women’s rights over the last 100 years, it’s only been in the last 20 years or so that some of the most seismic shifts have occurred in this particular space. Obviously, we know that the patriarchy is still firmly in place, but there is this fascinating and inspiring tidal wave growing of women who have questioned it, who have pushed back against it, who have left it, litigated against it, and exposed it. 

In the case of our guest today, escaped it; which makes for a better world for the next generation, and an even better one for the one after that. So in celebrating the rise of the matriarchy, as we’ve been calling it, we are looking at how patriarchal rule, particularly when combined with religious, not just fervor, but supposed mandate from heaven, created women who were groomed to believe that their only worth was how they could serve men and have babies. 

Our guest this week has a very personal story to tell about how she essentially escaped that culture and her story represents a pretty extreme point on the patriarchal spectrum. At the end of the day, anytime a woman feels like she doesn’t have agency over her own life, her own body, her own authority, her own desires, no matter how subtle, there’s damage to her growth and development and a lot of us in this world are still digging out of some of that early messaging, particularly around purity culture. That has created so much sexual and emotional trauma for so many, not just women and girls, of course, but also for boys. It’s the work of a lifetime to dismantle a lot of those messages built inside of us during our formative years. So all this conversation is going to get you. 

We’ve got Cait West today. She’s a writer. She’s an editor. She’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her work has been published in all kinds of places. She is an advocate and a survivor of the Christian Patriarchy Movement. She serves on the editorial board for Tears of Eden, which is a nonprofit providing resources for survivors of spiritual abuse. She was raised in the Christian patriarchal patriarchy movement. Cait West was homeschooled K through 12. She could only wear clothes her father deemed modest. In fact, she was five years old the first time she was told her swimsuit was too revealing; she was in kindergarten. There would obviously be no college in her future, no career. She was to be a stay at home daughter, and she would move out only when her father allowed her to become a wife, and she’s going to tell us all about it today. So if you’ve ever grown up with any sense of an innate male authority over your life, over your agency, over your autonomy, and certainly over your future, particularly if it was baked into a religious space, this conversation is going to fascinate you today. It’s going to feel resonant, and ultimately, it’s going to feel so hopeful. I couldn’t get enough today. Guys, please enjoy this fascinating conversation with the very courageous Cait West. 

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