*Please note: this is NOT a political post.*
Some of my most vivid childhood memories are about parties; my father was an attorney and loved to entertain, and my mother was the dutiful wife who cooked and served the perfect wine and dinner pairings, all with perfect hair while wearing high heels. My parents were the perfect southern couple with a beautiful home and magnetic personalities.
I spent most of my life as an only child and my father believed in teaching etiquette every chance he got, so I went to many formal events and dinners; 99% of the time, I was the only child in the room. Every single time we'd go somewhere, my dad would turn around to look at me sitting in the backseat and say these exact words: "Remember Audrey, it's better to be seen and not heard." Every night he would challenge me with extra math problems so I could always get a 100 on my tests . . . and at dinner time, he would convince me to eat my vegetables by telling me that supermodels ate their vegetables, and if I wanted to be beautiful, I needed to eat them too. He would take me to the courthouse every chance he got, and groomed me to be an attorney . . . and then he convinced me not to go to law school because he was concerned that I wouldn't be able to adequately care for my husband and my family if I also had to juggle a legal career.
SEEN AND NOT HEARD. BEAUTIFUL.
Please understand that my dad was truly a wonderful man and father; I know he loved me very much, and I wholeheartedly believe all he ever wanted for me was to be loved by my husband and to have a carefree, easy life. But the importance of beauty and perfection are threads that run throughout my childhood and into my adult life. There's a constant battle in my soul between of what a perfect woman looks like - is she quiet and beautiful and always put together or is she strong and smart and relentless in pursuing success? Can she be both? What's the right answer?
I attended a small private all-women's college - as a matter of fact, it's the oldest educational institution for women in the country. While there, I learned from some of the most brilliant professors, collaborated with incredible classmates, and had the opportunity to be challenged and pushed in ways I never expected.
When I first stepped foot on campus my freshman year, I would have never labeled myself as a feminist - that's such a dirty word. Don't feminists hate men? They don't wear deodorant or shave their legs, do they? Aren't they all lesbians? Bra burners? Atheists? Angry at the world? Haters of glitter and all things pink and girly? Besides, haven't women accomplished what they wanted by joining the workforce and all?
During a student government meeting, one of my professors asked all of us to raise our hands if we considered ourselves to be a feminist. My hands stayed planted in my lap. She looked out into the crowd and said, "To all of you who didn't raise your hand - you have a different definition: a wrong one."
So, what is a feminist? Well, if you want to get technical, Merriam Webster online dictionary says that a feminist is a person who believes in the theory of feminism, which is this:
1. the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
During my professor's explanation of what feminism is and what it very clearly isn't, I had an a-ha moment. That was when I realized that I. AM. A. FEMINIST. The word I thought was SO dirty and SO bad actually fit ME. A Christian girl who loves pink and a great bra and Lilly Pulitzer and glitter and deodorant and shaving and men. ME. I can be all of these things: Christian. Wife. Mother. Daughter. Runner. Writer. and still be a feminist. I can work and also take care of my family or I can stay home and take care of my family. Feminism doesn't say which is right or wrong, it simply allows me to have the choice.
Feminism is the gift that allows women to decide what's best for them and for their families without society limiting their choices. I can be beautiful and put together and still be strong and relentless. Honestly, it's really that whole "quiet" thing I have the most trouble with. . .
So then I realized something else. People think that feminism and Christianity can't align with one another, but I disagree so I'm going to just give a few quick examples. Men and women were both made in God's image, and woman was made from man to be his helper. Clearly God thought a) man needed some help, and b) woman was capable of filling the spaces man was lacking, or he would not have created woman. God gave women the incredible ability to carry and birth children, which is truly a special gift. Jesus first appeared to a gathering of women after His resurrection, and strong women are throughout the Bible.
I'm not going to dive any deeper, but if you're interested in learning more, read the book Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey. This book made it all clear for me, and I think it's great for all Christians to read.
Friend, it's okay to be a Christian and a feminist, and if you're feeling funny about it then please pick up Sarah Bessey's book and read about it.
And you know what? It's okay for men to be feminists, too - ask my husband any day, and he'll proudly say that he absolutely identifies as a feminist. We've got to stop the notion that you can't be a person of faith and a person who believes in the equality of men and women. I can believe in the fundamental equality of men and women and also believe that Jesus is Lord.
There's something else. Women and girls have been told to be seen and not heard for thousands of years because their insight or opinion or viewpoint just wasn't important or didn't matter. While we've certainly come a long way thanks to the countless brave women who fought for women's rights (including the right to vote, which we've had for less than 100 years), the older I get and the more life experiences I gain, the more I see the mountain work left to be done.
I will continue to speak up for the cause of feminism, and this is why:
For my daughters. For the women who have come before me and the ones that will come after. For the girls who have been told it's more important to be beautiful than smart. For the girls who are tired of pretending everything's okay. For the girls who have been told they can't do what the boys do. For the women who shatter glass ceilings every day. For the women who stay home to raise their children. For all the women who tirelessly serve their families. For the women who dedicated their lives for women to have the right to vote. For women to choose what's best for them and for their families. For all the dreams and hard work and dedication of every girl and woman. For all the times I was told to be seen and not heard.