On Being a Woman in 2016

A beautiful landscape including the Great Sand Dunes with a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains

It’s an interesting time to be a woman. Although it’s 2016 and we all thought that civil rights wouldn’t still be a debate, here we are in the midst of an election season where basic rights are points of contention. I never would have guessed that there would still be pay disparities by the time I entered the job market. I’ve only ever had female research mentors, yet everyone is still making a huge deal about getting more women in science. As if college is the time to do that.

All that aside, in this season of gratitude, I’ve been noticing how thankful I am for many of the women in my life, even those I don’t know well. I do not enjoy the stereotype of women being meek and quiet-mannered (yes, pride has something to do with it), and it has always bothered me that I felt too loud to be a Christian woman. Not literally loud, because I am usually soft-spoken, but loud in my opinions and lifestyle. I enjoy helping people as much as the next person, but I don’t have the sort of calming, welcoming aura that is often associated with being a woman. And throughout college, I never felt that I quite fit what was expected of me. Hosting women’s dinners and nights to bake cookies for the men’s groups was never something I lived for; I wanted the damn cookies for myself. If the men wanted them, they could come help.

Even when I was heading the women’s ministry of the Christian association I was in, I felt wrong. Was I really the person to do this? I don’t know how to be a woman. Makeup is a lost cause to me, and if my hair isn’t pulled back, it’s probably a special occasion. I was the girl who always came to meetings sweaty and covered in cinders from cycling on the track. And I never understood why the women couldn’t go camping like the men.

My insecurities have only increased since college. I work in research and have zero interest in being a mom anytime soon. If all goes well, I’ll be in school for the next several years getting my doctorate. That’s no time to learn how to be a good woman; that’s only time to learn how to be a scientist. Can they go hand in hand? Guess we’ll find out. I only recently became comfortable around babies, and I think they are still deciding if I am ok. I can’t keep my house clean, and I have scars on every limb of my body.

In the past few months, however, I have been receiving encouragement in the most surprising ways. It’s not explicit; it has come in the form of someone sharing an article on Facebook, or through discovering more progressive/liberal Christian women on social media. I have even developed a new friendship with a woman who is in a similar life place as me- and in a similar field to boot (yay!). The most powerful encouragement came from a podcast.

Recently, the Liturgist Podcast hosted an episode called “Woman,” in which Michael Gungor and Mike McHargue interview several Christian women about their experiences in life, workplace, and the church. And even though I haven’t experienced explicit sexism or shaming throughout my life, the conversation resonated deeply with me. Beyond that, I found hope that there are other women who feel the way I do, and think the way I think about the world. And they are women who share my core faith. 

I often feel like the exception when people describe things “for women;” I don’t wear a lot of pink, I don’t love discussing my feelings, and I don’t have flowery language. But as I’ve started coming to terms with who I am, I’ve felt God supporting my self-appreciation through words from the women around me. Ironic. But it’s 2016, and people are telling me who to vote for based on my sex. I don’t like that. It’s 2016, and our female presidential candidate is being held to a different standard than the male one. I don’t like that. It’s 2016, and women are just barely allowed to BE. I love my church, but most (if not all) of the women in leadership are married. I can’t even begin to express how lucky I feel that I have a community that lets me be, not one that expects me to be. But it was the most amazing thing to listen to women in this podcast who are active in their churches yet are not married. 

Praise God for the Christian women whose main goal was not marriage, or homemaking, or being a great hostess, and praise God for the reminder that it’s okay to not be that woman. It’s hard to see others struggle, but also encouraging to know that it isn’t just me. Thank you, strong women who are not afraid to use the voice and conviction that God has given you.

As a side note, you should read this poem from the aforementioned podcast, and then share it with everyone you know.