‘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.’
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
I read the Four Loves the spring that he left, and while the rest of life was bursting into bloom, I was growing older and colder.
I had nothing to regret – and I almost regretted that.
I read about Affection and I thought about my mother, all of the cautious, overabundant motherly love that she had bestowed on me without my ever deserving or requesting it.
I read about Friendship, and I saw my favorite Maria friend – the one who put up with my platinum gold highlights in the seventh grade and my occasional emotional tornadoes and that one trashy trucker hat phase that she lovingly endured without a dissenting word.
I read about Charity, and I saw thirty faces on thirty street corners – my friends who lived in the empty lot behind my house in a North African ocean town and would come around on Saturday nights to eat bologna-and-cheese sandwiches with us and talk about the God we loved and their dreams that they had almost let die and were now thinking about watering again.
And then Eros. I almost skipped the chapter. I knew that the whole chapter, the whole concept, was a topic that I was not allowed to broach, even subconsciously. Sexual attraction was the dirty secret in his and my relationship – the “urine in our glass of water”, if you will. (We’ve all heard that one, haven’t we? Holler at me fellow PKs!!!) As ludicrous as it sounds to me now, I thoroughly believed that C.S. Lewis was, in fact, misguided and that sexual love could not be any kind of real love at all.
Real love was sacrificial.
Real love was tragic.
Real love was anything but pleasure & enjoyment and the only genuine passion one person could have for another had to be “pure” and painful and chaste.
And so I had to learn how to love his mind – to dive deep into the depths of him and just soak in all of the charming, stormy, volatile mess that was his personhood and that I do not regret. I had to pursue and seek out those parts of his heart that stayed mysterious to me (I’ll be blogging soon about how women pursuing men is also something that is not a sin). I wrote poems about that man’s soul and I drove him to school everyday and together we read Macdonald’s fairytales and pretended that all we were was brains and hearts and the loftiest of aspirations.
But nobody can pretend to be just brains forever.
We started to deteriorate as soon as we realized that we could actually touch each other too. And I’m not saying that we made any decisions that purity culture at large could point any fingers at, either. All of the carefully delineated steps that our educators tell us lead to sex and babies and AIDS and death were carefully avoided and so, naturally, things got real weird real fast. We took our stolen moments in between classes and tried to feel close without breaking any rules. I remember slowly walking back to my car at twilight wondering what had just happened; confused how I could feel violated without ever getting so much as a real kiss.
The only boy who ever got up the gumption to kiss me in the years that followed ran down the stairs, made himself a pot of coffee, and patently ignored me until I finally left, dazed, when I dared to tell him that it was my first.
What kind of world have we created, Jesus-lovers, where the fear of sex is so engrained into our subconscious that we avoid all healthy expression of attraction and are then belittled later in life for admitting our lack of experience?
Somebody tell me I’m not the only one here.
Three years after I lost my first love, I sat around a Chicago dining room table with my roommates, trying to decide what exactly to do with my love life or lack thereof. I’d been seeing someone, and all I could come up with to say about him was his “wonderful heart for worship” and “great sense of humor”… which, as all of you know, sounds the certain death knell for any relationship. Our discussion was about how I ran away from him when he tried to touch me at dinner.
“You can’t cringe when he comes near you, Hannah,” one of them was saying, gesturing emphatically. “That’s sort of a given.”
“Is it, though?” I found myself saying. Was it really so bad that I only wanted to write songs with him and have lots of late-night parked-car conversations and check out some stars real fast then hug and go home at reasonable hours?
That was all that I’d ever wanted out of anybody else, after all!
I had run to the other side of the table when I realized he’d wanted to push our chairs together. I had hugged him quickly and fast-walked to my car door and turned up the radio immediately to overpower the sound of my own irregular heartbeat. If I was being honest, I wasn’t sure whether it was because I was so afraid of what would happen to my body if he ever did touch me or whether it was him specifically I did not want.
I had never learned to decipher between the two.
“Well, sooner or later, you’re gonna mess up. You know that right?” The penetrating voice of my best friend broke into my reverie like glass shattering. “You’re gonna go too far, and you’re gonna start over and work through that together. I know I have.”
Going too far?! Was that something that happened? I was actually surprised. I mean, I knew that lots of people slept together all the time – I do assume that’s something going on around me all the time – but it struck me like glass shards that someone who loved Jesus could be with somebody else who loved Jesus and somehow fail the Ten Commandments of sexual purity and come out on the other side unscathed, un-struck by lightning, pick up the pieces of their love and keep on going. I had always firmly believed that I could escape that fate. That I could get to other side – the other side meaning marriage and a happy ending, I suppose – having completely avoided even temptation herself.
I had confused the temptation with the sin.
I had equated sexual attraction with adultery.
I had spent nine months of my young life pretending that I could somehow talk God into giving me the gift of celibacy. http://trashtown.tumblr.com/page/96
And yet here she was, sitting across from me, telling me that it was inevitable; that at some point I would fail, that I would give into – even momentarily – my attraction for someone and do something I’d wish I hadn’t. That that wasn’t somehow game over – that you could forgive and be forgiven and change and grow from that point forward. But something was not quite right.
I tried to imagine the last time I’d felt even the slightest inkling of that sort towards anybody. Nothing came to mind. I literally could not recall the last time that I’d wanted to do anything but side-hug anyone at all! Could it be that in all my valiant effort to inflict the “gift of singleness” (whatever that is) upon myself that I’d actually completely squandered my ability to want someone? It was strange, to be sure! When anyone ever asked me what my “love language” was, I would sheepishly admit that it was, in fact, physical touch – only I knew the embarrassing truth that whenever anybody touched me – no matter who, no matter how – it immediately registered as a sexual action in my mind, primarily because I had taught myself that touch of any sort was to be avoided as sin.
And so, here I was, nearly immune to even the most persuasive advances, and feeling considerably less arrogant about the fact then I had heretofore.
Well, this particular confession led to a chorus of shocked but mildly impressed girls asking if I could teach them how to do that. Looking around the room, I realized that I had forgotten that sexual attraction was sort of a pervasive, across-the-board sort of thing.
It was then that I realized that purity culture had made me into a cold, repressed, unapproachable, difficult-to-love sort of girl: a far cry from who I actually was.
Because everything else about myself is widescreen hobohemia technicolor. I want to know all of the things. I want to read all of the things. I am fascinated by souls and journeys and mysticism and baking and linguistics and jawbones and stars. My curiosity and my adventurous spirit are elven and rampant and tireless. I write poems sometimes and love to sleep in grass and on beaches and stay up all night screaming the blues and I suppose you could call me frigid, but please, please don’t. You really wouldn’t be taking my whole person into account. AND THAT’S WHAT THIS WHOLE JOURNEY IS ABOUT, ANYWAY. https://ajesusgypsy.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/today-i-embark-on-an-expedition-to-take-back-my-personhood/
It’s finally midnight, so today marks day 1 in an adventure that Emily, my new roommate and loud, proud, Jesus feminist over at http://www.emilyjoyallison.com/, are embarking on to put ourselves through PURITY CULTURE REHAB. We’re going to do a bunch of things that we never would have done as drinkers of the purity culture Kool-Aid but that we’re doing now as holy women of God who are slowly but surely recovering our moral agency.
Won’t you join with us? As much as it is not my desire to decry anyone of my brothers or sisters that Jesus loves dearly, it would seem to me that there is, indeed, a better way than the one that purity culture at large has left us with.
This is not an attempt to throw off the shackles of Scripture and create our own way, but rather to walk in the ways of Jesus without the cultural constraints that Western conservative pseudo-Christianity would place upon us. We’re going to start taking care of our bodies, because we don’t have to be gnostics anymore. We’re going to ask a boy to coffee – and PLATONICALLY, too. We’re going to get our battle cry eshet chayil! tattooed on our arms to remind us not to give up.
We’re going to do a couple other things too – but you’ll have to wait and hear about those when we grow the balls to actually do them. 😉
Courage, my friends and sisters. Your desires are not to be squelched and squandered. You were created with a mind and with a body too. I remind myself daily, along with you, that it is no sin to seek to be loved as both.
Perhaps together we can reclaim eros as an expression of love to be treasured and valued and yes, protected, but not defamed.
Let’s recover and rebuild, redeem and restore ourselves and those we love as WHOLE PEOPLE that our kind Father created and declared that first day and everyday since,
“It is very good.”
this post was originally called “confessions of a Christian slut”.
then i changed it to “the date rape nobody talks about”.
now it’s called what it is,
if that tells you anything about the emotional journey i took in writing it.
She told me to type & i did, scowling as the voices that haunted me appeared in black & white on my screen.
You hurt me.
You led me on.
You seduced me.
You hurt me.
You can’t be trusted.
You just like the attention.
You need to stay away from us men.
YOU HURT ME.
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.