Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thoughts on my Evolving View of Feminism

The world's most beautiful couple started me on today's path!
This morning I woke up with some funny thoughts. I pinpoint the start of these thoughts to reading the newsletter that my friend Sara and her husband sent out this week. But really that newsletter shed light on conversations that I had with Betsy over the past couple of weeks. What I realized is that my view of feminism is shifting. So, before I get into those recent shifts, let me give you the evolution of my thoughts on feminism from birth to age 35, uhhh make that 36.
Birth to about my sophomore year of high school – Oblivious. I didn’t know this was a thing.
Sophomore year until about my sophomore year of college – “All that ‘Girls rule’ stuff is kind of annoying.” (AKA I did not see or understand the heart of feminism.)
Observing some great women like Drs. Holcomb, Kemp, Howard, Keys, etc. I began to see the confident, successful woman that did not draw attention to what she was doing. Observing some great women like Ashley, Ashley and Bethany I began to see younger women wrestling through issues of feminism beyond “Girls Rule” into life application and empowerment of women. This shifted things until I got to seminary.
At seminary I observed several arms of feminism from aggressive, in your face messages, to passive, reserved confidence, from completely over turning power structures, to subversive  culture change, and from women needing to fight for every high power position to women having the right to choose whatever they wish. In other words I saw so many brands of “feminism” I myself had to wrestle with how I viewed things.
Dating changed things for me (obviously). I am a dude’s dude. Men just make more sense to me, so I preferred spending time with male friends. When I started dating Betsy one thing was readily apparent to me – by the terms of worldly success (aka money, prestige, power, rank, etc.) Betsy would be the power partner. Unlike me Betsy has real definitive goals and the drive to achieve certain things like advanced degrees, trainings, publications and such. My goals are more like, “I wanna be happy and love people. How I do that is of little account to me.” So, it was actually quite easy to say, “Betsy…you’re gonna be the high earner. You’re gonna be more successful. And I love that about us. Yeehaw!”
Kev and Steph have also changed my view of feminism.
But over the past few weeks as I have been listening to her there has been a change in some of that drivenness if you will. (P.S. I know drivenness is not a word, but for any of you who have been to seminary or law school, you know that we are taught to make up our own words, so I am just doing what I was instructed to do.) Now, that change was not so much that Betsy became less driven as it was a change in direction. I won’t go into details (because I know Betsy is not as “Hey, I don’t care! I’m an open book. I’ll say just about anything to anyone” as I am), but some of the shifts that are going on in her could appear very anti-feminist in some circles.
Which brings me to my point—to me the heart of feminism can be captured in four words: the empowerment of women. I think there are arms of feminism that believe that anything except extensive, institutional education and the obtainment of high-profile, power positions is just not good enough. To me however, the empowerment of women to choose the path that is best for them is amazing. If a woman chooses to be a stay-at-home mother and is able to work with the finances her significant other brings home to accommodate that, I think that is a success, not a bow of the knee to a patriarchal society that has inlaid values that are foreign to her true nature, so she succumbs to lesser dreams. To me a mother doing what she chooses to do is a better example to her daughters than one who is out to prove a point. My chief evidence of that is one Mrs. Stephanie Fox.
Stephanie and I have been friends for ages by now. She was this amazingly empowered, free-spirited, artistic blur of strength and energy that entered my life freshman year of college. If you had told me in the first year of our friendship that she would one day choose to stay at home and raise kids I would have laughed at you and asked if you needed to be institutionalized.  This woman was the real deal. She was strong; she was beautiful; she was going to blaze her own trail. The reality? She has done all of that by choosing what was true to her nature. And she is not only radically changing the lives of her family and community but parentless children that she and her husband bring into their home.
She uses that creative force, she uses her beauty and strength in ways that are beyond me…and she does it in the walls of her home…by her choice. To me that is the very picture of a true feminism. She COULD be out there shaking things up in corporate America. She COULD be pursuing advanced degrees and running up the corporate ladder, but it would not be true to who she is and where she is headed.
Then there is Sara. Reading her newsletter gave me an education on processes of child development that I never got in class. Her vulnerability in saying, “When I talk with my children these are the things they are going through” and then expounding upon things too foreign for me to grasp was amazing. Although she has advanced formal education, her wisdom of applying those same concepts to her own children, and then turning those observations into teaching points for others is amazing.
Eva Webb...about as strong as a woman can be!
Then there is Eva. Eva and her husband Matt have packed up their kids for a year on the road. During the year they will be continuing their education. Eva worked with the school to develop lessons that will not put her children behind when it comes to school, all the while providing alternative education in the form of introducing them to children who are changing the world in the sciences, arts, humanitarian work and combatting poverty. Her kids will be embracing those things every day. They will be changed because she and Matt had the strength to risk doing things differently.
Then there is my cousin Jodi (there are so many strong women in family that this was a tough choice to choose one!). Jodi knows what she loves. It just so happens to line up with what her husband loves, and a need that America has. So she and Chad own their own businesses. Chad has his own line of weightlifting equipment and is able to capitalize on his experience as an Olympic athlete, which allows Jodi the space to really take hold of their gym as her own project. Over the past few years seeing the emerging businesswoman in her is inspiring.
Finally, there is my Betsy. Betsy is taking stock of her own life right now. Though she has known the path ahead of her for a long time she is realizing that our relationship changes things. Now when I say that, don’t hear I have asked for these changes. Some of them shock even me, but the reality is this – she sees change, she assesses it and then she embraces it. And again, that, along with these other women express to me true forms of feminism. Allowing women the space to become the next Angela Merkel or the next lady you have never heard of. Sure, we have a long way to go in creating space for women to break through certain glass ceilings. But the other thing we have to do is learn to reevaluate success. Success cannot be calculated merely in material ways. Material success only measures a certain portion of who we are, and when we lay women on the cross of that form of success then we crucify them from their own measures of success, which in all honesty are far more important than the ones we place on them.

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