Saturday, January 25, 2014

Looking for a place to stand: When I say feminism.

I grew up being definitely not a feminist. I was a female, a lady, not a feminist. I went so far as to say I was against feminism.

If you asked me to define this feminism that I was against I would have told you something about feminists being people who rejected the honor of being a wife and mother who served her family. Who missed out on that blessing and joy. I would've told you that feminist was too stubborn to admit that it's nice to have doors opened for you or a person who didn't admit that she did have the same muscles as guys. Feminism was all about the rejection of the "maternal" in my mind and a selfish assertion that a woman could do it all by herself.

Maybe not, but I assume that if my post-high school and college life had gone as planned, I'd probably still have many of those same opinions. The plan was marriage, kids, PTA member, and church and community-volunteer extraordinaire.

I went to college because that's what people did in my town when they graduated high school. I studied teaching. I wasn't ever planning to teach. It was the back up degree, but I assumed I'd be a stay-at-home-mom. In college, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to let my boyfriend at the time be the "spiritual leader" and praying that I could love him well.  I graduated college, got a job while I "waited on the ring" and kind of thought life was going to be great.

Then it all fell apart. It had been crumbling before of course, but I was ignoring it, busily plastering over holes, hoping it would all hold together and turn into the pretty dream life that was all I ever wanted.

So, feeling pretty disillusioned about both men and God, my dream life was suddenly no where in the scope of possibility. I needed another life. I started figuring out what I wanted and what I cared about. I took the GRE. I contemplated grad schools. I moved across the country, and then moved cross-country again a few years later.  I clumsily fought my way to independence. I got a therapist. I did a lot of things on my own. I built community. I started grad school. I felt really confused, a lot. I started getting some clarity.

Somewhere in all of that one day I thought, "I think I'm a feminist now?"  And it stayed on my mind and one day I said, "Yes. Yes, I'm a feminist."

And what I mean now when I say feminist is that I am for women having a place in this world outside of being a wife and a mother (but that women who are wives and mothers should totally feel free to love and revel in that! It's still high on my "what I want to be" list)

I am for little girls knowing that they were allowed to dream other dreams so that a woman isn't just starting to get clarity on what in the world she wants to do with her life when she is 30.

I am for women knowing that "submit to each other" in relationships doesn't mean "be quiet and try not to cause problems because he is the leader."

 I am for women not feeling hopeless and alone when they show up at church without a husband or child.

 I am for women being able to speak truth boldly inside the walls of a church even if she's not married or even if she is talking to men.

I am for acknowledging the difference in the way women and girls are treated globally and the myriad of problems that causes.

I am for critiquing the beauty standards that women are placed under and rejecting the controlling, patriarchal natures of our the anxiety that plagues women as we fret and obsess over things only seen by the eye.

I am for lamenting the violence that is done to women as a result of the lies our cultures and religions and governments spout about our place and our personalities and our passions.

I am for critiquing the ways that the world minimizes the imago dei inside of my body and mind and spirit simply because I am labeled "female."

 I am for paying attention to Shiprah and Puah, Rizpah, Jehosheba, and the many other names of women in the Bible and for naming it a travesty that those names are not as familiar on our lips as the male names that join them in Scripture.

I guess mostly I am for me (in a self-confident, not egotistical, way) - - for saying that this life of mine is blessed and good and useful. That I can be an "older" single woman who isn't babysitting or working the church nursery or being a missionary and who is still following God's plan for her life. That I can be a single woman in seminary studying theology and that is good and right and beautiful.

And, so, I guess, all these many years later in my life I can say I am definitely not against feminism, not at all. I am a woman, a human, a feminist.


  1. As someone whose life did, in most ways, follow that expected path, my journey is nonetheless very similar to yours. From "feminists are against both men and women" to "feminists are for both men and women", the transformation was slow but more certain with each passing year. I am, without qualification, a feminist, someone who believes that both men and women are created in the image of God, that both men and women have gifts to offer (and those gifts are not limited to predefined, human-made roles), that both men and women deserve to be treated with dignity and kindness and compassion and respect. I am for every one of those things that you listed, and the list is truly endless.

    I hear people say that feminists hate women, and the misunderstanding (and refusal to try to understand) hurts even though there was a time when I possibly would have agreed with that statement. I hear people say that feminism is no longer necessary, and my mind can't comprehend the lack of awareness - look at the porn industry, look at the gender imbalances in nearly every sphere, look at the way the church treats women (and particularly unmarried or childless or outspoken women). Look at the rape culture that we still live in, even here, even now. Just look.