I grew up in a Christian home with a very strong, independently fierce, and loving mother and a just as strong, fiercely calm, and supportive father.
My parents taught me that a woman can be strong and independent. The only downside to their methods was modeling and allowing passive aggressive behaviors instead of teaching me how to voice my feelings in a healthy and respectfully bold way. I am naturally opinionated and overly passionate, which can come across as confrontational in a passive-aggressive household. I learned from a very young age to stuff down my feelings.
In college, I had a boyfriend who was also from a religious background, but the philosophy in his household was very different. In his home as well as his church, women are expected to sit and look pretty. Women are not allowed to teach men, and, in many cases are taught the man is the “head of the household” and the woman, by default, must follow his lead. For many women, this is a way of life and they are happy to fulfill this role. It is the way to be a good Christian, wife, and woman. I was never okay with this. I was made with the passions and personality that I have. Surely, that Maker didn’t then intend for me to stifle them for a man.
In college, when I was a sophomore and my boyfriend was a senior in his last semester, we had a conversation that would turn out to be my feminist awakening. I had asked him what he thought of women in leadership, so he reached straight for the Bible. I could tell he was well-prepared for his argument because he flipped directly to a specific passage. I felt the blood rush to my face and my chest puff up.
Right then and there I knew I was about to defend myself, my beliefs, and the type of woman I would grow to be.
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”
1 Timothy 2:11 & 12 [NIV]
I know what it might sound like, but I ask that you don’t get mad at the Bible itself. In context, I do think this passage contains a lesson for a specific group of people at a specific time in history. The problem, in my opinion, arises when the Bible becomes a tool for putting others in ‘their rightful place.’ It turned out that my boyfriend was trying to put me in what he thought was ‘my rightful place.’
Our discussion really affected me for a few reasons. I felt annoyed at the conversation itself but truly proud that I was fighting for myself and other people like me: people who feel they must prove to the world that they are allowed to be who they are.
I desired then and still today to work to be a leader. Since I was four years old, when my first baby sister was born, I became mamma bear. I knew my heart wanted to care for people. I was seven when my youngest sister, Joy, was born. I told my mom that she was my baby. My caring heart grew even stronger. I carried her around and made sure she had what she needed. I was the voice to my parents when the two littles needed something. I advocated for them and protected them. I take this attitude into all my friendships. Once I feel a connection, which usually doesn’t take long, I will do anything to protect, love, and care for my people.
My mission is to fight for people who aren’t heard or even seen, to fight for myself, and to be as authentic as I can be. I want to fight through my instinctive passive aggression to speak my feelings and my mind. I want to learn to speak out for others with love and kindness. I want to listen to all sides of the story.
This discussion, though excruciating, turned out to be the moment I truly stepped into being a feminist. Every day since then has been part of the journey toward a more complete me. I started by combating negative thoughts about my own self-image. I tried to heal my relationships with food and exercise. Once I got outside of myself, I looked to how I could help other people.
I don’t have it all figured out. I still look in the mirror and think “good lord, what happened to you?” but I am fighting those urges more often and trying to replace those thoughts with “hey, hey good lookin’!” It’s hard. But it’s possible. Now, as a result, turns out, I am not perfect, but I feel stronger, more loving, more confident, and more self-aware.
I am a feminist because I believe in a different future for women, how we see ourselves and the roles we play in the world. We are the lovers, the fighters, the strong, and tenacious.