Thursday

#FaithFeminisms: i believe in inequality


My feminism is (almost) done talking about equality.

If we take folks at their word, it would appear that almost everyone already believes in it. We wouldn’t dream of being racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory. We know better. We’re good, welcoming people with the best intentions, but if Wisdom is truly proved right by her deeds, something is deeply amiss.

The Declaration of Independence asserted “all men are created equal,” but history proved white, Protestant, propertied men to be considerably more “equal” in practice, and not nearly enough has changed. “Separate but equal” Jim Crow segregation couldn’t demonstrate anything remotely resembling racial equality, and its shameful legacy persists to this day in our neighborhoods, schools, prisons, and halls of power.

Although certainly not analogous in degree or kind, plenty of Christians profess to believe in gender equality right alongside female submission and a hierarchy of roles in church and home. But more inclusive theologies and progressive politics aren’t a reliable indicator of functional equality either. If they were, certain denominations and communities would be that great Promised Land where none were limited by gender, skin color, ethnicity, status, sexuality, or any other difference, but we’re not there yet by a long shot. We’re not post-racial or post-feminist, yet we’re so eager for progress (and distance from those sorts of people) that we’re ever tempted to claim victories prematurely. Belief in equality of worth slowly morphs into the misconception that structural equality has already been functionally achieved. Mission Accomplished. We did it!

But a presence overlooked and ignored is not an absence. Those benefiting from the continued marginalization of others are in no place to proclaim how far we’ve come or what counts as harm, and despite all our believing in equality, white / male / heterosexual / cisgender / educated / Christian / conventionally attractive / upwardly mobile / neurotypical / able-bodied  perspectives and people are still honored as more “equal”. More authoritative. More respectable and civil. More rational, more trustworthy, more gracious, and more deserving. Gendered and racialized micro-aggressions exist perniciously (alongside other types), even if those in power fail to recognize them.
If a noble concept such as “equality” can be so consistently twisted to include or overlook subordination, propped up hierarchies, and a host of harmful and exclusionary practices and beliefs, perhaps it’s time to change the conversation.
I believe in inequality. I’m seeking confirmation that you believe in it, too – that you believe me – that together we may work to subvert hierarchies and birth another Way.
Can you acknowledge people as experts on their own lives and experience? If people of color, women, and  LGBTQ voices speak up about discrimination, will you write us off as bitter or toxic? Do you assume we’re overreacting, uneducated, or being emotional? Are we “playing the victim?”
If you hear talk of oppression or marginalization, do your eyes glaze? Are your lips quick with a sigh and rebuttal about the un-Christlike perils of “ideology” or “identity politics”? Do you really believe that your own perspective is somehow neutral and above the fray, unmarred by social location, assumption, or worldview? Is it possible that the benefits granted you by systems actively privileging your voice and value over others have compromised your ability to be objective or to assume the moral high ground?
Each of us is biased, formed by our own histories, identities, and experiences. I cannot leave my middle class whiteness at the door when I do theology or anything else, and each situation and perspective I encounter I experience as a woman.
But we can work to cultivate lenses oriented toward the margins and liberation. We can refuse to spiritualize Jesus’ declaration that he brings good news to the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, and freedom for prisoners and all who are oppressed. We can remember that Christ was executed by the state only to rise from the dead, making spectacle of its powers and principalities of violence and domination. We can listen to perspectives unlike our own, allowing ourselves to be softened and shaped by them. We can exercise compassion and humility, honoring Wisdom from the margins where Jesus pitched his tent and dwells.
WISDOM FROM THE MARGINS
Does not Wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
To you, O people, I cry:
set your hearts on me and listen
for my lips will speak the truth
Sophia is not voiceless.
Have we not listened? We are distracted.
Have we not heard? A gift not ours to give.
Incline your ear and understand:
amplify her voice. Her story is her own
but our salvation is entwined.
For those who find me find life
together and to the full.
------------

The conversations happening around #FaithFeminisms this week are tremendously challenging and inspiring. It's rare to find evangelical, liberal, and radical voices in one place, but it's happening here, and I'm excited to contribute my voice in print (and literally, as well). Spend some time on the site and consider linking up a post of your own. Good things are afoot.

[Archived here, here, and here.]

Sunday

Tuesday

nevermind the gap


Women not employed by the beauty industrial complex will tell you that your thirties are better than your twenties, due to increased confidence and comfort in one’s own skin. It’s counter-intuitive, perhaps, for a culture as youth obsessed as ours, where magazines whisper that happiness is proportional to the gap between one’s thighs, but I suspect that part of contentment lies instead in the spaces one takes up without reservation or apology.
What good is a gap anyway? Negative space so easily becomes a canvas on which a faceless crowd projects its own constraining desires. They’re impossibly fickle and don’t take kindly to women who won’t abide contradictory rules and roles, but permission never was theirs to grant. I paint my own paths in bold, unmuted hue, attuned instead to passions closer to heart and home.
When I was young, I hunched my shoulders, envious of women delicate and fine. Now I know better: there are as many ways to be feminine as there are people, so I stand with shoulders back and head held high.
My voice carries. There’s no question? At the end of my sentences? I’m not sorry for showing up or speaking my mind (even–especially–if they’d rather I dial it back and fall in line). My presence and perspective will not shrink to fit.
I’ve learned there’s a difference between the crowd and my neighbor. To love the latter well, I cannot seek to please the crowd, and I’ve got to actually love and take care of myself. Self-consciousness and doubt turn a gaze inward every bit as much as pride, stalling the good work of justice, mercy, humility, and hospitality in our midst. I can’t embody my own gifts or fully be the person God created me to be if I’m stuck caring too much about what everyone else does or thinks.
There’s so much more room. Our experiences, strengths, fears, and perceptions vary. We’re not the same, and there’s no reason at all to squeeze ourselves or each other into tiny cookie cutter molds.
Let’s raise an Ebenezer from the molds we shatter together. A monument to faithfulness, freedom, and wings unclipped. To the diverse Body of Christ serving the Spirit and common good.
We can take up space as women beyond corner and margin. Your choices won’t invalidate mine, my victories can’t diminish yours, and your strengths don’t render me weak. Our stories are vast and unique, but our liberation and the health of our communities are bound up together.
We want to be well. We will listen and learn and love, and we’ll carve out still more room, creating space and new paths as we walk, never minding the gap.

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