Tag Archives | Women

When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful

I recently finished reading the book I am Malala, which is a memoir of the young woman who just recently won the Nobel Peace Prize campaigning for women’s education. Since I do not spend much time watching the news I was relatively unaware of her story. A few months ago I saw her appear on John Stewart, and was so impressed that I had to read about her life. Make no mistake: books like this do have the ability to change how you see the world.

I was instantly drawn into her story as it transported me to the hills of Northern Pakistan, where her family is from. The book begins by helping the reader to understand life in that culture as well as the place women are allowed to play in it. I have heard these ideas before, but this book helped me to understand, from a real life example, what life in this part of the world was like. The story goes on to tell of the role of women’s education, the rise of the Taliban and eventually how Malala survived the hit put on her by the Taliban themselves. While I suggest you read the story if you are interested, here are the two main points I took from this story.

1. Small Changes can lead to big ones with enough time

The way the Taliban starts making their presence known in the book is incredibly interesting. First, they come into the area and promise the people whatever it was that the government was not providing. This helps to get an initial group on their side. Next they start raising money based on the idea of helping to overthrow the corrupt government, making the changes the people want to see, etc. When they have raised the money, they start to instruct their new followers on different rules they must follow, such as women cannot walk in public without covering their heads. While annoying to many of the women, it is not the end of the world so they accept it. Next, the rules get more intense, such as women cannot shop in the market place. After that it is women cannot go to school. At the end of the time described in the novel for them to take power, they are actually killing people who help to teach women by bombing schools.

I was impacted by this idea because I feel like it is true in every way of life. The more small compromises we make, the easier it is to chip away at our convictions and beliefs until there is not much left of what we originally were. We have to be able to see the full story. We have to be visionary enough to perceive how these little changes will lead to bigger ones so that we do not give up the rights we are born to protect.

2. I can make a big difference just with what I have

The other idea that convicted me was how little Malala and her family had and yet how big of a difference she was able to make. I think it is extremely easy to think that we do not have the platform necessary to make a difference, but I would challenge that we have access to a 100 times better and more platform than someone born in a third world country has. We have money, time, basic human rights, and all of the pieces necessary to change the world. We also have Netflix, iPhones, internet and fast food which can lead us to happily sedate ourselves to what is really out there that needs to be changed. Do not let this happen.

Through reading Malala’s account, I was convicted about and challenged to not just be happy with simply going through my daily life and living with my personal comforts. I have been given many more opportunities than that. If a 16 year old girl in Pakistan can change the world, then why am I wasting time on anything that isn’t?

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Ramblings on Raising a Daughter as a Christ-Follower and Feminist

I recently gave birth to my first child, a daughter. This event has changed my life in many ways. One of which is what I notice in the news and media. A few recent events I took particular notice to include Beyonce’s VMA performance and the subsequent reactions, the release of the Ray Rice and Janay Palmer video and reactions to her marrying him, Jennifer Lawrence’s response to her nude photos being leaked on the internet, and Emma Watson’s speech for the UN regarding feminism and the HeforShe campaign. All of these events are tied to feminism and women’s rights. As a woman, this was all important to me before the birth of my daughter, but knowing I will help to raise a new woman in society causes me to think even more about events such as these.

In addition to all the hopes new moms have for their children, I hope that my daughter is flagged as having leadership potential rather than being called bossy; I hope that my daughter is complemented not only on her sharp appearance but also on her intelligence, ingenuity, and strength; I hope that my daughter never desires to give up sports for fear of losing femininity and that she is never intimidated by the weight room in a gym; I hope that my daughter understands that her dad is just as important in raising her as I am; I hope that my daughter will not be afraid of her sexuality because of how the church presents (or doesn’t) the topic of sex and sexuality; I hope that my daughter does not think she has to give up any education or employment for her family but also that it is ok if she makes those choices for herself; I hope that my daughter understands that being a feminist does not mean being a man-hater; and I hope that my daughter comes to realize that her father being the spiritual leader of our household does not mean that her father thinks I am lesser than he.

Some find it difficult to reconcile being a Christ-follower and a feminist.I think the terms feminism and spiritual leadership have become so emotionally charged that people don’t always take the time to consider the actual concepts very carefully. In our home, my opinion matters when important decisions are made. I share my thoughts, my husband shares his, and we process together. At times, my husband defers to my opinion on something. Other times, he considers both of our opinions and makes a final decision. Spiritual leadership here means my husband is who will ultimately be responsible to God for our family. He will be responsible whether we agree, he defers to me, or we disagree and he makes a choice counter to what I think is best. Feminism is the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Could my husband abuse his position in our home in a way that would be oppressive to me? Of course, but his position does not mean that by definition.

We, as a society, reinforce or combat feminism in things as simple as the way we speak to our children and the choices we make in the home. Some families with stay-at-home moms only emphasize the same for their daughters, rather than professional trajectories. Boys are often not encouraged to develop things like cooking skills. We often compliment girls on physical appearance and boys on accomplishments. Most often, none of this is done with the intention of sexism, but it still occurs and can subtly perpetuate stereotypes. It is important that we identify valued characteristics and encourage all of them in our children of both sexes. Obviously, each person is not gifted in all areas, but a child’s sex should not define which characteristics they are encouraged to develop.

My daughter will grow up watching how my husband and I work together to consider decisions in our family. She’ll see me crossfit and weight lift and know that I hold a PhD in a field that uses applied statistics and computer programming. She’ll see me plan and prepare meals for our family, but also see how my husband helps with cleaning and cooking and other aspects of managing our home. Will we always get it right? Of course not, but awareness of sexism will help to assuage its effects. We’ll continue to learn as our daughter learns.

I hope that by the time my daughter enters the adult world, the media is filled with fewer incidences of gender inequality, but that won’t be true until those of us already participating in society stop perpetuating gender stereotypes and exploitation of women both inside and outside our homes. I also hope that when my daughter is older it will be normal to hear people say they are feminists and Christians.

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