I’ve written before about how my feminism intersects with my roles as a wife and mother. I have nothing new to hash out there. But as I thought about my feminism and who I am, I realized that it has served to isolate me, and make me feel alienated.
Whether I’m alienating myself from other people or vice versa, I’m not sure. But at any rate, believing in the equality of all people, in a conservative culture, can be very isolating and lonely.
My feminism is one of my few remaining secrets from people I know. I’m sure some of them have picked up on it, but it’s something I don’t talk about in person. Why? Because I can hazard a guess as to how it would be received.
Because there have been other instances where I have been shut down, shut out, or otherwise hurt or offended. And these good and kind Jesus-loving people, who, outside of my desire to have deep, meaningful friendships, have been good friends, have done it ignorantly, completely unaware they were doing it. Because how they talk about other people is how they talk about me.
When they disparage liturgical traditions, they tear down something I value.
When they write off written prayers as meaningless and emotionless, they shut me out of the conversation.
When a friend says she lost a lot of respect for Laura Bush when she revealed she was pro-choice, I know she’s lost respect for me.
When the moms sit and laugh about how glad they are that it’s the dads who are the ones who have the spiritual responsibility for the family, I don’t even know how to enter the conversation.
When I express frustration with a popular Bible study author and get asked to stop saying anything, I get shut down. It feels like my opinion is not valued.
When some friends want to start a homeschool co-op with me, and I say I won’t because it requires a statement of faith, and they go ahead without me, I feel unimportant.
When I see other women talking and texting and getting together during the week, I feel left out.
And none of the people involved in my church experiences over the years have been bad people or mean or intentionally cutting me out (I don’t think). And in fact, have been encouraging and supportive in other ways.
I know that none of these things, on their own, are terribly significant. But when it comes to feminism and other beliefs that deeply form me, that make me long for significant friendships, it hurts. Many small slights, cutting to the core of who I am, leave me wounded and vulnerable.
And so why would I reveal something that is so meaningful – so essential – to who I am, to people that don’t take an interest in who I am? And it’s not that I want them to agree with me (although that’s always fun). It’s that they don’t seem open to discussion. They dismiss and write off what they don’t understand. They don’t seem to realize that not everyone sees the world the same way. They seem to think there is only one good way to love Jesus.
There seems to be something about christian culture that encourages narrow-mindedness and a lack of interest in people who are different.
And it’s entirely possible I’m part of the problem. In fact, I’m sure I am. I can be socially awkward. I’m too self-aware. I know all the pitfalls of being an INFJ. I get that I can be a tough personality. I don’t do enough inviting of my own, enough conversing with other people. I don’t always make the effort I should with other people.
But rightly or wrongly, I’m skittish. In the 6 years since my faith started rotating, I’ve often felt out of place in the culture I’m in. Why would I reveal to people that I deeply believe in equality? That I’m in the process of converting to believing in evolution? That I’m a writer?
Why would I invite people into the depths of my heart when they have unknowingly crushed other parts of me?
Conservative christians have not proven to be safe spaces.
And then there’s me. How have I unknowingly hurt people? How have I crushed what is important to them? How have I ignored the essence of who they are? How can I be more open and aware?
So here I stand. A little lonely, a little depressed, but also firmly resolute. Because what I’ve realized is that here I stand.
I stand, being the face, and sometimes the voice, of those they dismiss. I say, like a broken record, that I like written prayers. I like liturgy. There is value in the Catholic church. And over a couple of years, the harsh comments have softened.
When people go to their co-op, they know they are excluding people in Jesus’ name.
I stand, sometimes silent, sometimes sharing a blog post (by others, of course), sometimes offering a comment. So those on facebook have at least seen intriguing headlines, reminding them the world is not so black and white.
I stand, an odd minority in a group of white women. I search for solid footing sometimes, but I don’t leave.
Where there is an other, an oppression, a minority, a different way, I pray I be found standing on their side. Where there are other people who have been shut down and shut out, I hope I will be found with them.
And maybe, in the long run, this remaining will be the proof of my feminism. Maybe this standing is proof enough that, in spite of my differences, I’m a valid equal.
This is a link-up with Kelly this month, talking about how feminism intersects with our daily lives.