Friday, February 01, 2008

"I'm Just A Girl"

It hit me last night as I was going to bed. Is there really such a thing as a conservative feminist? As long as we're thinking along those lines, is it possible to be a Christian and a feminist at the same time? And what do any of those titles mean, anyway? Being the responsible book nerd that I am, I went straight to the dictionary. Conservative has eleven definitions. ELEVEN. Although I knew I could strike off #11 immediately--a preservative. When you come to think of it, though, that's what conservatives are--they want to preserve their way of life. Not big welcomers of change.

All these years, I considered myself conservative. Aren't Christians automatically card-carrying Republicans? I'm without a doubt, a pro-lifer. Why abort when there are so many childless parents desperate to adopt? I believe in a "traditional" idea of family, with a father and a mother, but am I supposed to look down my nose at the woman who's left her abusive husband? It also doesn't mean that I think God doesn't love those people who don't live in a "traditional" family. It seems to me that there are just too many gray areas. Besides, I like change. I like the idea of constantly moving forward. Do we really want to live the way they lived in the first century? Remember, there was no running water or electricity then. I'll take modern convenience, thankyouverymuch.

I'm getting off track here. The dictionary told me that feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Well, that is certainly a theory to which I subscribe. I certainly believe that women should have the same rights as men, and that we should be paid the same wage as a man for doing the same type of work. Women gave their lives in the early twentieth century just to give me the right to choose to vote, or go to work, or stay at home. Am I a bra-burner? A man-hater? By no means. I just want my voice to be heard as loud as a man's, especially about issues that concern me. I want my thoughts and ideas to be taken seriously. I don't want to be looked down upon just because I'm female.

Maybe I should supply a little backstory here. My sister and I grew up in a hyper-conservative home, born to a stay-at-home mother who also had been raised by a stay-at-home mother. Our father's mother was a stay-at-home mother. (Before I go any further, I want to say that I do not have an agenda against stay-at-home moms. I have a lot of respect for that choice, because I know that it's hard work.) It was impressed upon us at a very young age that this is the life we should strive to have as adult women. We weren't pushed about schoolwork and grades because, according to our family beliefs, the ultimate goal was to become a wife and mother. Any talk of dreams about "when I grow up" were met with scoffing, smirking, and exchanged looks that said "until she meets the right boy". I remember my grandparents laughing at me when I first told them I wanted to be a singer. It's a pain that won't go away.

Naturally, the way we chose to rebel against our parents was to become feminists. We poured our brains into our schoolwork. We argued with our parents about going to college (we wanted to go--our dad loudly proclaimed that it was a "money racket") and having lives that we could call our own. My sister got piercings, tattoos, and swore off marriage. (I was too much of a romantic.) We talked to each other about our dreams, secure in the knowledge that there really was only one other person in your house who understood how you were feeling.

Fifteen years later, we're both adults, and we're also both married. Because I'm not a buttinsky, I can't speak for her marriage, but I can speak for mine. Richie considers me an equal. We discuss family issues together. We raise our children together. We take turns grocery shopping (he's so much better at it than me!) and we clean the house together. He respects my love for God and my desire to be in His house. He respects my need for an identity beyond Mrs. Richie Thames, though it is a title that I'm proud to wear. It's something I feel very strongly about--I don't believe that a woman stops being herself because she got married. Being a wife just adds another dimension to the wonderful, beautiful creation that God designed.

Of course, the subject falls to children. How does a family who believes in Jesus Christ AND equality for the sexes raise a teenage boy and a schoolage girl in this age of Paris Hilton and Disney Princesses? I can say that Richie has done an excellent job teaching Trey to respect women, and I've seen that reflected in the relationships he's had with girls. But me, I feel partially at fault, being a woman like myself. I struggle with the thought that I'm setting the women's movement back by enjoying clothes and cosmetics? By burning Peggy Lee's "I Enjoy Being A Girl" to CD? I buy clothes for Cathryn that say "Princess". Her room looks like the Hannah Montana empire threw up inside it, everything is so pink and sparkly. Can Cathryn love girly things while still believing that she has just as much right to a life, an education, a choice as her male classmates?

By God, I"m going to try.

In conclusion, I've decided that you can't really be a conservative and a feminist. You can, however, be a Christian.

In the next post, I'll look at feminism from a biblical perspective.


The Shumards said...

Okay Josie...I myself have a very Feminist streak, however, I am a walking oxymoron. I also have a old-fashioned view of wife and mother. I am also however in the same boat as you are...I am going to raise Emma Claire and Isaac as equals. I have it a little easier than you I guess because they are closer in age, but MY goal is to raise them as Independent, Decision making people. Then they will not let their voices get stiffled and She will not allow a Man to rule her!!! That is how I was raised and I am very outspoken and my marriage is similar to yours, except NO WORKY FOR ME!!! By all means let Cathryn be a princess, but also let her know that she has a brain and TEACH HER HOW TO USE IT!!! Love Ya, Leslie

stacy o. said...

what a beautiful, thought-provoking post. I don't know how to reconcile this one, josie. i suppose i fall on the more liberal side of feminism, and i struggle with biblical passages that seem to contradict my view of women and our place in the family and the world. keep us thinking!

Josie Thames said...

I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one struggling with this. I want to live a God-honoring life. I want to be a good wife to my husband and a good mother to my kids. But I can't get past the fact that God gave me a brain and a soul. I know that He created me for a purpose, and I know that being a mother is only one facet of that purpose.

Thank y'all so much for commenting. It helps knowing we're not alone in this.