Over the past couple weeks, I’ve unintentionally read two articles discussing today’s culture of feminism.
The first–a blog post on her.meneutics (Christianity Today’s blog for women)—author, Caryn Rivadeneira, asserts that feminism has devolved from a movement of creating equal opportunities for women to a small group of exclusionist-minded females shunning all others not affiliated with a certain party or supporting certain causes. She writes as a conservative feminist, breaking down the term, “evangelical feminist”—a new idea to me—exhorting those who identify with that label to stand up and support one another in pursuing our God-given talents, rather than waste time haranguing over political issues.
My second unintentional feminist reading came from a July issue of The New Yorker. Through his profile of Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg’s new executive partner) Ken Auletta explores the ever-expanding, yet still disproportionately small role of women in top executive positions, and what (if any) the response should be. He describes America as having entered a “post-feminism” era, using Sandberg’s own words as evidence. “If you don’t believe in a glass ceiling, there is no need,” explained Sandberg when asked why she’s anti-affirmative action for women. While Sandberg believes there are still “institutional inconsistencies” with regards to women in the workplace, she asserts that continuing to blame others only diverts women from personal responsibility and improvement.
Though the articles were very different in form and function (coming from, what could be considered, opposing ideologies, as well), I pulled a similar message from both—the feminism of the last 30 years (at least in America) is dead.
If this is the case, I hope the Church catches on soon.
I distinctly remember as a girl growing under the vast sky of Great Plains, never being blinded by the glare of a glass ceiling. I’m not suggesting the proverbial “glass ceiling” didn’t exist; I was just too busy preparing for my own grown-up world to notice. A world which included practicing princess, mother, teacher, preacher, WWII general, rock star, Charlie’s Angels and Dukes of Hazzard, left me little time to notice that indeed glass was being shattered. I did, however, notice my mother as she was cracking ceilings–those unintentionally constructed by family history and our blue-collar culture. She daily lived as mother of three, wife to midwestern farmer, college-educated, speech pathologist, Master’s student & graduate, volunteer-extraordinaire in both church and community.
These were the liberated women which feminism produced during my formative years. The “do it all” woman; which, looking back, I liken to a one-foot in, one-foot out existence. Influenced by feminist ideologies, they pursued careers traditionally male dominated. The 1970’s and 80’s saw glass crack as women invaded corporate America, politics, NASA and the Boston Marathon (1967). Women were moving up and out, but not entirely. Whether from guilt, lag of male support at home, or their own intrinsic nurture-yearnings, women continued fulfilling their “pre-liberated” roles as caretaker to the home front while striving to simultaneously live their liberated, independent-minded selves.
As a daughter of the “do-it-all woman” era, I embraced its ideology, but quickly abandoned ship, as its practicality was so obviously unpractical. Groping for support which both validated my uniqueness as a creative expressive woman desiring to change the world for good, yet understood the unfeasibility of “doing it all”, I turned to my faith for answers. Unfortunately, what I discovered was really more of the same—“do-it-all (this way) Christianity”. Instead of feeling celebrated, supported and encouraged, I felt boxed-in, confined and judged if I disagreed.
I find it strange that within the Christian culture, feminism should even be an issue. After all, isn’t God the first true feminist? Wasn’t it His hand which fashioned and designed the female form, intellect and emotions? And didn’t He do it in His own image? Shouldn’t the Christian woman be the most liberated feminist of all?
But, instead of supporting and celebrating our liberation and the unique ways of living our design, Christian women have become divided and judgmental. Those who believe women have a positive role to play in every arena, have created labels, like “conservative feminist” and “evangelical feminism”, displaying their progressive beliefs regarding women’s societal roles. Those who denounce the feminist movement altogether suggest that the truly virtuous woman is the woman “about the business of her home” (which begs the question, how can an unmarried woman ever hope to be truly virtuous? But, I digress). And let’s not forget the extremists unable to accept any woman who—as Rivadeneira points out—doesn’t belong to a certain party or support certain social ideologies (which, I’ve seen happen on both sides of the aisle).
I second Rivadeneira’s call for Christian women to support one another—despite our political or social differences. And I challenge us in going one step further—stop labeling all together. As Sandberg so aptly points out, the glass ceiling only exists if you recognize it. The same holds true with division amongst sisters in Christ. It primarily exists because we’ve allowed it a place among us. Like the Wemmicks, who stuck stars and dots on one another in Max Lucado’s children’s book, You are Special, so we’ve done the same.
“She has decided that what I think is more important than what they think,” explains the Woodcarver (God) about Lucia, the only Wemmick living sticker-less. “The stickers only stick if you let them.” In a culture so bent on boxing, labeling and judging one another before first connecting and supporting, we, sisters-in-Christ, should be living Lucias.