Tag Archive | women

Being a woman of confidence (part 2)

Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet (1706-1749), French mathematician and physicist, via Wikimedia

The other day, I asked you to tell me what you’re good at, and you delivered.  Between comments here and on Twitter and Facebook, as well as private emails, I learned that we are amazingly good at all kinds of things.  So what are they?

We’re good at our jobs.

No matter what we do, we do it well!  You told me that you are writers, teachers, artists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, marketing professionals, dancers, accountants, bankers, childcare workers, librarians, pastors, engineers . . . the list goes on.  And you love your work!  You’re professional, and you do your jobs well.  One woman commented on my post that she’s published 3 novels.  Holy cow, what an accomplishment!  I mean, I think publishing just one novel would be pretty amazing.  A few weeks ago, my church celebrated the anniversary of our pastor’s ordination.  I was awed by all of her accomplishments.  Not once did she act like it was “no big deal” (as we’re sometimes taught to do).  She accepted the thanks and accolades with grace.  Way to go, professional women!

We’re good at storytelling.

I have to highlight this one because I’m a writer myself, and I’m biased towards using our words.  One woman commented that her school district has The Hunger Games on the required reading list.  More and more places are adding in great works by women.  It may not be enough yet, but it’s a start.  I just finished reading A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle to my kids, and they’re eager for more.  Another woman–a person of color–commented that her heritage has beauty and goodness too.  I’m excited to begin delving into this richness.  There is no truth to the idea that books by women or featuring women are only for women.  My own son emotionally identifies just as strongly with Meg Murray as he does with Harry Potter.  As it turns out, many of us say we’re pretty handy with words.  Quite a lot of us blog, and some of us have wide audiences.  We know how to write, and we’re not afraid to say it.

We’re good at inter- and intrapersonal skills.

Some of the great things women said they were good at:

  • Organization
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Offering wise words
  • Time management
  • Caretaking
  • Encouragement
  • Prayer and meditation
  • Budgeting

Some of you said you were good at all of those!  One of the women I met in an online group has consistently said that something she’s determined to do is “show up.”  She didn’t say it in response to my plea for “what are you good at,” but I think it’s a good example of one of the ways in which women are sometimes fractured.  We’re spread so thin–especially in our churches–that we are no longer able to just “show up.”  When we can break out of that pattern, it’s amazing what we can do.

We’re good at sex.

I wonder why no one wanted to own this one publicly in the comments?  I got a few private emails from women telling me that they are, in fact, very good at sex–including one who said she’s good at giving head.  (No, they weren’t propositioning; just too shy to share it outright.)  I am dang proud of them for saying it!  We have this idea that men are sex fiends who think even really awful sex is good.  We also get this message that women are so hard to please that men ought to be focused on us in the bedroom.  (I realize I’m speaking in heterosexual terms here; I’m talking about the messages we get from society, which tend to ignore people who aren’t cis-het.)  It’s good to know there are women out there owning their between-the-sheets skills.  Woo hoo!

We’re good at being wives, partners, and mothers.

I’m hesitant to go there, since often we’re told that’s what we should be good at, even if we’re not.  A lot of us, though, seem to feel undervalued when it comes to family.  We may feel appreciated by our spouses and children, but we feel marginalized everywhere else.  Some women feel like their skills at nurturing are ridiculed by women who believe we’ve sold out by staying home.  Some women feel like they may be excellent wives and mothers, but since it’s expected, it doesn’t get any special attention.  Still others find it frustrating to only be seen as wives and mothers.  Yet it’s one of the things you listed as something you’re good at, and that has beauty and worth.

I don’t want this to be the end of the road for “what are we good at.”  Keep this going!  Today, I have two challenges for you.  First, find a woman or a girl and tell her one thing she’s good at.  Second, if you are a woman, think of one thing you do well and tell someone else your truth.  You can say, “You know what?  I am really good at _____!”  See what happens.  If you take my challenge, will you email me or comment here and tell me how it went?

Being a woman of confidence

This fantastic post, the words that choke me, sparked some interesting discussion among my online friends.  My favorite part:

Maybe the other half of the story is to learn to be equally vulnerable in identifying, owning, and sharing my strengths and my gifts to encourage and empower others to do the same. What a difference we could make in the world if we all embraced our light and let it shine forth unimpeded!

This is a difficult thing, isn’t it?  The one question we didn’t reach an answer to is why.  Why do so many women feel fearful–or even just strange–about owning our strengths?  Why are so many blogs, especially by and for women, devoted to admitting our weaknesses and nurturing the broken places in our lives?

I don’t believe this is entirely the fault of Christian culture.  It’s true that in many churches, we’re supposed to love being wives and mothers so much that those are the things we celebrate being good at.  It’s also true that in many churches women’s roles are limited, often to things similar to being wives and mothers–food and childcare duties.  That’s certainly one place where it can feel unsafe to speak about our strengths.

Another part of the problem is the “disease model” of salvation–that we are all horribly broken from birth and in desperate need to be rescued from hell.  For a good number of people (not just women), such a belief has done an incredible amount of damage to their self-worth.  If a person thinks she has nothing good inside her to offer, she isn’t going to speak about her strengths.

That’s not the whole picture, though.  It’s a systemic issue.  I’ve written before on my experience in school of reading very little literature written by women.  In all my time playing with my orchestra (more than 10 years total), I think we’ve played exactly one composition written by a woman.  When I brought that up with some friends, I got two equally bad reactions:

1. If you wanted to read things by women, why didn’t you just do it on your own?


2. Who cares who wrote it as long as it’s good?

Both of those are ways of silencing women.  If women have written books that are just as good as those written by men, then why aren’t we reading them in the classroom?  The idea that it doesn’t matter is ridiculous.  It matters because it sends the message that women may be able to write, but they don’t write the kinds of things everyone wants to read.  That may be an unintentional message, but it’s the one being sent whether intended or not.

How can we learn that we are good at these things if we’re never acknowledged as such?  How can women know that we are good and capable and that our work is desirable if we look around us and the vast majority of people being celebrated in history, art, literature, science, and music are men?

When people (okay, mostly men; sorry) dismiss that concern as irrelevant or untrue, it just serves to silence us further.  When we’re told that it doesn’t matter or that we’re exaggerating or that their experiences were different, it makes me angry.  None of those things matter when reality is that so many women continue to feel like we are fractured.

We need to do something about that.  I’m going to do something about that.  I want to know what we’re good at.  Everything we’re good at.  If you are a woman, what do you love to do that feels like a success?  How did you discover it?  Is it your profession?  A hobby?  Something with your family?

Maybe you’re a guy (hey, plenty of guys read this blog).  I’m willing to bet you know some pretty amazing women.  What makes them amazing?

Feel free to leave comments here.  You can also contact me.  I’m going to spend as long as it takes collecting stories about women and what we’re good at.  If you want your story here, let me know.  I’ll keep it anonymous if you prefer.  Let’s get the word out that we are more than our broken places.  Let’s do as Kenetha suggests and “[embrace] our light and let it shine forth unimpeded!”

Notable News: Week of July 27-August 2, 2013

Better late than never, right?  Blogging’s been hit or miss this summer, as sometimes happens when both kids and my husband are on school vacation.  Today, we kept ourselves busy by sending my car to the shop (possibly for the last time; we’ll see) and hanging out at the children’s museum.  Anyway, here I am to bring you my favorite posts from the week.

1. Being used

If you haven’t seen this piece on being “used by God,” you may not have been on the Internet this week.  It’s been passed around by just about everyone.  I’m sharing it here in case you missed it.

2. Being used (part 2)

Here’s a cartoon by the always-wonderful David Hayward in response.  I particularly like this quote (and also the non-use of gendered pronouns for God):

Pushing that to its logical limits, the glory of God is God, and when we are our truest selves, fully alive, this is God in all God’s glory. There is now no separation. There is perfect oneness. There is perfect unity.

3. Being abused

This is a wonderful post over at Deeper Story by Susannah Paul.  We are failing to listen to those who have been deeply wounded and spiritually abused by churches.  I wish I had just a penny for the number of times someone has said they are reluctant to return to church because of the pain and some well-meaning person has said, “You just need to find the right church.”  A small part of me curls up and dies every single time.  We can do better.

4. Being owned

If you haven’t been following Sarah Moon’s You Are Not Your Own series, you should go do that right now.  I mean it.  Stop reading this post and just go do it.  If you just want to read the most recent one, that’s cool, because it’s an excellent one about unmarried women and “ownership.”  I am thankful my parents never took this approach with me.

5. Being a dancer

A friend sent me the link to this post about boys and dancing.  As the mom of a boy who dances, I always appreciate hearing from other parents who are proud of their kids and don’t limit them based on gender expectations.  What does make me sad is that nearly all of the ones about boys and breaking stereotypes are by women.  If anyone wants to comment here and link to posts by dads of boys who do things society considers “feminine,” that would be welcome.

6. Being an adoptee/adoptive parent

A fresh perspective on the “But people want your unborn baby!” from a mom with two adopted daughters.

7. Being body confident

Like many women, I’ve had a lifelong struggle to love my body exactly as it is.  I’m doing my best not to pass those feelings on to my own daughter.  Body-shaming must end.  (I could write a whole post on this, but I also think health-shaming and exercise-shaming and food-shaming need to end.)  Here are some wise words about how we can break the cycle.

8. Being a douchebag

My online friend and fellow writer Tim Gallen has some great advice for those looking to increase their douchebaggery.  My favorite line involves a sexually frustrated large mammal.  This is a guest post for Kim Ulmanis, who is honest and funny and just plain good; you should check out the rest of her blog while you’re over there.

9. Being a douchebag (part 2)

And speaking of douches, why am I not surprised that Hugo Schwyzer is at it again?  Why is this guy continually given a platform?  I think Dianna Anderson answers that question to an extent in her fantastic take-down of the culture that encourages people like Schwyzer to behave the way they do.

10. Being a writer

There’s so much advice out there on how to be a “proper” writer.  Honestly, it’s easier to explain how to do it wrong than to do it right, as evidenced in this very funny piece by Chuck Wendig.  How many of these are you doing?

11. Being a woman

Several of my friends posted this hilarious ad.  I shared it on Facebook, but it definitely deserves a second round.  If only that kid had been available when I hit puberty.

12. Being a geek

I love this video of Wil Wheaton delivering a message for a convention attendee’s newborn daughter.  I admit to having had a teensy (okay, huge) crush on him when I was in 8th grade.  Although I no longer sigh like a teenage girl when I see him, I do keep finding new reasons to think he’s just plain awesome.

13. Being a geek (part 2)

That video above is particularly important, because far too many girls grow up into women who have to defend our geekiness.  I’m glad I’m raising a boy who thinks that girls who know their video games are the most fun and a girl who knows it’s okay to be completely absorbed in your chosen geekdom.  Watch this video for more totally awesome geeks who just happen to be girls and women.  Also, Wil Wheaton.

14. Being from Rochester

My own city gets some love at HuffPo with an article on our fantastic street art.  I’ve never been more proud of my wonderful city!

That’s it for this week.  I should be around a bit more in the coming weeks (I hope).  If nothing else, check in on Monday for the first post on Fifty Shades Darker.  I would say you don’t want to miss it, but this is Fifty Shades we’re talking about.

Have a great weekend!

When friendship empowers us

By Jules Morgan from Montreal, Canada (Cara's Ad Hoc delicious  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know why asparagus symbolizes friendship; but this was the 5th image that came up when I typed “friendship” into Wikimedia Images. I liked it.

Sometimes, I feel like I have no fight left in me.  I forget why I write and why I speak up, because no matter how many of us have joined our voices, it’s hard to see progress.

But then I have a conversation or exchange comments online and I remember.  I know why I do this.  I see others doing what they can, what they know how to do, every day in their ordinary lives, and I remember.

Last night, I had a terrific exchange with a couple of people on my Facebook page.  Nothing earth-shattering, but it was cool.  I connected with one old friend and one new one, and we shared some thoughts.

The original post, which I shared via a fellow blogger, was a link to a Christianity Today article in response to the Steubenville rape case and the aftermath.  After a few comments from one friend, another jumped in and asked what I thought of the post I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter which was linked in the CT article.  (I agree, by the way.  I think it’s a weak argument that continues to perpetuate the idea that women are only someone in relation to a man.  I feel the same way when people use the “it could be your friend/relative/coworker” argument to “humanize” any group of people.)  I won’t bore you with the details of our conversation, but eventually, it sparked my new friend to post this question:

Thought experiment: There are two magic buttons. One makes all men see all women as persons. The other allows all women to see themselves as persons. (Person = full empowerment; full ownership of one’s own body, mind, and destiny.)

If you could press only one of the magic buttons, which would you press? Why?

Both my other friend and I (in a rare fit of solidarity; we often disagree with each other–but that’s one of the things I like about her) said we would choose the latter.  We disagree on why we would make that choice, but it struck me as important that two people who have vastly different approaches to addressing the ills of the world would be of one mind on this.

The next question, of course, was why we (feminists) don’t focus more on empowering women rather than changing the way men view us.  My friend said that what’s important to her is not to worry about educating those who won’t change their minds, to be a better person than those who came before her, and to pass that on to the next generation.

Those are admirable things, and I want to go on record saying that I am absolutely certain–whether she always feels it or not–that this friend is making a difference (even though she absolutely does not need my approval!).  We haven’t seen one another face-to-face in many years, but even when we were in college together she was making an impact.  She might not remember it, but she was a good friend (along with our whole group) at a time when I needed that.  So if nothing else, she affected me.  I have no doubt that she is having that effect on others, likely in ways she’s not aware of.  She is doing what is meaningful for her and being the person she wants to be.  That should never, ever be discounted as unworthy or unimportant.

Which brings me to why I do what I do.  I have a vastly different approach.  What’s key, though, is that my way of doing things is not better than anyone else’s.  Nor is it less worthy.  I choose to take on educating the ignorant because I believe that’s what perpetuates cycles of violence and hate.  It’s not the small number of perpetrators who allow it to continue–it’s the uneducated people who stand by and do nothing while violators do what they do.  It’s the people who sit around asking questions about why rape victims “allowed” themselves to be in that position.  It’s the average church-goers who say nothing when their pastors spew hate towards gay people.  It’s the ones who say, “I’m not racist, but…” followed by something that sounds remarkably racist.

In the end, people like my college friend give me the courage to do what I do because she has the courage to live it in her corner of the world.  It doesn’t matter that we work this out in different ways, because there are any number of approaches to making this world a better place.  Instead of being frustrated that all my friends aren’t activists, I’m choosing today to appreciate the beauty of our diversity.  And I’m choosing to celebrate and honor the women I know who have the courage to believe in themselves regardless of what anyone else says.

Thank you, friends, for an excellent discussion and the renewal I needed to go out another day and work against oppression.

Notable News: Week of November 3-9, 2012

What a week!  This time last week, I was just starting my NaNoWriMo novel; I’m now over 13,000 words in.  I also discovered possibly the only two people in my social circles who had no idea that I support LGBT rights.  Who knew there was anyone still left?  In much more interesting news, this week saw some good writing around the Web.

1. Women set the election on fire

Dianna Anderson nicely sums up the great news for women.  We rocked the vote!  Among other things, women are at a record high in the U.S. Senate at 19.  I told my daughter that since we make up half the population, I would love to see half of the people representing us be women.  I hope that happens in her lifetime.

2. On no longer identifying as pro-life

Libby Anne, over at Love, Joy, Feminism,  has written a post on her move from being firmly in the pro-life camp to having a very different view today.  She sums up nicely exactly what I think about the subject.  (Note: Please do not debate Libby Anne’s words here on my blog; go to her page and interact with her.  I can’t speak for another person.  If you want to talk about abortion here, it had better be respectful.  I’m not going to tolerate shouting about how “wrong” anyone else is, calling people baby-killers, or demanding that anyone—myself included—change our views.)

3. Another perspective on unintended pregnancy

I understand why many people (particularly progressives) may not agree, but Thea Ramirez writes a compelling post about making adoption a more viable choice.  I have seen some of the challenges that face people seeking adoption, and I agree that change is needed.  There is certainly more room for honest discussion on the matter.

4. Writing is hard!

Stephanie Brooks understands the internal dialogue of many writers.  Here, she offers some practical solutions for the frustration many of us have when we perceive our writing to have fallen short.  I know that point number one, about failure to give ourselves time to write, is true for me.  It’s tough to balance my own goals and the needs of my family, which ultimately leads to unproductive days and writing that is definitely sub-par.

Join me next week for more juicy talk about Fifty Shades of Bad Writing and a brand-new series about the issues raised in A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  I hope you all have bought your copies so that we can grab a hot drink, a blanket, and settle in for some woman-to-woman chats.  Over the weekend, I hope to get in at least another 4,000 words on that NaNo Novel.  What are your plans?

Being the Girl

I’m continuing my countdown to the official launch of A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.  (I know; I’m like a kid at Christmas.  I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since I first read about it.)  Since I can’t offer a full review (having yet to finish the book), I will sustain you with other topics related to womanhood (Biblical or otherwise) until then.  Today: Our obsession with gender roles.

Have you ever experienced that awkward moment when someone asks, “So, are you the girl in your relationship”?  Yeah, me neither.  See, that’s because for most of us heterosexual cis-women, that question doesn’t even make sense.  Well, okay, I think I’d rather be thought of as a woman than as a girl, since I’m an adult.  But otherwise, I can’t think of a single time when I’ve been asked such a stupid question.

On the other hand, I can think of plenty of times when people have thought it was appropriate to ask me that question about my friends.

I’m not kidding.  I have a disproportionate number of non-het and non-cis friends for someone of my religious background.  For whatever reason, on more than one occasion and regarding more than one friend or family member, I have been asked which of my friends represented “the girl” in their relationships.  This usually happens after I’ve introduced them to someone, say, at a party.

What the heck is the obsession with figuring out what presumed gender roles a couple takes on?  I mean, when I’m with my friends and family, I don’t waste my precious minutes with them contemplating a) what their “roles” are in their relationship or b) whether or not they even have them.  I’m actually not sure why I should care.  Even back in my pre-ally days I never considered that sort of thing.

What surprises me even more is that it’s often people who don’t seem themselves to conform to strict gender-based societal norms who ask such nosy/inappropriate questions.  One of my less Hollywood-style-feminine friends suggested that her lesbian friend’s preferences for dresses must mean that she’s the “girl” in her relationship with her partner.  Resisting the temptation to ask whether this friend’s husband is the “girl” in their relationship, I politely suggested that I didn’t think that was the way it worked—both of them are women, not girls, and they are not role-playing at 1950s husband and wife.

It occurs to me that this is part of what bothers so many people about anything that isn’t heterosexual or cis.  I think it might be at the root of why so many strong women are often referred to as “bitchy,” “shrill,” or “emotional.”  Those are all things that challenge our long-established notions about what it means to be women.  Sometimes, we feel we have to know who’s the girl because we want to revert to something we can understand, something familiar.

How about we make some effort to become more comfortable with the unfamiliar?  I appreciate my friends who fail to conform to anyone else’s idea of what they ought to be or do.  It makes me feel far less of a failure at being a “real” woman when I see that non-conforming women are successful, happy, and fulfilled in who they are.  One day, we can let go of the notion that there are only two ways of being—”boy” or “girl”—and accept that there’s a whole lot more variety than that, even among those of us who consider ourselves entirely straight and cis.


Be sure to check out the essay contest here on the blog, and don’t forget to order your copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood!

Notable News: Week of September 29-October 5, 2012

Lots of around-the-web goodness for you all today.  This week’s best posts are all over the map for content.  Enjoy!

1. Roger E. Olson on “Evangelical Inquisitions”

This timely post is spot-on about the way that some Christians like to play Doctrine Police with other Christians.  At our house, we call it doctrinal purity.  It’s the idea that there is one absolutely correct way to interpret Scripture and if you don’t do it that way, you are in error and must be disciplined.  I have to admit, I’m not fond of the term “evangelical” in this context.  This is not necessarily a hallmark of evangelicalism, only of extreme conservativism.  There are plenty of wonderful evangelicals who hold Scripture in high regard but don’t adhere to a strictly conservative reading.  Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, and Mel White come to mind, for example.

Which brings me to…

2. Denny Burke is an idiot

Or at least he isn’t very kind to Christianity Today’s article on women to watch.  Instead of appreciating the diversity of women on the list, he goes off on how CT didn’t do enough to highlight the differences in belief about women’s roles.  Well, of course, Burke, you fool.  The point of the CT article was to honor Christian women and what they’re doing, not point out their doctrinal error (see above).  I don’t normally read the comments, but the first comment says, “Rachel Held Evans — what do you mean, ‘non-evangelical’?”  This got my attention, so I read on—only to discover a long, long discussion about whether Rachel Held Evans is or is not evangelical.  Because that’s the real point, of course.

And speaking of women…

3. Slacktivist shreds Kent Shaffer

Oh, Slacktivist.  You are so many, many kinds of awesome.  This post quotes Shaffer’s disgusting response to Christian women bloggers and links every single word to a blog written by a woman.  And in case you missed my mad tweeting about it, I’m on that list too!  (It’s in the last set of links, the final word “always.”)  I am honored to be counted among the likes of Alise Write, Andrea Cumbo, Grace, Kimberly Knight, Crystal St. Marie Lewis, and others.  Many thanks to my cousin for pointing this out to me, I would have missed it otherwise.  (And double points for this being posted on my birthday!)

4. If only

If only this were a sign that Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill were moving into the 21st century.  I agree with this woman’s points, but I doubt that her actual presentation at Mars Hill will be anything outside of the narrowly defined roles that church expects from women.  Still, nice to see another woman who doesn’t like women’s conferences.

5. On juggling

Shannon M. Howell says it nicely.  We all have a lot of plates to keep in the air.  If anyone figures it out, please email me.  I’ll get to your message sometime next month.

6. Boy Scouts of America are idiots too

And right here, folks, is exactly why my son is not a boy scout.  (Not that he is or isn’t gay, but I won’t give my money to an organization that actively discriminates against people who are non-het and non-religious.)  Keeping a hard-working kid from being awarded his Eagle Scout is just not cool, I don’t care what your policies are.  Seriously, BSA? Get a new hobby.  Also, if your kid is a scout, sorry, but I’m not buying your popcorn.

7. Jonathan Zeng: heartache and hope

This piece is beautifully written.  It breaks my heart that there is still such discrimination against people for who they are.  At the same time, Zeng captures the spirit of creativity and working out our pain.  I am reminded again of the importance of standing alongside people in the midst of trials.  I hope that we are teaching our children to do the same.

I hope you all have a great weekend, see you Monday for the next installment of 50 Shades!

Notable News: Week of September 22-28, 2012

Not so awesome this week in terms of progress towards women’s equality.  We make up half the population, so why aren’t we making up half the featured blogs and authors lists?  More classic examples of “Men are universal, women are specific.”  Also, a just-for-fun article from the BBC news magazine (hey, I can’t just depress you all, for heaven’s sake!).

1. The title says it all

Insert major eye roll here.  This article, Jeffrey Eugenides: I don’t know why Jodi Picoult is bellyaching, is an exercise in stupidity.  It starts off just fine, a discussion of Eugenides’ work and his latest novel.  Read it if you like; it’s long and not terribly interesting.  About two-thirds of the way through, it turns into a random bashing of Jodi Picoult and a bizarre conversation about the way works by men and women are received.  To refer to Picoult as “bellyaching” reminds me a lot of the way women who rise up against our inequality are usually branded as “shrill,” “bitchy,” or “whiny.”  Eugenides says that Picoult isn’t “starved for attention,” as though that’s what she was after in her criticism of review coverage of women.  Good going, guys.  You just proved her point.

2. Gender bias and Facebook

Oh, goody.  So it’s not okay to be a racist, but it is okay to be a misogynist?  Well, gee.  Hey, women? I think we need to fight harder against this kind of thing.  Slut-shaming? Not cool.  Using pictures of strangers without their permission? Not cool.  Facebook pages about punching women? Not cool.  And again…we make up half the population.  How is it that we haven’t stopped this shit yet?  Let’s get busy making sure that it gets taken down.

3. Keep digging, Kent Shaffer

Last week I was critical of Dianna Anderson’s post about privilege.  This week, I am once again in her debt for voicing exactly what needed to be said in exactly the right way.  She offers two posts in response to Kent Shaffer’s Open Letter to Women Blogs, which you can read here and here.  Shaffer seems to think that there aren’t enough popular “church” blogs written by women to make up—again with the 50% thing—half the list of top blogs.  Of course, the definition of “church” blog is pretty nebulous, and, as is typical, the idea is still that men are—you got it—universal, while women are special.  And of course, we who make up 5freakin’ percent of the population are eager to read only blogs by white men.  Gah.

Finally, before I get too worked up about this, I offer you…

4. Britishisms in American casual speak

Apparently, we Americans are letting common British terms and phrases creep into our own speech.  While I think it’s fun to take note of the ways in which our language may be changing or blending, I think this particular article is kind of…crap.  For example, I’ve never considered the term “sell-by date” to be particularly British, especially since I’ve used it, oh, since my own childhood.  Friends who are from/have been to England assure me that the common term is “expiry date” (though if anyone has another experience, by all means, let me know).  Also, whoever wrote this seems blissfully unaware that there is indeed still some lingering prejudice here toward people we would call redheads (but are referred to as “gingers” across the pond).  According to the article, there’s been an “uptick” of people using the word “ginger,” possibly attributed to Harry Potter (again, someone can correct me here, but I don’t think the word appears in the American versions of the books).  Ah, well.  The article is still an interesting read, and it doesn’t change the fact that UK English has better slang than US English, as you can see here and here.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

That which makes us men (and women)

Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931), Sicilian dress (a boy disguised as a girl). Taormina, circa 1895.

Over the weekend, I read two blog posts, both of which contained phrases that made me cringe a little.  Overall, I liked the posts.  I thought both writers had good things to say.  So my desire is not to be critical of the bloggers or their opinions.  And I do understand the place they were coming from, given the fact that it’s really hard to think outside a small circle of personal experience.  I also want to be sensitive to this issue of privilege, especially after turning my critical eye on a fellow blogger for how she treated the problem.

But here it is: Both blog posts had obviously cisnormative bias in their writing.  Probably unintentionally so.

In the first, About a Boy, Meg Lawton talks with her son about the harsh words used against him at school.  It is otherwise a beautiful, wise, gentle post both about the nurturing of our children and about the feelings we as parents experience when our children are hurting.  But it contained the unfortunate phrase,

The only thing that makes you a boy, is your penis.

The second post was The church is not feminised – blow your noses on your man sized tissues and get over yourselves!  The blogger, Jenny, writes about the tendency of some men (ahem) to complain that the church has been emasculated.  I don’t entirely agree with her theology, but she makes a good point:  Since men still have the bulk of power in the church, they can’t complain about it becoming “feminized.”  This post, too, had a phrase that bothered me:

If you have a penis you’re a man.

Not to sound like I’m obsessed with penises, but what the heck, people?

Neither of the statements made by these bloggers is strictly true.  Certainly, it’s true most of the time.  But not all.  It isn’t the penis that makes one a man.  There is more than one reason a man might not have a penis, and more than one reason a person with a penis might not be a man.

As I said, I can entirely understand the bias of the writers.  In their experience, the people around them are likely to be cisgender, and they are probably unaware of anyone whose medical condition necessitated the removal of the penis.  They probably don’t know (or don’t think they know) anyone intersexed.  So of course they are going to speak from that perspective.  And in the case of the first post, Ms Lawton was also dealing with how to help her non-gender-conforming children process the world around them, which in itself is admirable.

In reading these posts, it occurred to me that I don’t have any idea what makes us men or women.  Obviously, I personally don’t believe it’s the presence or absence of certain genitalia.  Nor do I think it has anything to do with our interests.  I have two non-conforming children, yet both of them (at least at this point) seem pretty clear that their outsides match their insides in terms of gender.  So what does make us men or women or both or neither?

I don’t think I could tell you, even for myself.  Because I’ve never had to struggle with this personally, I’ve never even had to think about it.  I am the possessor of breasts and a uterus; I also just feel like a woman.  Yet I wouldn’t be any less of one if I lost my breasts or uterus to cancer.  I might miss those parts, but not because I had suddenly become a man without them.

It’s probably something worth considering, especially if I want to be able to understand how others think and feel.  It’s worth figuring out why I feel so distinctly womanly, in the same way it was worth thinking about why I feel attracted only to men.  (I think this exercise is worth it for any area of our lives in which we differ from someone else, in order to better understand their experiences.)

If anyone wants to chime in, feel free.  When you think about your masculinity/femininity, what makes you feel that way?  Is it just a matter of “knowing” who you are, or is there something specific?

Notable News: Mutuality Edition, Week of June 1-8, 2012

My apologies for posting this so late in the day.  Here are my favorites from the week of synchroblogging inspired by the week of mutuality.

1. First, kudos to Rachel Held Evans for her outstanding work.  She will be continuing to post over the weekend, so be sure to check out what else she has in store (including her own highlights of the best).  Her series has been fantastic.  Here are the posts, in order of appearance:

2. Christian Marriage: Fail?  Pam Hogeweide is one of my favorite bloggers.  In her post My Failed Christian Marriage, she talks about the struggle to fit the ideal for Christian marriage and the joy in finding freedom from those restraints.

3. Fabulosity on Alise Wright’s blog.  Another blogger I just can’t get enough of.  First, Alise catches our attention by reminding us that You Don’t Have to Take Your Clothes Off to Be Egalitarian.  Then, she has the always wonderful Sarah Moon share her thoughts on Too Much in a fantastic guest post.  If you don’t read anything else, read these posts!

4. A couple of men weigh in.  I always like the way Travis Mamone shares his heart.  This post is a good way to introduce some deeper theological constructs without getting bogged down with terminology; it’s nicely put.  Through the trending topic #mutuality2012 on Twitter, I discovered Jonathan Aigner’s post sorry, little girl: a patriarchal response.  Great thoughts on the deficiency of the female gender and faithfully following God’s gifts in our own lives without causing guilt in others.

5. The Best of the Rest.  I could go on and on, listing everything I like and why.  Instead, I will simply list the several other posts that I found meaningful.  Even though we’re all writing on the same thing, each person has a unique voice, an interesting perspective.  What an amazing week it’s been!

Feel free to leave a comment with any blog posts you like on the subject of mutuality/egalitarianism, whether they’re from this week or not.  Don’t forget to link to your own if you wrote something!