My husband and I are approaching our fifth wedding anniversary. I read an article a while back from Candace over at The Thoughts I Think about her five year anniversary, and she wrote these words that I found so true:
We think differently about life and God and politics than we did five years ago. We have different passions… Nobody tells you that the person you marry will not be the same person in 2 or 5 or 12 years. Nobody tells you that you have to learn to love the person that your spouse is at each juncture in their journey. Nobody tells you that you have to learn to love yourself through the changes in order to be able to love that person fully.
We do change over the years and sometimes that’s hard for you and sometimes it’s hard for your spouse, sometimes you change in ways you never imagined and sometimes you simply become comfortable with who you are, which can be an entirely different kind of change. My husband didn’t marry a feminist, but he’s married to one now.
I was raised to be a strong, independent woman. That’s something my mother instilled in all four of her girls. We were taught we could do anything, achieve anything. It would take hard work and perseverance, but we could do it. There was nothing a boy could do that a girl couldn’t also do. I was not raised in an evangelical, church-going family, so when I became a Christian, started attending church, and went to a Christian college, I was confronted with a lot of ideas, scripture verses, and sermons about submission, about being modest, about what girls can and cannot do, particularly in the presence of men, and none of it ever sat right with me. It was probably that strong will my mother instilled in me that kept pushing these ideas away, resenting them.
I began to recognize the effects of women being told that they are less important, less valuable, less able. And I began to understand that it’s not just a matter of “girls are as good as boys,” but systemic injustice, the belittling and dehumanizing of one half of the population. I began to see the sexism and discrimination around me, not just in church and Christian circles, but everywhere:
Women took new roles in the media and in politics and everyone talked more about what they were wearing than what they were saying.
The woman at church who had earned her doctorate in theology was still just the ‘director’ of women’s ministries; while all the men were ‘pastors’ of their ministries (whether or not they were actually ordained). None of the men had doctorates.
A friend of mine wasn’t given a choice when she had her first child, she was just expected to stay home because ‘a good mother would’.
A man I respect made a joke about rape.
I heard a beautiful girl of about 14 say she wished she looked different, thinner, prettier, because right now, as she was, she wanted to disappear, not be noticed. Right now, as she was, she felt like she didn’t matter.
So I became a feminist because I saw the women around me and around the world being used, rejected, discredited, silenced, injured, and killed because they were women. When I finally turned the microscope on my own life, I saw the ways I had been explaining discrimination away, making excuses, and blaming myself for why I wasn’t chosen to lead, why I was afraid to speak up, why I was insecure about my body.
And as I researched and read my Bible, I began to see how standing against this injustice is part of my theology– not a new part, but a part I already believed in. Because I believe that we were all created in God’s image, male and female, and all of us deserve the full dignity and respect afforded to one who carries that image. When Jesus came, he stood up for women, befriended them and accepted them despite their sins, just as he did with men. And I am commanded to seek justice and love mercy, to love my neighbor as myself, and to care for the widows, orphans, aliens—those who need us.
And so gradually I began paying attention, talking about it more and reading about it more, until one day my husband was suddenly married to a feminist.
My husband comes from an evangelical family and church. I think it’s safe to say his upbringing was more conservative than mine. He’s never really thought much about women’s roles in the church or the issues facing women around the world, but took them at face value. He’s a man of integrity, who has always treated me like an equal. He thinks I’m smart, and capable, and strong. At no time in our relationship– before or after we were married– have we ever talked about our roles, about who would do the dishes and clean, who would go to work and pay our bills. We just took on the roles as they came, both working, both keeping up with the chores, both taking care of each other and our crazy cat.
I’ve started talking about feminism and women’s issues more and more. And sometimes I think it seems like these are brand new problems for me, but it’s just that I’m recognizing the problems as problems now. And it’s been hard for him because I’m asking him to care too. I’m asking him to see that this matters, because women are being oppressed and treated as though we are less able and less valuable, and we should be outraged when any of God’s creation is treated as less than. And I don’t question that he is someone who sees the wrongs of rape culture, sexual slavery, a lack of access to education, health, and safety, treating all people with dignity and respect. I know he sees these issues with compassionate eyes and cares for all people and I’m proud of him for that and I’m proud to married to him. But he’s still researching feminism and how it intersects with his faith and plays out in our everyday lives, because it matters to him that he does the work of finding the truth for himself. It matters to him that he knows how and why before he gets on board, and I’m doing my best to be patient while he works through it. Because we all need to for ourselves. So I’m waiting now to see how he reconciles the more conservative ideas he grew up with, with the ideas of justice for all women. And at our next marriage milestone, maybe I’ll also be married to a feminist.
This post was written as part of the #FaithFeminisms synchroblog. Find out about that here.