What women can learn from Leah Remini’s departure from the Church of Scientology.
It’s not quite Tina leaving Ike, or Ellen coming out, but Leah Remini publicly dumping the Church of Scientology is big. Space Opera big. Finding the huevos to leave took a lot of courage, seeing as how her entire family remains in the church, for one. Secondly, it takes serious patience to come out against Scientology’s abusive excommunication practices knowing you yourself will be excommunicated for citing those very practices. She no doubt saw with the rest of the world, what happened to the many who’ve left before, and knows The Church doesn’t fuck around. Remini knows what director Paul Haggis went through. Haggis made a good name for himself as an enlightened whistleblower, but still fights hefty financial repercussions of a group known to retaliate against its defectors in a costly defamation lawsuit.
Defamation suits like this will ironically mean having your own name dragged through a bunch of false rumors in the most sophisticated version of “we didn’t like her anyway” bullying. Lastly, Remini cited mismanagement of her finances, but she must know this break-up will continue to cost her a pretty penny. Breaking up with Scientology is essentially a mobius strip of punishments.
Of course, just as with Haggis’ ordeal, Remini’s been fully supported—she released a note of gratidue last night for everyone’s support. I expect she’ll rehabilitate swiftly after this trust fall into Hollywood’s open arms. She loses a profound place in her own Scientological family, but has taken a first step in paving her own path, and will hopefully garner more peace than Dianetics ever could.
What’s truly impressive about Remini’s departure though, is that she is a woman. She has made a statement, tacitly condemning the church she left, for bad practices. Intended or not, she’s also made a statement about female independence, liberty and power.
Forget for a second that organized religions boast a good amount of feminine worship. Catholicism is the cult of Mary, and the premium put on a woman’s virginity renders the hymen priceless to all Judeo-Christian sects. One might argue that the operating procedures meant to protect and value female virtue can find cues in Feminism. The premium that religion places on women as potential mothers, seem to only ever profit the potential father-figures who control them. At best, a paternalistic religion protects you. It’s any wonder a woman looking for spiritual clarity prefer traditionally male-run organizations. The only alternative to patriarchal religion are laughable matriarchal Wiccan ones (coincidentally, one of Remini’s daughter’s middle names is Pagan).
Scientology might not have gone so far as to ritualize blood-stained sheets on wedding nights, or force children into polygamous servitude, but like all organized religions that don’t involve moon song and dreamcatchers made of pubic hair, Scientology is structured to patronize women. That is what makes Remini’s departure so impressive. She left her abusive situation on her own accord, independently, without rebounding into an equal and opposite abusive relationship.
We’ll never know how few or many women have made independent moves against religious oppressors. Don’t get me wrong, we see women liberated from the clutches of extreme religion all the time. The plethora of sister wives who’ve been ousted from Warren Jeff’s sexually abusive Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints cult, for example. These are passive forms of emancipation, however. Those women are kicked out, pushed out a window staring at the ground praying their Bibles will break the fall. Remini on the other hand, simply backed out of the room while flipping the bird at Scientology’s core brain trust, SeaOrg. She made a logical move, calculating the literal cost of staying in that room, and probably still scratching her head over silent births and Xenu. Though the repercussions of her departure have yet to completely unfold, Remini’s move may set the pace for other women wondering what the hell they’re doing in L. Ron Hubbard’s cupboard. Without so much as leading an exodus, it will be a powerful example to learn from for any woman, in any situation: leaving on your own accord takes and gives strength.
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