female suppression & identity confusion

I’m a female. And I say that to not state the obvious but to establish and confirm the notion that yes we are different from men.

We are. That is plain fact and truth. Men are usually physically bigger than us women. This makes them stronger. They are to take the lead in their families. Provision and protection are two things one would say a good man possess.

One of the things I’ve struggled with as a woman is this reach within me to lead and then suppressing it over time. Suppressing it because I was a woman and i allowed past and current societal views to corrupt my call to leadership. Two very conflicting forces that elicit emotion. A battle field I created within myself that wasn’t intentionally self-inflicted, but it’s festered and made itself home.

I’ve done everything I can to go with one feeling or the other-And up until recently I haven’t sought out a way to balance it. Anyone else have this problem?

For those not familiar with the rise and combat of these distinguishing feelings, let me explain to you the depths I went to, trying to encourage one to dominant the other.

First. I tried to suppress my femininity. I’ve always felt like I should be some sort of boss, or leader. I felt like as a female I couldn’t embody that in total-why? Look at society. Even though we swear from sea to shining sea women are accounted for as “equal”, we aren’t. Society is going to reflect what is at the heart of its people. Unfortunately so many people still believe in the religious inferiority of women. This belief started way back when slavery was upheld and women too were thought of as property. This way of thinking has overtime been embedded into society. So much so that we let little waves of it trickle by us.

Look at the way women get paid. Look at the way we are presented-the way so many of us present ourself to society. It’s unremarkable and remarkable in different senses to see women emerge in certain careers. Why? Because we have been though of as less.

So because of that I wanted to not sift through these two feelings of suppression and emergence-but I wanted to embrace one and I wanted that to be my emergence of leadership. I wanted that role of leadership to billow out of me! And because I was a woman I thought I could not embody that without suppressing all feminine parts about me! I wanted to be perceived as tough-strong like a leader. So I did things to help match how I was feeling on the inside. I wore baggy clothes, and not in hopes to be modest but more looking to be androgynous-looking to have a blend of gender. Hoping to appear stronger-more “manly”. Like “hey I’m strong I got this”. Yeah okay.

I cut my hair really short and when it was long I refused to style or tame it. I stopped wearing makeup. I disliked carrying a purse. And I rejected all parts of me that were feminine. All these things seem so trivial, and at the time I wouldn’t identify them the way I am doing it now, but the truth was I felt the call to lead. Being a woman, I felt this was not as acceptable as if I were male.

I stopped this though. I stopped it because I needed to find a new approach. And I’m going to be honest I stopped it because I feared this gender neutral lie was going to spill over into my sexuality. I was a firm believer that we were made for intimacy with the opposite sex and I thought if I kept believing these lies, it would only lead into a lifestyle I had no business in.

So then I went into the total opposite direction-I totally embraced being a woman. This sounds healthy, but it wasn’t. Again I found myself wanting to just downplay one of these two feelings-embrace one and ignore the other instead of figuring out a middle ground.

I started rejecting anything “manly” about myself. I started engraving the societal norms of a woman that yes, still undermine our society today. I’d do things like sit through pedis&manis even though I didn’t want to. Why? Because I was trying to be a “woman”. I would clean. I convinced myself that I wanted to be a stay at home mom, not because it would help the circumstances but because I convinced myself I “liked” it. (Don’t get me wrong I loved staying at home with my baby but I didn’t want it to become my only identity). I forced myself to cook until I enjoyed it to some degree. Until it became habitual and with habit came comfort. I wore make up and tried to always be prettied up and I even felt myself becoming more passive, like a good quiet woman. Anyone who knows me knows this is not me.

So here I was with this want to lead, but feeling the external world crushing down, forcing the norm for a woman in my face. A small, petite woman at that (does that mean I was meant to be more meek and timid than women bigger than me?)

This internal conflict I was going through had to get resolved so I finally did what I should have done when I first felt it rising up-I took it to the throne room. Yes! I brought it to god in prayer. I didn’t ask him to force me to feel on either side of the fence. I didn’t request a confirmation in my gender…I simply asked for clarity on the matter. One of the things I had to understand and I still have a hard time processing it even now, is why I was so confused about what I experienced internally and acted upon externally. The issue was that I was buying into the world’s perspective on what it was to be a woman. The issue with that is not only did the “housewife” stigma stick around, but also ironically enough the world’s view on various subjects (including femininity) is constantly changing. There has just been so many shifts and movements and as humans we respond. Remember what I said earlier: society is going to reflect what is at the heart of its people. Constant change and reform is underway-therefore that is reflected in society.

While I believe that is maybe the source of the issue, it is now answering the question; what do I believe, if what I believe is always changing?

I chose to turn to god and see what is implied and reflected in the Bible. God has an unchanging nature. I thought for sure I could rely on his views to balance me. So I started seeking for my feminine identity in the pages of the old and new testaments.

How does god value women? What does he say about them and their behaviors?

One thing I did notice is that we are important. We are equally as important as men. When God created Adam, he could have just created Adam. In fact he could have just created a bunch of adams. However he didn’t. Genesis 1:27 says that “God created human beings in his own image…male and female he created them”.

Furthermore God created us to reflect him. Men and women united represent God as a whole. There are unique characteristics in men that represent God’s nature. And in the same sense there are unique characteristics in us females that reflect a part of God’s nature. He didn’t create just one gender to embody himself-instead he dispersed his characteristics between the two genders.

In no way do I think these attributes are as trivial as your favorite color (blue v. pink) or whether you want 1 kid or 10 kids or whether or not a woman decides to stay home with those kids. I think what is more important are those natural, unique attributes each gender possesses. For women I feel like those attributes found in god that we reflect may be nurturing, selflessness, and compassion. It is more important that I am embracing that of my true identity rather than trying to embody an image and mind frame that society sells to us.

In the New Testament jesus actually had some women follow him in his ministry. They ministered with Jesus. They were going places with Jesus that were not traditionally acceptable of women at that time. In the gospel of Luke 8, these women are mentioned. Some were married, some not. It also says these women contributed to the resources needed by jesus and his disciples (Luke 8:3).

These ladies were in leadership roles-willing to lead and serve all in the same. They boldly stepped out of the traditional bounds of womanhood to take up their calling with Jesus.

They didn’t get hung up on society’s outlook on what they should and should not be doing. Instead they found their identities in jesus.

I don’t know if what I was experiencing was a gender crisis but I do know it was confusion with concerns as to what I should be looking like and acting like as a woman. When we lean into the world for those kind of identity clarifications our perspectives are jerked around. However when we lean into god we see the focus is more on not how to act or how we fight to be perceived, but it’s those unique characteristics he bestows in a woman’s nature, reflecting that of his own.

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