It’s Complicated

That’s no lie – it really is.

First off, I hereby acknowledge my failure to listen to the little voice of truth that whispered in my ear “this isn’t going to work” the second I typed the words in my last post:”I’m going to blog every day”.

Good, now that that’s out of the way… 

I’ve been having some thoughts… they have been percolating for some years now, and I haven’t really known how to even broach the subject…

No one likes a raging feminist.

One of the things I liked about my new faith when I ‘came out’ as a Christian at the age of 15 was the fact that, for the most part, Christianity seems to condone a sense of inequality between the sexes.

I liked the idea that a girl should do ballet, wear makeup, grow up to become a mummy, and then make food in the kitchen and wear dresses and all…I think this is because my mum has never been what most would consider to be a traditional mum. Mine worked hard, has been the director of her organization forever and is well respected in her professional field. I resented this growing up because I never had anything good in my lunch box.

Somewhere around the ‘believer age’ of 13, having been married for about 4 years, I took a job at my church, where my husband and also my father in law also worked. It was explained to me that our church supported the notion of couples ministering as couples, but that due to limited funding I would not be paid a decent salary nor would I be allowed to work in the same area as my husband because we couldn’t afford to double up roles and there were many other things that needed doing. At the time I saw no problem with this. I worked at church for 4 years before I started feeling like something was not right.

Before I go any further, I need to say that I have been committed to my church, The Vine Church since I was 15 years old. That is not in question. I love it and I love the people who make it happen. I don’t agree with the way everything is done but this is not meant to be an attack on any of the wonderful men I have in my life. Remember, it’s complicated.

Anyway, toward the end of my stint as church staff I realized that although all the boys I’d grown up with were fast being rebranded as Pastor thisorthat, I was never going to be given this title. We do have a female pastor in church – as many might expect, she is the Children’s pastor. We have even had a female Elder, we have female worship leaders and females are welcome to preach from the pulpit, although the statistics on how often this actually happens are not overly helpful. 

‘Why don’t we have more women on the platform?” I ask from time to time. 

“We would love to,” Comes the response. “But there aren’t many suitable candidates around right now.”

I was not in a good place when I left my job at church – I was working through mental things, my father died, I got pregnant and had a baby, and I honestly had no sense of what I was meant to be doing.

Motherhood came along and I pushed all the feminist-flavoured questions to the back of my mind. 

Yesterday I was in town buying some soy formula for 16mo Dylan. It just so happened that OBE Rob Glover,  someone I respect very deeply was in town, two doors down from the formula shop, holding a meeting for the board of trustees for his charity, Care for Children. I was pulled into the meeting and listened happily as the people around the table and on the conference call introduced themselves – high powered men, every one of them.

Again – I have NO problem with any of these guys. 

As they all took their turns it dawned on me that I was going to have to say hello and explain myself too… I wasn’t sure why I was there, and as the wearer of many hats I didn’t know what angle to go with…why was I there?

“I’m a writer”

“I run Handmade Hong Kong”

“I’ve just finished my Masters and getting ready to do a phd”

“I was responsible for coordinating the 50-person trip to CFC’s BeijingHQ back in 2008”

“I’m just a mum”

or…would it be…

“I’m Tom’s wife and I’m here to represent him.” 

Tom is quite highly sought after, and so he should be. He is very talented, he is at the head of the pack in terms of what he does here in HK/Asia. But not only that, he is an incredibly valuable team member/leader. He is very tech savvy and practically minded with a generous dosage of creative foresight. Anyone in their right mind would want his input.

What I am trying to work out is, where does this leave me, and how do I do both of these things:

– avoid competing with/resenting him

– avoid giving myself up completely and becoming ‘just a wife’

From what I’ve observed, it’s very easy to go to either extreme. In church culture I fear that there are many wives for whom their wife/mother role becomes the path of least resistance. I’m sure many of them are deliriously happy in that role, and again, if that is what God wired them for, then all power to them. 

Other women might set themselves against the idea of becoming a supporting role, and even shelf the wife/mother option for a bit/forever. 

This recent article says it nicely – you can’t have it all

At this point in the thought chain I begin to lose track of what I’m talking about… what’s my problem? A feminist has to have a problem right?

I guess my problem is that I’m beginning to face up to the reality of the fact that I’m living in a man’s world, and indeed, and even a man’s church. I can see the path of least resistance beckoning me on, but there is a little raging feminist inside me threatening to break out. It’s not actually that I’m mad. I’m sad mostly.

I don’t think that, in my world anyway, any men are purposely creating resistance in some areas (and therefore paths of less resistance in other, less valued areas). I actually think it’s what starts as a harmless boys’ club, and evolves into something simultaneously hard to pinpoint yet almost watertight-impregnable. Like the popular crowd in high school – they are just enjoying their cool fun stuff so much they don’t realize how left out the losers are feeling, or how valuable the input of those losers could be if they could all just play together.

Here’s where the complication steps up a notch, and may even be accused of bordering on hypocrisy,or contradictory at the very least: I think we ladies are the weaker sex. I think it takes a very strong and very generous group of men to step aside and allow the girls to shine too. 

I can see why it doesn’t happen as much as it should. Women can really suck for many reasons – we can be, and usually are very complicated, emotional, talkative, needy, sensitive, jealous, insecure, fallible creatures. But, we also have a lot of value to offer, and more than any of us really know. 

I actually agree that operations, events, teams etc can work much smoother and more harmoniously with less estrogen… this is where keeping it guys-only is indeed the path of least resistance…least drama anyway. But, that low-drama path just doesn’t sit right with me. Somewhere in my feminine spirit I long to see women doing things: Awesome things, and ordinary things that usually default to the boys. Am I just complaining because I wish I would be asked to lead/preach/sing? No. hand on my heart, no. I’m not after another single thing to add to my plate. Too busy unraveling the current mound of spaghetti.

When I can’t find a strong woman role model anywhere I look, week after month, after year, I begin to die a little inside. Something says to me, why bother? Who cares? And I start the process of checking out.

If men are the stronger sex, and I’m ready to argue that they are (I love them), then the reason there aren’t many strong female candidates around right now is probably because the dominant sex is not proactively making room for them. It sounds whiney, I know, I know. But this is the whole point, girls generally don’t compete well on the same level as boys because girls are not the same as boys. If given an opportunity to contribute even though they whined instead of competing for their place, then they will often deliver something valuable that few men possible could – because girls are not the same as boys.

So, what am I saying here? What’s my problem? I’m not entirely sure. This one is still in the sketching phase. I’ll color it in slowly once I’ve done some more thinking. It’s really very complicated.

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