I’m not a joiner. Probably nobody who lives off the grid in a yurt in the mountains of Idaho is much of a joiner. I have trouble sometimes, with platforms and publicity, and people trying to get their message out. Sometimes it feels self-centered. Self-obsessed. At least annoying.
But I have to deal with this today, because Sarah Bessey, who is one of my favorite bloggers, has written a book called Jesus Feminist. And she has invited all of her readers to help her promote it, taking these pictures of ourselves, claiming this moniker, basically joining her movement. She has invited us all to be a part of her platform, to help spread her book far and wide, even into the canyons of Idaho.
I used to say that Sarah Bessey was my favorite Christian feminist. But at that point she was really my only Christian feminist. Now there are so many, they’re like my children. I can’t choose. Emily M. and Marci. Preston and Dianna. Suzannah and Luke. Marg and Melanie. Antonia and Elora and Leigha and Lindsay and Hännah and Tanya and Abby. I could go on and on.
But Sarah Bessey is special. Not because she’s a beautiful soul and a beautiful writer, although I think she is, but because right now, at this minute, SHE HAS A BOOK. That’s no small thing. Like Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey has the chance to be some people’s first evangelical Christian feminist. And she just might be perfect for the job.
But, as I mentioned, I am not a joiner. I mean, I’m not the type to have my picture taken with a sign. I might have just sat on my hands, and let it all unfold. I might have trusted the rest of the world to carry Sarah Bessey.
The other day I was hanging out in the library area at my church. I casually picked up a pamphlet off the shelves, that is from the early 90’s, and it explains that it’s okay to want equality for women, and even better protections for women. But unfortunately the feminist movement is not doing that. Unfortunately the feminist movement is just a movement of evil that is trying to violently eliminate men from the family and God’s influence from the world and worship the goddess Ashtaroth. (This is not an exaggeration. Precise quotes and reference available on request.)
Friends…that book is in the church library. Where is Sarah Bessey’s book? Where are Rachel Held Evans’ books? Who is going to put those books on that shelf, IF NOT ME?
Then I had to ask myself some hard questions. About joining. And supporting. And there, in the darkness of my chest, I ran into a feeling I don’t much care for…which is jealousy.
Sometimes this thing happens, among women, that we see one of ours get a little success, and BAM. We pull back our support. There’s language about needing to spread it around a little, so it’s fair. There’s language about how she doesn’t need my help, she’s already doing just fine. Maybe we talk about how annoying it is that everybody copies her, like she’s something special. Or we talk about the mechanism of popularity and how it is profoundly unfair and related to luck. Or we decide, with no reason for it whatsoever, that she must have sold her soul for her success.
Women, you have met other women. You have seen this kind of behavior. We can be jealous. We can be competitive. We can be cruel. We cut each other down.
I do not believe that women are hardwired this way. I’ve seen it go the other way. Shakti Rising. Moxie Theatre. Story Sessions. I believe that our competitive behavior is learned, and it is a mechanism of patriarchy. We, ourselves, as women, enforce a ban on female leadership by withdrawing enthusiastic friendship from women who climb too high.
Think about it. Think about how you have been treated, when you accomplished, when you achieved. Think about how you have felt about other women, when they got the prize that you couldn’t quite reach yourself.
Now, think about how male writers still dominate in the fields of literature and cultural criticism, and especially the literary awards. Think about how male writers build and shape and influence what we call culture, especially in the religious sphere. If we want female writers to lead and influence the way male writers do, we’re going to have to change this about ourselves. We’re going to have change the way we feel, in our hearts, about our shining stars.
So you’re a little jealous of Sarah Bessey? Fine. Me too. Swallow it. And join her movement anyway. Hand this little book out on street corners. Not because it’s perfect and brilliant or because it isn’t perfect and brilliant but because she is a female writer, sharing a message of truth and love right from her heart. And, ladies, we need to make the path wide and flat for one another. It will come back to us, too, I promise it; her success will open doors for ALL OF US. So let’s be grateful for that, not jealous of it. Let’s get behind it, not in the way of it. Let’s buy this book in tens and twenties and hand it out to friends and acquaintances like candy.
Please don’t buy the lie that another woman’s success eats into yours. Not in the blog world, not in social circles, not in business. That is a lie of the patriarchy. And it is a lie of the competitive marketplace. And it is a lie of the devil. It is the myth of the zero sum game, and it depends on believing that scarcity reigns supreme. We don’t have to believe that. We can have faith instead, that God reigns supreme, and God is love, and God demands of us that we love, too. That means we build each other up, not break each other down. It means we join each other.
So. Here goes. I’m joining. I live in a yurt, and I’m a Jesus Feminist.