Every once in a while, I begin to trick myself into thinking that people aren’t at sexist as I think they are. Every once in a while, I start to think, “Maybe this isn’t such a white man’s world anymore.” Every once in a while, I start feeling safe in the affirming community I have built around myself.
But every time, eventually something crashes through my walls. And then…dang, does the angst come out.
This last time, it wasn’t even because of things that happened to me*. A few days ago, one of my roommates came home with a frustrating story from the church College ministry in which she is a leader, about issues with a college freshman-theology major who is a volunteer under her. (I do have to say, give this kid a tiny bit of grace. There should be a syndrome for theology major freshmen…they have been in it long enough to pick up some big words that make them feel cocky, but not long enough to have their unquestioned assumptions and beliefs dashed against the jagged rocks of theological academia. Boy, does this kid have some rough seas ahead of him. I can’t help but be a bit wickedly excited for this.) He has undermined her authority and been disrespectful to the point that my roommate, who isn’t an egalitarian, and is part of a church that is about as complementarian as you can get, and hates conflict, has had to tell him that he will not be leading anymore this year. (Of course, this conversation went much differently than it would have had I been the one talking, but I am very proud of her!) And then, the very next day, my other roommate who works with a high school ministry came back from a leadership meeting practically steaming at the ears. She was leading the meeting, and had a male co-leader first act disrespectfully by being blatantly flirtatious, and then when she ignored him he began to make comments about the administrative issues the group was having, saying that it was “because all of the staff are women.” “You came from my rib,” he said, as if it excused or explained his behavior. My roommate was professional, putting off a direct conversation for later when the leadership staff could be present, and when she was not in a position where she needed to maintain her composure with the rest of the group**.
I’m not such an angry feminist as I used to be; I’m beginning*** to be more measured in the ways I express myself. I have found a community that affirms me in my womanhood. I have taken ownership of my beliefs, and am beginning to be able to express them better. I am still working with some questions, and I am realizing that I have even fewer answers than I thought I did…and that this is all good. I have found people I respect who have built me up in more ways than I probably even realize. I have come to some measure of peace with this up-hill battle.
But every once in a while, something breaks through the buffers I have put around myself. This isn’t always bad – I need to be shaken out of the complacency that comes with comfort. You can have my complacency. But if you disrupt my peace, don’t be surprised when the angst comes out. There is always a reason for angry feminism.
So when one of us gets angry, don’t think, “It’s just another angry feminist.” There is no such thing.
Here’s a productive alternative: ask yourself why we’re angry. And if you can’t figure out the answer, ask us. Believe me, we’ve all got stories.
. . . .
* Let’s not even talk about the fact that both of these stories are about men in ministry demonstrating their sexism and behaving disrespectfully towards women over them in leadership.
** Good thing it was her, because if it had been me, I probably would have gone all feminist ape-shit on him. And not in a God-honoring way. Clearly, I’m still working on this whole thing.
*** “Beginning” may or may not be the key word here.