Recently I have been going through a bit of an emotional canyon. It is something that I have tried to stay grateful for even while down in the depths because I know that it can help me rise to new heights.
One thing it has brought me is new information. Information has been trying to pour into my mind for a few weeks now. I feel like I am leaving behind even more cultural confines and finding my own beliefs about life and this world we live in. (I am sure some probably wonder what I have left to release. We already unschool, free birth, and eat a plant-based diet. Well, there are many more things we have removed from our reality, but I believe in continual growth and there are still ways I can fully accept myself, which really means, being true to myself.)
One of those things is feminism. While I am a feminist in the sense that I believe in myself as a female and I believe that my feminine role is significant and has purpose, I do not ascribe to the "women do not need men" mentality. I believe they are a vital part of society and my life.
Over the years, I have heard and read books and articles from women who want to be empowered. I think I may have used this word in the past as well but, what are we being empowered from? Let me rephrase that. From what starting point are you talking about empowerment? Your own birth? In friendships? Career? Body Image? Sexuality?
Throughout history women have been plagued by abuse, ridicule, and harm. The interesting thing that is intermingled with that, are the stories of the women who ruled nations and managed to be respected and revered for their contribution to humanity. But, when men decided they wanted to take things over again, it was easy. Is that harsh? Does it feel harsh? It does to me. Realizing that it is men who can easily wield the societal power is harrowing. I feel the depth of the sadness that that implicates for me as a woman and for my daughters.
I am forever grateful for the ancestors that went before us that fought for equality of the workforce (which is still being fought) and for sexual freedom for women. I am grateful that those women and men did their best. I feel like our generation has the opportunity to move beyond that though. Those cultures also created a massive disconnect between women and birth. Women have been stripped of their innate knowledge (which is ironic because it is a biological knowledge) of their power. Their biological processes already give them what they need to birth a baby. They have been stripped of the innate knowledge of how to care for children. Many women are disconnected from their families in such a way, and for so long now, that they need to read so many books to understand what is going on with their children or listen to professionals who can sometimes help them through their traumatic childhoods that were full of disconnect too.
I am not saying that people should not process and release past traumas (I help people do that), or that reading about children's development is wrong. But this disconnect has been going on for so long now that it is commonplace. It is common to not get along within families. It is common to be disconnected from your teenagers and parents. What people are losing in that disconnection is knowledge and safety.
I have had some conversations with some younger females and they have informed me that they do not see value in what I do as a mother. The real contribution is in them going to college and getting a degree and working in a chosen career. That is how they will contribute to society. That is a wonderful way to contribute to society. I do not want anyone to think that I disagree that they can find some purpose in that. However, as they have said it, there is almost a disdain for what I have chosen to do (and in many cases what their own mothers chose to do!). I feel like feminism has left me out of the conversation. I do not hold a full-time job besides that of being a mother. My place within society is raising my children and I make that informed choice. For those younger than me, that means I am shaping minds, hearts, and spirits. I am shaping how they see the world and how they see themselves in it. That means, I am shaping the course of the world.
I have influence on my daughters. I can influence them to value their bodies, mind, and hearts. I can help them understand that the gifts they came to earth with are meant to bless their lives and the lives of their family, friends, community and even world. They have the opportunity to flourish outside of the confines of the school culture (which I lived through) which taught me to value my body and feel shame every day about who I was not. They can pursue passions and explore themselves and the world in ways I never dreamed of as a child.
I have the influence to show my boys what respect looks like. They also get to see every day what a respectful marriage and partnership looks like between spouses. They live daily with people who love and honor each other. They will grow up knowing that women's opinions, creativity, and value in life is not questioned in our home and therefore they should not question it either. And that is the ideal. I influence my sons to understand their role in life. Part of that role is the protection of women.
Many people do not want to acknowledge that men can wield the power. I mean, physically, men are mostly stronger than women. We can talk a lot about how women can influence a man, and many women have found sexuality can influence men. But really, if I am walking down the street and a man decides to rape me, I have almost no influence. Even if I carry a gun (which I have in the past), I still have to protect myself from him. He is on the offense. Now, this may seem like a "dramatic" example, but if you are not a woman, you may not understand.
I only recall having to be aware of one woman in my life because of fear and it was in high school when I heard that a girl wanted to beat me up because I never smiled at her. I never smiled at anyone in high school. But, she was the only female I have been afraid of in my life. I have, though, been afraid of many different men in varying degrees. (Oh, and she never did beat me up or even confront me.)
There have been the numerous times I have been "checked" out. There were the few times I was treated improperly on dates. Then there was the time I was forced to allow a boy to kiss me so that he would drive me home because I was at a party, in the middle of the night, and was too worried about what my parents would think because I had snuck out of the house. They had egged my best friend and I on and gotten us so drunk that we were throwing up outside. I woke up from a blackout to him kissing my neck and explaining that if I did not let him I would not be getting a ride home. What power did I have? There may be some people reading this and reasoning to themselves that if I had not been at the party, if I had not drank I would not have had that happen to me. I would like to just say to you: stop. Stop allowing men any type of pass for their wrong behavior. Stop blaming women and girls for what happens to them. It does not matter what situation a woman is in when she is abused or taken advantage of. She should always have the right to say no. Even prostitutes have the right to say no. A man never has a right to control a woman in any way, even if that is "just" kissing her neck.
Men are responsible for their actions. They are in control of themselves. When they choose to behave against their proper (and some would say righteous) character, they are harming themselves and others and it usually includes women. Our culture feeds men the idea that they are powerless to the feelings and thoughts within them. And for a long time, they have bought it. But I am done feeding that lie. Men are responsible. Men are good. Men are worthy of love and of support and nurturance. Men are powerful. Part of men's role is to protect women. There is a story in the scriptures about a concubine. She leaves her husband and goes back to her father's house. Her husband comes to take her back and they head out and when night falls they cannot find a place to sleep. An old man takes them in and during the night a couple of men come to the door demanding that the old man send the husband out (they want to rape him). Instead, he sends his wife out to the men. They take her, rape her repeatedly all night and she dies at the doorstep. This man shows just how powerless women can be in the physical sense. One of this story's morals is that men are here to protect. If they protect, women can flourish, families flourish, and societies flourish. When they relinquish this role, even in ignorance, they are hurting our world. I choose to leave the responsibility of protection with them.
My husband accepts his role of protection and at the same time acknowledging the co-creative process of our life together. He is moral, strong, independent, and peaceful. He is the example our boys see daily, who they will most likely strive to become like. He is shaping their view of women alongside me.
My power lies within. My virtue lies within. It is something I cultivate daily by choosing (as much as I can!) to be honorable, loving, and kind. I build this power in my interactions with others. I gain more by expanding my mind and nourishing my body, mind, and spirit. My responsibilities in this life (because I have freely chosen them, and in part because I had my husband agree with me and help co-create bodies for children) include raising my children, nurturing them, loving them, and giving them a life that hopefully helps them understand who they are and why they are here. My responsibility is to myself too. I have a responsibility to understand who I am and what I am here to do. I have the responsibility to care for my body, mind, and spirit. I have the responsibility to care for my husband. When we were married we promised to care for one another. Our needs are different and they change, but we grow together and fill those needs as they change and as we can.
As I climb out of this canyon I dug myself into, I am focused on myself and my family first. I help the women and men around me by understanding myself, following my own path and imparting knowledge when people allow. My role, at this point, may not be to change all the misdeeds in the world (I do think that is God's role) but I can make small changes around me. So, I am feeding my gratitude. Gratitude for living now. Gratitude for my life's experiences that have given me a greater understanding of this world and my place in it. Gratitude that my experiences influence how my children, who are a part of this next generation, will see the world.
My children's minds will hopefully be open and loving. I hope they recognize truth and continue to change the world for the better in whatever capacity they can. I hope my daughters will not have to use the word empowered because they will already understand their power and that it will be acknowledged by the men in their lives too.
We are power. We are wisdom. We are guidance, nurturance, and love.