Since I’ve started speaking about this, one thing that I’ve had to resist is shutting down and shutting up in response to this refrain: BUT I’M NOT RACIST. I AM NOT PREJUDICED. I WAS RAISED BETTER THAN THAT. I need you to please try to hear me on this.Me too! I am a feminist. I thank God often that He sent women into my life that worked their farms, fixed their tractors, raised horses, developed their photography, and were good home managers to boot.
We are raised by our families, but we are also raised by our culture.
I am a feminist. At my heart, I am a fierce, bold advocate for women. But I was raised in a sexist culture. I was raised in a world that tried to convince me through media, through certain religious organizations, through inadequate history books and through the beauty industry – that female bodies are worth less than male bodies- and that certain types of female bodies (thin, tall young) are worth more than other types of female bodies.
The daily deluge of images of women’s bodies for sale and the onslaught of emaciated women’s bodies held up as the pinnacle of female achievement and the pervasive message that women exist to please men was the air I breathed decade after decade. I was a radiation canary living in a mine and the toxins were misogyny. I got sick from it. Not because I’m a bad, sexist person but because I was just breathing sexist air.
In my life, I garden, I raise chickens, I build fencing for my animals, I mow the lawn, I unclog drains, I check levels on my vehicle, I prune trees, I take the limbs and branches to the dump, plus I help with grandchildren and care for my own children. I can cook from scratch, clean, do laundry, scrub floors, and get stains out of clothes. And none of those things require me to be a female or male. The only thing that requires me to be a female that I have done is gestate and lactate.
When Jessica was learning to be a woman from me during a crash course lesson when she was 21 (remember, Jessica was Jared just last spring), I realized how many rules I have for how women are supposed to behave.
I plucked Jessica's eyebrows and taught her how I do my make-up. When she was putting on her mascara, she said, "Good enough."
And I said, "There is no 'good enough' when you are a woman. You have to get it right.'"
Wow! How powerful are those words? There is no good enough. You have to get it right.
Who'd have thought that me, a woman who has taught my daughters to not be afraid to get their hands dirty, to kill their own spiders, to check their own oil has probably also taught them that society expects them to "get it right". I had no idea that I had that in me...
Yes indeed, it has come from our culture. From the time I was 14 until I was 18, at least once a year the activity of learning how to put on makeup was part of my life in my young women's group at church. Why, a leader in that church was just videotaped as he made this statement at a young single adult fireside (watch here).
There is more to a woman than being beautiful and charming. I have been called both of those things, but I am with Cristina from "Grey's Anatomy" as she says, "Oh screw beautiful. I'm brilliant. If you want to appease me, compliment my brain."
When Jared was talking about transitioning to a woman years ago, I asked why he would cut off the part of his body that allowed him to be ordained to the priesthood, allowed him to make more money, and allowed him to be taken more serious. How screwed up is that?! I am, as Glennon says, "I was a radiation canary living in a mine and the toxins were misogyny."
(As a side note: in The Episcopal Church I can keep my genitalia and be still be ordained to the priesthood if I'd like to be. Jessica -as a trans woman- can too. I love that!)
As I have read comments that people say about inequality of the genders, I keep reading that because we aren't sold into sex trafficking, because we can vote, because men say that they value us, we are equal.
I saw this SNL ("Saturday Night Live") video that talks about this very issue. Take a look (here).
Yes, we've come a long way, but we have a long way to go.