Lipstick Feminism

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My freshman year in college I had this professor who loved to play devil’s advocate.  For the first ten minutes of class he would ask his students questions, just to stir the pot.  I remember one day he started class by asking why men felt the need to have systems in their car.  An idea was given here and there, but our professor was not satisfied.  So he moved on to his next question; why do women wear high heels? Numerous people raised their hands; some said self-confidence, others said to feel pretty.  But yet again, our professor did not seem satisfied.  Eventually, I raised my hand and he called on me.  With much certainty in my voice, I answered: “For attention.”  A smirk came across our professor’s face, as if he finally received the answer he was looking for.

Now before some of you criticize my answer, let me give you a little back story.  First of all, I was a self-righteous 18-year-old.  Second, throughout my college years, my best friend and I would go on make-up fasts.  The first time I participated in this fast was because I didn’t like how my confidence and comfortableness was dependent upon how much makeup I was wearing.  For a brief period of time, I even was one of those girls that would get up hours before her 8am class to beautify herself.  During that first make-up fast, I was trying to confront my insecurities.  In all the following fasts however, I was trying to confront something beyond myself.

As some of you readers already know, I went to a small, private, Christian college.  While there were some amazing men that went to my school and broke the conservative Christian male mold, there were quite a few who fit that stereotype very comfortably.  I found that those type of men would base their attention on how well put-together I was.  If I was groomed, hair done, makeup on, dress flowing, I was acknowledged.  After having this realization, I began fasting anything purely feminine to confront the male students’ perspective of what a woman deserving of acknowledgment looked like.  I stopped wearing frilly dresses, I stopped putting on mascara, and I stopped wearing high heels.  I didn’t want to be associated with that kind of woman.

I detested these men, as I watched them gawking at each glamazon walking by.  But most of all, I detested these women who, I felt, were just being patriarchy compliant.  I would be walking to class, and seeing these girls with pounds of make-up on, I would instantly deem them not worth talking to.  If I heard the clacking of their heels coming my way, my eyes would roll, and I would just sigh in disgust.  “Here comes another M.R.S. degree-seeking student,” I would say to myself.  But, what made me any different than the men at my school?  These guys ticked me off, because they would dismiss me for not being well put-together.  Yet, there I was judging each woman who was!

When my professor asked why women wear high heels, I thought I was so right in saying to seek attention, because I judged any woman embracing a very feminine look to be doing just that.  I also thought I was better than these women, and a better feminist, by claiming to not care about how I looked.  But, neither of these thoughts are true.

There is this notion that feminists cannot be feminine, or that they cannot care about their appearance.  My 18-year-old college self would have bought into that, but who I am today no longer does.  I believe a woman adorning red lipstick and high heels has the ability to be as much of a feminist as the woman who chooses to embrace her more natural state.  Just because a woman wears makeup, does not mean that her heart, and what she stands for, cannot identify with feminism.  This also means if a woman chooses to have hair on her legs, it does not inherently make her a feminist.  I think there is a real problem if we try to say our outward appearances determine the level of feminist we are, because feminism is not about how we look.  We need to stop caring if a woman slaps on a pair of heels in the work place, or if a woman choses to go bare-faced in public.  What we should care about is if someone stands for the equality of women, and better yet the equality of humanity.

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When Vows Become A Reality

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After 48 excruciating hours of labor, we were finally bringing our baby girl home.  I remember reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting and Your Pregnancy Week By Week trying to learn about all the changes my body was going through.  I remember taking a Bradley Method class trying to prepare myself for what labor and delivery would be like.  I remember reading all the materials the hospital gives you about what to do when you bring your baby home.  But there were no books, no articles, and there was no advice given on how keep your marriage thriving after having a baby.  Selah was home, but somewhere in the process I lost my husband.

Jonathan and I were married on June 25th, 2011.  We stood on a stage in a beautiful historic building, surrounded by our closest friends and family.  We spoke our vows to one another, making promises that were easy to keep at the time:

I promise to encourage and inspire you; to laugh with you, and to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle.  I promise to love you in good times and in bad; when life seems easy and when it seems hard; when our love is simple, and when it is an effort.  I promise to cherish you, and to always hold you in highest regards.

Our marriage was easy, as our relationship had always been.  Our apartment was incredibly small, so it was easy for the two of us to clean.  We were both working, so there was no worry about a bill going unpaid.  We didn’t have anyone relying on us, so we had little to no responsibility. Every night we had together was quality time, and date nights happened quite frequently.  Marriage, love, life; it was all easy.

And then we had a baby.

I would be feeding Selah, while Jonathan packed the diaper bag.  Jonathan would be rocking Selah to sleep, while I was putting yet another load of baby clothes into the wash.  One of us would be giving Selah her bath, while the other attempted to make a hot meal for dinner.  Whatever time we had alone together, was spent catching up on sleep or catching up on the ridiculous amount of house work that had been piling up since Selah’s birth.  Even though we were around each other all day long, we would go days without ever talking.  Suddenly, our relationship was not so easy anymore.

I missed my companion; the one I chose to do life with.  I missed the person whom I would have long philosophical discussions with over French-pressed coffee.  I missed the person who I would watch a good old zombie movie with, and laugh at the cheesy gore.  I missed the person who I would car dance with at a red-light, and have absolutely no shame or regard over who would see. I missed my husband.  And unfortunately, I bought into the lie that because our love wasn’t easy anymore, it meant we were in trouble.

The truth is though, that what we were going through were not signs of a troubled marriage; they were the moments when marital vows become reality.

It was easy on our wedding day to stand facing each other, promising to love through it all when we had barely built a life together, or even experienced much life for that matter.  Naively I thought that because our first year of marriage was so easy, and because our entire relationship had been easy, that meant marriage would stay easy too.

Then life happened.

We had a baby.  Date nights became few and far between.  We went down to one income, and the stress of finances became overwhelming.  The responsibility of caring for someone’s well being weighed heavily upon our shoulders.  Our lives were no longer easy, and our love was no longer simple.  But this is when we had to make the decision to walk out our vows; to love when it is an effort, when life seems hard, and when times are bad.

So to those of you who are single: if and when you get married, don’t take your wedding vows lightly.  When life becomes difficult–and believe me it will–that’s when you have to make your promises become reality.

And to those who are married, and life has already been crashing in on your marriage, these are the moments that your vows were made for!