Feminine Frontlines Part 1
Updated: May 18, 2020
The other day I was sent this article from a friend of a friend whom I met only a few years after my Midwest Evangelical escape. At a wedding no less! We were 23.
Anyway, this friend who I have only met in person once has continued following my work. I so value what she and I discuss because darnit this woman is smart, adventurous, cultured, ambitious, beautiful, caring...and single. Living in the South. Still active in the church community.
She often sends me articles, tweets, posts that are circulating her Facebook or Instagram world and asks my perspective. I love that she does this because it reminds me social media really is just a community echo chamber. And there is so much out there all the sides could be productively discussing, if only we were respectfully curious about one another’s worlds (but also #triggering)/if the algorithm allowed for the mixing of ideas.
Recently, she sent me this Christian mommy blog article. It said...a lot. Some I agree with and some I absolutely do not. I’ll link the whole thing here so you can get the full context if you so please:
But here are a few lines I really want to address:
We’ve gone so far down the road of feminism that we’ve forgotten how to proudly be feminine. You want to carry a child in your bones and lay down your life for them for more than 18 years? You want to lay down your life and learn to die to self for the rest of your life? You want to serve someone with all your heart, body, and soul? You want to master the art of cooking for a crowd and have clean clothes and end each day knowing that there’s a group of people who look to you as one of their anchors and rocks? You want to work your tired body from dawn to dusk for love?
Social media spends all of its energy telling women to remember who they are, to fight for their sacred spaces, to become the woman they want to be. All things that feel confusing when you’re holding a newborn baby and learning to forget your self-centeredness, allow others into your personal space, and become the woman that you are becoming and not who you thought you’d be.
When a woman says she wants to make dinner for her family, we crack a joke about June Cleaver and we laugh because who wants to waste their time with that? When a woman says she wants to stay home and raise children, we give a curt smile and say “But what do you really want to do with your life?” And should she decide to pursue that, other women will be the first to look down their noses at her, tell her she’s not adding anything, that she’s slowing down progress.
As if giving up your life for others isn’t an incredible thing. We applaud heroes on the battlefield, social justice workers on the borderlines, desperate souls who risk everything for the ones they love.
Children have become the last resort. The final hurrah for a marriage that spends years “finding itself.” Career trumps caretaker. Independence is king. Personal happiness above that insane idea of laying it all down.
When I’m weary and feeling empty, when my life goals feel lifetimes away and my body isn’t the one I hoped I’d have, I can promise you that I wouldn’t give them up for a thousand trips around the world, a perfect waistline, or a name linked to fame.
Phew. Let’s dive right in.
First of all, she’s right about one thing. Under no circumstances should a woman who chooses to stay home, raise kids, and truly invest in marriage feel belittled by other women. After all, the world is lacking deeply intimate and committed partnerships. And true generational shifts happen by raising empathetic, passionate little humans. As my older sister, a mother of 3 says, “If you wanna change the world, raise great kids.”
The point of the feminist movement is that women have the choice of how they want to show up in the world
But also, generational change comes when women are not afraid to be angry and LOUD about changing oppressive policy. You can thank the feminists of the 1960s for your right to have your own credit card (a law implemented in 1974), mommy blogger. We need social justice advocates out in the streets just as we need committed mothers in the home. It takes all kinds.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a mom or wife. My hang up with this particular article (well, one of them) is that it suggests being a feminist and being feminine are exclusive. It perpetuates the lie that female expression is and can only be binary.
One of the ways I think media has successfully continued to pit women against women is with the vilifying of homemaker vs. feminist. Feminists are displayed as unjustifiably angry, bra-burning, pantsuit wearing, short haircut rocking, recklessly fucking, “selfishly” living, Cruella Devil-esque career women. The antithesis of the soft spoken, mommy blogging, homemaking, virginal, floral halo wearing, Essential Oils snorting moms of the conservative community. The definition of feminism --believing in equality for women-- is lost among the constant display of abhorrence towards “natural femininity” and/or “nasty women.”
I can’t believe I have to say this but it appears not many people know so, here it is: The point of the feminist movement is that women have the choice of how they want to show up in the world. So our path in life is not dictated by laws that prevent us from owning property, getting hired, or applying for credit cards without being married. So we don't get socially isolated because we are choosing to remain single/unmarried until we’ve had some time to see the world, advance professionally, or, God forbid, be financially independent/stable. Idk if y’all noticed but children iz expensive so maybe having solid income before ya do the mom thing is responsible?
Humans are yes and not either or beings
This version of feminist Mrs. Burke describes -- independent, well-traveled, focused on her career and personal growth -- was born of women who had no desire to be June Cleaver. Unfortunately, those women had no say in the matter. So they started fighting for their right to choose their path. That doesn’t mean women who want to be June Cleaver are wrong.
Christian mommy bloggers can be feminists. Single, self-identified feminists can want to be moms one day. And, thanks to civil rights advocates, women can even choose who they want to marry! Big wins!
If my BFA in theatre taught me anything, it’s that humans are yes and not either or beings. Being a human is nuanced, complicated, anything but binary. And shame on anyone who is spreading #fakenews to suggest otherwise.
I suppose I am particularly fired up about this because I myself am an unapologetic feminist. I’ve marched in the Women’s March. I’ve asked all my potential partners if they’re feminists (a non-negotiable. Which is like, super hard if you’re dating white dudes. Some of them truly mean well, but I’m convinced it’s impossible for American white dudes to be egalitarian. So just find you a white German who was raised with Angela Merkel!). I write this blog for sexually oppressed and abused women of the Evangelical community and detest Donald Trump. I bought my nephew My First Book of Feminism for Christmas and my best friend’s baby, Feminist Baby before she was born. You get the point.
I lived most of my twenties single and, as defined by that article, “selfishly.” I’ve spent my time and money on me. I’ve traveled to 3 different continents, focused on my personal growth, and I chose to do it all before I met a partner and brought another human into the world.
But I am also a hopeless romantic. I hope that, in my life, I get to live out the exceptional example of lifelong partnership my parents set for me.
There. Is. No. Right. Choice.
Only celebration in the fact that we have a choice
I want a truly thriving marriage, not just a successfully-dodged-divorce-for-one-more-year-until-the-kids-are-out-of-the-house marriage. And I hope that, like my parents, I can work relentlessly to make sure all my kids are hard working, honest, INFORMED, loving individuals.*
I have also been known to wear a floral halo, if the occasion is right. And yes, I admit, I use essential oils.
*I have often doubted if I will ever get any of those things, not because I’m ashamed to want them out of fear of being viewed as “less feminist” but because men are mostly unimpressive. And I’m not raising my kids with an imbecile. Oh and I don’t want to be a single mom. Also it’s like incredibly difficult to be an actress and have a family. But that's another blog...
I can be both. I can be all. I can be none! There. Is. No. Right. Choice. Only celebration in the fact that we have a choice!
Being a woman does not look one way because being a person does not look one way. A woman who gives of herself by raising kids and “pouring into her marriage” (which kind of sounds like they’re doing sex wrong. But what else is new, Christians) is not better than a woman who decides to invest in herself and not let her time be dictated by poopy diapers/someone else’s doctors appointments.
Imma say this loud and clear to both sides. To women forwarding the feminist movement and the Proverbs 31 ladies in the pews, the point of the feminist movement is equality for women. Being a feminist and being feminine are not exclusive. If we keep perpetuating this militantly limited view of female roles, the world will have fewer Michelle Obamas. And I REALLY don’t think the world can afford fewer Michelle Obamas.
So go be you, girlfriend. Be like Mary Tyler Moore. Or Valorie Cowsert (my mom and best mom). And if our country ever gets around to making this more feasible, be fucking BOTH.
If after reading all this, you don't believe me, at least listen to Cardi B.