Monday, February 06, 2012

Feminism, Nursing Classes, and Jesus

I've found myself thinking a lot about feminism over the last week or so.  I suppose it's a bit of an inevitable topic when you're enrolled in a program that has a student body that is something like 90% female.  Particularly when you have to sit through lectures that emphasize that the most important part of nursing is not the care we give to our patients, but the specific scientific education and skills that we bring to the table.

Can I whisper a secret to you?

I don't identify myself as a feminist.

Whew.  I'm glad I got that off my chest.  Are you still with me? Still breathing?  Not going to attack me?

Early in the days of my first university degree, I shared that secret with a classmate as we rode the bus together.  She attacked me.  "Well then why are you in university?"

"Excuse me?"

"You wouldn't be able to get a higher education if it wasn't for feminism!"


As someone who is currently embarking on the journey to a second university degree and a professional designation, let me say that I'm thankful for those who blazed the way for me to participate in educational opportunities.  As someone who is headed into a profession that has been predominantly the field of women for the last couple of centuries, I'm grateful for the women who paved the way and established themselves as respected leaders in the field.

But I still don't identify as a feminist.

I texted a friend during a particularly feminist in slant class last week, and commented, "I'm all for equality of men and women, but I sure don't subscribe to the view that women are better, and I don't think that women should rule the world."

We laughed, since she is trained in a female dominated profession, but currently working in a male dominated profession, and just that morning had completed a task that she would have been more than happy to pass off to a man.

Can I tell you another secret?

I think men and women are different, and that there are things that women generally do better than men, and things that men generally do better than women.

I'm not actually all that into traditional gender roles. And I'm not really going to talk about them in this post.

What I actually wanted to talk about is the fact that I feel like a failure, sometimes, as a woman, by not identifying with feminism.  By not picking the female candidate for a job or in an election, just because she's a woman.  For believing that things like jobs and elections need to be about skills, giftings, education and qualifications, and not about gender.

The class that stirred this quagmire within me carried on, and the professor mentioned several times that the thing responsible for this incredible subjugation of women is "European Christianity".


My already tumultuous insides began to ache in earnest.  As a historian, I can tell you that this is an unbalanced opinion.  That yes, at times Christianity has been responsible for the subjugation of women, but that it has also empowered women throughout history in incredible ways.  And more than that, the Jesus I've fallen more and more in love with over the last couple years, well, he loved and empowered women.

I found myself thinking again of a poem titled "The Woman's Creed" written in 1978 by Rachel Conrad Wahlberg that I've shared here before.  As I pondered feminism, nursing classes and Jesus this week, I felt it worth reposting Walhberg's poem, because it so beautifully reflects the Jesus I've come to know, and his heart towards me as a woman.

I believe in God
who created woman and man in God's own image
who created the world
and gave both sexes
the care of the earth.

I believe in Jesus
child of God
chosen of God
born of the woman Mary
who listened to women and liked them
who stayed in their homes
who discussed the Kingdom with them
who was followed and financed
by women disciples.

I believe in Jesus
who discussed theology with a woman at a well
and first confided in her
his messiahship
who motivated her to go and tell
her great news to the city.

I believe in Jesus who received anointing
from a woman at Simon's house
who rebuked the men guests who scorned her
I believe in Jesus
who said this woman will be remembered
for what she did -
minister to Jesus.

I believe in Jesus
who acted boldly
to reject the blood taboo
of ancient societies
by healing the audacious woman who touched him.

I believe in Jesus who healed a woman
on the sabbath
and made her straight
because she was
a human being.

I believe in Jesus
who spoke of God
as a woman seeking the lost coin
as a woman who swept
seeking the lost.

I believe in Jesus
who thought of pregnancy and birth
with reverence
not as punishment - but
as wrenching event
a metaphor for transformation
born again

I believe in Jesus
who spoke of himself
as a mother hen
who would gather her chicks
under her wings.

I believe in Jesus who appeared
first to Mary Magdalene
who sent her with the bursting message

I believe in the wholeness
of the Savior
in whom there is neither
Jew nor Greek
slave nor free
male nor female
for we are all one
in salvation.

I believe in the Holy Spirit
as she moves over the waters
of creation
and over the earth.

I believe in the Holy Spirit
as she yearns within us
to pray for those things
too deep for words.

I believe in the Holy Spirit
the woman spirit of God*
who like a hen
created us
and gave us birth
and covers us
with her wings.

*the Hebrew word for Spirit is feminine


Samantha J. said...

I really really wish we could spend some time together. I am so envious of your intellect and time to process these deep thoughts. Can you teach me how? Thank you for a post that echoes my own heart and mind on this issue!!! Praise the Lord for you Lisa. You are a gift to me :)

renee altson said...

ahhh, beloved ruach elohim. <3

Anonymous said...

very well said Lisa. If you are a failure as a feminist (which I don't think you are) then I am in the same corner as you. In fact I am more against feminism then I am for it.


Lisa said...

Samantha - we should spend some time together! I would love to have coffee and talk about all sorts of deep things. Facebook me and we'll carve out a bit of time. (And thanks for the compliment!)

Renee - <3. beloved ruach elohim indeed.

Crys - thanks friend!

terri said...

oh man, this made me want to know you even more. I absolutely go crazy when someone thinks they know something about me because of my gender and that applies equally to feminists and people who hold to the more traditional gender roles. in fact, i am a complex blend of traits and preferences and gifts that can't be so easily simplified in the ways that many would like. AND i think that reflects the image of God in me.

alas, these conversations can't really happen well in a comment space. plus i'm still pretty sick. but maybe someday we'll have a way to know each other better and have nice long conversations over coffee or tea. wouldn't that be lovely?

Lisa said...

Terri - I love this "in fact, i am a complex blend of traits and preferences and gifts that can't be so easily simplified in the ways that many would like. AND i think that reflects the image of God in me." that you said! You phrased it so well!

I would love to know you and have long conversations over coffee or tea! I am occasionally in the mid-west (very occasionally these days) visiting family, so perhaps I'll have to arrange to see you the next time I travel that way... Or, you're welcome to come visit my mountains out here :) Or who knows... perhaps we'll meet up in some other part of the world!

Hugs to you today and prayers for recovery!

terri said...

i think we should meet in florida and visit with christianne and kirsten while we're at it. :)

Lisa said...

Perfect! It's a plan!

christianne said...

I think the two of you should definitely meet in Florida and visit me and Kirsten!!

But you knew I would vote for that, didn't you?

Oh, Lisa, thank you so much for sharing this poem. I've not read it before, and it deeply blessed me.

I don't subscribe to feminism either. In fact, I don't subscribe to most labels. They are so limiting, and I'm more interested in the human being in front of me than any label that might be applied to them.

Also, do you know of Rachel Held Evans? I'm guessing you probably do, but if not, Google her name and you'll find her blog. This last week she's been responding like a force to John Piper's call for a more masculine Christianity, and she asked our brothers in Christ to write responses to it. I'm not usually someone who would care to engage my mind in such debates or matters, but I read a couple of the responses written by men and it did get me thinking at the heart level about some of these things. I think that's because I'm pursuing a call in what feels like male-dominated waters.


Lisa said...

Christianne - Florida it is then :D

I actually thought of you when I read this poem again - thought of what I have seen and known of your heart, and suspected it might be a piece of writing that would speak to you.

And I agree, labels are oh so limiting! Just this afternoon as I was doing some homework reading, I found myself chafing as the article I read declared that the label of nurse is of central importance, and that nurses as a population are failing miserably in being able to appropriately define themselves and in living up to the full "scope of practice" that they should. I chafed as I read, and felt like this label was already applied and I was already a failure, since I have a slightly different perspective than the author. All I want to do is see the client in front of me - to see who they are, and how I can work with them to meet their needs in that moment. If that means medical help, or emotional, or spiritual or social support, awesome! But I want to meet the needs in that moment, not feel like I'm forced to live within a particular label.

And yes, I do read Rachel Held Evans, though I confess that time limitations this week mean that I haven't closely followed the responses to John Piper that she's garnered. I can totally see how the heart level of these things would be challenging for you, since I would say your calling is very much in somewhat male-dominated waters. I so wish we could sit and talk about this, these labels and callings and heart level things over a cup of tea! Someday, I hope!