When I was eight, my family moved from New Jersey to Houston. You might say it was a bit of a culture shock. I learned to say “Yes ma’am” instead of “Yeah” when the teacher addressed me. I learned that the words “pin’ and “pen” were pronounced the same way. I learned that you couldn’t buy birthday candles on Sunday because of the Blue Laws.
In fifth grade, I often went to chat with the principal, Mrs. Price. I wasn’t in trouble, but occasionally something would bother me so I would avail myself to her. Why were only boys allowed to be school crossing guards? And why were girls allowed to wear pants only when it was below freezing? (Which did not happen often in Houston.) Somehow at that early age I realized, in 1970’s Houston, that girls were treated differently than boys, that girls did not have as many rights or opportunities as boys, and it bothered me.
Those experiences planted a seed in me that has taken full root. I am a feminist. I believe that women are entitled to the same rights and opportunities as men. I do not believe that women are, in any way, less-than. I do not believe that we are tainted forever because Eve ate that damn apple. I do not believe that just because our bodies are built to bear children that means we are incapable of other things. I am a feminist, and I’m proud to say that.
There’s been a bit in the news lately about celebrities who fully support the female cause but don’t consider themselves feministis – Pharrell Williams and Shailene Woodley come to mind. I can’t begin to tell you how much this ticks me off. Is the word “feminist” so charged with whatever that these people don’t want to be sullied by the term? Is it safer to say, “I believe women deserve the same rights and opportunities as men” than it is to say, “I am a feminist”?
But here is the real reason I’m loud and proud about being a feminist.
Last week, two girls in India, ages 14 and 15, were gang raped and hung from a tree.
Last week, a woman in Pakistan was stoned to death because she did not want to marry the man her family wanted her to marry.
Two years ago, Malala Yousafzai was gunned down on her school bus because she dared to fight for the opportunities for girls to be educated.
Recently when Chelsea Clinton revealed that she was pregnant, questions arose regarding Hillary Clinton running for president because she might choose to be a grandmother instead.
We are now in week seven of 276 Nigerian school girls being kidnapped, purportedly to be sold as brides.
In April, Senate Republicans unanimously rejected the Equal Pay bill.
Last week, a sick young man went on a shooting spree because the hot girls wouldn’t have sex with him.
Need I go on?
So yes, I am going to bother some people if they ask if I’m a feminist and I say yes. What I wish would bother them more is the reasons why I am a feminist: because girls and women are treated atrociously and viciously simply because we are female.
I am a Presbyterian pastor. I am a woman in a role that was, for thousands of years, available only to men. Things are changing in the mainline Protestant church – sometimes so slowly and sometimes at a breakneck speed. The church I serve has three pastors, two women and one man. No one blinks an eye at that. And maybe one of the reasons they don’t blink an eye is because they know the stories about how Jesus treated woman. He included them, and he held them up as examples not because they were the fairer, gentler sex but because they showed grace and faith and determination.
May I follow in their footsteps. Rock on, sisters. And rock on, brothers, too.