“I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.” – Helen Reddy
I played the tomboy role well as a young girl. It seemed to fit me: I had short hair (for my mother’s convenience, not my choice), many of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my brother, and boys were always much easier to get along with than the girls at school.
As a teenager and college student, I embraced the principles of the feminist movement myself. I was strong, independent, and I didn’t need a man to make me complete. I could do anything, and I would, come what may. No emotion. No crying. No pink. I cussed like a barkeep and sneered at any male who dared look my way.
Even after I came to know Jesus, I fought for my fierce independence tooth and nail. In pre-marital counseling, I argued with my pastor about a woman’s submission to her husband. Thank God he understood my background and helped me see the context and meaning, but that’s for another blog. I worked all through college to prove I could support myself, and I swore after graduation I would never be one of those stay-at-home moms.
The past few years, however, and particularly since having a child, I have realized that I have been fighting a battle against myself. We all know that motherhood brings out a lot of emotion due to stress, hormones, and the overwhelming responsibility of it all. In the back of my mind, every time I felt that emotion, I heard my drill sergeant father, “Quit crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about,” and my feminist mother preaching about women’s liberation and how women can do everything a man does better. I felt like a failure. I truly began to wonder if, somewhere in the name of women’s equal rights, we swung the pendulum too far, expecting women to be something we are not, nor should want to be.
I think many of my generation have been infected by a culture that gives us only a few options for our identities as women: we are either dowdy soccer moms, tough and ruthless working women, or women using out sexuality to gain power or attention. I do not want to be any of these women. To many still in our culture, breastfeeding is disgusting, showing emotion is a sign of weakness, and working in the home to raise and educate one’s children is a sign of either laziness or ignorance. Frankly, I am sick of living in a culture that permits these perspectives, and I do not want my daughter growing up in that world.
While the feminist movement told us we were the same as men, biology tells us differently. We have different hormones, different eyesight, and, of course, different anatomy. To cast aside our natural feminine design for the sake of being considered independent or strong is not feminism at all. In fact, I would argue that it promotes misogynistic attitudes because it maintains that the male way is the only right way. Why did “girly” and “ladylike” become negative terms? True feminism should embrace that which is feminine: those natural characteristics that make women strong, wise, and beautiful for who they are.
So just who are we created to be? Ladies, we are the pinnacle of God’s creation, the final brushstrokes on the most beautiful masterpiece of all time. Think about that: God’s created things in an increasingly complex and beautiful way, and the last thing He created was woman. We are designed to captivate, shine, and be a pleasing aroma to God and the world around us. We are built to rear, nourish, and nurture human life, and if anyone tries to call those things easy, he is a buffoon. We have the mind of Christ and hearts of mercy, compassion, and wisdom.
So, let’s remove the taboo from the word “feminism” and reclaim it for our own. Beloved, embrace who you actually are, not who society says you should be. It’s okay to cry and show emotion because it reveals your passion. It is okay to submit because, “in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). It is okay to be vulnerable because only those who are confident can withstand revealing their faults. And, yes, it’s okay to be beautiful because our God designed us with such a purpose.
Yes, I believe women can do anything. But the best thing we can do is be ourselves.
And, for goodness’ sake, it’s okay to look pretty, to wear skirts, and to enjoy being womanly. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are overdressed, flighty, or an attention-seeker — just tell them you are a feminist.