I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve heard that I’m making too much fuss about inequalities for women. Usually I hear this from other women. Usually I hear it from women who long for me to embrace my femininity and love the role that God has written for me.
Sometimes it has an air of wanting to move me forward into spiritual maturity. As in, the whole reason Esther is a feminist is because one time she didn’t get some thing that she wanted, and she’s still mad about that.
Here’s that syllogism.
Feminism = selfish; Selflessness = passively accepting power differentials.
The latter contributes to the peace, and is therefore of God. The former is rebellious and probably angry and probably means I am a very unhappy person. Or that I really have it out for all the heterosexual cis men. Maybe I’m just inherently a troublemaker.
Sometimes I fall for it, and spend an hour or two (or five) trying to explain…that I do actually love my femininity – I mean, let’s talk about birth! — and my husband and I have a very successful rebuilt marriage, in which he is ahem not particularly passive, and several of my best friends are het-cis men, and although it is of course my personal experience that has shaped my perspective, my feminism is not really about me.
Sometimes I spend a long time talking. Only to realize that the thing the woman across from me is really looking for is none of mine, but validation for the scope and direction of her own life.
We are moving together, we women. Like a paper chain, held together at the wrists.
As women, we are accustomed to receiving criticism from all directions. We’re making too much money. We’re not making enough. We’re dressing like whores. We’re not taking care of ourselves. We’re over-parenting our children. We’re not giving them the nurturing they need. We’re too feminist. We’re not feminist enough.
For better or for worse, many of these messages are delivered by women to women, one to another. Sweets for the sweet.
I never wanted to lay a heavier yoke on any of my sisters. We bear weight enough. I wanted to spread a seed that would inoculate us from every one of these social controls. I wanted to offer faith in wholeness, to a sisterhood that is already whole in Christ.
One of my favorite and most dog-eared books is a collection of essays that emerged from a conference on feminism and religion in 1983. “The real test of our struggle for social change will be if we can free ourselves from our powerless position, without attaining the kind of power which enslaves others.”
I never wanted to lay a heavier yoke on any of my sisters, except this. We must know that when we passively accept power differentials, we are simultaneously oppressor and oppressed.
The flat side of the blade that separates out women as a social class also sticks us all together. Every motion made towards disruption filters through real human beings next door on the chain. But so does every retaliating, “Shhh….”
We are moving together, we humans. Like a paper chain. Held together at the wrists. Which way do we pull?
I could be done with the Christian sisterhood. One more mid-week Bible study on the Proverbs 31 woman and I’m out. I’d rather hang out with pine trees anyway.
Except for this hope…that together we might plant and spread a kingdom seed. A seed that whispers freedom and value for every precious soul. Liberation instead of enslavement. The reversal of power structures that house and protect abusers at the expense of the abused. The fierce warrior work of making room for every, every soul to flourish and to grow.
For better or for worse, I’m stuck right in. Whatever “Christian woman” means, it means me, too. I can’t and won’t let go of my identity in Christ.
I pray for this, that a kingdom seed would grow into a sisterhood that knows little of silencing one another and casting blame, yet less of charging one another with rebellion and selfishness. I pray for a sisterhood that is strong in shared humanity and weak in executing social controls. I pray for our paper chain, that we would learn to be kind, kind, kind…make room, room, room…be filled with Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
For better or for worse.