The image above features my unbelievably adorable niece, Zoey, playing what used to be one of her favorite alter-egos: “Super Minnie”. As soon as she got into character, Zoey knew that she had just taken some sips of “Mike’s Magic Stuff” and instantly became even more confident than she already is (scary thought, I know).
Natural segue: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about women.
Now, I know that sounds odd, but it’s not what you think. What I mean is that I’ve been thinking a lot about the silencing/smothering of women’s voices in our world. I’ve known that there are cultures in the world that literally don’t let their women speak in certain places, but a couple weeks ago I realized that America really isn’t much different.
Just because we let our women speak wherever they want, doesn’t mean we listen to them. And if we aren’t listening to them, then what are we non-verbally saying? Here’s a hint: maybe we still view women as lesser than.
Now, for my reader that gets really pissy about feminism and women’s rights and blah and blah and blah, bear with me. My hope isn’t for this to be some stock post about civil rights and gender equality. My hope is to verbalize the heart of the issue at hand. My hope is for women to feel like their thoughts and voices matter, because they do. A lot.
I grew up around some incredibly strong women. Was it always a healthy kind of strong? Maybe not, but nonetheless they knew their voice mattered.
My mom, for instance, got married young and had my sister. Then she left that husband because he refused to even be seen with them in public upon a multitude of other reasons that really just stemmed from the fact that he didn’t care about the girls in his life. Then my mom went back to school to get her degree. Life in Austin, Texas isn’t really necessarily easy when you’re trying to be a college student (nursing school for a while and then education) at the University of Texas, raising a daughter, working to pay the bills, and still somehow managing to have friends outside of all of those things.
For the first seven years of my sister’s life, this was my mom’s reality. And she doesn’t hate the world or think God is against her because of her circumstances. She just knew that if she didn’t fight for herself and my sister, then there might not be somebody who will.
So this is the strength around which I grew up. Once I was done growing up when I turned sixteen (it’s a joke, calm down), I had two more women put into my life that are strong. These are two of my best friends and their husbands were the first guys to ever mentor me in any shape or form. These women teach what it is to stand confidently in who we are made to be. I learned that while the enemy is going to heap shame and insecurity and fear into our souls, that we already have victory claimed for us and that is the rock on which we stand. And their husbands continue to teach me that both husband and wife can and should be strong. Both should stand confidently in who they are made to be. These men are not passive, they actively pursue, engage, and lead their families while supporting and hearing their wives.
I vividly remember a Sunday after church during tear down when I saw one of these women folding and stacking chairs while her husband and I were on stage tearing down instruments and I told him, “Hey, tell her the guys will get it. She don’t have to tear down.” And my friend looks at me and says, “I’ll never tell her to not serve.” And that was the moment that my view of women really changed. I realized at that point the benevolent sexism in which I had functioned my entire life. And it had to stop.
*here’s an old pic of the five of us plus ¾ of the kids that exist
Benevolent sexism is the idea that you don’t need to talk down to/about a woman to be sexist or prejudiced against her. It’s the idea that asks “Why?” about your motives behind giving up your seat for a woman or opening a door for a woman or offering to take the heavier box to give her the lighter box when you’re helping her move in. For many of us, we just like to serve other people. We would probably do the same for our boys. But for many of us we do this because we view women as weaker/more feeble/in need of our assistance. It’s time to start asking ourselves honest questions.
So where is all this coming from?
A friend and I were chatting the other day about what it means for me to be on her team. Earlier in the day she was explaining to me a situation in which she was hurt by something that one of her friends had said/different unhealthy patterns of the friendship- so I started asking questions (like I always do…) to figure out the root issue. And while I do understand that I came off as not being a good listener but just wanting to fix the problem; I really wanted to get the ball rolling past the surface level feelings and get to the deep seated feelings.
In the conversation, we both figured out that for me to be on her team is so much more than me simply agreeing with and fighting for her. Me being on her team means me fighting for her to think and fight for herself. If I’m the one always fighting for her, then I’m essentially the biggest inhibitor of her being strong. (ex. it’s as though she were trying to get physically stronger and I went with her to the gym and picked up every single weight for her. I simply want to be the spotter. Me picking up all the weight all the time isn’t going to make her any stronger.) And I think we should all be strong. I think we were all made to be strong. So that is the end to which I am going to fight.
Our world has done a really great job — from the very beginning, I might add — of treating women as lesser than. Sure it’s no longer like it was when women couldn’t speak up or vote or own anything or do anything worthwhile/fulfilling; however, I think women are about as equal to men as other ethnicities are to White. Hint: not. Just because the prejudice isn’t blatantly negative and sickening doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. So, as the great philosopher once said,
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies that make the babies.
I want so badly for my niece and my (hopeful) future daughter(s) to grow up in a home where their voices are heard and their ideas are pondered. I want to teach them that they were made to be thinkers and that their thoughts matter so much to me. I want for my friends to feel safe speaking their true thoughts around me because they know that my ears will receive their words with all the weight they carry.
Women’s voices carry weight. Women’s thoughts carry weight. So women should speak up more and men should listen more. Every woman and girl has a Super Minnie in them and I think most of them just don’t realize it. So let me help you realize it right now, please. Don’t wait for someone else to fight for you. Start fighting for yourself NOW, because you. are. worth. fighting for.
And those are all my feelings.