No one was, as they say, more surprised that I. In fact, it came as a huge shock.
Fortunately, I learned it early. Still hurt to learn it, though, what with pride coming before the fall and all that. I learned it the hard way, which seems to be the only way I can learn things. My first year at college (not freshman year, because there were no men on my campus) it became glaringly obvious that my firmly held convictions about faith and feminism were, in fact, not shared by every single one of my sisters.
I met another young woman on campus who wore long denim skirts every day. She did not cut or adorn her hair. She wanted to marry and raise babies, because that was what God called her to do. She also had a keen interest in science and education and had planned to learn all she could before motherhood. We read the same Bible, but we read it very differently. (She is now a wife, a mother and an educator.)
I could not fathom how she could come to vastly disparate conclusions about the same scripture passages. We talked a lot throughout our four years together, and I tried to understand her point of view. She tried to understand mine. Neither one of us were swayed.
It did not stop us from praying together. It did not prevent a friendship to gel between us. Her idea of submission and mine would never match.
And so I learned that not everyone comes from the same kind of family. That not everyone reads the Bible with the same eyes, the same heart, the same filters. Even more so, on my female-only college campus, I learned that there were as many definitions of feminism as there were women in the dorms.
While I was willing to take my husband’s name (a story for another day), plenty of other women chose to hyphenate, or to keep their maiden names.
Were they wrong? Was I wrong?
There has been a lot of blogger buzz lately about what feminism means, and if it’s still important. Some writers are talking about submission, and some are rejecting other’s definitions. It isn’t always pretty.
It’s isn’t pretty because we survive on earth in a base human condition. It isn’t always pretty because words are complicated and nuanced and textured. It isn’t pretty because life is not some big come-to-Jesus, kumbaya campfire where we can hash it out, once and for all and have done with it.
I don’t have the answers. I know what feminism means to me, and I know how I understand the idea of submission (another story for another day), and I know how it works itself out in my marriage.
I don’t worry about being wrong. I don’t worry about my friends who read the Bible and come to different conclusions. And this is where I get all pleady and sister-hearted.
My dear sisters (from other misters),
As a middle child of the classic variety, the “smooth waters” instinct is strong in this one. My instinct demands, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
But, as a woman, and a believer, I have instant reactions to the things I’ve been reading, and I’m not always the awesome, inclusive, tenderhearted, fun thing you see represented here. I can be, and I know this is surprising, a prideful, know-it-all jerk.
But, I know that I do not corner the feminism market, though I like to be right and I like to opine.
The truth is, there is room. There is room for you to work out your faith, with fear and trembling, in your home, and room for me to do the same. When we disagree, and we will, let us err on the side of grace, rather than rightness. While I might fully embrace an equitable marriage, and you might staunchly stand by your complementarian ideals, we do not negate each other. We are not a threat to each other.
Neither does our interpretation of Scripture change the nature of Jesus. Rather, our willingness to ease into the corners of grace changes us. Being changed allows us to listen, rather than push to be heard. Women have a hard enough time (still) in this world without committing the kind of girl-on-girl hate Tina Fey and Amy Poehler talk about. We can’t expect to be respected if we do not show each other the respect we want.
My mother said to me once, “You never know what kind of decisions people make in their marriages to make them work.” She’s right; the implication is it’s really none of my business. My business is to listen and love.