Struggling with Feminism while Still Considering Myself a Feminist

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*NOTE* I identify with feminism in that I believe that all men and women should be treated equal insofar as being given the same human dignity and respect. I find nothing odd about that at all. Don’t pay me less because I am a woman. Don’t tell me that I am “stupid” because I am a woman. I don’t think that you are “stupid” because you’re a man. Like me, you are a human being who deserves dignity and respect.

Okay, that being out of the way, let’s talk about my issues with feminism.

I don’t use birth control. I am not sexually active. I am Pro-Life. I don’t hate men. I want to be a mom one day. I DON’T THINK ANYONE WHO USES BIRTH CONTROL OR IS SEXUALLY ACTIVE IS A BAD PERSON. It’s just not my choice.

I feel that’s what feminism is all about – being able to choose what works best for you as a woman. But sometimes I feel like we still look down on the choices women make, like you want to be a stay-at-home mom so you put feminism back 50 years. I used to be guilty of this, and I think that’s partially because that’s how I was conditioned as a feminist, that if you’re not in the workforce, you’re demeaning everything our Founding Mothers ever worked for.

Then again, I have also seen the opposite. I have seen women looked down upon because they needed to work for whatever reason. People say, “God will provide, you need to stay home with your kids.” Meanwhile, the woman with the bedridden or deceased husband is saying, “Forget that, God provided me a way to feed my children, so I’m going to take it.” The difficult thing is that everything is a case-by-case basis. There is no one-size-fits-all for what a family should or shouldn’t do. But either way, it’s not for us to judge that.

As a librarian, I work in a primarily female field. And honestly, sometimes I feel like I am not doing much for feminism in this way because women have held this role for decades. The campaigns to get girls involved in math and science are well-meaning, and I’m not saying anything negative about them. However, I chose this field, but indirectly I feel like I am looked down upon for it. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I can’t help but feel that way sometimes. But even more than that, I’m scared if I leave the field for a few years to raise a family, that no one will let me back in, by virtue of the fact that I committed a feminist sin. However, I am also afraid of quitting the field entirely. I would be okay with taking a job part-time if my husband had a good enough job. I’m the kind of person who needs to keep working, just because I love my job.

I’m terribly conflicted right now, caught between two worlds, the world of the family (which society puts down) and the world of the career (which society praises).

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If Only I Was Beautiful and Other Lies I Tell Myself

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Daily, we’re accosted by photos, media images, and commercials telling us we’re not “beautiful.” For the longest time, I stared at myself in the mirror and thought, “If only I had less acne, if only I had a smaller nose, if only, if only, if only.” Then last summer, I decided to stop using make-up on a daily basis. No foundation covering the blemishes I tried so hard to hide, no mascara or eyeliner to frame my eyes (I was always rubbish with eyeshadow). And then I made a valuable discovery. I was still beautiful. I looked less like a doll and more like…me. I looked the way God intended me to look.

There are always days I feel rejected, when a guy doesn’t notice me or when it seems like all these girls walking by me have flawless hair. But the reality is that I am beautiful. My hair looks better shorter because it’s thin and fine, so I rock that look. My face is fine the way is is, so I don’t wear make-up, except on special occasions, like friends’ weddings. I’m even learning to accept my body for all its imperfections and to scoff at people who tell me I need to eat (I eat all the time). It only makes me self-conscious.

When I don’t feel smart, I remind myself how much I learned from reading books over the years and all the random trivia I can spout. When I feel like I’m not beautiful, I smile (I love my smile, if I do say so myself). When I feel like I am not good enough, I remember that God put me here for a reason. I also remember the Doctor Who quote that “in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important.”

You are special just the way you are. Don’t ever change who you are just because someone thinks you should be a certain way or because you don’t live up to our culture’s “beauty” standards. You are important. You are necessary. You are beautiful. 2014-09-20 04.42.26

No Longer Apologetic for Being a Woman

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In middle school, I loved a good romance. I used to secretly read books like the Sweet Valley High series, and any story that had a love story was appealing to me. Until now, I never told that I read those voraciously.

Then when I got older, I found out it was taboo. “Chick lit.” Any film focusing on the female condition was dismissed as a “chick flick.” Only appealing to women, not the higher society of men.

I say that sarcastically because I am tired of stories being dismissed because they tell a woman’s tale. Today is Jane Austen’s 239th birthday. She is my favorite author of all time, right up there with J.K. Rowling (Shannon Hale is slowly, but quickly, joining these two literary giants in my high estimation). However, tell someone you are a Janeite, especially a man, and then comes the flow of “Oh, that’s chick lit,” “I read her stuff in high school, it was boring.”

Before I entered the world of librarianship, I was very much a literary snob, but I always kept my “guilty pleasures” secret. If I liked a book that wasn’t of high literary caliber to a man, I kept my mouth shut.

Not anymore! I want to read everything I want to read. I want to read the young adult literature that I’ve been putting off because I am afraid of what others will think when they see me reading a book with a teenage girl on the cover. I am throwing away the idea of “boy books” and “girl books.” Instead, I am calling them children’s books, young adult books, or adult books.

And as far as the stories I like, I may be a “natural born cynic” (to quote last year’s Newbery Award winning-book Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo), as far as romance is concerned, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good story.

You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite films of all time. I also loved Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron is the Jane Austen of films – she portrays real women doing real things. Real women, and men, fall in love. Real women, and men, have emotional needs that must be met or that person feels depressed or incomplete. Why must emotions be exclusively a woman’s territory and why must we as women apologize for wanting to meet those emotional needs? Why should our stories, our successes, our failures, our hopes and dreams be of lower culture than those of our menfolk?

I’ll tell you something – they are not lower culture. WE as women are not lower culture. Whether we are writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, librarians, stay-at-home moms, single with no family, or wives with no children, all of our stories are important. We are all people in the eyes of God. Men, I want to hear your stories. Women, I want to hear yours.

Tell me.

Growing Up Does Not Have to Mean Boring

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This week, I will turn 23. For a while I was scared of that fact, since I really enjoyed being 22. I learned a lot. It was fun, scary, sad, lonely, joyful, and captivating. But since I am not in Neverland, I cannot say 22 forever, nor can I go back to being 7.

This time last year, I was in a dark place where I didn’t think I would have a job, I was terrified of moving and leaving my friends, and I thought my life was over. This week was the job interview that changed everything. This week was the anniversary of the day I was accepted to graduate school, on my birthday, of all days. This was the week that changed everything for the better. I grew up a lot this week.

Then December came. I already loathe winter, but it was made even worse by the fact that I graduated college and then my dog died the next day. Adulthood came upon me too fast, and I was unprepared for it. Throwing myself into my new job and my dream of becoming a children’s librarian, I devoured children’s books and films, rekindled my love for Disney films into a blaze that consumed me to the point that could quote my favorite films without thinking about it, even if I had not seen the film in years.

Then I joined my new church, where at first I felt out of place, like  a carton of eggs on a bread shelf. Occasionally, I still feel like I don’t belong. But then I remember why. I never feel out of place with certain people in the group (shoutout to Katrina and Shannon in particular), but with others I will never belong. Yet those are the ones whose approval I tried all these months to gain. It seems silly, looking back on it now. But now I realize it is all part of the growing up process.

I will never stop acting like a child. I will never grow up. If growing up means I must become boring, angry, and bitter like so many adults I know, then I want no part of it. When Shannon and I went to Fallingwater this week, all I could think about was a magical fairyland deep in the woods. Come on, even the name has an other-worldly feel to it.

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Call me crazy, but I prefer to believe that unicorns exist because the idea of them makes me happy. I like to think that somewhere out there is a dragon I can tame so I can ride it and cut my commute to work. I love the idea that a fairy tale is out there for me. I don’t mean the prince charming-happily-ever-after foolishness. Instead, I believe in magic. I believe in a pure, unadulterated, childlike wisdom that only comes with innocence and the desire to know more about the world, an Alice-like curiosity that cannot be satisfied. Yes, I am about to turn 23. But I will never, under any circumstances, allow myself to grow up. To forget what it is to be a child is to forget how to live. If you want to become old and bitter, go right ahead. I choose a life of joy and freedom.