Today is International Women’s Day: a day to celebrate the achievements of women in all kinds of areas and to reflect on the movers and shakers who are fighting for equality and improvements for women. What a glorious thought! Indeed I quite wish my entire Tuesday could have been spent talking and learning about women who are fighting for all of us (instead half of my day was sitting at a cubicle and leaving voicemails for folks ignoring my calls – such is life). I wish I had been plopped on a couch with my favorite female friends, sharing our plights as women: the highs and the lows. Instead of listening to answering machine messages, I wish I had been listening to brave women talk about their hopes for our sisters and their fights against the injustices facing so many. But I’m thankful that those conversations still happen. Maybe they didn’t on International Women’s Day, but I hear brave things every day. I hear empowering things and heart breaking things and stories that make me so happy and proud to be a woman. So, I guess I can let it slide that I was in an office that looks like an office set straight out of a 90’s TV show instead.
And I am very proud to be a woman. I’m thrilled to be a daughter of Christ, a lady and a gal. My culture didn’t raise me to be proud of this (not with words like “girly” being an insult, and “running like a girl” being synonymous with running like an idiot) but Christ did, my parents did, and many others in my life did. And actually, they had to battle pretty hard against what my culture told me about being a woman because culture was (is) LOUD. And also wrong. From culture I heard that I was weaker than men, way too sensitive, too fat, too tall (someone told me once that I would have a hard time finding a husband because of my height #vomit. The joke is on them because I am 5 inches taller than my husband and he doesn’t give two whats about it), an object for men to enjoy, but also a whore for getting any attention from men. Culture wanted me to be held responsible for my own actions, and also the actions of men who couldn’t control their own.
I’m very thankful for the messages of truth I have continually been told that counters all this nonsense. The truth that was written to me in scripture, in letters from my mother, in hugs from my friends, in passionate conversations over cookie dough.
So today, on a day to celebrate the fact that women can now run for President (regardless if you want to vote for her or not) but to also acknowledge the big steps we still have to take for true equality and safety for women around the world, I want to simply write little love notes to the women who have made me proud to be in their club.
To my mother (and to my father, too): Pink may have been my favorite color when I was little, but instead of dressing me as a pink ballerina for Halloween, you made me a pink Power Ranger costume. Thanks for that. I felt things very deeply as a young girl and was so easily heart broken. You never once made me feel silly for tears. You told me that it meant I had a big heart and when I got older that would help me love other people well. You bought me dresses when I loved dresses and nothing but pants when I felt too self conscious to wear dresses in middle school. You never put me in a box labeled “YOU’RE A GIRL SO THIS IS WHAT THAT MEANS”. But more than that, you told me your stories very honestly. Your stories that devastate my heart, frankly: stories of abuse, stories of strength. Your stories of working hard to care for your children, no matter when that meant barely having time to rest and not allowing any junk food in the house because you couldn’t afford the doctor. You taught me to never ever believe that women aren’t as strong as men, because when I look at you (and so many of the mothers who I work with every day) I see nothing BUT strength. I am eternally grateful to you for not keeping these stories from me. Sad as they are, they have shaped me and the way I view my own gender. I remember in middle school I repeated the slang phrase “wife beater” referring to the white tank tops that guys wear (a very common slang term, something I had heard in school and didn’t even for a second consider the meaning) and calmly you said, “Don’t say that.” Why? “Because I was a beaten wife.” You didn’t point this out because it hurt your feelings, you pointed it out because domestic abuse isn’t funny and the fact that its so common is both unacceptable and a tragedy.
To women like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey: Rachel, Sarah, darling friends who I have never ever met – the words in your blogs and books have brought such light into my soul. Truthfully I don’t think there are two authors who have been more impactful on my faith and my own self-awareness. You taught me that the F word (feminist – yikes!) isn’t a bad one. Actually, it aligns quite beautifully with the gospel and the teachings of Christ. You taught me that God loves me so individually and specifically as a woman. He didn’t call me to be a wife and a mother and a submissive little dear. Rather, He called me to be those things (perhaps differently than the church has sometimes taught) along with so many other things! He called me to make noise! To care about injustices! To marry a man who considers me his equal and partner in decision making! To sometimes submit and sometimes to stand firm! He may or may not have called me to be a mother (the jury is still out) but if He did, it’s so that I can build up my children to cherish the gifts and strengths of both men and women. You told me that men and women are both so complicated and intricate and necessary. Without knowing it, you spoke to all the hunches I’ve carried all my life that I kept quiet (“is being a wife really the highest calling for a woman?” “If so many women are such great teachers, could it be that God is actually cool with them.. teaching?”) and you put a megaphone in front of them. Rachel, you said you learned about feminism from Christ. Well, thank you for pointing out the way to allow me to do the same.
To my female friends: Thank you for being the greatest of community. A community of truth and encouragement that has never once rolled its eyes when I started yelling about how “ITS ABSOLUTELY INSANE HOW COMMON IT IS AROUND THE WORLD THAT WHEN A WOMAN IS RAPED ITS CONSIDERED HER FAULT. BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED AND TRAUMATIZED IS HER FAULT. HOW MESSED UP IS THAT!?” because you also care about those things. Because you care about God’s vision for our world, and you know this isn’t it. I owe much of my confidence to you. It’s a lot easier to have confidence when you have amazing, strong friends standing behind you, propping you up. I hope to always treat you all as valuable, capable, extraordinary beings. Because that’s what you are.
To my female friends who are doctors and engineers and tattoo artists and other professions not typically female: You’re amazing. You have told me stories of feeling like you have to work twice as hard as your peers just to earn the same respect. You’ve said that people have been surprised at your abilities entirely because you’re female. Once a patient of yours even complained to you about not having seen a doctor all day because they assumed you were a nurse, despite your white coat, ability to diagnose and answer questions, and you know, your name tag that says “Dr.” Thank you for not becoming angry over this. For not throwing in the towel. For working twice as hard when you needed to and for smiling and saying “thanks” even though being told “wow, I didn’t expect this from a girl” isn’t actually a compliment.
I am so proud to be complicated and sensitive and gentle and strong, and to know that these things aren’t contradictory. I am proud of my sisters who are taking stands for our tribe, and thankful for my brothers who are doing the same. Happy Women’s Day, friends, may we continue working to make our world even better for our daughters and sons.