I was raised by a Godly man and a sassy, take-no-crap woman who bought my two younger sisters and I bumper stickers that read, “Girls can do anything.” My dad put one on the door into our basement and another above the Ranger’s windpipe, the four wheeler that Gretchen, at 11, could drive like a pro. These weren’t empty words for our folks- my parents believed that I could be president when I went through that phase during 8th grade, and as my sisters and I start to fly the coop, continue to remind us that we can do whatever we put our mind to. Perhaps my favorite element of my childhood- and there was much to praise- was the consistent reminder that being women was never an obstacle or a threat – it just happened to be who we were. It was something to be celebrated- may it have been through admiration of Ripley from “Alien,” wearing pink sundresses, playing sports, or watching “Pride and Prejudice” every day for a straight week and wanting to be Lizzie Bennett. Our parents did not limit us.
I have been lucky in that I have only experienced a small bit of what some would consider sexism, none of which happened in the classroom or in the workplace; I am blessed to be have been thus far surrounded by people who, while seeing me as a female, don’t recognize it as an issue or a handicap. However, I have heard frustrating, heartbreaking stories from women and sisters that have felt the sting of being considered less-than, or sexual objects, or incapable based on biology, and the injuriousness of it makes me powerfully sad.
I believe a few things. I believe in a creator God, who loves me and made me uniquely. I believe that He made men and women differently in fundamental ways, but that we are united in our shared likeness of God. We are united in His love for a collective “us.” We are united in being called His children. We are united by the command to love one another- which means a call for respect for His creation, whether we want to or not.
Which brings me here: Women are not treated equally. It’s a fact. It’s a problem. I believe it is injustice. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. That’s why I don’t think it’s bonkers or “un-Christian” for women who have experienced such egregious mistreatment to, in response, hunger and thirst for equal treatment or opportunity (p.s. – that is all feminism is. It’s not putting women above anyone else or erasing the good differences between the genders, in my mind, but that’s an essay for another lunch break). I cannot blame them, and I frankly, I stand with them.
At the end of the day, I don’t – and no one should, but that doesn’t mean no one will—go to Hollywood or Taylor Swift for my primary source of identity. I strive and I fail, but my eyes are set on my Creator, and He is where I get my sense of self- my female-ness, which I celebrate, as all His creation is “good.” (His words, not mine!). That being said, I live in the 21st century and I’m going to watch TV. The best advice I was ever given was from the lady who raised me, who in turn heard it from her college professor: “hold the [proverbial] newspaper in one hand, and the Bible in the other.” It’s both an acknowledgement that the world is broken and encouragement to engage and enjoy while filtering what we hear, see, and learn through what we know to be True. It’s proven so exceedingly beneficial to me, as a cinephile and devourer of stories, however they come, to examine everything for truth and good, and discard the rest- or, sometimes discard it altogether. I’ve gotten to the point where positive images that reinforce ideas I can get behind are the ones I try to prefer when considering my media intake.
That’s why, when I watch Taylor Swift’s (in my opinion, silly, but that’s beside the point) “Bad Blood” music video, I can’t say that I’m expecting to get some Christian truth from it. But I can appreciate Swift’s commitment to excellence, her entrepreneurial spirit, and her (again, cinephile) homages to some wonderful action movies that is evident throughout her work. She’s not my favorite artist out there, but I find it encouraging and inspiring that she, as women in a world that has historically been slow to make room for ladies, is out there and getting stuff done. For those reasons, I can support her latest efforts.
That’s why when I see “Mad Max: Fury Road” for the inevitable third time, I will pay special attention to Charlize Theron’s standout portrayal of Imperator Furiosa, a women who is tough as nails and as capable as all get-out, but who isn’t built of steel and obnoxious quips, ninja-ing in v-necks as female actions stars are prone to (be made to) do. She feels. She cries. She expresses doubt and vulnerability amidst this innate strength. She stands up to injustice that she witnesses, facing violence and danger and hurt in the name of doing what’s right. No, she is not Jesus, and thus she is fictional, imperfect, and not a source of ultimate identity, but man, did I leave the theatre in a sense of wonder. In the midst of all this post-apocalyptica was someone I knew, someone who I would want to be like. To have that kind of reaction to an action movie heroine? Unheard of. That’s good stuff. That’s important stuff. It’s indicative that maybe the tide will change. I can get behind that.
That’s why I don’t think it’s a crime to pause and celebrate being a woman. In a music video, in a blockbuster during tent-pole season, in a bumper sticker on your basement door. It’s not a replacement for Jesus-truth, lest anyone be reading this and get confused. It (should) not be at the expense of men, nor should it be violent or reactively vitriolic. HOWEVER, it’s not demonic. It’s not evil. It’s not wrong. It is a celebration of God’s creation, His inherently perfect creation, and I believe with all my heart that when we embrace our God-given identity with joy, it blesses Him.