Girl power. I believe in it.
Believe it or not I’ve spent most of my life feeling a little guilty and a little rebellious because I do. I was raised by a single mom, so I never bought into the idea that a woman had to have a man to be worth something. I don’t think anyone ever actually said to me that a woman had to have a man to be worth something, but I still managed to feel the pressure that it was true….and it made me mad.
I was stuck between knowing better, and feeling shame for knowing better.
I grew up in an ultra conservative religious environment. I went to a small church school from kindergarten to 12th, and I graduated with 9 other souls. There were 6 boys and 4 girls when they played “Pomp and Circumstance” that May of 1992. Most of us had been together since kindergarten.
On the one hand I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I felt loved and protected at the church school where I went. On the other hand I do now disagree with some philosophies I was taught, and I know that I struggled to overcome what I believe to be some unnecessarily oppressive beliefs that just weren’t true. I don’t doubt the love and protection they were taught with, but the fear of stepping over lines that were drawn by others for me, whether they were intentionally drawn or not, has followed me all of my life.
I’ve always been a feminist, I’ve just been afraid to admit it until recently.
Feminism. It’s a word that conjurs up images of every thing from suffragettes, to man-hating women in power suits, to breast feeding moms, to all girl bands. The word seems to mean something different to everyone.
The impression I got as a kid was that feminists were bad. Very bad. They were man-hating egomaniacs that threatened the natural order of things. They didn’t respect the masculine, and all they cared about were abortions and power positions in corporations. Feminists wanted me to live up to my full potential and that meant I had to be better than a man at everything.
At the same time, I somehow got the impression that in order to please God, women should never be in leadership over a man (in any circumstance), that the wrong outfit would get me what I deserved, and that no matter how good I was, God would always favor a man over me, because they were the ones that did the real work. I was a little mad at God for this.
Now, obviously neither of these theologies are true. They were childlike over exaggerations of what I was picking up from the village that was raising me. As a youth I wholeheartedly fell for those exaggerations (of my own) because my faith at that time, in my mind, was about following the rules, and my rule following faith was as passionate and as immature as I was. (ain’t that always the way?)
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11-12
As my relationship with God has become more about relationship and less about rules, I know he values me, as a woman, equally as much as he does my husband, brothers, father, and sons. He values us the same, but equal does not mean identical. He has wired me in a way that pleases Him, just as he has the men in my life.
I know that He values my body, because His design for it is amazing and nothing to be ashamed of. It does have power, but my mind and heart have power too through Him. Body, soul, and mind, I’m capable of the same grace that is given to me, because of Him. How I use my body can be an extension of that grace whether I use it in intimacy with my husband, or use it to feed a child (with my breast or my hands), or use it to serve those around me in need in a hundred other ways.
When it comes to leadership, I can discern how and when to take hold of it by using those gifts to distinguish between the calling of His Spirit and my own pride. My gifts are not lesser than those of a man, but different. God can and does use women in positions of authority often, and furthermore, the bible offers us many examples of such.
As I have put away those childish misunderstandings, I’m ready to say that I am a feminist. Maybe not the kind the world expects, but I know my God is for me as a woman, no less than He is for every man he created. He is the giver of the original “girl power”, and it’s okay to shamelessly embrace it and all the grace that comes with it.