If I am honest, I never would have guessed that I would be writing a blog for women. I am loving it, yet how I have arrived here is an interesting journey that I hope to share more of with you soon.
Today, however, I will share one part of this journey, that began long before this year–my ever evolving thoughts about Feminism. I will tell you upfront, just as I believe Female needs to be Redefined, I also believe that Feminism needs to be Refocused. I can’t possibly cover the topic of feminism–or my thoughts about it–conclusively in this post or even this week, but here is how my journey with Feminism, has gone so far:
I first heard about Feminism probably around the time I was eight or nine years old, and I have to admit, it was something I had a hard time understanding. Feminists are usually portrayed in the media as angry women whose slogan is “I am woman, hear me roar,” and they are known for things that didn’t make any sense to me as a preteen.
For example, they would burn their bras publicly. I would wonder, “why would any woman burn her underwear in public?” After an embarrassing incident with the boy across the street when I was three-years-old, I learned you do not show your underwear to anyone, especially a boy. The symbolism of being restrained was obviously lost on my eight-year-old self.
Then, there was the fact that they were against men, which also didn’t make any sense to me, because I was fortunate to have a dad who is a good man and worked hard to provide for us. I also had a grandfather who never showed up to our house without lollipops or mini rolls of Lifesaver candies. He would say “Hold out our hand,” and the candy would be so perfectly hidden in his big fist that you weren’t sure what he was giving you until you felt it drop into your palm, and his hand moved away. He was one of my favorite people.
So Feminists to me, just seemed like people who got angry just to get angry.
But then, as I entered college and began to contemplate my future as a woman, I began to realize that the landscape ahead was quite complex. I had grown up in a pretty liberal part of the U.S., and yet in a conservative home. I was an ambitious student with big career dreams, and yet still knew how amazing it had been to have a stay-at-home mom. The message of our culture seemed say “you can do anything if you just try.” But what I didn’t realize was that some paths were going to be harder for me because I was a woman.
When I felt a calling to youth ministry, I was told by enough people–either by the look on their faces or straight out–that because I am a woman I wouldn’t get a job in the church. And then there were times, after getting a job in the church, when I was treated by some (even by congregation members who loved me), as if my ministry wasn’t the “real” ministry, because “real” ministry is done by men. I found out the hard way that there are still paths that are difficult for us to take as women, paths that are still thought of as belonging to men.
My heart began to stir with a feeling of injustice–the feeling that women, not just in our churches but in our workplaces and society, aren’t truly being seen for who God has created them to be. I was wrapped up in what I saw in my small sphere of the world, until God expanded my definition of injustice, to see the ramifications of this issue globally.
In 2009, I had the privilege of going with a team from our church to rural, southern India, to spend time in a girls’ home and teach English in a school. In the mornings, we would teach on homonyms and adjectives, and the majority of faces looking back at me were beautiful, smart, young women. In the afternoons, I would visit these same girls where they lived, and they would teach me their dances, decorate my hands with henna, and in quiet moments, share with me heart breaking stories of their lives. Because of women’s low social status in India, I found myself over and over, praying that God would bless these young women with good husbands in the future, knowing that it would be key to their quality of life.
Then, we visited a baby home, where parents dropped off the children they couldn’t or wouldn’t afford to raise, and the majority of babies and toddlers there, were little girls. Because of the cultural system in India, it is far more economically sound to have a son, than a daughter, so literally thousands of baby girls are abandoned every year.
But India is not the only country in which female infanticide or poor treatment of girls and women occurs. In her Ted talk about her book Half the Sky, Sheryl WuDunn, shares that demographers have estimated that there are between 60 and 100 million missing women in our population due to infanticide, gender based abortions, poverty, and discrimination. In fact, she says that more girls in the last half century were discriminated to death than all the people killed on all the battlefields, in the twentieth century.
And we haven’t even talked about the $32 billion sex trafficking industry.
Feminism is at its core about fighting for the social and economic rights of women. I am not in agreement with everything everyone in the Feminist Movement has stood for, but I am finding that the more I am aware of our state in the world as women, I am not becoming an angry Feminist…I am becoming a grieved one.
A Chinese Proverb says “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.”
It is my prayer that our hearts will awaken to our worth as women, and that we will begin to use our voices to speak on our own behalf, and on the behalf of our sisters world wide. That we will see that we can move mountains, and do it.
Wednesday Sneak Peak: I don’t believe we can or are supposed to fight for women alone. Wednesday we will talk about why Feminism needs men, and why men need Feminism.