For a long time, I distanced myself from feminism. Mostly, I didn’t want to be labeled by it, or any other human-made category.
Growing up in the latter part of the 20th century, I heard more than a few jokes about “women’s libbers” and “femi-nazis.” It shocked me when some heckled feminism for “bra-burning.” It wasn’t difficult to steer clear of a movement that was the butt of so many jokes.
Back then, I didn’t know any feminists, and I didn’t think it was possible to be a Christian and a feminist. It didn’t occur to me until years later to think critically about the jokes, or to question why so many—including evangelicals—write off feminists.
Ministry to domestic and sexual abuse victims during seminary jump-started a radical process of change in my thinking. … Continue Reading
For a seminary internship, I became involved in a non-profit organization dedicated to building peace and safety in Christian homes. Assisting my professor Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger, I began seeing shadowy corners that hide horrific treatment many women face behind closed doors.
Most of us don’t realize that intimate partner abuse affects Christian homes just as frequently as secular homes. A 2010 national survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have, “experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” Sixty-five percent of children are also impacted by domestic violence.
It happens to people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and cultures. At least 25% … Continue Reading
“Women are trying to take over churches,” the man glanced my way.
I shifted in my seat, hardly believing my ears. He said it after I introduced myself as a seminary student to the men gathered to plan a non-profit fundraiser. I contemplated ignoring the comment or telling him off. Neither reaction seemed a constructive means of winning friends and influencing the men in the room.
The earth swirled as—yet again—I wished a trap door would open and transport me to a universe where Christian men don’t act suspicious of Christian women.
Jesus, is this really happening? I prayed silently.
I didn’t want to sound mousy or snarky; heaven forbid getting labeled b**chy. Listening seemed right however much I felt like throwing something or calling out the inappropriate comment.
Reflecting on a conflict resolution course, it seemed best to invite a constructive dialog: “That’s interesting. Help me understand. Why do you think women are trying to take over churches?”
“It’s the decorating,” he responded flatly.
I nearly busted out laughing. Was he joking? I waited for him to laugh, but he didn’t.
God, this is the weirdest conversation I’ve ever had, I prayed. What to say?
The man expressed his distaste for the paint and curtains in his church. Evidently, mauve and floral didn’t appeal to his sensibilities. When I thought about it, they didn’t suit mine either though I’d never felt alienated by them. Contrary to popular stereotypes, it occurred to me that … Continue Reading
My daughter approached me with Barbie’s plastic head in one hand and her torso in the other.
“Mommy, can you fix her?”
Growing up, I’d learned to snap the head back on. It didn’t appear that my daughter’s Barbie would fare so well. The rim of the neck had cracked apart, rendering the swivel useless. Short of a neck brace, or miracle glue, Barbie would remain headless.
I felt a little relieved. It’s not that I relished the doll’s demise, but I had received Barbie into the household with reservations. I didn’t want to be silly or legalistic, but I worried each time Barbie smiled up at me from the carpeted floor. Would this toy leave my daughters with wrong impressions of femininity and body image? Or was I hyper-reacting?
Growing up, my own relationship with Barbie had been complicated.
I received Barbie for Christmas along with a starter wardrobe of practical daywear, elegant evening gowns, and the proper assortment of flats and heels. It was the late-seventies, and I had no idea that second wave feminists were questioning why Barbie’s super-sized head was as big as her ribcage and over-endowed chest. Her lovely wardrobe enchanted me although I quickly decided it was more interesting to build her a house with scraps from my father’s construction sites than to choose her couture. … Continue Reading
Growing up, my sister and I giggled over a “super-weird” television commercial—A sexy blonde supermodel belted the praises of a perfume that unleashed superwoman abilities. Evidently Enjoli enabled looking glamorous and working round the clock. Shimmying across the screen, the woman exuded energy for bringing home a paycheck, reading to the kids, and giving her husband a great time in bed:
To this day, the thought of an eight-hour perfume to support a twenty-four hour professional and domestic life exhausts me.
What about sleep? Friends? Recreation? Ministry? Vacation? Fun?
Does successful womanhood really hinge on looking glamorous and flawlessly managing it all?
What about when kids vomit in the car? Or when the dog eats a poisonous slug and gets the trots in the house? What about when work deadlines collide with the chaos?
Through years of juggling domestic and professional work, I continue questioning the notion of finding balance between the two. My experiences look less like juggling and more like hopping roller coasters in a theme park. Doing everything at once might work for others, but it’s never worked for me.
I wrestle with the gap between my ideals and what is and is not humanly reasonable or possible. I stumble over the fact that I don’t have enough time, energy, and inclination to do everything that society says a woman should do. At forty-five, I’m done trying to look sexy on top of it all.
Although I gravitate toward perfectionism and people pleasing, I’m learning to embrace my limits. … Continue Reading