A Woman's Worth

There's something I've been mulling over all day with regard to International Women's Day, and a comment from an online discussion I was reading yesterday. I'm just not sure I can put it into words yet.

But here's a beginning of sorts.

I spent a lot of my young life wishing I were born a man, rather than a woman. There were lot's of reason's for it, watching my mother struggle to get by after she left my dad, knowing that a lot of the reason she stayed for so long in a situation she found intolerable was because she didn't know how to provide for us on her own. I also thought that if I was a man people would listen to me, I would have more power to change things. I could be in control.

I bought the dogma and negativity of feminism. I thought the burdens of femininity were just that, burdens. I resented the fact that should I choose to have children it would affect my career options. I resented the servant role that I saw a lot of women in, but mostly, and this is the key, I hated to feel so vulnerable.

Let's face it, to be a women is to be vulnerable, in a way that most men will never know, or understand. We are physically weaker, without a just society and the protection of men we would be largely at the mercy of lawless men*. (Not that I think our society is fully just, but it's better than many have been.) We are emotionally more vulnerable, we feel deeply, we are undone and broadsided by the waves of hormones that allow that which we stuff down to surface for all to see. We bear children and are always slowed and hampered by their presence and safe keeping.

I used to see that vulnerability as weakness. I know a lot of other women have the same reaction. I can tell by watching how they make themselves hard and brittle, in order to be strong. I've seen them kill off everything that could "weaken" them, compassion, gentleness, the child who would slow them down and change their life forever, because they didn't see any other option to survive in a hard and cruel world. I've seen them turn shrill and tiresome, trying to control those around them, to keep themselves safe from the pain and disappointment that comes with love

I have been guilty of rejecting my feminine identity, belittling it, and despising it.

I now see my desire to escape my vulnerable, resilient, feminine self for what it is, cowardice.

I would like to venture that it takes a lot of courage to be feminine in this world. It takes courage to love, to allow yourself to let someone else in and let them see you as you really are bearing the risk that they may reject you, to let yourself rely on and trust someone else who may let you down. It's a brave and daring thing to bear children who rend your heart into pieces that scatter into tiny bodies that you are constantly afraid of losing and your heart is never whole again, to love children not of your womb and tear space in yourself to let them in, to give yourself to them as mama, to lose children and the part of yourself that dies with them. It takes a kind of strength I hadn't imagined to find the blessing in what our culture believes is a curse.

It takes real grace and courage to hope in the face of evil, to bend and not be broken, to serve with love parents, and parents in law, children, husbands and the larger community, as most women all over the world do. It takes even more courage, I would suppose, to carry on, to live again, in the face of war, poverty, death and rape, as so many women also do.

I think it's good and very important to work toward a world where women are safe and valued, their voices are listened to and they are paid the same wages as a man for the same amount of work. I believe the voices and lives of so many amazing women have brought us closer to that and will continue to.

I hope that we can do this without sacrificing and subjecting our femininity. I hope we can stop comparing ourselves to men and trying to be strong like they are and rather to be strong like we are, for there is no useful comparison. There are things that most men can do that I can't and I'm ok with that because there are things that I can do that they can't. To buy into the idea that what I can do is less valuable than what a man can do is to buy into a skewed and clouded view of the world. (I've heard women complain that men don't value our work enough. But how will they when we ourselves don't?)

I honor the women who worked so hard to obtain for women the right to vote and have a voice in the society they inhabit, the women who proved that we can do many things that previously men never believed we could. But I believe it was a terrible misstep to devalue our traditional roles and strengths in such a reactionary way. I've seen the 1970's posters with a women exclaiming, "F*ck housework." This is a huge disservice to all the women who do, in fact, find that the life path they chose, being true to themselves, involves a lot of housework, and other traditional and domestic activities. Because who else is going to do the important work of keeping homes, and raising children and being the calm anchor of a family in a world gone mad?

So, I think that for International Women's Day it would help those of us in our culture, and definitely the women in many other cultures around the globe, to affirm the goodness, and the worth of a woman's work, to reevaluate the standard by which we evaluate our own worth, and to perhaps realize that, because we are women, we will always do things for different motives than men do, so any standard that compares us to men may be always contrived. Let's let our own standard for ourselves and our achievements be one that brings us to a life well lived, and let that be enough.

Am I making any sense?

Comments

  1. This actually had me in tears, I love this! I think you put it into words perfectly, this is something I've felt for a long time but been unable to articulate.

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  2. Yowza. Yes! Preach!!

    I've been mulling over some of these very things through the past few years. I feel confused and duped by past feminism and wonder where it even came from in the first place. And what would those women say to a new generation of women who reject their dogma? That we "don't know". Or take it for granted?

    I don't know exactly, and I hope this doesn't sounds trite, but I've started putting things together a bit in my mind -- it seems that that brand of feminism grew out of industrialization, urbanization, fake food, and the nuclear family (and probably with the rise of the Middle Class as well, now that I think about it). "The problem with no name," as Betty Friedan called it.

    Roles within society have changed as how we LIVE changed and "going to work" sounds so much more exciting than "staying home", especially as the work of life has lessened (i.e. buying flour instead of grinding it yourself, or, taking it a step farther, buying bread vs. flour, or even farther than that, ready-made meals vs. raw ingredients), we work alone in isolation instead of group settings. Jessica Prentice really flushes out some of these ideas in Full Moon Feast. I really enjoyed that book.

    And I've really enjoyed hashing through this post too. I can always count on SLatD for something thought-provoking!

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  3. You said it all! What a great post, thank you! :)

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  4. yes, you made sense in this post. and it blessed me so much. i'm very much in agreement with what you have said and honour you for being able to come out and say it, especially when realising the journey you have made to come to this place. thank you once again for being real and vulnerable.

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  5. Anonymous10:50 PM

    Carrien,

    I wanted to recommend a book to you that says exactly what you are saying. Its called "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldredge. John wrote "Wild at Heart" about and for men (I think its good for women to read, too, to understand their husbands and sons), then co-wrote "Cativating" with his wife about and for women.

    I don't know what your faith affiliation is, but they are Protestant. However, the book is dealing with how God made men and how God made women (who we are meant to be in our true masculinity and true femininity), and nothing is denomination-specific (it is Christian). In my case, nothing I read was against Catholic teaching.

    It is so well-done, and explains exactly what you said about some women becoming hard and brittle. I think all women should read both books. Be advised that "Wild at Heart' starts slow and I thought the first chapter was somewhat lame, but boy does it get good.

    Blessings, Catherine

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  6. Carrien, you said it all so beautifully. Somehow God gave you the grace to see the truth of the hidden way, the secret of being who you are even if it makes you vulnerable.

    Very well put. Keep up the good work!

    A big hug,
    Leila

    ReplyDelete

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