‘It could have all turned out differently, I suppose…
… but it didn’t.’
– Fanny Price
Feminism for the Creative
Before my hatred for labels & my disgust for most arguments lead me to throw out the term entirely, I want to take this chance to try and explain WHY FEMINISM for a peace-loving, non-confrontational creative like myself.
At the heart of feminism is the belief that all people have inherent value as image-bearers of the divine. Why then, the feminine focus, you ask? When the sins of prejudice and hatred and hierarchy overtook the world, this is the way it all panned out: women, among countless others, have often been treated as less than human subordinates to men.
Could it have all worked out differently? Could the opposite be true?
It could have all turned out differently, I suppose. But it didn’t.
Amid all the murky waters of ragey Twitter trolling and reactionary blogging, I have struggled to keep my head above water; to remember why feminism is not merely a theory but should, in fact, be a way of life.
These are a few thoughts toward that end.
Feminism is for selflessness. It’s for seeking out the unloved by man but beloved of God.
When I sit beside a child in my preschool classroom, bend down to look into their crestfallen eyes and listen to their story, that is feminism.
When I go to war with the elusive pride of privilege when my own dire financial straits lead me to seek help in a community clinic I consider “beneath me”, that is feminism.
Feminism is an opportunity to rise out of quiet victimhood and speak up. It is an opportunity to name the sins of oppression in our culture, robbing oppression of its power & hopefully bringing help & love & Gospel to those who have been its hands and feet. If we are honest in our humanity, all of us have oppressed someone.
Feminism is gripping, stomach-wrenching art, created to draw attention to the things that we like to miss. I think of Morgan, Rachel & Jordan, friends and alums from our common alma mater, Moody Bible Institute, who wrote, directed & acted in “Vyrosla”, a musical (!) about the injustices of sex trafficking. While receiving both praise and censure from the decidedly conservative student body at Moody, I watched them stand up for their art last week & I am privileged to know such wild, talented, engaging, overwhelmingly courageous souls. (Highlights here!)
Feminism is writing songs and blog posts and tweets that consciously seek to uphold and revere the personhood of every unique, intriguing, whole human being that I get to encounter. It takes a bit longer, granted. It takes a lot more sitting & thinking & erasing & pray pray praying for clarity & guidance and most days, it means shutting up & listening.
Feminism is prophetic grief: a voice crying “All is not as it should be” & weary feet that bring with them good news saying, “Oh mourner! Redemption is yet nigh”.
Feminism is a voice of one crying in the wilderness –
for often following the Spirit can be a lonesome road –
that the heart of God is to bestow a crown of beauty upon the burdened necks of those who grieve (Isaiah 61). I find it very telling that God’s heart, as expressed so eloquently in these last chapters of Isaiah, is yet brought near to the mourners by human feet that walk & human hands that lift.
Feminism is both for repairing bridges long forsaken and rebuilding the walls of personhood torn down by sorrow and abuse.
Feminism is for broad shoulders and strong hearts,
for binding up the broken-hearted and holding the battered and being the servant of all. [Isaiah 55]
Feminism is “now I will show you a more excellent way”,
for at the root of feminism that is centered in Jesus is love, modeled after the love of Christ who ripped down the veil of the Holy of Holies and the individual veils that had kept us from seeing one another as the beautiful, sacred image-bearers we were created to be & he – the one, true, holy, enthroned creator – came NEAR, & in so doing gathered us, however unwillingly, across cultural & societal boundaries & near to one another. ‘For he himself is our peace.’
O Come, Emmanuel, & be our peace.
‘“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.’
Or, “Why Intentionality Is Nobody’s Magic Word.”
“I wanted to see
if you’d go to dinner with me.
As a date.
Sorry for the bluntness. I just wanna be intentional with you.”
I sighed a little, because I knew he thought he was being my knight in shining armor.
I knew he thought he was being a man.
I knew he thought he was doing the “right thing”.
But from where I was sitting in that dimly-lit coffee shop, it signaled the end of something. The end of two people – two strangers – just learning how to BE together. Instead we were, in one fell sentence, learning how to be TOGETHER, regardless of who we actually were.
In an article entitled “We’re Just Talking”, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood attacked the idea of talking to the opposite sex, because supposedly, talking obstructs the ultimate goal of all male and female relationships, which of course is MARRIAGE. Using a bunch of extremely problematic words like “quasi-manhood” (WTF?! Is there one monolithic way to be a man that all men must, at all costs, mold themselves into?) Here’s how they get there:
This new phase of pre-dating called “talking” is like adolescence for relationships: an unnecessary stage in the relationship allowing young men to avoid taking responsibility and acting like men. It prevents the man from having to be clear about his intentions to pursue or end the relationship. If he wants to stop “talking,” he simply walks away, leaving behind a confused, and potentially wounded, young lady.
Oh no! The worst thing that could ever happen is a confused and wounded young lady! Let me clue you in, Councilperson Gunter- relationships – in case you are somehow irrevocably alone and unacquainted with how they work – relationships are a constant state of confusion and woundedness that you must continue to fight through at all costs, regardless of the effect it has one’s always-present, always-interfering FEELINGS.
That goes for friendships. That goes for family. That goes for romance. That is love.
Can we, for once, just stop trying to preserve everybody’s feelings? Dear lord! Feelings are there to be hurt. That’s the whole point of them. They are the current representation of our favorite possible reality. Feelings are “what could happen”. What has been. Rarely are they a reliable indicator of what should or what WILL be. Regardless of how much we protect them, they will get hurt, because change inevitably bruises them.
But, as one of my favorite slam poets would say, “Hearts don’t break ya’ll. They bruise and get better.
We were never tragedies. We were emergencies.”
And while I sat in this dimly-lit coffee shop reading the influx of text messages that communicated this man’s die-hard intentionality, I couldn’t help feeling like I’d missed out a little. Of course I was going to accept his dinner invitation. Of course I was going to allow him to move our relationship from friendship to romance. But at the same time, I felt that I had missed out on learning how to appreciate him as himself, apart from what he could do for me or his potential as a future spouse.
And I did. I had. Because I didn’t know him well enough to know if I wanted to be his wife, we stayed in a five-month holding pattern during which I broke up with him three times – pre-dating, mind you – because I couldn’t match his enormous, overwhelming intentions. When we finally did date, we lasted two weeks. Every time I walked out of a dimly lit coffee shop after breaking up with him yet again, I left kicking myself for not being good enough. For not being sure enough. For not overriding my intuition and letting him act on these most excellent intentions.
Reflecting on this situation, the question for me is, ‘What should our intentions be towards another strange, unique, image-bearing human being?’
And all I can come up with is love.
Our intention should always be love.
Love looks different for different people, because different people need different things.
The idea that “intentions” should always include marriage strikes me as overwhelmingly selfish. I don’t think anyone means it to be, because we’ve been groomed to believe that it’s the right and honorable way to treat the person we’re attracted to. We don’t want THEM. THEMSELVES. We want our emptiness to be filled. We want that relationship label that will lull us into a false sense of security & intimacy with someone we haven’t yet gone to the trouble of loving. We want whatever we assume will help us most, and overlook completely whether or not that thing – marriage, the supposed cure-all for all of our emotional problems – is actually what’s best for the other person.
I propose a new kind of intention. I propose selflessness and sacrifice and getting your feelings hurt on the regular. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve crossed paths with and for one holy, stand-still moment I had this one chance to see exactly THEM before all my enormous, blinding, overriding intentions got in the way.
I remember sitting with an old friend of mine in his living room, a year after I’d been using my interest in his art, fraught with ulterior motives, to get close to him. It was hard work, this charade I was playing in order to get him to see me as his closest friend, confidante, & of course, future love interest. As he sat in the armchair across from me, eyes filling with tears, I suddenly heard him say, for the first time, that he was so disillusioned with and disconnected from his writing that he was considering stopping altogether. Shocked I realized that this, in fact, was the moment I’d been brought into his life for – a crucial turning point in his life and art, and I had so nearly missed it.
I saw him – broken, lazy, disheartened, withering – and I was taken aback. He was not the image of him I’d so carefully forged and sculpted and daydreamed about! He was so much more human, so much more soul than I’d given him credit for. And silently I thanked God for lifting the veil before I missed out on the chance to love him like he needed to be loved.
What if we stop flirting and start listening? Stop daydreaming? Stop forging. Intentionality is no magic word, & people are so much more than the golden-calf images we like to turn them into. See them as you would want to be seen, & let love grow as it will or as it must.
It’s a great feeling to have all of your lifelong fears and discomforts finally validated;
when a whole community of writers and bloggers starts speaking up and tearing down the cultural constructs that have so oppressed and depressed you throughout the entirety of your childhood and early adulthood;
when all of the opinions that used to make you a rebel – a pariah, of sorts – are finally not only your own and the burden of the truth, the whole truth, no longer seems to rest on your shoulders alone.
One Sarah Bessey I’d never heard of or read before out of nowhere writes an article about her experience with something called “purity culture” and all of a sudden I’m in a heap in front of the gate to my preschool,
ugly crying as I pull a torn notebook page out of my back pocket and just as suddenly start writing again. I had really sworn off writing, you see, after two arrogant sorts in my college poetry club wore me down until I couldn’t hear my voice over their imagined critiques every time I set pen to paper. But there it was, that nagging voice that I just can never quite squelch, the one that starts whispering in my ears whenever my soul rubs up against any kind of injustice or injury towards the outsiders of society. I have always liked the borderliners,
the people of the outskirts,
the ones who liked to dance to their own beat right on the fringes of society and orthodoxy.
I considered myself quite one of their own.
Little did I know that I was dancing right behind that Pied Purity Piper all along.
See, here’s the thing:
I’m a virgin.
Emily says that I should define my terms which, whatever, but what I mean is my hymen is firmly intact. Not only that, there’s never been any danger of that changing.
So there’s all my cards out on the table. Yikes.
Oh yeah, see, I followed the purity culture rules to a tee. I am its angry, sulking poster child. I snarled and seethed and bathed in red lipstick but I never did quite get off my high horse. In fact, I did purity culture one better and I kept my kiss-ginity too. (yeah, that’s a thing.) I avoided boys like the plague and kept romantic moments quite out of the question and I ran as far away from that hypothetical ledge as I could and dear lord if you could get medals for self-control I WOULD HAVE THEM. Oh, I compromised alright, but I made sure that any rules I broke were the ones not quite black and white enough to find their way into the verbose, exacting purity culture handbook.
I was not about to be sullied!
I was not about to become pee water!
I was not about to give any Christian boy any further reason to discredit my viability as a spouse, seeing as how they already found plenty.
I was like those people who don’t believe in God but say a few rosaries & light a few candles every now & then, just in case of Apocalypse.
Now I’m 22 years old and I feel like I may still actually be a prepubescent teenager, unsure of myself or how to appropriately interact with the opposite sex and you know, how to hold a boy’s hand and stuff.( Are the fingers supposed to lock? Is that a thing? That is not pleasant. Am I just supposed to get used to that?) Sigh.
While my friends were getting labeled and shamed for engaging in sexual behavior, I was busy trying to convince everyone around me that I had no interest in and desire for sex at all.
While others were abused physically, I was abused emotionally by men who were so indoctrinated into purity culture that as long as they never kissed me on the mouth or slept with me, they earnestly believed they’d done right by me.
It’s strange to me that we seem to have the same triggers now – those of us who experienced physical abuse and those of us who suffered emotional heartache and physical neglect by men who thought they could divorce our hearts from our bodies. I do not claim that these two kinds of wounds are equal in destructive repercussions, but it seems that they are more similar in kind than they are often given credit for.
And I’m afraid I find myself at a crossroads.
Emily and I are two months into our Purity Culture Rehab Project and all of a sudden I realize that tearing down purity culture will have to involve constructing something inside the void that it left. But what? What goes there now? Do I start mercilessly sleeping with every boy I come into contact with? Do I throw caution to the wind?
I discovered this week that quite a few of the writers I admire most seem to vary rather widely when it comes to the whole “Is Extramarital Sex Still a Sin” thing, which I naively didn’t know was a question anyone was asking. Anyone who ascribes to any semblance of a Christian philosophy, that is. For me that’s not a question, based on what I believe about the Bible and stuff, but I’m learning how not to shame people for having choices that differ from mine.
I’m learning how not to shame myself for making choices that I can’t carefully, methodically defend.
I’m still a little ashamed though.
I’m a little ashamed of my inexperience.
I’m a little ashamed of my stupidity.
What is an ignorant virgin trying to combat purity culture for, anyway?
Isn’t it a little superfluous to try and rehabilitate myself from purity culture fully intending to stay a virgin at the end of it?
I’m still not sure it isn’t an exercise in futility.
My conclusion is this:
my virginity – or lack thereof – is the property of my personhood.
I am not less a person for losing it.
I am not less a person for keeping it.
I am not required to catch up.
Taking back my personhood means taking back my sexuality. It does not belong to my church or my friends or other people’s opinions or even to my own stubborn stereotypes of what should be; of what’s normal.
I have time to figure this all out, you see. Tearing down purity culture doesn’t necessarily mean that, at the end, I will have built a healthy understanding of my sexuality at the same time. While rehabilitation does require breaking a collection of destructive habits, it also necessitates the beginning of new healthy ones to take their place. So here’s my Rehab Project shifting focus a bit – from dismantling the evils of purity culture to creating something new to replace it.
I wanna talk about how I’m afraid that all of us fighting against purity culture will, by heading towards the other extreme, lose any audience we may have had with the conservative Christian culture that so desperately needs change.
I wanna talk about how sin & shame are two different things.
I wanna talk about how purity culture is as harmful to those who comply with its demands as it is to those who do not.
But right now, I just wanna sit
in the bliss that is knowing
that I am mine.
or, “an un-serious treatise on the total appropriateness of 2013’s standard gender binary.” //
1. Well, first off, I think my face just says it all, don’t you?
2. I want to “fix things” all the time, which they tell me is a real manly trait.
3. I like wilderness and stars and fighting for things I love and have even been known to PURSUE THE OPPOSITE SEX (horror of all horrors), so John Eldredge has got me good and pegged, DOESN’T HE JUST.
4. I *like* being respected. Love is great & I like it, but I also like respect, so yep, DEF MALE.
5. Not to mention, my sex drive, which is approximately 3 TIMES the appropriate female sex drive (in that it exists & all), as every Christian book on male-female relationships has ever led me to believe. My only conclusion: I MUST, IN FACT, BE MALE.
6. I’ve been known to season my speech with all manner of colorful words & phrases, which, if I was female, would ensure me a long & lonely spinsterly existence, so, being that I have a lively, often even exciting dating life, I think we can safely assume that must mean I am IN FACT, MALE.
*6.5 SMALL TALK. WHAT EVEN IS THAT. DON’T WE ALL ALREADY KNOW WHAT THE WEATHER IS LIKE (WE LITERALLY JUST WALKED IN OUT OF IT) & IF I REALLY WANTED TO KNOW WHAT BRAND OF MASCARA YOU WERE WEARING – IF, GOD FORBID, I COULD DISTINGUISH THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MASCARA BRANDS – DON’T YOU THINK I WOULD ASK YOU. Somehow though, as much as women can generally small-talk me under the table and I abhor it (I tend to take it as a sign that you don’t actually want to know me), I have to believe that a skill that inane must be a societal construct and hardly something I can blame on any particular gender. However! We are talking about why my interests mandate my being a man and so therefore: NO SMALL TALK = INHERENTLY MALE.
7. I am going to pick a movie with a proliferation of blood & guts in it, nine movie nights out of ten. Guy movies. I like guy movies. Gladiators and glory and Russell Crowe. ALL OF THE CROWE. Chick flicks (with the ironic exception of What a Girl Wants. Pre-wonkers Amanda Bynes traipsing around London in hippy bell-bottoms, giving stodgy Englishmen their well-deserved come-uppance?! the BEST!) are of little use to me. TOTALLY MALE.
8. I am only gentle and quiet some days. I’m hardly the new face of conservative complementarian womanhood. In the face of genuine sorrow and death and mourning and weeping girls, I can be gentle and quiet. I can mourn with those who mourn, okay. But a lot of days I am screaming lyrics off of my living room couch to anyone who will listen while intermittently yell-expounding on the profundities of existentialism and preschool. Tonight, as I’m writing this, I’m mostly just jumping off of furniture yelling “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiii… AM EVERYDAY PEOPLE” with Sly and the Family Stone in whatever non-descript rom-com is currently gracing my screen while yelling “THAT DECISION IS FRAUGHT WITH MORAL COMPLEXITY” at Emily Allison.
Actually I’m not quite sure what gender that makes me. Is there a third choice?
9. I am no use at hanging demurely on anybody’s arm. Unless you like girls who scream their faces off behind microphones on stages, you’ll probably have little use for me either. I am also not passively waiting for a spouse – nor do I think that any [accurately] translated version of the Bible expects me to. MALE.
Still, although my gender does appear to be currently in question, I keep trudging.
10. I could name a thousand other stereotypes. I could talk about how I like my coffee black or how anything frilly makes me vaguely nauseous or how the Sons of Anarchy and motorcycles and craft beer and theology are all topics that can make me get loud. I could, but rejecting the gender binary means that I don’t have to. I don’t have to adhere to any stereotypical gender norm because
– say it with me –
I AM A WHOLE PERSON.
Whole people are not bound by the confines of societal constructs or culture, no matter how oppressive, and are therefore freed up to be themselves without pretense.
I can wear dresses with whimsical Peter Pan collars and still (in my dreams) ride motorcycles and get seminary degrees and pursue members of the opposite sex. (The only unreal thing about that sentence was the motorcycle part. But hey! A girl… ahem, a PERSON can dream, amirite?!)
Let’s talk, though, about “manhood” and “womanhood” and if those words mean anything anymore. I want to think they do. I’m not trying to erase gender, after all. Contrary to popular opinion, the Christian feminism of 2013 is hardly trying to make everyone believe that we all came out blank slates and the blind hands of “nurture” somehow roughly and abusively formed us into who we are today. That would be giving “nurture” – and culture – far more power & credit than it deserves.
So what have we constructed in the name of biblical gender and can therefore do away with? What must we irrevocably keep?
I’m all ears.
Hold onto your bonnets ladies cause I’m about to dish.
PERPETUATING FEMALE CULTURAL STEREOTYPES ALL NIGHT, GO ME.
I’m not a good feminist. But part of doing rehab – a Purity Culture Rehab Project, to be exact – is learning how to be me again, on my own, peeling off the scarves and hats and overcoats of my well-constructed ideologies, laid uncomfortably bare before the eyes of myself and well, now, you.
I’ll rebuild later. For now I’m tearing it all down.
[Trigger warning: SO MANY CAPS ALL THE CAPS ALL THE JUDGERS STOP READING RIGHT HERE.]
I hardly blame myself for the way this all started.
I mean, I was set up with him in the first place, ok?
The boy who set me up with featured boy was not in the habit of matchmaking, and consequently, I was intrigued. He listed off a bunch of superficial things that I LIKE OK, I’M SORRY – things like tattoos and Jesus and a coffee shop.
[Which, on a rather enormous side note, girls, BOYS WITH COFFEE SHOPS ARE CRACK. Intoxicating, arresting, golden caramel CRACK. Avoid them like the plague. I don’t know what it is about them. I think it’s the fact that they create this beautiful, “third-place” atmosphere and they draw you in with their cappuccinos and their peacefulness and and gross, it’s just gross. STAY AWAY. I have been enamoured with at least half a dozen and it’s the pits, I swear.]
I met him at church like the BIG FREAKING CLICHE MY LIFE HAS BECOME. There was nothing particularly engaging about the words we exchanged, but I sensed that there was a lot of him to unearth, if only anybody ever tried. I also sensed that nobody had much tried.
So I did.
I was attracted to him, sure, but that almost felt beside the point. I started driving way south every morning I could find the time, in between morning and afternoon jobs, to go find him at his quiet little shop. He’d make me something foamy and then come out from behind the bar to spend his lazy summer mornings talking about himself. I didn’t get a lot of words in edgewise – other than a question here and there, encouraging him to continue – but I sensed that he hadn’t someone actually listen in a while, so I lent him my full attention.
Sheepishly he’d pull out the Moleskine that housed all his most secretly laid plans – little snippets of thought and poem and entrepreneurial ideas that he’d never had a chance to run past anyone. Disjointed and scatterbrained, he’d read through them out loud to me, and I watched as he’d connect the dots and the light that neither of us even knew was missing returned to his eyes, or perhaps shone for the first time. Either way, I’d leave every morning with a heart beating out of my chest with all the excitement of danger and I-probably-shouldn’t-be-doing-this-but-I-most-definitely-am.
One morning I pulled into the parking lot as usual, and sat for a moment as I tried, like every other morning, to compose myself and catch half a breath before I saw him. I walked in a beeline to the coffee shop door, not even noticing that he was already in the parking lot having what we’ll call “a moment” with someone much older and blonder than I.
Waiting at the counter, I sighed and looked around, thankful for an extra moment of breath-catching, when I caught the unnerving reflection of this heartwarming little tableau in the parking lot I’d just come from.
Panicked, I froze, immediately trying to strategize paths out of side doors and around adjoining buildings to my car and out of that cursed parking lot and away from this most awkward of situations I’d willingly put myself in.
What was I doing?! More importantly, what HAD I been doing these past six months?! Frantically I searched for a safe description for my behavior, which now struck my enlightened mind as altogether forward and desperate.
How could I have misread the signs so entirely?
How could I have allowed myself to chase the soul of a man who had never (I realized now) really looked at me twice?
He was walking back inside and there was no escape. Starstruck, he fell into the nearest chair and began to spill the story of his budding romance with blondie in the parking lot. As soon as I could make even a shadow of a graceful exit, I did so, and never did I darken that two-syllable curs-ed coffee shop door again.
A handful of months and one solid heartbreak later, I heard his voice on the other line one summer day. To my pleasant surprise my voice no longer caught in my throat when I tried to answer him. He told me that he’d missed our conversations and that talking to me had actually led him to take action on a few of his more inspired redemptive endeavors.
i had misunderstood the prompt my Spirit Father had sent me, but I had still listened and I had still followed. I had been called to love him and my impatient heart had jumped to romance, because it was the easiest kind to give. [I wrote a post recently about overcoming romantic love in the interest of friendship.] Still I could hear in his bright tone that the light I’d seen kindle hadn’t gone out.
I’ve never called God my Spirit Father before, and it has sort of a wild, polytheistic ring to it, but some days, when I’m sitting in coffee shops waiting on boys, it helps me to think of the persons of the Godhead as different names for the same thing. i knew it was the Spirit that had led me, and there was a very parental, commanding tone to his voice as my heart heard it that had Father written all over it. I’ve probably got this whole Trinity thing all wrong and I’m okay with that, but just because I can’t wrap my troublingly slow brain around all that goodness doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t engage it. It? Him. They. Help.
Culture at large only presents us with a couple of words to label our interactions with our fellow souls.
These are all the categories i’m allowed? This is it? How disgustingly safe.
And by the way, I hope I’m not the only one who is personally affronted by the whole “just friends” thing. Just friends?! Just co-dreamers and partners and late-night drivers and coffee drinkers and prayer warriors and co-conspirators towards the very great ends of justice and dinner? How can we so belittle such vast expanses of joy and possibility and dress them hopelessly dowdy in the guise of some grand disappointment?
I once said that nobody should have to apologize for offering their friendship in place of romance, and a few meagre weeks later I had to sit across a coffeeshop table from a boy I wanted badly and affirm that statement all over again, when it counted. what i’m saying is, i paid in full for those words, but I stand by them because, in the end, when he sat, eyes filled, across that table from me and gently handed my heart back, I didn’t stop wanting to know him. I didn’t stop rejoicing in the knowledge that someone as brilliant and knowledgeable and caring as he was actually existed. His whole self was still valuable to me.
It’s exhausting trying to draw the lines of what we should and should not be to each other.
I’ve been told, as a marriageable Christian twenty-something that the only way for me to get a husband is to sit in quiet contentment and watch a lot of proverbial TV while I wait for that elusive him to knock on my front door. I’m not sure where we came up with this, because I can’t come up with one holy lady in the great stories of Scripture (which, while we’re on the subject, are hardly prescriptive) who just chilled on her back porch and drank Arnold Palmers and languidly watched the horizon for her knight in shining armor.
[UPDATE: I cannot come up with any women, but I can come up with at least one passive man who sat around and waited for a SPOUSE TO SHOW UP ON HIS THRESHOLD. Recently I heard a Christian “dating specialist” list Isaac as one of the emblems of good solid Christian dating, and I’m over here like, does anyone remember that dear heroic old Isaac sent a SERVANT TO GO PICK HIM OUT SOME MARRIAGEABLE PIECE OF MEAT?! Question mark!?!?]
I read about Ruth, who set her sights on one man and broke into his house in the middle of the night to win her prize.
I see Esther take a deep breath and put on her best dress and compete with thousands of her peers for the heart of a godless king. WHAT?!
I see Deborah and Jael and Mary Magdalene, who chased Jesus everywhere he went, and a thousand other courageous, flawed, unsure, trembling, woman-warriors who girded up their loins and pursued the very strange individual journeys their Spirit Father had prepared for and walked with them.
I’d challenge you – and myself – to stop seeing some invisible hierarchy of information where the men receive the firstfruits of any word coming down from the Lord and us poor womenfolk must a) immediately trust that any male claiming “God told me ______ ridiculous statement_____” absolutely must cave to his God-painted whim and b) must not act on the direction we do receive from our Spirit Father because of our SEXUAL PARTS.
BECAUSE ‘PURSUE’ IS NOT A BAD WORD & LADIES, IT IS NOT FORBIDDEN US. Just like we are not puppets in some cosmic sadist’s show, we are free moral agents and as a person you are free to be the leading lady of your own story. (Somebody cue Kate Winslet’s personhood discovery from The Holiday right meow.)
You are free to wrestle with God and you are free to end up with a limp.
You are free to pursue hearts and souls and follow the wild prompts of your Spirit Father.
You are free.
If you need me, you may find me in a coffee shop, pursuing someone or else’s soul relentlessly like I hope my Father would mine.
For more Purity Culture Rehab Project, check out my punk rock roommate @softlysoaring’s post on pursuit this morning, “On Asking Out Boys and Other Perversions” over at emilyjoyallison.com.
In the interest of taking back the personhood that purity culture & various & sundry personages influenced BY purity culture have taken from us,
– and in the interest of lightening the mood –
we: Emily Allison and Hannah Paasch, roommates, best friends, sometime bloggers, all-the-time writers, co-adventurers and mischief-makers present to you the PURITY CULTURE REHAB PROJECT, our off-the-wall, oft-sarcastic, sometimes profound misadventures in the name of science and recovery. While we both are on individual journeys in the pursuit of both Jesus and holiness, we like to think that our silly 15-step (or so) road to recovery might help us mature into more peaceful, grounded, passionate women of valor
the way nature – and most importantly, Christ – intended.
But first! A clarification of terms! “Purity culture”… what is that? Is it a cult? Is it a detergent? And why would one need to recover from it? Both of us were raised in excellent Christian homes with parents who guarded and guided us with care and precision. What, then, could possibly have gone awry?
We believe that an errant translation of the word of God & a probably well-intentioned effort on the part of Christian culture has led to, in our generation, a negative, dysfunctional, almost inhuman understanding of love, romance, and sexuality. We are required not to think of sex until marriage. We are taught that “kiss-ginity” is a thing. That somehow our sexuality is synonymous with our salvation, and what we do with it almost determines our future standing with not only our earthly fathers but our Heavenly one as well–not to mention our future spouses which we all most certainly will have, since God promised us a hope and a future and a sexy virgin spouse, right? Right?!?! JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER GOOD RELIGION THAT PROMISES VIRGINS FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR, RIGHT?!
The point is, we’re both a little tired of the bullsh*t. And at the end of the day, that’s what it is, really. Well-intentioned, misleading, dangerous bullsh*t. And we’re not gonna take it anymore. [CUE ROCK ANTHEM]
So, embark on this journey with us, maybe? We know that a lot of you have been really hurt by the church in (possibly) deeper ways and we don’t pretend to compare battle scars. After all, one of us is a strong proponent of organized church, one of us isn’t so sure, and both of us firmly acknowledge that our qualms with the pseudo-Christian conservative culture we are a product of has very little to do with the Jesus it so brazenly claims. But, we’d like to stop licking our wounds and have a little fun.
SO! Rehab it is.
Check back at emilyjoyallison.com & ajesusgypsy.wordpress.com for our PRIMETIME UPDATES. Shocking posts about beauty, OMG KISSING, red lipstick, OMG CUSS WORDS, and plenty more to come.
We’d like to hear your stories too. Bring em on.
You can also find Emily tweeting her little heart out at @softlysoaring & a few musings from Hannah at @thesettingsun07. We’ll be hashtagging #puritycultureRP for the next month. GITTIN IT.
LOVE AND DANCING AND KISSING AND RED LIPSTICK ALWAYS,
Emily & Hannah
the six of us were gathered on and around our friend Jacob’s bed,
the very picture of intimate community,
our hearts heavy with the weight of a secret only we knew.
I was acutely aware of my tear ducts that evening, as I had just spent the previous one emptying them in front of this very same group of (mostly) men.
It had been decided the week before that the small community we were in charge of had grown too much too quickly, and now instead of a home for the hurting and a haven of accountability, we were just the new cool hang for everyone in our church under the age of 30. It was time for us to disband, and to start over. As wise as this choice eventually seemed, my heart was with every one of our students in the next room, praying and laughing and catching up, oblivious of the changes we had not yet announced – and I ached to think how little time was left for me to spend with them before new communities & homework & extra night shifts scattered us to the winds.
So here we were, gathered to pray over our little flock, and naturally, we start to reminisce a bit.
“Maybe we can still meet every month or so, ” someone remarked. “Half the reason these kids are here anyway is to hook up.”
I must have scoffed, because suddenly all eyes were on me, and the protagonist of this inane conversation starts in on me. “You know that’s why you’re here, Hannah,” he said, amused at my apparent distaste for his general premise.
“Come on, you at least thought about it.”
Think about it? I mean, I’m sure I did. Who doesn’t? You can read my previous post about how I have trouble not putting people in boxes. But any romantic inclinations I may have worked through for my friends and co-leaders – and work through them I did – were nothing compared to the hours I’d spent praying over, worrying about, and drinking inordinate amounts of coffee with the men and women that had come every Tuesday night seeking love & a home & somewhere they could get their questions answered.
But here we were, trivializing that entire endeavour and pretending that we were all just sorry we hadn’t dated everybody.
“No, I was NOT,” I retorted. (My retorts are usually razor-sharp, I assure you.)
“Oh, good,” he said. “That just means that you are waiting for a man to pursue you, like you should be. Good girl.”
He said it with all of the genuine concern and kindness of someone giving a compliment. “Good job, Hannah, you’re serving God just so that some man will see you and want you! Keep up the good work.”
And that was the end of it.
If I was not a feminist when I walked into that bedroom, I was when I walked out.
Because my sex drive or romance drive or whatever inherently human part of me thinks it would be a good idea to ever marry somebody does not guide my life or ministry choices. I am not sitting around, believing that I somehow have nothing else to do than be loved and rescued by any earthly man.
WHOLE & COMPLETE, NOT LACKING ANYTHING.
(except maybe holiness. we’re working on that. )
I am a full person – a free moral agent – and my individual pursuit of God & any other person is my journey to take.
I was angriest that day because a boy had said out loud what I’m always afraid men are thinking.
That, as a woman in the church, I am by very nature a HALF.
Half a heart. Half a body. Half a purpose.
That I walk through my weekly acts of service – leading songs, stacking chairs, greeting new faces – just to be noticed and found by the puzzle piece that will complete me & make me a whole person, able to live out Proverbs 31 and become an acceptable, respected member of society. Until that day, however, it seems that my every move can be boiled to my one obvious motivation:
FINDING A HUSBAND.
So, why feminism?
I balk even typing that word. I can’t stand to use it in everyday conversation.
Maybe one day I’ll grow into it. Maybe I’ll learn to stretch out under its vast canopy, breathe a little deeper, and own my freedom a little more.
But today, feminism is a gate – and on the other side is an expedition I’m starting on to take back my personhood.
Feminism – because we can’t just keep telling ourselves that we are worthy, cherished daughters of the Most High, and then living like damsels in distress living in towers of inertia waiting for a kiss of true love to awaken us from slumber.
Feminism – because if we are whole people, then we should be doing a lot less waiting and a lot more speaking, singing, preaching, and crusading against injustice, wherever we find it.
Feminism – because I,
will no longer be half the women we were created to be.