Happy International Women’s Day!

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Once upon a time, I was fearful of feminism. I saw women marching for equal rights and believed they were a threat to the traditionalism to which  I subscribed. I saw anger. I saw bra-burning. I saw man-hating.  I saw white women looking out for themselves at the expense of women of color. And I saw pro-choice activism .

Meanwhile, internally I felt frustrated, unheard, condescended to, disregarded. I was trapped in between a place of what I perceived to be two separate sets of values: Conservative traditional life vs . Feminism.
I wanted to be bold, to speak out, to stand up for myself, but I didn’t want to be associated with “them” because I believed “they” rejected the life I chose: one of faith, marriage and motherhood.
I got called a feminist in high school and I bristled at the term.

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This cartoon was written about me. It should give a pretty clear indication of how  I was perceived.  I was no wilting violet . I was outspoken and in my gut I knew something wasn’t right about the way the world worked. However, I believed and still believe that motherhood is a high and sacred calling. I just didn’t know how to reconcile these two parts of me .
I confess, I haven’t always been a great ally of women. I’ve preferred friendships with men (way less complicated), rejected candidates who supported “women’s rights” as being unsupportive of MY choices as a woman, all the while longing for validation of my brain, my capabilities, my offerings, my potential.

A couple months ago I had lunch with my lovely friend Holly  and we discussed this topic. She told me that when she had gone back to school a few years ago, she got recruited by the feminist club (group?) she had told them, “but I’m not a feminist.”

What she found was a group of women supporting other women from all facets of life, with varying belief systems, running the gamut from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Holly looked at me and said, “I didn’t like it either, but the truth is, you’re a feminist.”

I nearly choked on my drink.

It’s funny, God has been doing some pretty unexpected things in my life over the past few years. He’s brought some amazing women into my life. He’s healed old wounds from difficult friendships and interactions with other women. He’s brought an amazing therapist my way who celebrates and encourages both sides of me: the woman who advocates for herself and others and the woman of faith and tradition. She’s teaching me how those parts of me can thrive together, one doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the sake of the other.

This is freeing me up to be supportive of other women in a new way.  Each one of us has unique gifts, talents, abilities, values and dreams. That’s what brings color and vibrancy  to this world.

I’m proud to be a woman. It took me nearly 45 years to get to the point of being able to say that. I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my mother, my sisters, my daughters, my friends. I love and admire their strength, their softness, their wisdom, their nurture, their intelligence, their humor, and their advocacy for others.

I’m grateful to the women who have forged the path for me, whether or not  I agree with all of their ideologies or methods.

So here’s to strong women:

May we know them

May we be them

May we raise them