Friday, March 1, 2013

Feminism And The Right To Be Broken

I've been discovering some delicious and delightful new stuff on the good ol' Internets these days. I cleaned out my Google reader list when I realized that 20 or 30 posts were piling up on some blogs, and I just kept avoiding reading them. Which made me feel guilty. Which is ridiculous, because it's not like it's a school reading list that somebody decided was compulsory. I chose and bookmarked them myself, for goodness' sake.

So I emptied the list and started over. And I've done a little wandering around a few rabbit trails in the past few weeks and stumbled upon some cool stuff.

"Don’t let me tell you a story in which I get to be the savior. You deserve to be the hero of your own story. 
Don’t let me silence you by speaking your story for you. Let me make room for you to tell your own. 
Don’t let me close the skin over a wound that isn’t healed. You can bleed as long as you need to. 
Don’t let me caulk all your cracks with compliments. You are not always pretty. And you don’t need to be. 
Don’t let me try to fix you. You have a right to be broken. That’s how the light gets in." - Esther Emery, who blogs here.
I've never considered myself a feminist, but I know that my mom raised me to reach for more than she was able to attain. I remember her telling me, consistently, "You can be anything you want to be." I grew up believing that...but along the way, I absorbed quite a few cultural messages that dictate and drive expectations and attitudes based on gender. I didn't realize it then, because I really believed I was free and empowered to do and be whatever I wanted.

Until I wanted to play Little League with my cousins, and I wasn't good enough. I wanted that, and I'd grown up doing everything right alongside Jimmy and Joey. But as we grew towards adolescence, the scales started to tip, and I started to see and understand that there were certain things that boys would do, and I would not. Could not.

Because I was not a boy.

That being said, I've never felt hindered by my gender - but quite frankly, I've had it fairly easy. I'm a type-A, go-get-'em girl with a lot of natural leadership abilities. I can make my way alright. I benefited greatly from the feminist movement. I am an independent adult woman in 2013 who has not faced a tremendous amount of interference because I am female (notwithstanding the Southern Baptist version of the Christian church, which continues to mess with my mind to this day. But that's another blog post, one I think I already wrote...)

There are things in this world that don't work as they should. Whether it's because of gender or race or religion or orientation, we are well aware of our differences, and who's got the power, and what they tend to do with that power, and whether it hurts or helps. Being human is messy. Loving one another is messier still. Often, to very difficult and ugly degrees.

David. Coury.
Just an aside: Courey and David are hanging out tonight. They are best friends, but opposites in so many ways; different in appearance, in race, in family situations, in age even. They watch Xbox and surf youtube and enjoy one another's company. When David's in control of the playlist, we hear a lot of Jack Johnson, John Meyer and Mumford and Sons. Now David's in the shower, and Courey's playing Frank Ocean and Otis Redding and Kanye West. They are so different, and our house is full to the brim with their energy and their differences, and there is no conflict, other than whose feet stink the worst and what game they're going to play, and it's a beautiful thing.

This post is all over the place, and I'm not sure it makes sense. But I was struck by Esther Emery's take on feminism, and how she connected the dots between a desire to help and educate and fix and change and the simple truth that we can never own another person's story. As a pastor, I am privy to a lot of personal moments in people's lives. There are tears, and confessions, and expressions of sorrow and grief and doubt and despair, and I gotta confess: my first overriding desire, every time, is to just. fix. it. That's my own messy humanity. And somehow, these things are connected in my mind. Get past it, clean it up, make it look good, pull past the pain. And I can't help but think that my misguided desire for repair is the antithesis of what lies at the core the push for a level playing field, for all of us to stand together on the level ground at the foot of the cross.

I want to be a feminist, in that I might seek justice for those who cannot speak, and listen to those who need an ear, and help bind up the wounds of the broken, and be the unique woman God created in me. I want to honor my mother's dream for her daughter, as she navigated the new-found freedoms of the 50's and 60's and imagined a bright, new world. I want to hear a wild mix tape of Kanye and Mumford, black and white, extroverted and introverted, silly and serious. I want to be a feminist if it means empowerment and acknowledgement and the desire to see everybody as valued, to help remember that Jesus loves us all, the broken especially, and we are all broken, so do the math.

And I want to release this ridiculous notion that to be a successful feminist - or woman - or pastor - or friend - I must fix what is broken. I want my first response to be respect, born of love and listening and honor of every person's journey.

Learn to live in the midst of the mess. See the beauty in the broken, as my brother says. 

Let the light in.

That's what I want to do.

1 comment:

Lori said...

I like everything about this... this is so true.
We all need to hear these things. I'm glad you're catching up reading!