“The only time a man ever made a woman was when God made Eve.” (Lydia, Age 10)
“The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes…But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even” (Emma Watson, British actor and Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, Speech On Equality, September 2014 – full transcript here).
I am not exactly sure when it happened, but Raising Daughters Has Made Me a Feminist. Raising these smart, kind, important little woman made me a more expansive, open-minded woman – who desires to see equality and hope in their futures and in the future of my sons and in my own future and in the lives of my nieces and all those I encounter along the way both male and female alike.
The history of feminism runs deep. It slams full force into the patriarchy of Americanized Christianity – and it is unrelenting. As a lover of Jesus Christ, I follow his words and his life as an example.
The inequality of women in our society, in our homes, in our churches, and in our world should not be ignored. Jesus stood up for women considered to be property and offered no voice in the culture of his day. He extended hope to them, healed their wounds, silenced their critics, spoke up for them when they had no voice, offered them opportunities to act, be heard, and understood, and he called them as co-laborers in his work.
Not despite their femaleness… but because of it.
Feminism has a place in our home.
Feminism can no longer be feared, misunderstood, or misrepresented in our lives from pulpits, overheard dinner conversations, around conference room tables, media outlets, the writings of “teachers & leaders” and around corporate water coolers.
It needs to be heard. We give it place to inform and speak. Feminism has a voice in our midst.
Our daughters need to know that the same force with which men live and move and have their being is the same life force that calls them to live and move and have their being as women. They have a divine right to roles of importance and value: leading, shaping, and speaking life, love, wisdom, authority, and celebration.
These roles exist not merely in the home, but out in the world too.
I want my daughters to be celebrated not merely tolerated. I want them to be seen, not merely for their beautiful faces and bodies, but because they are uniquely gifted human beings. They are not a man’s vessel for sex, but hearts, souls, and vessels of life infused with love.
That starts in our home – in what they see in me, in how their father treats them and speaks to them, in how we encourage our sons to celebrate with them, and in who we allow into their lives. There will be no men or women of patriarchy allowed to voice their contempt for women into the lives of our sons and daughters. Even when it hurts – we silence the critics and bar their entrance into our home.
Our daughters need to know they have a right to their bodies and their voices and their stories and their truth.
The Stories of Women Heal Us
I can remember when I first began to hear the stories of the women who were raising me. This gathering of strong women who had tales to tell about rape, molestation, love, rejection, being silenced, being shamed, being heard, being tamed, leading, serving, sharing, and binding the broken places. I remember sitting in the back seat as a child on long car rides hearing them share their truth with each other.I know what it is to be included around the kitchen table – to share pieces of me honestly.
It was important to be given the opportunity to share from the pulpit my story – a tale that splits off dead wood, shifts people in their comfortable places, and reveals truth.
Stories Need to Be Heard
I remember witnessing my mother standing up tall in front of a congregation of believers and from the pulpit sharing her story about how the God of Mercy saw her even in the midst of men’s violent intentions and plans.
There is a rich history that our daughters will take on as their own – and move forward with as they take up their own voices and stories and lives.
Our stories and histories inform their stories and histories. They need to know where we have been and what we have known, what we would do differently, when we have been strong, and when we have been weak, who has contributed life, and who has violently attempted (or been successful) at suppressing our feminine awesomeness.
“The truth is, in order to heal we need to tell our stories and have them witnessed…The story itself becomes a vessel that holds us up, that sustains, that allows us to order our jumbled experiences into meaning. As I told my stories of fear, awakening, struggle, and transformation and had them received, heard, and validated by other women, I found healing” (Sue Monk Kidd, “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter”).
When I Cannot Protect them, I Inform Them
I cannot protect my daughters from every violent act. I will not be able to protect them from every person that will seek to snuff out their voices or shame their spirits, or take violent action against their bodies by force or words, but I can tell them the stories of the women who have gone before them. My story is a significant tale to be shared. They experience the truth of the stories in their lineage to help them see their own path more clearly.
I tell and show these beautiful wonderments what it looks like, feels like, the great consequences that come with being a woman who refuses to behave.
Well-behaved women will never contribute to the redemption of this world. It won’t happen.
I am raising daughters who are not well-behaved.
I am raising little women who question everything.
“I also needed to hear other women’s stories in order to see and embrace my own. Sometimes another woman’s story becomes a mirror that shows me a self I haven’t seen before. When I listen to her tell it, her experience quickens and clarifies my own. Her questions rouse mine. Her conflicts illumine my conflicts. Her resolutions call forth my hope. Her strengths summon my strengths. All of this can happen even when our stories and our lives are very different” (Sue Monk Kidd, “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter”).
I recognize by raising them and seeing myself in truth and then being the kind of woman they need to see me being…. As I uncover more and more of my wholeheartedness, I find the places where wholeheartedness and authentic voice can grow. Wholeheartedness makes me even more brave. My wholeheartedness helps them to be brave.
Nagging, Manipulative Women vs. Wholehearted Lovers of Life
I have discovered that manipulative, emotionally abusive women will never move relationships into healthy, wholehearted patterns of life. Manipulative women use violence, whining, hurt silence, nagging, omission, lying, gossip, spreading false information, and more to force their way in this world… to control the people around them. To control their actions, their stories, their voices, and ultimately their choices.
- I am attempting to raise healthy, wholehearted daughters who are able to be brave.
Silent, broken women who continually allow their voices to be stolen, shamed and hidden from this world… we need to hear you.
- I am raising daughters who are heard.
I am attempting to raise daughters who are not ashamed, afraid, intimidated by their own voices or the voices of the women around them. We refuse to allow others in their rage or jealousy to shame these girls into corners and quiet submission.
- I am raising daughters who see their worth and are unafraid.
One of the prayers I pray often over all of my children is that they will NOT be easily bought. We know too well what it is to have others use money and approval to buy your cooperation. I want our children who live like there is no material or financial possession, flattering word, or deed meant to entice or buy them…. that will be remotely interesting to them. I pray that they will not be easily won over by honeysweet words and gifts from the mouths of those who would harm them, use them, suck their lives dry of all joy and hope.
I am raising daughters who will not be easily bought.
Approval-seeking, people-please women often forfeit their own health, welfare, and voice as they seek to obtain the status of “good enough” in the eyes of other people. They live defeated, broken lives trying to win others love and acceptance.
I am raising daughters who know they are pre-approved. They are enough. And that goodness and fullness of life that they bring to this world has NOTHING to do with what others have to say or believe about them. Their acceptance and goodness comes from God not [wo]man.
We seek to teach these young women many things about being a woman in this world. This world is often set up to shame them and bind them before they even get started so we offer them truth and hope about their futures.
I pray I am always a voice of hope and a presence of celebration and peace in their lives. And that they know how deeply they are loved and accepted.
Learning. Growing. Raising Feminists Who Love.
These are all the things that I have learned since becoming their mother.
These are all the things that have pushed me further into defining myself as a feminist… raising them has informed my own becoming.
- While raising them, I have found myself.
- In choosing them, I have chosen myself.
- While discovering them, I am discovering more and more of me.
- In encouraging their self-care, I am choosing self-care for myself.
- While accepting their voices, I am accepting my voice.
- In protecting them, I am understanding how essential it is to protect myself from violent words and actions meant to abuse, harm, shame, and demand.
- In helping them uncover their unique awesomeness, I am uncovering my own awesomeness.
While learning how to raise fierce women– I learned to be able to speak, fight, see, stand, march, choose, love, seek wisdom writers and speakers and thinkers, connect, sever ties, build bridges, burn bridges, lead, follow, heal and more.
Raising daughters is making me… able.
I am not missing this.
How is raising (or having raised) daughters changing (changed) you?