Sunday, February 26, 2017

I'm a Christian and a Feminist: Come At Me, Bro.

As with any good discussion, we must agree on terms:

What is a Christian?

A follower of Jesus of Nazareth; a believer in his teachings, and a member of his church on earth. 

What is a feminist?

A person who supports women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.

What does a feminist believe?

Women should be equal to men, and if they are not, action should be taken to promote equality.

What is equality?

The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.

Are we on the same page? Oh, goody. If you agree with the above, then you are a Christian and a feminist as well. If you do not think Christianity is compatible with feminism, then this is my ladysplainin' to why it's important (even if you don't identify with as a feminist, which is cool, yo).


To start, let's start with a brief discussion of patriarchy, defined as a group organized by men as leaders; e.g. a lineage with the father or eldest male being the head of the family.

This is a neutral term. I do not have an overall issue with patriarchy: I believe in Apostolic succession, men as priests, and hey! I took my husband's last name.

There are so many issues I want to cover, but I need to stay concise.

I have an issue with patriarchy presented as anti-feminist. Feminists are not fire-breathing dragons which chivalrous knights need to slay to protect their womenfolk. Nay! Feminists are not a one size fits all group. Their common link is an active desire for the socio-political and economic equality of women and men. This noble cause does not mean all feminists are great people; but every organization needs a few a-holes for humility purposes.

Patriarch who was pro-women? Jesus. If you're a Christian, He's the guy (God) you want to listen to on this:
"Jesus, the founder of the faith, did indeed live in a male-dominated society, but he was radical in how he rebelled against the cultural values of his age. His treatment of women pushed far beyond his society’s boundaries to love and honor women in ways never before seen. The gospels tell of his extraordinary conduct towards women, which takes on a radical nature when considered in the context of the oppressive environment for women in the Ancient Middle East. By looking at Jesus’ actions through the proper lens, I want to demonstrate that Christianity was instituted with a profoundly pro-women attitude" (CJ Curtis, "Jesus and Women: Rebelling against Misogyny", The Augustine Collective).

Next: we don't need feminism.

This is probably the most debatable amongst people who see more equality on a regular basis. For me, women got the right to vote less than 100 years ago. As much as we pride ourselves as progressive people, humans actually need at least 100 years for real change to occur organically - even with legislation supporting it.

My big (anecdotal) sticking point for why we need feminism is the blatant misogyny (defined as "dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women") which occurs against certain types of women. For example, feminists themselves. We can't accept that they have different ideas, so we call them fat, man-hating cows because that is a scientifically proven way to change a person's mind. And what about pro-life ladies? You mean, anti-abortion, anti-women nazis? Yep. We need to change the attitude and conversation there too.

Feminists have room for improvement too. And if you want to have a conversation, you need to show that you're genuinely interested in the person, not just making a point.

I am a conservative, and it greatly me that feminism is such a derisive idea - how else can we call for the preservation of a culture without the strength of women?!?


The elephant in the room/ why people say Christians cannot be feminists: BUT FEMINISTS SUPPORT/ GET ABORTIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay. Yes. And no. But yes. As a Christian, I am against abortions. As a feminist, I am against abortions. I am for preserving and protecting life at every stage - especially little women! Check out the female birth rates in China and India. Our tithing as the Baldwin family is mostly split between the church, the woman's shelter near our parish, and the homeless shelter down the street from the hospital.

Still. As a woman who has been pregnant three times... I get it. I do not agree with it, but I understand why women want other women to have access to abortions. I had three really hard pregnancies, even with all the medicine and support readily available to me. I know women deserve better. I want babies to go to loving homes. Will sees people who should not be parents have a lot of kids and the poverty cycles continue. It is truly heartbreaking. We need more empathy in the public discussion on this.

(And I'mma pause you right there if you start to move toward the comment box to mansplain or momsplain the gift of children to me. I know the beauty, and I know the sorrow, connected with my little human beings in my care. Will and I are dedicated to our children, and we're currently facing a reality that another child right now might emotionally break me because of my PPD. Unfortunately, not all women have amazing and supportive husbands like my own.)

So! Instead of viewing these women as selfish, start viewing these women as scared human beings; start seeing that these women need support and love; start acting like you give a damn about the woman in question; and most importantly, stop blaming the woman for getting pregnant. A woman is fertile about 6-8 days/month and a man is fertile every single day. Mhm.


Abortion is wrong. Period. The pro-life movement tries to show that, but as I mentioned before, every movement has the a-holes which ruin the message for others. This is another reason why is it SO important for we, as Christian women and men, to stand up as feminists. We must be seen as allies, not enemies.

Feminists do not all agree. And that is okay. That is bi-partisanship. That is community. As my college friend Hannah commented on this issue,
"I'll refer you to a quote I love from Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist:
"As long as I know how important maternal health is to Haiti’s future, and as long as I know that women are being abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion, abandonment, and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.”
Because while it should be always synonymous, too often people twist Christianity to support agendas of abuse, neglect, and cruelty."
So, please. Enough with telling women that they should smile and they should radiate rainbows and never fart and look pretty and stop talking and sit down and always ask, Please, sir? Can I have another? Please. Just stop telling us what we can or cannot be. If you, dear reader, value equality, then you are not threatened by strong women. You can handle room for improvement. You encourage women in their pursuits and do not say, Thank God you are not like other women! Oh! NO. To be a woman is a far better experience than the way we dress or act or speak. The beauty of womanhood is in our sisterhood - our feminine genius, our creativity, our passion, our tribal protection of our own, our ambitions and our grit to right wrongs.

Our femininity does not detract from another's masculinity. We are not here to challenge. We are here to be ourselves and preserve ourselves. We are not here to ask permission to exist and have wants, needs and desires, or to serve. Feminism says, We can have all of these things. We can choose. We can choose to be a wife, we can choose to be a mother, we can choose to work, we can choose to travel, and our worth is not dictated by our actions or looks. We are DAUGHTERS of the Lord, and we laugh and dance because it pleases Him for us to be fully alive.


My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Goals for Grace, Grief for Me

"We have joy in our days. There’s sadness, too, but we move on." - Scott Watkins on his wife's life-threatening allergies (including to himself).

This line really struck me. I am currently going through a grief cycle with Grace. As I read in another blog post, the grief will probably never end. It will come and go in waves, and just as I adapt to the "new normal", she'll have a new bridge to cross, and we'll figure out another new normal.

My number one goal for her is to be independent. She is a strong, brave toddler. In fact, as I was typing the earlier part, I noticed how quiet she was... because she was in the kitchen, pushing a chair to the counter to get gummy bunnies. Instead of this being a mama's fear, it becomes my pride and joy. I tell her not to push a chair in the kitchen and to ask mom for help; she is rewarded with gummy bunnies. (But just one pack.)

Grace exploring after pre-school yesterday

My number two goal is for her to know her own dignity and strength. Before driving to Ohio for a wedding, we tried a dress on Grace. She exclaimed, "I am so beautiful!" I love that. We should all think so highly of ourselves. On the other side it, I am trying to teach Grace to trust her body more. She has the strength and the ability, but her balance is weak. We work on stairs a lot. I'm trying to teach her to be okay with falling. We all fall, physically and otherwise, because we are human. It's the attitude about falling that separates us between existing and thriving.

Grace on a trek through the snow
My number three goal is to keep up a "try" mentality. There are always going to be experiences and people telling Grace what she can and cannot do. My parents used to tell me that I wasn't a math person because I've always struggled with numbers (turns out I have dyslexia, but that is a different story). I recognize that they were trying to lessen the brunt of my struggles. The more they told me that when I struggled, the more it cemented. The more I became resigned to a calculator. My brilliant husband, on the other hand, constantly challenges me to do mental math and introduces me to games to help me practice these mental olympics. By pushing myself as an adult, I feel the importance of continuous trying.

A while back, I posted this story on my instagramOne of the biggest question marks for me is how best to push Grace in practical ways. There are so many things we do with both hands!! Fortunately, Grace is extremely self-motivated and always asking me how she can help. So when she asked to peel the clementine by herself tonight, my heart leapt. This happened, of course, after she initially fell off a chair trying to get a second clementine first. Grace cannot catch herself on her right side, and this can be very scary. She fell and cried, and we picked her up and told her she was so brave. Then she said, I try again? YES! Of course. And she climbed up and down without incident. Now, with only a little help to start, she peeled and ate the fruit by herself. Grace, you're amazing. Innovate your abilities, people.

Maybe you are thinking, I want this for my kids too! Or, Don't you want this for your other kids too? Well, of course. But here's the difference: typical kids do not have to learn how to use their muscles. Typical kids do not have to learn to use one side of their body. Typical kids do not have to overcome a stroke. And this is why I am grieving. I want to give Grace everything. But I can't. She has to propel herself. Sometimes, she asks to be carried down the stairs and I say no. Not because I am a heartless wench - but because I want her to thrive. I stay with her while she walks slowly. She is three years old, after all.

Family walk.
Grace, in short, must learn what it means to be human. She has been given a gift of empathy, innovation and trial. She has suffered much in her short life, and she will suffer more. I cannot stop this from happening. Even now, we are introducing her to walk-aid, which is an e-stim for her leg. She will get electronic current sent down her leg to signal her dorsal flexors to work properly in her right foot. The hope is that, in the future, she will not need her brace. We do not know if this will happen, but we try anyways.

A final note on grief: I am not crying every day. I am not in mourning. I do feel a deep sorrow in my soul out of love for my child; but I cannot let this grief stop me from letting her live life to the fullest. It is certainly a teeter-totter of emotion! I am (still) learning to trust myself as her mother, I am learning to try again, and I am learning the dignity and strength in being the caretaker of someone who requires extra needs.

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