Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Ladyhood

No one has ever accused me of being traditional.

For about as long as I can remember, the term "free spirited" has been attached to me like "delicious" is to cheesecake. And cheesecake is incredibly delicious. I've never been interested in what was sound in the eyes of society or what role I was supposed to play. Don't get me wrong; there are certain societal norms that I think are necessary for society to function and for people not to kill people. Like manners. If you don't say please, thank you, and get your children under control, I feel like the law should grant me permission to shank you. With a shiv. Made of a toothbrush. But I digress, because this post is not about the merits of modern day prison warfare.

I noticed that throughout childhood, my free-spirited ideals made me "cute". As a teenager, this transformed into, "What an individual!" But I feel like the general consensus is that by the time you become an adult, you should be getting it together and morphing into the type of individual that has been dictated by the environment of your upbringing. I'm sure that this is true in a variety of cultures, but I can't speak personally about those, because I haven't experienced what they have to offer. All I can do is speak from my own experience.

Throughout my adolescence, the forefront of esteem-based education was that people basically need to follow the mantra, "Be the best me that you can be!" This statement is more cheesy than the state of Wisconsin, but the meaning is pretty self-explanatory. Your individuality is a key part of who you are and you shouldn't hide it under a bushel- NO! Aside from my secular education, with pep rallies and self-esteem classes every other month, this statement was repeated over and over again in my religious upbringing as well. As I got older, this statement continued, but I feel like the sentiment was not as strong. It felt, and continues to feel, like something that we feel that we must say in order to be polite, like telling your Great Aunt Gertrude that the sweater with pekingese dogs on the front was just what you'd hoped to receive for Christmas.  I was hearing this expression, but at the same time, I was being bombarded with images of what a proper Christian woman looked like. Something that we, by the way, harshly criticize the world for. From what the culture around me has exhibited, I've gathered that because I possess two X chromosomes and love Jesus, I must drink tea, enjoy floral prints, and aspire to be a good wife and hostess.

I feel at this point, I must offer up the disclaimer that not all women that I know in the church follow this blueprint. There are many that don't. Also, if this is the way that you are and those are the things you like, congratulations. Please be who you are and don't let anyone take that away from you. 

A little over a year ago, I came across this article and sat in stunned shock as I read the contents of my own brain spilled out from another persons pen...errr....keyboard.  The piece in its entirety is worth your time, which would probably be no more than three minutes at the very generous most, but this quote best sums up my thoughts:

"We're choking on cutesy things and crafty bits, safe lady topics, and if one more person says that modest is hottest with a straight face, I may throw up. We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community."

When I was about 16, I wanted to be a doctor and expressed this desire to one of my Sunday School teachers. At some point, I had also mentioned that I wanted to be married with five kids. This individual looked me in the eye and informed me that I needed to choose which path I wanted, because what I had just told her was against the plan of God. When I was at Gateway, I had another individual inform me that my current life plans, to maybe be married and travel the world on humanitarian missions, probably without any children, were against God's plan because if I was married, I needed to have children and stay home with them. From talking with my peers, these are less isolated stories than they are evidence of a trend that is frequented throughout many churches, and this is something that bothers me greatly. I'm not saying that it's wrong to want to marry young, have a family, and keep house. What I am saying is that I am tired of girls that don't fit the cookie cutter mold being made to feel inferior because of it. I am tired of the assumption that what works for one person simply must work for everyone. And I am afraid that girls will end up leading lives that they don't want because of this pressure. 

Being a woman is more than dressing a certain way and wearing your hair a certain way. The fact that a good number of girls are perfectly happy with wearing their heels all day long doesn't separate them from me, the girl who gets laughed at because she rips off her high heels the second she leaves a restaurant after church because she'd rather run around barefoot. It's about the talent of showing humility and strength at the same time. It's exhibiting love for all, particularly those that you feel are beneath you for whatever (wrong) reason. It's about standing firm on what you believe, whatever that may be, and whatever the circumstances may be. (A note on this point: A belief is not a belief unless you're willing to own up to it in conflict.) 

You are more than a societal prototype. Be you. Dance in a field of daisies. Play football. Eat a bacon cheeseburger (Unless you're Kosher. In that case, definitely don't do that.) Wear Nikes instead of Manolos. 

You are you. You are special. And you deserve to be loved just for that. Because that is enough all by itself. 


K said...

Well said.

(Who is pregnant...married...likes tea...hates floral prints...and is happily preparing to start a doctoral program next fall.)

MotherT said...

Woo Hoo! Are you bringing a copy of this to class on Sunday??? You should!

chantell said...

And let the church say Amen.