I have many things to thank my parents for, but as of lately I’ve been especially grateful that they never tried to put me in a box. Their greatest expectation of me was and is so simple: that because I’m a child of God I will be who He created me to be. Moreover, because young women learn so much from their fathers about the type of treatment they should receive, I’m especially grateful that I am my father’s daughter.
When my parents were expecting me, my mom asked my dad if he was disappointed that I was going to be a girl. He said no, because when Mom needed me in the house, I could put on my frills and help around the house, and when he needed help around the place I could put on my grubbies and come work with him. He loves to tell that story because that’s exactly how things turned out. Growing up, I loved the horses, tractors, and fishing just as much as I loved playing princess and having tea parties. It’s in looking back that I realize how much of an impact that had on who I am now. My dad never said that because I was a girl I shouldn’t learn ______, or that I didn’t need to know how to ______, nor did he ever assume, in the myriad of conversations we had, that because I was a girl my opinion would be ______ or suggest that my intelligence was connected to my gender. He never raised me to be anything but a strong, independent, kind, Christian woman.
This is one of the major lessons I learned from the first and most important male role model in my life: that my actions, thoughts, and pursuits are important, unique, and valuable on the sole basis that I am a human being, created by God, fearfully and wonderfully made.
I didn’t start labeling myself as a feminist until college. After being exposed to the world outside the shelter of my childhood home, I came to realize how important feminism is, how needed it is. What was the norm for me – how my parents, and especially my dad– treated me, I now came to realize wasn’t the norm for everyone. And it broke my heart. And it made me angry. And on that note, here’s my brief two cents on why I’m a feminist:
First, let’s chat about women and our current society. Because here’s the thing: for as far as we’ve come, society still has a lot of problems with recognizing that women have intrinsic value and worth just because they’re human beings. As the most recent example, observe the craze with Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video and his comments on it. Our society has a sadly strong intention to objectify women, to make us voiceless dolls to be dressed up, paraded around, and acted upon by the will of others. These are the problems that 21st century feminists have been screaming about: the convoluted ideas of beauty, the pressure put upon young girls to look and be a certain way, and the perverted idea that degradation is what leads to equality.
And here’s where I get angry with women; just as angry, if not more, as I am with the men who have been cultivating this mindset for centuries. I don’t understand why more women aren’t angry alongside me. How are women ok with “Blurred Lines” and other songs like it? How were the women in that video ok with making it? How are news anchors and TV show hosts ok with praising these messages? How do women complain about men creating legislation over our health and bodies and not realize that, according to the cultural norm, women have said that they’re ok with men pressuring women into what to do? How are women ok with perpetuating the cultural mindset that is oppressing us? And in my anger with women for being ok with the culture, I’m also heart-broken as I realize that this is how bad the problem is: that so many women don’t even see it as a problem.
Second, let’s have a little chat about women in the Church. (To read more of what I’ve said about this before, see this.) While, again, women have much more freedom and equal opportunity within the Church, there are still these boxes that many Christians try to put us in. Observe Christian literature targeted at women, the majority of which works from the presumption that women, by definition, are called to marry and raise a family. While very important, the life of the Christian woman goes so much deeper than being a housewife. Being a Christian woman doesn’t automatically make a person called to be a stay at home mom; it does mean that you are created for a purpose and that one should pursue God’s calling for her life as only she will know. Furthermore, there is this idea floating out there that a Christian woman’s pursuits must be overseen by a man, in particular her husband, before they are valid. For example, growing up, I often heard young women around me express desires to go into missions or ministry or sundry other professions, only to be told “That’s nice dear, but you’ll have to wait and be sure that your husband is ok with that.” NO! That isn’t how God works and that isn’t how we are called! We are all created beings, formed with a purpose and intention, uniquely made and designed within God’s plan. God is the one who validates whether our actions are worthy and valuable and we should run toward our intended pursuits head on, without waiting for the “approval” of others.
Society tried to teach me that women were voiceless objects, dolls to be dressed up to meet men’s whim; too many in the Church tried to teach me that my voice wasn’t valid unless filtered through men’s supervision. But my dad taught me that my voice was intrinsically valuable because it is my voice, the one given to me by my heavenly Father, created with purpose and reason, and that I have a right to be heard because I am a human being, a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made.
Why am I a feminist? Because I’m my Father’s daughter.
This was a very brief and loose peek into this can of worms. To read more of what has helped me develop my understanding of feminism, here’s some recommended links:
For a look at what it means to be a Christian feminist: http://shelovesmagazine.com/2013/reclaiming-feminist/ and http://sarahbessey.com/in-which-i-choose-to-be-a-feminist-in-the-way-that-jesus-would-be-a-feminist/.
A bit on the women and the Church: http://www.shaneyirene.com/2013/03/why-the-rebelutions-modesty-survey-was-a-bad-idea/ and http://deeperstory.com/i-am-damaged-goods/ and http://seeprestonblog.com/2011/12/sparks-fly-up-a-response-to-id-rather-have-a-proverbs-31-woman-than-a-victorias-secret-model/
And a TED talk on objectifying women: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kMS4VJKekW8