You cannot define me; we cannot define each other

What does it mean to be a woman? To the Catholic Church, it means I cannot be a priest, but I can teach children, care for the poor and pray for the world. For many evangelical Christians (I really hate that label, but it’s what I’m going with for now), it means that I cannot preach, I cannot lead worship, I cannot teach men. I must submit to my husband’s will (oh, and I must want a husband and children), and live into the role that God has created for me: wife and mother. We were created from Adam and are therefore, lesser; an afterthought. We am accursed. For being weak-willed and dumb enough to fall for the snake’s lie in the garden of Eden, we are cursed.

For these schools of thought and many more, we are temptresses. It is our fault that men lust after us, so we must cover ourselves so that the men aren’t tempted. If we don’t, what happens to us is our fault. We are sluts if a flash of hair or ankle (much less some cleavage) throws a man into a hot frenzy and must have sex with us. We are more chaste by nature; it is also up to us to control the lustful nature of men.

In the Bible we are whores, tricksters, liars, faithless, and people who laugh at God. We are so desperate for children that we will commit incest. We are ritually unclean most of the time — we are dirty. We are also cunning, wise, steadfast, and loyal. We are entrusted with bringing the Lord God himself into this world. We follow Jesus, we support Paul, we spread the Good News.

In many native belief systems women are so powerful that we are not allowed into ceremony when we are having our period. We are generally not spiritual leaders until after menopause, when our power is more controlled and less chaotic. We are filled with frightening power.

And that I am. I am powerful. I am a beloved child of God. I have been given the gift of preaching and teaching and I cannot fathom God giving me this gift and this gnawing call just to have it sit unused. I can’t believe God would create me to have my soul tortured by a lifetime of misery because I must deny this call due to the fact that I don’t have a penis. I am beautiful. I am God’s art. And it would be silly to keep that art in a corner covered by a canvas. It is not my job to control men. It is their job (although, if pushed, I will kick some ass). I am a writer, a laugher, a lover, and a dancer. I am kind, compassionate, tough, smart, silly, intuitive and, at times, a little crazy. This is what defines me. Most importantly, I decide what defines me. Not anyone else.

In the past few weeks there have been all kinds of debates about woman’s worth. Who is worth more — the stay at home mom or the working mom? The poor single mom or the rich mom? The woman who have children or those who don’t? Older women or younger, fat or thin… It goes on and on and on. Womanhood is so much bigger than that. It’s bigger than having children, it’s bigger than having a spouse, it’s bigger than having a uterus. I know, it’s easier if the deciders of our world get to say what womanhood is. It’s always easier when we can put each other in boxes. But that’s not how God made us. We are God’s art. We are powerful — we are frightening. We are beloved children of God, wonderfully and fearfully made.

I am woman. Hear me. Let me be me, as God created me to be.

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About Elizabeth Rawlings

Lutheran. Feminist. Child of God. Thinking about how to be a leader in a church that is trying to rediscover itself and what it means to live simply so that others may simply live in tandem with what exactly is the fast God asks of us. Chronic alliterator. Generally silly person. View all posts by Elizabeth Rawlings

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