The Future is Female
It’s International Women’s Day. According to the Internal Women’s Day official website, it’s a day of unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action.
I’ve never felt so called to be unapologetically female — in all of its manifestations — as I do as a postulant, seminarian, and future priest (God-willing). The current political climate makes the struggle more pressing, more valuable, and more emotional. Just more. More everything. I use the word struggle, because that is what it is — a struggle.
I feel this struggle most acutely when doing the work of church. And, this is one of the issues on which the work of church feels removed from the work of God. Church should be where I feel most valued as an individual and as a female. And, that’s sometimes not the case for me, especially since starting seminary.
I feel it every time I profess my faith using the words of the Nicene Creed:
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
I say she instead of he here to remind myself that I am also made in the image of God.
I feel it every time a well-meaning and usually male friend tells me that we shouldn’t gender God. I agree. God is beyond gender. But, we cannot pretend that God hasn’t been rendered male in our tellings about God since the very beginning. Telling me not to gender God is easy when your gender is the default.
I feel it every time I’m told that gendered language in the service is a product of time past, but that tradition calls us to speak these words. Don’t make it about you, they say. Don’t make something out of nothing, they say. Words matter, I say. Words matter, especially the words we use to profess our faith and to describe our God.
I feel it every time it’s suggested that we move beyond gender discussions to a discussion of people. Pretending that gender inequality doesn’t still exist within the church (and, of course, outside of it) by suggesting that we move beyond gender in language and discussion makes conversations about the very real gender inequality that exists in pay, positions, representations of the female image, and on and on more difficult to have. If you won’t acknowledge why I feel the need to push back against the very real minority position that I feel deeply, than you dismiss it. Well-meaning and “evolved” friends, take note.
Today, I am wearing a sweatshirt that states: “The Future Is Female.” What does this statement mean? It is a slogan with a long history, and I invite you to read that history here. For me, it acknowledges that the past was male, both in and outside of the church. It acknowledges that attempting to move from patriarchy to equality might very well miss a step if we are not careful. It acknowledges that female-identified bodies remain under attack as do our rights. It reminds me that I am a female entering a traditionally male-dominated field and that I am called with all of my female-ness to live boldly, authentically, and honestly. I am female. And, I am God’s beloved. And, so are you, my friend.
I invite you to consider the words of feminist theologian Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza today:
“It is not possible to move directly from a church characterized by male domination to one characterized by full mutuality between the sexes; to appeal for immediate egalitarianism is to dream of ‘easy grace,’ underestimating the degree to which women have internalized the structures of patriarchal oppression. Because the spiritual colonization of women by men has entailed our internalization of the male as divine, men have to relinquish their spiritual and religious control over women as well as over the church as the people of God, if mutuality should become a real possibility.”