Thursday, October 12, 2006

Five Things Feminism has Done for Me

christy at dry bones dance meme'd me a couple of days ago, and it's a hard one for me. i've been sitting with it, and because it's rainy, i've got my period and i'm so pissed at my husband right now i think i'm ready to tackle this subject. sorry if it comes out all edgy, but i need to vent. this isn't much of a list, i'm not much of a feminist, but i am desperately trying to figure out what it means to be female and a woman apart from what the church or sex industry has told me.

Five Things Feminism has Done for Me:

1. the closest i ever got to feminism in my childhood was watching 'suffering till suffrage' on schoolhouse rock or the 'sister suffragette' song mrs. banks sings in mary poppins while they yell 'votes for women'. i was raised in middle america in very conservative christian background that grew out of a culture of playboy and pornography. the images from my childhood either made women meat or had them cooking meat. there was no in-between. the pendulum went from one extreme to the other. I was raised in the town where Hugh Hefner had his Playboy Resort. I can remember going out to dinner and having it served by women forced to wear stilettos, bunny ears and a cotton tail on their ass. i was probably six.

by seven we were in church and at camp and women were silent with their heads covered. my formation of all that is female was distorted and warped from a very early age. the amazing women on sesame street and the bionic woman were probably the only role models i was ever given that weren't these two extremes - but they still were caricatures of what a woman truly is.

2. in fourth grade ms. able came to our school from atlanta georgia. MS. in our little k-8 school she made quite a few waves. my mother had to demonize her quickly so she didn't have any influence over me at all. i think she was the embodiment of everything my mother wanted to be and she hated her for it. somehow though i was the little girl who got invited to sleep overs regularly at her home to play with her daughter (who went to the school in town, but we were in the same grade). ms. able fascinated me. i would love to reconnect with her someday.

in her own way she showed me that women could crack a mold (although looking back she wasn't much of a bra-burner herself - but my mother would say the word 'feminist' like she had something icky in her mouth when describing her.) and be something outside of what the church kept telling me i had to be.

3. my next brush would have been in high school where three of my teachers were lesbians. they were never out or vocal about their lifestyle. it was just 'known' and 'whispered' among the students. one was a speech teacher and two were gym teachers. i was a jock. one was my basketball coach and one was my volleyball coach. they were partners. i hated one and loved the other. i thought them brave, sad, but brave. i didn't think i could have ever endured such mocking jokes and hurtful things said about me. i don't know that they would have considered themselves feminists, but looking back i would say that they did not allow others to define their female-ness. they were probably just as confused as i was, (am) but being adults they were more formed in their lifestyles. i admired their courage.

it was also at this time that heart & fleetwood mac were prominent in the music industry and in my life. they cracked the box for me in some areas and began to chip away at what i had been told was true of women. they were strong voices and while it was only singing along their words started to become my own.

4. from high school i went to four years of bible college at the silent and head covered school - so women, especially the wives of the faculty were mostly bubble heads. some were amazing women, but none of them were living up to their full potential. it must mean something that i noticed this while still there. i'm trying for all i'm worth to think of any media that could have influenced me to think more highly of women, but i think back in the 80's women were still pretty stereo-typed into lame roles and sex objects.

5. motherhood and having a daughter has probably been the best thing that could ever have happened to me. wanting so much more for her than i was ever allowed. it forced me to begin to kick at the darkness and see what was outside of this box i had trapped myself in. pregnancy & breastfeeding put me in touch with my own body in a way that i had never been before. it made me present somehow in my own skin. watching her grow has made me ferociously guard her from ever limiting herself, or allowing anyone else limit her from fulfilling her dreams. my theology has gone though major transformations too because of this.

and here i sit, i didn't shave my armpits all summer because it put me in touch with a part of myself i had never allowed to exist before. it sounds so strange but it was one of the most empowering things i've ever allowed myself to do. and i want to erase it. delete it. but i will own it here. i have gotten the book 'women who run with wolves' recently and looked through it - haven't read it yet - but long to. i want to run with wolves, but i am so afraid. sore afraid.

so it's a pretty weak list. i love people like arianna huffington and her 'becoming fearless' mission - i want to be fearless. i long to live fully woman, fully human, fully alive. i know that so many women have paved this road in front of me, for all of them i am truly grateful. i say your names with honor and gratitude. feminism is no longer a dirty word in my vocabulary. i will one day be able to own it for myself.


Anonymous said...

Women who Run with Wolves - LOVE that book!!! Hope you crack it open soon.
Thanks for doing the meme - I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of a woman who doesn't necessarily use the word "feminist" to describe herself.


david said...

the objectification of anyone is terrible . . .

bobbie said...

hey christy, i have to admit that i gulped when i saw my name there, but i was honored too. thank you for forcing me to think in these terms. it was stretching. like that yoga i keep meaning to do! :)

david - yes it is, on either side of the great divide. it's so strange that i've been formed by both extremes. i think that's probably why this sect of the church was so attractive to my parents. kept those lines and boundaries really clear and orderly so they didn't have to face their own issues.