Faith and Feminism: Rooted in the Spiritual

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Feminist.

 

When you read this word, what picture comes to mind?

More than likely, some of you have pictured an aggressive, angry woman standing beside a raging fire of bras with her fists clenched.  She is also covered in hair: hair on her legs, hair in her armpits–just loads and loads of hair.  There is probably a sign next to her proclaiming the inferiority of the male gender.  Gasp!

You may laugh at this extreme portrayal, but unfortunately this is a common perception of a feminist.

When I talk to others about feminism, many cannot see past this extreme image.  I tell them about my belief in the interconnection of faith and feminism, and they immediately are up-in-arms about it.

“A woman of faith should not find a friend in feminism,” some would say.

What I find to be so ironic about this statement is that many of the founding mothers of feminism were also great women of faith.  Their activism was simply an outpouring of the Divine at work inside of them.

These women did not find their belief in feminism and their faith at odds because their understanding of God propelled them into the realm of social justice.  (And just as a side note, these women were not “man-haters”.  The Abolitionist Feminists, as they were known, were fighting for the equality of both genders; they believed in the freedom for the male just as much for the female.  The Declaration of Sentiments, which many of these Abolitionist Feminists took part in creating, proudly states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal).

One of the greatest Abolitionist Feminists was Lucretia Mott.

Through her study of scripture, she found that part of Jesus’s identity was found in his actions; through meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the people around him.  Jesus sought to bring freedom to the oppressed, to bring good news to the poor, to recover the sight of the blind, and so forth.

Mott saw how God’s kingdom was brought to earth in Jesus‘ time through said actions, and acknowledged that we are vessels called to continue this good work in our own day and age:

In the same way that Jesus proclaimed the in-breaking of the reign of God to be possible and real in his time, Mott expected evidence of it in her time. Mott’s reference to proclaiming liberty to the captive was a repetition of the Gospel of Luke’s words describing Jesus’ mission. “. . . The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, . . . he hath sent me to . . . preach deliverance to the captives, . . .” (Luke 4:18ab KJV, in turn a quotation from Isaiah 61) By referring to this passage Mott implies that “we ourselves” may be the ones upon whom the Spirit of the Lord is. Those engaged in reform movements were to be as active as Jesus in ushering in the kingdom of God,” (Eppinger, Messiahs of Every Age: A theological Basis of Nineteenth-century Social Reform).

Lucretia Mott was known for making statements such as, “Let us not hesitate to aspire to be the Messiah’s of our age.”  At surface level, some may view this as heretical, but this is more of a call to action to all believers.  Through her own encounter and understanding of the person of Jesus, Mott realized that she must participate in lived actions just like Jesus.  And we must do the same if we call ourselves Christians.

Mott’s activism was a direct result of her faith.  Reflecting on Mott’s work, Helen LaKelly Hunt states:

We can infer that her sense of justice comes from her understanding of what kind of Creator is bestowing the gifts of creation.  In other words, her politics and her feminism stem from her faith in God-given equality, (73, Faith and Feminism). 

The stereotypical image of the man-hating, bra-burning, angry woman has somehow become the face of the “equality” movement, and therefore many persons of faith cannot connect their faith with feminism.  Historically though, feminism’s roots are grounded in the spiritual.  Women like Lucretia Mott were not a rare commodity. Many of the early feminists found a friend in the equality movement because of their understanding of their God.

For me, feminism is about the equality of and for all.  As I continue to gain a deeper understanding of the person of Jesus Christ and what it means to be Christian, I can’t help but feel myself propelled into this realm of social justice.

So as I pray and ask God for His kingdom to come to earth, and as I reflect on the actions of the Messiah to bring God’s kingdom to mankind, I find myself compelled to tangibly partake in lived actions, so that what I pray for may become a reality.

 

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Guest Post- Women: Jesus’ Forgotten Disciples

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by Justin Rose

 

James, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple.

Phillip, Thomas, and Andrew.

Judas Iscariot and Simon the Zealot.

 

These, and other names, comprise the men whose chief role in Christian memory is the recollection of intimacy with Jesus of Nazareth.  They are the faithful disciples who refuse to abandon Jesus (until his betrayal and arrest), the founding primates of the Church, and the martyrs who face the sword, the cross, the beasts, and the fire on account of their faithful witness.  These so-called Twelve make up the totality of Jesus’ closest circle of students and followers.

Any attention to the gospel and the epistolary texts, however, reveal that Jesus’ company throughout his ministry was not exclusively male.

The scant attention to Jesus’ childhood is overtly characterized by the presence of his mother, Mary. The gospels make significantly more space for his friendship with the women in the sibling group of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  There is also the anointing at Bethany, the exorcism of the Syro-phoenician woman’s daughter, and the woman Jesus meets at the well.  Then, of course, there is the initial revelation of Jesus’ resurrection to the women at the tomb, which depict Jesus’ unusual affirmation of women and their proximity to his movement in first-century Palestine.

Despite these examples of the centrality of women in Christian origins, patriarchal  institutions have acted through the centuries to suppress the memory of these women. Even in the text itself, we witness the creeping in of anonymity and belittlement of the women who Jesus most likely counted as close to him, as he did the Twelve.

In the biblical narrative (Mark 14), a woman enters the house where Jesus is dining with Simon the Leper and anoints his head with a jar of alabaster. Though she is scolded for this expensive display of honor, Jesus rebukes her male critics and declares that whenever the good news is proclaimed in the world, her story would be told in remembrance of her. From the very mouth of Jesus comes the spiritual and ecclesial promotion of this woman.

This sign-action the woman performs is a priestly and prophetic gesture; signaling the suffering, death, and burial of Jesus. It is also an allusion to the Hebrew Bible’s tradition of the anointing of kings of Israel, thus making the sign-action a foreshadowing of Jesus’ vindication by God and ascendancy to his future as Christ the King.

In Luke’s gospel, however, the woman who anoints Jesus is remembered not as a friend of Jesus, but as a sinner. This, it should be noted, is not an uncommon tendency in the zeitgeist of patriarchal narrativity. That is, patriarchy consistently seeks to demonize or “other” women whose narrative function deconstructs or alters “traditional” roles of women, especially in antiquity. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza points out in her book, In Memory of Her, that while Jesus, the head of the Church, champions the behavior and the memory of the woman who anoints him, her name is lost to us forever.

Another woman whose courageous engagement with Jesus in their patriarchal Greco-Roman context is relegated to anonymity is the woman with the daughter possessed by an unclean spirit.  She is also known as the Syro-phoenician woman.  (This biblical narrative is found in Mark 7:25-30 and paralleled in Matthew 15:21-28).

In this particular case, Jesus proffers a controversial response to her request that he deliver her daughter of this evil. “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” Jesus says. While at first blush this might not seem the most compassionate of responses, it is in keeping with his earlier command that pearls not be cast before swine (Matthew 7:6). Jesus in the gospel texts, though radically inclusive, does caution his followers not to share the precious gospel so unguardedly with those who would have no use for it and thus corrupt it.  Mark and Matthew provide this story perhaps as a warning for those early Jewish Christians who might take such advice as justification for their exclusion of the uncircumcised, the Gentiles.

In any case, the woman demonstrates remarkable sophistication as a student of the great teacher and, as any lover of pedagogy will note, does not simply accept Jesus’ rejection as correct. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

With this retort, the woman transcends the seeming daftness of the Markan male disciples and embodies the Matthean comparison of a Jesus follower to a faithful scribe. She is engaged with the divine teaching, wrestling with it, and allowing it to evolve into a helpful, nuanced part of Christian identity. This person, who exists outside the Torah sanctioned boundaries of inclusion, widens the table to make room for other Gentiles in the early Jesus movement. Her daughter is delivered of the unclean spirit and thus the work of liberation, which characterizes Christianity, is made universal.

At the heart of the Christian creed is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  Here is precisely where the agency and leadership of Jesus’ women disciples comes into play.  At this heart, we witness the timidity, the denial, the betrayal, and the failure of belief in Jesus’ closest male disciples. Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus. The twelve cannot remain awake during his agonizing vigil in the garden. Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, denies his messiah three times. Most of them flee before his execution. And finally, upon his resurrection, many are hesitant to believe the good news he had foretold.  But, there is no account of abandonment by his women disciples. No betrayal. No denial.

Mary of Magdala and “the other Mary” were the first to learn of his resurrection, the first to witness his resurrected estate, and in Luke, the first to communicate the good news to the male disciples. In fact, in Luke’s redactional transmission of the account, a wealthy woman, Joanna, is added to the initial witnesses. His redaction is in keeping with Luke’s curious interest in powerful women, which probably says a great deal about the role of women in Christian origins.

So, what is the responsibility of the Christian who calls herself or himself a feminist when it comes to this problem of memory and of anonymity?  Can our biblical texts be reclaimed so that the agency and leadership of early Christian women might take their places at the table?

Surely, the radical example of inclusion and table sharing in the life of Jesus and the call to participation in God’s proclamation that all things are being made new are sufficient validation for this endeavor.  The observations that have been made here are merely at the surface of what is a massive reclamation and indeed reconstruction of Christian origins, which prioritizes the lived experiences of early Christian women in the beginnings, development, and missionary activity of the Church.

A Christian feminist has an obligation to the Church, to women, and to those at the margins of society in general, to “excavate” these anonymous disciples’ biographies.

Guest Post: God as Mother

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“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  You must be compassionate (wombish), just as your Father is compassionate (wombish).     – Luke 6:35,36 NLT

Words often fail me.  This is quite the problem, as my vocation demands my use of them. I am a pastor and a religion professor and thus I am tasked daily with communicating God to my church family and to my students in ways that are both relevant and truthful.   I fail all too often.  I console myself with the fact that to speak of God is an utterly impossible task.  To borrow the words of Augustine, “If you can grasp it, it isn’t God. Let us rather make a devout confession of ignorance, instead of a brash profession of knowledge. Certainly it is great bliss to have a little touch or taste of God with the mind; but completely to grasp God, to comprehend God, is utterly impossible.”

This confession of inadequacy did little to comfort me, however, when my friend Hannah walked into my office a year ago and confronted me with the following statement, “Nothing said from the pulpit applies to me.  Everything is couched in masculine language. What are you going to do about it?” Although initially taken aback by her bluntness, I had to admit that her claim was all too true and that I would do my best to ensure that we would be more intentional and inclusive with our language in the future.

In the weeks and months that followed, I would find myself reflecting on my discussion with Hannah and imagining how our faith community might actively explore the feminine aspects of God. This reflection prompted my sharing of the following in a talk entitled, “Jesus the Compassionate,” on this past Mother’s Day:

  • The church tends to think of God in masculine terms because the scriptures were penned in a patriarchal context and because of Jesus’ oft-employed image of God as Father.  (To name only two factors).
  • God is, however, neither male nor female but is instead beyond gender.  (See Alister McGrath’s discussion of this in his text, Theology the Basics).
  • Jesus emphasized that compassion was the central quality of God and the central moral quality of a life lived unto God.  We see this in Luke 6:36.  It is also important to note that the word translated as compassion, “rachmin,” stems from the word “rechmen” which means “womb.” Therefore, Jesus is stating that if we want to be like our Father then we must be wombish like our Father is wombish.  (Thanks to Marcus Borg for introducing me to this concept in his book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time).
  • To be wombish is to be life giving, nourishing, protective and embracing. Again, this is how Jesus sees God.  God is not only Father, but also Mother! (See Jeremiah 31:20 and Exodus 34:6).
  • I believe Luke 6:36 is superior to its corresponding passage in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” as it is more in keeping with the overall tenor of Jesus’ teachings and ministry.  (Again, see above for Borg’s discussion on these two motifs as it relates to Jesus’ attack on the purity system of his day).

I understand that this language might be hard for some to accept, but I believe that it is necessary for the church to begin to employ metaphors and models that highlight the feminine aspects of God as well as the masculine. In doing so, we might better avoid the incomplete and often chauvinistic image of God that is portrayed in so many of our congregations.

Faith and Feminism: The “F” Word

 

 

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Feminism.

Speak this word in a crowd of conservatives and you will instantly feel the tension rise.  You will see faces suddenly distort, and grown men shift uncomfortably in their chairs. I’ve never understood how a word I found to be so liberating and inspiring could cause such anger and discomfort among others.

If you read my recent post, “My Husband, My Companion,” you noticed that I identify myself as a Christian feminist.  For years I was told these two labels are a contradiction, and that if I tried to identify with these two labels, I would find my faith and my activism at odds with one another.

In my first couple of years as a Christian, I encountered some individuals who claimed women were subordinate to their male counterparts; implying that the differences in our sexual organs sets forth a hierarchal framework that I am to adhere to.

Then, as I began to explore the realm of feminism, I found some who felt religion had no place within the movement.  Because of the patriarch history, many feminists feel that this masculine side of faith disqualified the interconnection of the two.

After learning these cases against faith and feminism, I did find my faith and my activism at odds with one another.  The extremists for both sides were communicating for the entirety of each movement, claiming that there was no such label as a Christian feminist.

So then, who am I?

I was left asking myself this very question.  Instead of accepting the extremist perceptions of each movement and divorcing these two labels, I chose to search for further understanding.  I have found that many individuals who claim that Christianity and feminism are at complete odds with one another seem to have an incredible misunderstanding of themselves and each other.  I believe Dr. Helen Hunt stated it perfectly when she wrote:

“The more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that religion and feminism are different expressions of the same impulse toward making life more just and whole.  When we cut the connection between spiritual values and values of social justice, we weaken both our vision and our power,” (Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance, xxiii).

I believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice if we try to sever our activism from our faith.  For me, faith and feminism are so interconnected that one simply cannot exist without the other.  Each movement propels me towards a further understanding of humanity.

If you have found yourself identifying with either of the extremes that I touched on, I invite you to join me as we further cover this interconnection of faith and feminism.  Many voices will be present, both male and female, covering topics such as historical Christian feminists, relevance of feminism in faith, Jesus the feminist, as well as personal testimonies of this interconnection.

My desire is that you, dear reader, will find further understanding of the two labels, Christian and feminist.  If, at the end of this series, you still believe in the separation of the two, my hope is that you will at least bestow grace upon those who believe in this “holy alliance.”

My Husband, My Companion

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As a Christian feminist, I often feel conflicted regarding how to view my husband.  As a feminist, I’m told to view my husband as my equal.  I believe whole-heartedly in this and I do view my husband as my equal. But I have found that among feminists, it is sometimes unpopular to praise your husband simply because of his gender.  So, I find myself reserved in communicating my admiration of him. On the other hand, I’m told by conservative Christians that I am to view my husband as my authority, my “head,” the protector of my fragile/weaker frame, and the ruler of our home.  So, for me to communicate that my respect for my husband exists outside of this hierarchal and patriarchal framework, I am deemed “not a good Christian wife”.  Thus, I’m left perplexed in how I should view him.

When I look at my marriage, I try not to view it through the lens of gender.

It is hard for me to type that statement because I do not believe the answer to gender inequality is to eliminate gender identity.  I do understand that it is difficult to determine what is male and what is female simply by looking at the surface of a person.  Our society is slowly learning that gender is determined by more than a person’s anatomical make-up.  Even though this difficulty exists, I believe that we will do ourselves a disservice if we try to eliminate gender identity all-together.  Within our gender identity lies more opportunity for diversity.

For some, acknowledging the differences in one another is negative; because the belief is that we are predisposed to ranking that which is different, thus creating a hierarchal system.  The claim is that some differences are good, some are bad, and some are better than others.  But, I believe these differences should exist solely in-and-of themselves.  I should be able to acknowledge that my husband is male and that I am female, and just let that be.  The fact that my husband is male does not make him superior to me, just as I am not superior to him simply because I am female. The same can be said of all differences.

With that being said, in my marriage, I do not believe our gender to be pertinent.  While, yes, the fact that my husband is male makes up a part of who he is, the overall enjoyment I receive from his personhood goes so far beyond his gender identity.

I believe I should be able to verbally communicate my love and admiration for him with the understanding that this exists outside of his identity as a male.  For me to withhold my praise and admiration simply because of his gender would mean that I, myself, am partaking in gender injustice.  Not to mention that I would be missing out on celebrating the person my husband is.

In the same way, I should be able to communicate that my respect for my husband can and does exist outside of the fact that he is male.  This does not make me a less-than-ideal Christian wife.  I believe that this actually makes me a better Christian wife, because my respect for my husband is not out of obligation or solely founded upon his gender identity.  My respect for my husband stems from who he is on the inside, which I believe to be Christ-like.

When I look at my husband, I view him through the lens of companionship.  What I see in him is the friendship we have cultivated. I see the daughter we co-parent.  I see the son who will soon join our family.  I see what sets fire to his bones.  I see what causes a frown on his brow.  I see the memories he has shared with me from his childhood.  I see the family that has helped create the person he is today.  I see him, Jonathan; the entirety of his personhood.  Not simply Jonathan, who is male, but Jonathan who is my husband, and my companion.

Unconditional Parenting

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Through my 14 months of parenting, I have always known what my role is.  My sole responsibility is to tend to Selah’s needs.  Is she hungry?  Is she thirsty?  Is she tired?  These questions constantly run on spin cycle in my head throughout the day.  As we enter further into toddlerhood, I am seeing my role begin to change.  My focus is not centered on her physical needs anymore, even though those needs are still high on her priority list.  As Selah grows, her emotional, mental, and spiritual needs are beginning to cry out for more attention.

To say parenting is overwhelming would be the understatement of the year.  My shoulders weigh heavily from carrying the burden of Selah’s livelihood; making sure she is still living and breathing every morning.  But now taking on the weight of her personhood; what she is and what she will become, is a burden that would easily make anyone cower in fear.  Contrary to popular belief, this is a task for the few, not for all.  Parenting is not something everyone is called to do, nor should do.  But I accepted this task when I decided to have a family.

I believe that who Selah will become, for the most part, is innate.  As her parent, I feel it is my responsibility to bring out what is already there inside of her.  Sure, I want to expose her to what the world has to offer, but I do so in order to discover what she likes and dislikes.  It was my husband and my decision that we will never squash the interests we discover Selah has.  If Selah enjoys building things, we want to get her all the Legos, building blocks, and Lincoln Logs we can find.  If Selah likes to help mommy clean the house, then we are going to get her all the tot-sized cleaning toys we can find.  For those of you who know me, I do identify myself as a feminist.  So yes, the idea of her enjoying domesticity is a fear of mine. But as I stated before, I have already made the decision to bring out who Selah innately is.

In theory, most of you have probably agreed with what I just said, but that may not be the case in practice.

If you have been paying attention to the news lately, I’m sure you have read about a little boy who discovered an interest in My Little Pony.  He decided that he wanted a blue My Little Pony backpack which he received.  Upon being bullied at school, it was suggested that he leave his backpack at home as to not encourage bullying.  I remember reading comments on news reports of this incident, where other parents were condemning the mom for even buying the backpack in the first place. I cannot agree with these parents and I cannot agree with the school’s suggestion, because I believe in individual expression.  I believe the problem rests in the hands of the children who bully and their parents, not the child who chose to step outside of his gender box.  This is where the practice of what I said begins to divide some of you.

Whenever I step foot into a major retailer and walk down the toy aisle, I am bombarded with clearly defined sections of pink and blue.  In the pink sections, you can find all the Barbies, toy houses, and tot-sized vacuums your daughter’s heart desires.  In the blue section, you can find all the monsters, cars, and action figures your son could ever dream of.  Though there are some companies trying to step outside of these clearly defined sections, for example Goldieblox which tries to encourage interests in engineering for both girls and boys, this is simply what you will find in most stores.  I can’t blame the retailers, though, because they are just giving the public what they want.  They bend to the needs of the consumer, and I believe it is our culture that is to blame for claiming toys must be clearly girl or clearly boy.

I know parents who believe in clearly defining their children’s gender.  Boys cannot be in pastel colors for fear of being confused as a girl, and girls cannot be in bold, primary  colors for fear of being confused as a boy.  Boys cannot play with Barbies, for fear of them becoming too feminine, and girls cannot play with toy tool sets for fear of them becoming too masculine.

When I heard about this boy with the My Little Pony backpack, and read the negative comments; having seen the layout of major retailers, and interacted with parents who follow the belief of putting their child into their designated gender box, I can’t help but ask…

What are you afraid of?

So what if you find that your daughter likes things that are masculine, or that your son likes things that are feminine.  They are still your children, and these are the affinities that have been brought out of them.  Are we supposed to squash our children’s preferences simply because it challenges our culture’s gender expectations?  Is that what parenting is?

I can’t help but wonder if all this fear stems from the nature vs. nurture argument.  I wonder if, as parents, we push our children into a gender box, because we are too afraid of who they will become if we allow them to step outside of that box.  But what does that tell us?

What it tells me, is that our culture’s idea of parenting is conditional.  It tells me that we will only support, guide, and love our children if they become who we’ve deemed acceptable.  But the reality is, conditional parenting is not parenting at all.  Real parenting is deciding to play a constant role in your child’s life.  It’s deciding that you are in this for the long-haul; come rain or shine, you are their mom and you are their dad.

Dear Amy…

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Dear Amy Glass,

If you ever read this, I am sure you will immediately notice that I fit into the category of “mommy blogger”.  So, I won’t be surprised if you discredit everything I am about to write.  As I have written before though, it is unfair to discredit someone solely based on a difference of opinions.

Even though I disagree with your view of a stay-at-home mom, I can tell that you are a strong-willed, independent woman who aspires to do something great in this world.  For that, I do applaud you.  It seems that your desire is for women to be ambitious, to achieve greatness, and you are using your words to try and inspire women to do so.  That is something to be noted and recognized.

Unfortunately though, your words are not giving inspiration.  There is a fine line between challenging and attacking, and I do believe your attempt to challenge women has actually come across as an attack on many.  Your call was for women to step outside of the box that our culture has shoved us into; but your idea of achievements is in fact calling women to step into another box.  What you are telling women is that if they don’t define themselves by their career, then they are not ambitious and have not achieved anything.  What you have done is set limitations and boundaries on what achievements women are allowed to make.  This narrow-minded definition of success is the very essence of why women stood up for equality in the first place.

You write a lot about men achieving greatness because they don’t allow things of little importance–like children–to get in their way.  Then, you challenge women to think like men do, and strive for achievements outside of the home.

What you are calling for,  is a role reversal.  I do not believe the solution to inequality is for women to think and act like men, because I do find error in the traditional/stereotypical role of a man.  When someone, male or female, solely identifies themselves with their work, then their relationships suffer.  I have seen too many broken families because one spouse has decided that they have nothing to do with what goes on at home.  If you have no intention to take part in parenting a child, then there is no reason for you to have a family to begin with. If your desire is to solely focus on your career, which is completely fine and acceptable, then just don’t have a family.

I am sure there are readers now, who are claiming that I don’t think women can do it all: have a career and have a family.  This is not true, you can have both, but if you want to “have your cake and eat it to”, then you are required to be fully present in both roles, as an employee and as a parent.

The notable feminist Gloria Steinem, which I am sure you have heard of, has said, “The truth is that women can’t be equal outside the home until men are equal in it.”  You praise men for their ability to completely separate themselves from their home life, and urge women to do the same.  You also see the home as something of little importance.  So, I wonder what your view of a stay-at-home dad is.  Do you see them as weak individuals too?  Or would you applaud them for not being your idea of a stereotypical man, because that would be inequality and a double standard.

You may have called me weak and lacking ambition, but that does not make me waiver from my decision to be a stay-at-home mom.  I encourage you to come to Lakeland, FL, where you will find many women who made an informed, not forced, decision to stay at home.  There are many stay-at-home moms here, including me, that are college-educated, which I am sure you will see as a disappointment, but we do not.  Your view of a stay-at-home mom is someone who folds her husband’s clothes and changes her child’s diaper, but we are so much more than a maid or a nanny.  If you would have taken the time to truly get to know us, you would have been able to see that.  There are many stay-at-home moms here in Lakeland that are incredible artists, amazing photographers, inspiring writers, challenging educators, and selfless volunteers.  So please refrain from stereotyping us as women who are weak-willed, that allow themselves to forced to fill roles that you think no one should fill.

And next time you want to call the role of stay-at-home mom “the path of least resistance” I would ask you to walk a mile in our shoes.  When I was a working mom, no one ever looked down on me or questioned my significance as a woman.  But the day I became a stay-at-home mom I have constantly been fighting against people like you that claim I am somehow less-than because I don’t receive a paycheck for my work.

Sincerely,

a strong-willed, passionate, opinionated, feminist, wife, and stay-at-home mom

Awarded for Abortion Activism?

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Labels.

We all have them, and we all place them on others.  In a previous post, I identified with three: stay-at-home mom, wife, and feminist.  While others may label me differently, those are the three that I chose  for myself.  Just because I identify with those labels, though, doesn’t mean that is all I am; I am also: female, heterosexual, egalitarian, Christian, friend, sister, daughter, writer, runner, coffee-enthusiast (and sometimes snob), dessert fanatic, Dr. Pepper lover, meat-eater… do you get where I’m going with this?

There is a lot that goes into making a person.  We are all very dynamic, complex creatures.  We have sayings such as, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes”; all because at some point in life, we’re supposed to realize that a person is so much more than what you see on the surface. Unfortunately, we continually fail at this.

In our culture, we have a tendency to focus in on one aspect of a person, and then forever disregard everything else about them, either because we don’t like that one thing, or because we don’t agree with it.  Some of you may have seen that I’m a stay-at-home mom, and decided I have nothing important to say about politics.  Some of you may have seen that I eat meat, and decided that I have no care for animals.  Others of you may have seen that I love sweets, and decided that healthy living is not in my vocabulary.  And then, there are probably some of you that saw I identified myself as Christian, and didn’t get past the first paragraph.

But isn’t one of the goals in maturity to move past this?  To acknowledge the fault in our perception of people?  To know that there is more to someone than meets the eye, and that we shouldn’t disregard them just because we do not fully agree with them?

Recently, I was sent an article about Gloria Steinem being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The author labeled her as an abortion activist, which is true, but he reported as if Steinem was being awarded solely for her work with abortion.  The author even went so far as to say Steinem has dedicated her life to promoting abortion.

Only one aspect of Steinem’s life was focused on in this article, and it disregarded all the other parts.  The author’s disagreement with her personal stance on abortion took away from what was a pivotal moment in Steinem’s life.  I feel sorry for this man, because he was not able to recognize that the Presidential Medal of Freedom was, in fact, to acknowledge a woman’s incredible work in gender equality.

Gloria Steinem is a pioneer for feminism.  Steinem fought for women to have equal hire and equal pay in the work place.  She even fought for affordable childcare, so that women have a greater opportunity to work outside the home (if that is their desire).

Steinem has constantly been challenging our society’s perception of what it means to be a female–and what it also means to be a male, for that matter.  Just because someone is female does not mean they must be a stay-at-home mom.  Likewise, just because someone is male, does not mean they must work outside of the home.  Her life’s work is for ALL to have a voice and a choice in how they live life, and to not be held down by society’s gender expectations.

A part of Gloria Steinem’s life work does include abortion activism, which yes, is it at odds with my beliefs.  But, I am choosing to not disregard all of her other accomplishments, just because my beliefs do not 100% align with hers.

What I do believe in, is giving credit where credit is due.  And Gloria Steinem truly deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work in gender equality.

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.

Traditionalist Meets Feminist: My Coming Out Story

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On May 6th, 2012, I discovered that I was pregnant.  To say I was surprised would be an understatement.  My husband and I had only been married for 10 months, and getting pregnant within the first year of marriage was not on our to-do list.  I wish I could tell you that I cried tears of joy when I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test, but that would be a lie.  I am not going to apologize for that either; in my mind, I wasn’t ready.

My attitude about the situation changed upon my husband’s reaction.  He was so calm, so accepting, and so ready to start our new journey together.  My husband has this incredible way of adjusting to the surprises in life.  He always tells me, “There is nothing you can do about what happens to you, but you can choose how you respond to it.”  I realized then that whether I thought I was ready or not, I was having a baby.  I could either spend the next 9-10 months pouting about how life didn’t go my way, or I could choose to accept the surprise blessing God had given me and enjoy this new journey in life.

On January 20th, 2013 my daughter, Selah, was born.  She is the best decision I’ve never made.  But even before Selah came into this world, she began forcing me to adjust my views and rethink my goals.  If you had asked my college-aged, pretentious self where I would be in five years, I don’t think wife and stay-at-home mom would have come out of my mouth. To be quite honest, that version of myself would actually hate who I’ve become.

During my entire college career, I was always speaking up for women’s equality.  I went to a small, private, Christian school, so you can only imagine some of the conservative and traditional views I came across regarding a woman’s role.  After voicing my total disgust of those views, my friends started branding me with the title: feminist.  I accepted the title and began identifying myself with feminism.

Fast forward a couple of years, and now I am entering motherhood with these preconceived notions of what a feminist looks like, while holding a very traditional role in my family.  So, here I am: wife, mother, and feminist?

My college-aged self makes me feel sub-woman, and tells me I cannot identify with feminism, because I am a stay-at-home mom.  The reality is though, I chose this.  I wasn’t forced into being a stay at home mom by cultural expectations or a traditionalist husband.  I made a calculated, informed, personal choice to be a stay-at-home mom.  If it was my decision, and an informed one at that, then why do I feel sub-woman?  I thought the whole push for feminism was to give women a voice and a choice in how they go about life.  As much as my college-aged self would hate who I’ve become, I hate her for the way she makes me feel.  It’s that kind of feminism that tries to put me in a box, saying that for me to be called a strong, independent, modern woman, I have to work outside of the home.

I am a wife, a mother, and yes, a feminist.  I don’t claim to be perfect in any of those roles , and I certainly am not right 100% of the time.  My desire is to simply share my perspective, and to show that there is a way in which these three roles can co-exist. Because, in twenty years, I want my daughter to discover for herself what it means to be a woman.  I don’t want the extreme traditionalists to tell her she must be pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen.  I also don’t want the extreme feminists to tell my daughter she has to have a career outside of the home.  I want Selah to have the freedom, and the grace, to discover what womanhood looks like for her.