There are some things I want you to know about being a woman. You are a bit young to read this. But, perhaps someday you will be curious about what kind of nutty thing your mom had to say. Perhaps not. Not is probably more likely considering the high frequency of eye rolls I receive currently when you aren’t even teenagers yet. If I consider what I would like you to know, it will help me to think all this through. So, I am writing it to you whether you will ever read it or not. So there.
First, I want to make sure you know women can be strong despite all the snide comments that imply the contrary. “Like a girl” or “girly” should not be synonyms for weak or wimpy. That is utter nonsense. Women sometimes do the toughest jobs, unfortunately for less pay. They are often primarily responsible for raising children which, no offense to the two of you, is a job that requires mental, emotional, and physical strength and buckets of patience. That's not even getting into women from other countries who walk miles and miles hauling water and the like. So, when people use the phrase “like a girl” to mean weak, feel free to use one of your, now famous, eye rolls on them. To give a little real life illustration: This morning when I went for a bike ride, I was coming around a corner going fairly quickly down hill. Suddenly, I looked up and observed a skunk, tail raised, in my path a few feet away. When I slammed on the brakes while emitting a high pitched scream some would call this girly. If by “girly” they mean wimpy, an eye roll is the least they deserve. If by “girly” they mean being sensible enough to consider the likelihood of getting sprayed by a skunk if I run over it with a bicycle...then girly it was.
Which brings me to a related point: there are similar things we say or think about men which are unfair. I am guilty of, on occasion, thinking the word “men” is synonymous with inconsiderate jerk or someone who thinks with an organ located in his pants. This is a growing edge for me and one of many opportunities for you to be better people than I am.
But, truly, these type of things aren’t terribly important. While I want you to realize that such things are wrong, someone calling you girly won’t prevent you from living your life as you see fit. In her book “Bossypants,” Tina Fey writes, “So, my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism ... ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on.” Most of the time, someone referring to something as “girly” will not interfere with what you need to do. Ignore it.
I realize that Tina Fey is an unlikely expert to quote to my daughters, being as her credentials consist of being funny, being a woman, and freely using words like “vagina.” Yet as I read her book, I realized I was enjoying hearing from someone who seemed free to be herself and to speak honestly about the facts of womanhood without being concerned about what was ladylike or proper. She even cusses sometimes. Not that I want you to develop the habit of using such language. I have that habit and it has caused me a bit of stress. It is almost inevitable that I will eventually slip up and cuss from the pulpit. Likely causing an elderly woman in the front pew to faint dead away. But feminism or egalitarianism are all about being free to be who you are. Even if who you are includes cussing profusely, it doesn’t make you less of a woman.
There are people in the world who will do far worse than inappropriate use of the adjective “girly.” These folks will tell you that God wants you to be submissive to men, that God limits your potential leadership roles and that God wants you to be quiet. Whatever scripture they use, no matter how many times they say Jesus, they are really trying to tell you that being nice and proper is more important than being true and just. No matter how many times I read the bible this is not the God I see. I do not see God saying it is fine to harm your neighbor as long as you say please and thank you. Jesus is all about healing and mercy and justice. There is nothing just, merciful or helpful about expecting a woman to keep quiet and submit to a man's "leadership" even if she might be better equipped to handle the situation than he is.
In summary, there are many unhelpful messages aimed at women. Undoubtedly I will tell you a lot about these messages over the years. I can’t help myself. They make me angry. There are others who are better at rationally discussing such things like Pigtail Pals and Rachel Held Evans. The message I want you to hear from me is this: if people try to tell you it is more important to be pretty, nice, and proper than just, merciful and peaceful, particularly if that message gets in the way of you doing good in this world, then you need to peacefully and mercifully do justice all over their rears.
Whether such action involves cussing or the use of words like “vagina,” is not terribly important to me. My reading of scripture leads me to believe it is not very important to God either.
God loves you for who you are as a woman. God calls you to justice, peace and mercy. God loves and calls men to justice, peace and mercy too. All the rest is ignorance and fear manifesting itself as sexist stupidity. May it soon be a thing of the past.
Go get ‘em, girls.