Thursday, June 10, 2010

Feminist with Traditional Values/Beliefs - Answer to blog post question

Below was a question on Andrew's blog about the talk I gave at Urban Youth Workers' Institute (you can see the entire blog post here with other comments)

I wanted to take a moment to write my response. There were no transcripts and it was not recorded so I have to go off of memory and my own thoughts. I understand also that Andrew's audience is a bit different then mine on this blog, but I think for women we need to love each other where ever we find ourselves.

Rachel June 10, 2010 at 2:46 am

I’d really love to know what Brenda’s referring to by ‘traditional beliefs’. Any place we can get the whole transcript?


When I say traditional beliefs I am validating the idea that if you find yourself as a wife/mother (specifically talking about a heterosexual relationship here, but I think it would work in all relationships) I am okay with being one with the concept that in a Christian home the man is the head of our household. Now let me clarify that in no way means we are subservient to our husbands rules and we have no say within the direction of our home, our values, our worth, our goals, and our desires as women. I understand from my experience in business and within the field I am that there has to be a structure to your organization and in some ways from a very organic/big picture perspective a family is like an organization there has to be a structure. I believe that until we as women understand and strip away the negative meanings behind what traditional values and beliefs mean we will never be able to embrace the concept that we are equal partners in the decisions we make within our relationships. Men require certain (lets say need) encouragement from women in order for them to be successful. Maybe it was one of God’s humorous attributes to make men insecure and in doing that God recognized in His divine wisdom that men needed a “help mate” an equal partner to be there along his side to make sure chaos does not occur. We are to be a balance to one another. We as women need to celebrate our uniqueness and the attributes we bring to a relationship in order to balance it.

My best friend taught me how to humbly appreciate the stay at home mommy who studied a traditional female field (education). I never personally looked down on her because I loved her and knew her worth as an amazing women who has touched and blessed many lives, but I will admit I would place her out of the category as an exception because she was my best friend and judge the rest of the women within this non-career, non-feminist, category as women who did not understand the struggle and fight we as strong, feminist, career oriented, highly educated women must do in order to pursue equality. But watching my best friend and her interactions and the lives she touches every day in her place of significance I realized that we as women simply beat each other up over definitions and meanings of what is traditional beliefs or traditional values.

I believe we look so negatively on these words because we have allowed a male dominated society and patriarchal "Church" culture define what these words are supposed to mean and we as women have turned them into negative messages which we thought were supposed to unify and inspire us to keep fighting for equality but reality we have played right into the hands of the male/patriarchal society and "Church"and allowed it to divide us as women. The unifying message that was supposed to make us angry and push us forward has actually played into our insecurities of judging one another and trying to place all women into categories of who is better than the other.

As single women, women within in relationships and partnerships we still must find our strength in understanding the uniqueness we posses as women. That we must encourage one another with one single unifying voice that we are talented, we are beautiful, we were all created in God’s perfect image to play a significant influential role in where we find ourselves. We need to encourage women in all walks of life and not find ways to divide and judge. We as women have allowed ourselves to become over sexualized in the name of a new found femininity, but our femininity should not be defined but what our bodies look like or what we can do sexually to our partners. We need to teach this next generation to embrace what makes us different from men, what makes us successful as women, and it’s okay to follow and have traditional beliefs or values of what a partnership is within scripture. We need to understand what our legacy will be to the next generation of young women. No you do not have to be married or follow what is deemed “appropriate” by church or society and you can still be used in great ways to where ever you feel God has called you.

All this to say that I am secure in who God made me, what He has called me to do and be, the talents He has blessed me with, the goals I have accomplished, the professional success I have had, the high education I have received that I am okay with saying I am a feminist with traditional values and beliefs. I embrace the concept that within a relationship there is a partnership where you have one general and one second in command (I don’t know the military term for the second in command). They have equally important positions vital to accomplishing the mission or task at hand in order to guarantee its success. They equally discuss the plan of action and challenge one another for the best outcome. The general may deliver the message but the two of them together lead there team. That team maybe your family, your mission, your office, your calling, your relationship, your partnership, etc.

I am strong, I am beautiful, I am talented, I have been on a long journey to be able to love all women in all different places which all have equal significance and influence. We need to love one another for what we were created to be and not believe those are hindering descriptions but rather uplifting celebrations of how to live this life in the most significant and Godly way.

So women I am curious what are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

As a lesbian, my partner and I are living in a completely different social structure. We believe that we keep our identities, and that our collective egalitarian work in the world is about what makes both of us the best and the brightest. It is about two women together, and what we do to maintain strength and purpose in a very woman hating and lesbian degrading world. It means we don't attend any events where women aren't central, and we no longer listen to male sermons or biblical commentary. We want to find the word of god in the lesbian language, in the lesbian sensibility.
There is nothing about us that is traditional at all. We keep our last names, we don't defer to one or the other, we make decisions together. I think straight women who are struggling to be powerful do have a challenge. It is the challenge of not believing in the false idea that somehow men need "special help." My partner doesn't have the fragile ego, we don't own each other.
Our powerful message is what is it women need to do and be to be fully liberated from the sin of male supremacy and patriachy.
It is about the freedom of women, and what women did in the past, and are doing in the present to be that powerful force for change in the world. The world of patriarchy and supremacy is destroying the earth, and it is no accident that the very worst corporation like BP and Wall Street firms are the most toxic in terms of male dominance. God doesn't want the destruction of her creation or the sin of male supremacy. If lesbians can model this freedom, I believe our way of life supports this transcendant remarkable present. In this, we are not interested in the "traditions" of heterosexuality, but we after something completely different.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I was wondering Brenda if there are ever any conferences of just straight women and lesbians-- a kind of bridge building conference that is powerfully woman centered. It would be intriguing to see radical lesbian christian feminists and straight women evangelicals meeting and talking about issues of common concern. Most lesbians I know don't go to conferences where men are at, we are concerned about the larger sisterhood of women, and what we can do to forever change the culture of male dominance, terror and biblical inaccuracy that so degrades women worldwide.

That would be exciting. Why don't you contact the prominant lesbian christian ministers, theologians and religious activists and see if we can make this happen. There is a huge body of work and activism by lesbian christians worldwide, and really amazing academic research as well. Or maybe you've already had classes and conferences for straight women and lesbians in conversation and sharing? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that both you and your husband have a strong long for God, each other, and for God’s people, and the work you are doing is admirable and important. Your thoughtfulness and love are evident. As you are requested to speak on topics such as feminism and traditional church values, etc, I do think these issues are extremely complex in a postmodern culture, and that older models of the family as a hierarchy (man=HOH=military commander=CEO of organization) are no longer valuable referents for grappling with the cultural challenges we must face as individuals. In certain periods of history, within certain cultural constructs, certainly this view might have merit (Paul felt it was necessary to give such guidelines, obviously).

Yet as a woman now in Western society, I feel it incumbent upon myself to not just assess my skills and gifts in terms of what I have to offer a spouse or children, but in terms of what needs to happen for women on a global scale. We are most definitely not the first generation the women’s movement fought for; women (and men) have been fighting for years at great personal cost for women to merely be considered fully human (right to vote, etc), and sadly, women are still property in the vast majority of the world today. As western Christians, it’s a shame that we minimize our role as women to discussions of how to support our husbands and children’s needs. While I’d never argue that there is value and often contentment (though judging by the number of friends I know on antidepressants not always) in that role, I think it is wrong to define femininity in that manner. Our sisters across the globe need those of us who have access to power (which we do, if only we’d wake up and realize it) to get past some of these silly discussions about ‘how to be good women’ and go about God’s work helping his children. This essentialist notion that each sex is born with certain pre-determined character traits (men for leadership, women for emotional sensitivity) is damaging in that it allows us to avoid our responsibility. We are all children of God, empowered by God to serve others. No hierarchy but one.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree, second wave feminists weren't the first generation of women to fight for the rights of young women today. The feminist movement in the U.S. and Europe goes back over 150 years.

We don't even know as much as we could about the real lives of women in the bible, because men wrote most of the text. I certainly don't think men are qualified to write about the real lives of women, because they have limited access.

The idea of man as head, CEO, whatever seems kind of silly in this day and age. Women who don't learn independence, have careers, or have independent sources of income will suffer-- 50% divorce rate, not a pretty sight.

Feminist thealogians have been having progressive commentary for generations now, only young women are unaware of the commentaries.

Read "Woman, Church and State" by Matilda Joslyn Gage (written in the 1880s I think) and you'll see that the churches (read male) oppression of women goes back a long time.

God would never expect women to be less than or forced into roles just because they were born female.
Fundamentalism and women of those backgrounds seem to have such trouble with true feminism for this reason. The liberation of women will improve the world dramatically. Men have nothing to say about this, it is up to women to find a way best suited to ourselves.

Feminism is not about tradition, it is about revolutionary change and freedom for all women. The 19th century feminists fought huge battles against male centric churches of that time, so nothing has really changed. Nothing is new :-)

Rachel said...

Hi Brenda and thank you so much for such a comprehensive answer to my question. And I have to say it wasn't what I was expecting at all - I hadn't considered 'traditional' with that meaning, so I'm glad I asked for clarificaction!

I met Andrew when he was over here in the UK, and he was lovely, my partner and I felt very comfortable around him and he was really interesting to be with (although he was exhausted at the time!). I'm sorry we didn't get to meet you too, I read your blog although I only usually post on Andrew's (nothing to do with gender (mmm, I tend to think there is nothing that's nothing to do with gender, so I may be deceiving myself about the reason here)), but because he more often writes about LGB things, and keeping up with one blog plus real life is plenty!

I agreed with a lot of what you wrote, and was esp glad that you feel able to use the word 'feminist' - I don't understand why it has such a bad name!

It made me think about the model that I, and those around me, use for our relationships. I think that many people I know use the military-model, but change which partner is the 'general' depending on the area in question. So, for example, couples where one may 'lead' with one area of life, and another with another, dependent on skills, abilities and interests.

We have ended up with quite a different model for our relationship - maybe based upon our pacifist tendencies (marching in the light of God? NO WAY!). Our family is more like a co-operative / the Trinity (depending on your view of the Trinity!). So we all have equal say and take equal responsibility - even our young daughter.

I am often really relieved to be a lesbian as I get to side-step a lot of the gender-issues within family life. I think it would just be so complicated to be in a relationship with a man, so I take my hat off to you finding ways to make it work!

Anonymous said...

"If you find yourself a wife/mother speaking of heterosexual relationships." 40% of lesbian couples out there are mothers, so I don't think motherhood these days is only heterosexual women.

Andrew Marin said...

Anonymous - Everyone now clearly understands that you're a lesbian feminist who doesn't like heteronomrative, or male dominated structures. You have to understand though, Brenda is straight living in a heterosexual marriage who was speaking to other straight, heterosexual (and very conservative in that crowd!) woman who are also married (and most of them have kids).

You're trying to prove a point in your comments that can't be proven in regards to this particular post, thought process, or the target audience that Brenda was speaking to at that conference.

And next time you comment, please include your name and a link to a personal website/Facebook page/something. Just seems shady to rip Brenda's words apart and you hide behind 'Anonymous.'

And no, Brenda doesn't know I'm writing this and she did not ask me to comment, either.