There is nothing new about giving voice to the myriad of obstacles facing women each day – women at work, in leadership, in education. The simple fact that I am a woman brings me immense blessing, joy and opportunity. But as history attests it also brings with it considerable challenge, sorrow and disadvantage.
By being a woman I am different to half of the population.
And by being woman, that difference means I am unconsciously fighting for opportunity and experience every day.
By being a woman I am working hard to have my voice heard in the midst of the testosterone mumbles and rumbles.
By being a woman I am facing a strong media force that populates, stereotyped images of what a ‘woman’ should look like everyday.
And I am battling against a mentality that men do things better – in the workplace, in the church, in life.
Jared Mauldin, a senior mechanical engineering student at Eastern Washington University wrote an open letter that outlined the reasons why his female colleagues would never be equal. By being a woman in STEM there were disadvantages for her, simply by being a woman.
His intentions appear to be genuine. He wants more men to see the issues and name them. You can read Mauldin’s letter here. In essence he doesn’t say anything new. He just happens to be a man, a young man saying it as it is. This gender thing is complicated. It is a circus and we are all a part of it. I take this young man’s letter to be a small but important part of a journey that we are all in, to make things better, fairer and more equal for everyone.
I used to love watching the television show, The Brady Bunch.
The roles of men and women, the notion of a second marriage, a blended family, housework, the “teen” years were all issues underlying the everyday dramas in the Brady family. As a young viewer I was probably more taken by the issues that dealt with puberty, self image and identity than issues of gender and feminism. I remember Marcia getting her braces!
But now I reflect on this American sitcom and see it as a reflection of just a small part of the culture of that time. You know I don’t remember any African American, Hispanic or Asian characters, do you?
But then there was The Cosby Show
that brought us the talents of Bill Cosby in a delightful family drama about an affluent African American family living in Brooklyn. It dealt with more specific issues of race, teenage pregnancy and dyslexia in the context of having an education and money.
I wonder whether Modern Family
is our equivalent of The Brady Bunch.
Perhaps it best portrays what society values about family life now. Whilst this sitcom about three interrelated families is comic, it also suggests that our definition of family has become elastic. What will it be like in 50 years?
I have spent a lot of my life grappling with the concept of difference. Race, gender and religion have all played a part in defining this notion for me personally. I remember being relieved moving to the city at 18 years old and starting University to find that my perceived handicap of difference was not so bad after all. There was a healthy and dynamic multi cultural mix amongst my peers, there were people speaking openly about their faith and belief systems and I was introduced to the world of feminism via literature and politics.
These issues have not gone away entirely. But one of the beautiful things about growing older (and hopefully wiser) is that you are better able to determine what really matters, what to care about, devout time and energy to and what to leave behind.
I care about issues of race, marginalisation, discrimination to the point where it hurts. I am a strong advocate for women in this world and their right to education, healthcare, housing and freedom. And I love the idea that we can discuss our ideas and beliefs about faith.
But what I want to be known for is that these issues are secondary to me being confident in God’s grace and that my identity is in Him. So there will be days where I will look like a poor paper plane amongst the jet planes. My focus and fight will seem counter cultural. But this difference is worth it. This difference is eternal.