Tag Archives: feminism

On my own

The view from my campsite on Lake Diablo in The North Cascades. It was a-ma-zing.

The view from my campsite on Lake Diablo in The North Cascades. It was a-ma-zing.

The other day I was grousing to a friend about all of the things I need to re-learn now that I am single. There are many, many things (did you know there are rules to texting? There are). Quite a few are simply the rules to navigating socially as a single person (specifically a 35-year-old single female almost pastor), and many of those things I’m learning for the first time (some because I didn’t learn them well the first time). Other things, however, are pieces of knowledge I once had, but somehow lost by virtue of being married to someone who was better at certain things than I was. For example, I used to be really good at hooking up electronic equipment. I recently bought some new pieces for my stereo and it took me for freaking ever to get it put together. I used to feel like I was smart about cars, I could fix basic broken things around my house. Somehow, by virtue of having a man around (and, let’s be honest, some of these things he was better at, some, not so much) I forgot how to be self-sufficient.

I remember fighting it at first, insisting to do things on my own. Then it just became easier to let him do it (with computers it really was easier. I do miss having my own personal IT guy). In doing so, I lost some of the strength that came along with being able to do things myself. Without realizing it, I gave away some of my power and became dependent on the presence of another to get through parts of my daily life.

This became glaringly apparent to me this weekend. I went on my first solo camping trip without my dog. That’s where the problem begins. I kept thinking it was my first solo camping trip. I had totally forgotten that I had gone camping with Rocky a bunch before meeting my husband.

Camping is one of the many things that is a harder to do alone if you are a woman — or at least that is the perception most women have. We (women) are so acutely aware of the dangers in our world that we often fear things that we don’t really need to fear (like camping). I was hiking solo a few weeks ago and there was a guy hiking by himself behind me. I was afraid the whole damn time he was behind me. I finally stopped so he would get in front of me. I spent 20 minutes of my hike totally stressed out about getting attacked. Ugh. We spend so much time learning about how not to be raped (because that is apparently more important than teaching men to, you know, not rape), learning about statistics about violence against women, and, likely, watching too damn many crime shows (SVU, Criminal Minds…) that we freak ourselves out. It is hard to balance a reasonable wariness of the world with the desire to explore and do new things. Plus, I’m kind of afraid of the dark. For reals.  Add this to my love for shows like Ghost Hunters, and you’ve got one nervous first-time-solo-camper.

Then I realized that it is really rare to hear a story about someone getting raped or killed while camping. In fact, I can’t think of one off the top of my head. So I started thinking about perceived danger versus actual danger and realized that much of my fear was of perceived danger, not actual danger. This doesn’t mean that bad things can’t happen while camping, but the changes are better that the bad thing is something stupid I’m going to do to myself (which I am just as likely to do at home) than something someone else is going to do to me. According to this article, of the 273 million visitors to the national parks in 2006, there were 11 violent deaths. That percentage is so small it’s barely a number.

I took precautions. I picked a spot next to some nice women who I think were professors, I listed my campsite as having two people, and I slept with my knife next to me (I’m kind of amazed I didn’t stab myself with it while searching for my headlamp. That was probably a not-safe precaution). I told a few friends where I would be.

After setting up I went for a spectacular solo hike. At one point I was so overcome by the beauty surrounding me I just stopped and got on my knees to give thanks. No joke. Then I hugged some trees (yeah, I’m a hippie, what of it?). I hiked partway back in the twilight (sadly, no sexy sparkly vampires), cooked with my camping stove and then sat on a tree trunk in the lake and watched the meteor shower. All by my damn self. All of it.

Sitting on that tree in the lake I started to remember all the things I can do by myself. The love of God overwhelmed me. I realized that I have a partner in God. I don’t need a romantic partner to do things. I don’t need to be made whole by another person, I am whole on my own. I am enough. It is nice to have someone to compliment me, and there were points when I really wish I could have expressed my appreciation for the beauty surrounding me to another person, but all in all it was pretty awesome doing it alone.

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m saying I can get through life alone. That’s crap. I absolutely could not have gotten through the past four months without the amazing cloud of witnesses with which God has blessed me. I need love, I need hugs, and I don’t think I will ever stop hoping for that spark that happens when two people are well matched (or just think the other one is pretty neat), but I can do this on my own, with the help of my friends and family. That was an amazing thing to remember.

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Slut shaming (Jesus says don’t do it)

Slut shaming. It’s the new thing. Well, it’s not new at all, really. It’s at least as old at the prophets, who repeatedly refer to Israel as a whore and a prostitute (two different things, mind you) for being untrue to God. Over and over again, Biblical imagery paints Israel as a woman who is verbally and physically abused by YHWH (God) for being unfaithful, for straying to other Gods. It is really painful to read this. It would be even more painful if I read these words as God’s words and not the expression of a community of faith trying to come to grips with horrific suffering. These are the scriptures of my faith. This is my holy book. And, at times, the things it has to say about women are pretty ugly*. Sadly, things haven’t changes much in the past 2500 years.

Clearly some things have, at least in the wealthier nations. It’s pretty uncommon to sell your daughters or to kill women who aren’t virgins when they get married, at least in the United States. These things are also illegal here. However, as mouthpieces as diverse as Rush Limbaugh and Bill Mahr have recently demonstrated, it’s still okay make women less than due to their sexuality. As it has been true throughout history, a pretty quick and easy way to take down a woman is to call her a slut, whore, hussy, tramp, prostitute, or bimbo. Call a woman’s sexual activity into question and she’s done. This is even more clear when we examine how quick everyone is to say that the woman Limbaugh insulted, Sandra Fluke, is NOT a slut, she is NOT promiscuous, she was just standing up or a friend who needed birth control for medical reasons. What if she did sleep with a ton of people? Would that have somehow made Limbaugh’s take down of her okay? Would it have been totally reasonable to disregard her testimony because she was *gasp* having a lot of sex?
This is tricky territory as a female Christian leader. I don’t want to strap women in chastity belts or conscribe us to lives of submission, nor do I want to make anyone feel dirty or ashamed of sex or their bodies. However, I don’t want to glorify having a lot of sex with random people. It is my observation that women tend to have random sex to fulfill other needs — the need for emotional connection, self-esteem, or approval — and usually end up not only not fulfilling these needs but usually feel worse afterwards. I also fully believe that sex is best had within a loving, committed relationship. This is where emotional and physical needs can be met (even spiritual needs), where you can talk about what you like and what you don’t like, where you can experiment, where you can cry during sex without being a total weird-o, and where you will (in theory) both be physically safe from disease and (also in theory) where you will be better prepared if a life is created from your coital joy. However, there’s something else I believe.
I believe that when Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he meant it. He said this to a crowd that was about to stone a woman who had been caught in adultery. He took on an angry crowd that was about to kill a woman for having sex by drawing a line in the sand and challenging the status quo. He stood up for the sluts of the world. When all the men went away, he asked her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” I love this part. He takes the time to point out to her that no one has any room to judge her, freeing her from her internal voices of judgement. “Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus replies. “Now go and sin no more.” So, he’s not saying, “Have at it sister!” But he’s saying she’s alright, but she might want to change her ways. He doesn’t lecture her, doesn’t demean her, doesn’t take away any of her humanity. He loves her. He implores her to fix her brokenness. At no point does he judge her. And, as he is Jesus (and therefore God), if anyone gets to judge, it’s him.
So, in conclusion, STFU, angry mob of slut-shamers. Jesus said so.
*I’m still working on the roles of women in the prophetic texts. If anyone has words that will make me feel better about the whole God raping the woman Israel thing, I’m all ears. Or, in this case, eyes.

Because I’m a woman

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I vividly remember the first time the Bible was used to tell me I couldn’t do something because of my gender. I was 20 and in my first semester at my second college. Hanging out in the cafe talking to this really cute Christian boy (likely the only one at Warren Wilson College that year), I mentioned that I felt a really strong call to ordained ministry. He informed me, without so much as a pause, that I must be misinterpreting this call, as God would never call a woman to such a position. Then he started quoting Paul. Off the top of his head. This was all new to me. I had never been proof texted before, and I sure as hell had never had the Bible used to tell me I couldn’t do something.
Being told I was less than because of my possession of tits and a vagina was nothing new to me (or most women). Especially as I am crap at things that require hand-eye coordination. My mom and dad taught me to shake that off because I could do and be anything I wanted to, and my inability to play tee ball was not about my gender. But I had never been told that I couldnt do something because God said so. I didn’t have the defenses for that.
I left the cafe almost in tears. As soon as I got to my dorm room, I found my Bible and looked for these verses. There they were, plain as day (or so I thought). God told Paul that I couldn’t lead a congregation, couldn’t be an equal partner in my relationships with men, and generally should just shut my pie hole. Crying, I threw my Bible against the wall and cursed God and the apostle Paul.
Fortunately, we had some amazing religious leaders on campus. Dr. Sommers walked me through the importance of audience and context when reading Paul’s letters. Paul wasn’t talking to me. He was talking to a specific people at a specific time in history with specific issues. And he had some issues of his own. He also had female leaders in his group of gospel spreaders.
In the years since this experience I have heard again and again that a woman’s role is to have babies and care for the family and submit to the rule of her husband, through whom God speaks. Every time I hear this, it breaks my heart. And the voices peddling his crap seem to be getting louder. Purity balls, a creepy ritual in which young women pledge their purity to their fathers and fathers pledge to care for it, are an actual thing. Mark Driscoll and many like him are teaching that women should be submissive and feminine all the while treating that “sacred” and “blessed” role as an abomination if men want to take it on. And my sisters are buying it. Women are struggling with obeying what men are telling them God says and the different message they hear the Holy Spirit whispering to their hearts.
Now this battle to re-domesticate women has moved from churches to the government. Too many have heard the words of Christ as words of liberation, too many know that we are created in God’s image, male, female and somewhere between. The Holy Spirit has revealed to faithful men and women that women CAN lead, can preach and teach and administer the sacrament and lead households. And many Americans are so sick of the hate and prejudice spewed by the religious right that they aren’t listening to the church anymore. Now, those who want to keep women powerless have to force it upon us through legislation. Want to keep women out of the public sphere? Make birth control illegal so that they have to keep pumping out babies. Force them to be vaginally violated by the government if they decide that they don’t want to carry their pregnancy to term. Make sure women know their opinion is irrelevant by not allowing them in on the conversation.
Unfortunately for those go wish to make sure women’s voices are silenced, God created us to be badasses. Blood doesn’t scare us; we bleed every month. Pain? We were created to push watermelons out of a hole the size of a lime. Intelligence? We invent, we create, we write. Strong and fast? We win sports championships. Church cred? We become bishops. We reform the church. We push through your glass ceilings even while being harassed and put down; we do it in uncomfortable shoes and an itchy bra. We love radically and fiercely. This is how God created us. And, as long as God has our back, your efforts to keep us silent and subservient are going to lose.

An anthem for this post: