12 July 2011

Or there's always damnation. . .

I would not necessarily consider myself a feminist. Not in the traditional/stereotypical sense, at least. I don't think that women need to take on all male jobs to be worthwhile, I don't think all men are chauvinists, I'd love to have a family some day and a little girly part of my soul likes it when couples get together in books and movies. I also, erm, would rather wear all my clothing (seen or unseen) than not.

But every so often, there's a part of my soul that rears its feminist head that cannot be stopped.

A good friend of mine posted something on Facebook as a status that looked something like this:

"I want to become something or do something great. I don't know what it is yet, but I'm looking!"

There followed a handful of responses that all looked something like this (including spelling errors):

"Ur the mother of a great baby! You can't do better than that!"


"But your a mother and a wife and a really great friend. Your already great."

(That low rumbling that sounds like thunder? That would be my feminist monster head waking up from a nap before its had enough sleep.)

Now, you might look at me and say, "Hold the phone. Those are nice responses. It is after all, good to be a wife and a mother. What's wrong with being great already?"

My response?

This friend of mine is already certifiably great. I won't argue that even a little. She's been gifted in many different areas of her life and I've always admired her for her grace, generosity, and charity. She's legitimately great already. These responders aren't wrong.

Those responses may have been meant to comfort my friend into acceptance of her life as it is, but it didn't look to me like she was looking for comfort. It looked to me like she was looking for progress. Like she was looking for something beyond what she already had. Wanting to find a way to influence more of the world for good. Being a mother and a wife are wonderful, but the process of buying a ring and producing children and earning the titles "wife" and "mother" do not give women a "get out of progression free" pass. These responses may have been intended for comfort, but the culture around such attitudes reeks strongly of: "Don't worry about getting better, God loves you just as you are right now and you don't need to work or try to be like Him." (Which, last I checked my Bible Dictionary, shimmies rather close to the definition of "damnation." Lack of progression? Check.)

What is it about our culture that wants to treat the act of getting married and becoming a mother as the peak of achievement a woman can make? That once those things are done, we cannot possibly do anything else with our lives that would influence the world for good? Why do we, as women and as a culture, feel the need to patronize ourselves into boxes so that we can justify who we are?

Next you might say, "Well, this is all fine and great. But 'no success can compensate for failure in the home.' Right?"

I'm not arguing. What I would like to suggest, though, is that our definitions of "failure" and "home" might be a little different. It is, I suppose, a certain kind of success for a family to be well fed and decently fond of each other at the end of the day. But the real triumph of a family is when they are then able to, as individuals and groups, go into the world and make a difference. If they were fond of each other at home forever and never went into the world, that wouldn't be a very successful situation. That seems obvious. But shouldn't that apply to every member of the family, not just the children and the father? For the mother/wife to be fully successful in the home, doesn't she need to be the greatest person she can be outside of it as well?

(The petty part of me would also like to suggest that the above quote was not directed only to women, but to men as well, and I don't remember anyone telling men recently not to enhance their talents and abilities. In fact, I remember a specific instance where they were commanded to expect more and do more. But I digress.)

I think that monster is starting to feel slightly better about the world. Maybe it's just a touchy subject for me and I'm overreacting a bit. I am, after all, a successful, happy single adult woman in a culture that sometimes sees those traits as incongruent. But I took no shame whatsoever in posting my own response to my friend in which I said something to the effect of: "______ - I think it's wonderful that you want to learn new things and be great. Go for it!"

1 comment:

A. Bailey said...

I love your insight. You never cease to amaze. Just reading this makes me want to be better.