fighting to be a feminist.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Three years ago I purchased a book at Perimeter Church's bookstore titled Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood by Piper and Grudem. I was in a new promising relationship and I decided that maybe it was time for me to figure out what I was supposed to know.  I read about four pages and put it on my bookshelf. The book is over an inch thick, paperback.

I then progressed to thinking, well, I'm never gonna read that book but some(boy) is going to be super impressed that I have it on my shelf. I'll look cool when he comes over. Through the years my thoughts progressed to realizing that the kind of man that would find that book sitting on my shelf attractive is not one that would work for me. Oddly, the book still sits, receipt shoved in the cover, dog ear four pages in on my living room shelf. Maybe that's why my love life and my sister's (roommate's) seem cursed in 2013.

I'm not even sure what a feminist is but I want to be one. I have been learning lately that I am my own worst enemy in this endeavor. I disgust myself. 

For most of my life my best friends were boys. Especially in college, other than three great girlfriends almost every person who pulled me through was a male. Just to be clear, I did not date in college, these were platonic relationships. I've always been close to my (male) pastors and even my mother would agree that I'm a daddy's girl. It's taken me years to realize that I regard advice from men much more highly than I do from women. If I could choose a teacher, even for my French class, I'd pick a male every time. My best friend from my masters program is a 51 year old male and he is now my advisor on all things medical. If you've ever heard me talk about my future children you've probably heard me say that I'm only having boys. I realize that even genetically I don't get to contribute to that decision, but I'm still only having boys. 

Even as a nurse I have always preferred male patients. They are less complicated, easier to manage, are more fun to joke around with and at least in Georgia, they love the SEC. I'd sign up to care for the grumpy old man over anyone who possessed a vagina, every time.

Just a few months ago I again became disgusted with myself in my endeavor to become a feminist when I realized that the Tanzanian child whose tuition I pay is of course, MALE. I thought back to my experience visiting that school and would guess that about 65-70% of the children, supported by American money, are boys. 

You can see I'm an excellent feminist. What I have been wrestling through is why am I this way? Was it how I was raised in a evangelical christian southern community where I was taught that the best (though not only) model is for the mom to stay home with the kids, the dad to bring home the bacon and the preacher to wear a tie?  

Is it because in Georgia women still wear hose in the summer and too often stand behind their husbands or in the kitchen?  Is it because maybe the Bible really is misogynistic and I just never realized it?  I remember spending prayer meetings in college begging God to show me how to be a Proverbs 31 wife...ahem...woman.  While that passage is still quite valuable, is it all relevant?  Don't get me wrong, I actually know how to sew but I change the oil in my car and mow the grass more often. (Two things my father insisted his girls know how to do before we graduated from high school). 

"Women hold up half of the sky"...that's the proverb Half the Sky gets its name from. It's arguably the most influential thing I've read in the last year. It's where nearly every feminist thought in my head comes from. I learned that most African girls miss a week of school every month because they have no sanitary napkins. Five to seven days a month!?! That means that the small percentage of teenage girls who are in school in many developing countries are missing 25% of their education simply due to female bodily function.  This should cause outrage. 

Because of Half the Sky I follow nearly every facebook page that opposes child brides, supports votes and education for women and preaches against female genital mutilation.  I don't have enough feet for all the soap boxes I'd like to stand on. But is that enough?  What does a "like" on facebook mean anyway? 

An article this week in The Wall Street Journal said that women in 2012 are making 76.5 cents on the male dollar down from 77 in 2011.  My little sister understands this more than anyone as she works in a company where men with the same education and years of experience often outrank women by two or more levels and earn a 33% higher salary. Why are we still working for companies like this? Furthermore, why do they still exist?

I used to honestly believe that bit the church tells young women that men are supposed to be the leaders in companies and families because overall they are more level headed and make less emotional decisions. I used to believe the sermon saying the reason mankind fell was at least in part, because Adam didn't act like a man and Eve did. Since then I've actually dated a few men. I have usually been the less emotional, more level-headed member in the relationship. This is a personality type.  Not a gender description.  

Rachel who I have mentioned many times before stated, when I was a little girl, I knew I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up, except a pastor...the whole thing bothered me a little bit because it made me feel like God had reserved all of the important, spiritual jobs for the boys, like he thought that girls are second best. As I've mentioned before I've never really thought that any job is second best, but I will say that as a girl who wanted to be a missionary from the time she was thirteen...I always thought I'd have to have a husband to be one. 

I am not sure where this frame of mind came from.  Was it my church, my family, my college ministry or my culture?  I don't even care.  All I know is that it exists in myself and I would argue that it also exists in many other women I know, especially Christian women. 

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending EQUAL political, economic and social rights for women. I am on board with that.  

My future daughters will be too. 


Justin Scott said...

I hope you never read that book.

Thank you for sharing your struggle with me and the other folks who read your blog. It is a blessing to hear your thoughts and emotions as you work through this, and very helpful to me as a man who is trying to find his place in this mess as well.

I hope you don't beat yourself up too much. We all have underlying prejudices we usually don't realize but make us very uncomfortable when we do. I am excited to hear your thoughts on where you believe your predilections came from, but I'm equally excited to hear how you decide to change them as you look forward.

My own transition towards an egalitarian view of gender in the church has really opened my mind to how new, exciting, and different the church can be compared to what I thought it was. I can't wait to hear how it is affecting you.

Love you, as always.

Justin Scott said...

PS Erin and I sometimes talk about how silly Disney made the suffragettes look in Mary Poppins, and the subtext about how they should have been spending more time at home with their children. It's kinda crazy, isn't it?