Thursday, April 4, 2013

Who Wears the Pants

A while ago a very wise, very dear friend of mine shared some thoughts on her struggles with gender roles in church, work and marriage.  I asked if I could post excerpts from her letter, as she presents a different perspective than we at BtheB can provide, yet one that I am sure will resonate with many of our readers.  She writes:

While I am not single and haven't been for a long time, and I am not an academic, I deeply feel I push against assumptions of what it means to be a woman on a regular basis. Most recently (and probably most consistently), this has been in the realm of church life. One of my strongest traits is also one of the least "feminine": assertiveness. And it seems particularly problematic that this trait is one [Husband] does not particularly exemplify. Questions of "who wears the pants in the family" seem to come down to this one trait. The model in our church, and it seems many churches, is that women have roles of leadership over other women, children, music, or other more "feeling-oriented" positions. Few women find themselves in places where they are in executive, decision-making roles in the church, and yet these seem to be where I belong the most. I like thinking about systems and creating structure where none exists and helping empower people to use their gifts in fulfilling ways. I find that I can't help but thinking this way. It is for this reason that I have realized that I need to be fully "in" or fully disengaged from the initiatives I care about. I can't half-ass it. [Husband] has helped me realize this. I think this is also the reason that people either really appreciate me or don't like me.

In the work setting, it is a little easier having this trait of assertiveness as a female. I definitely have more role models. However, I still rub raw against other women especially. The strong, independent, yet passive-aggressive female is the one I have yet figured out how to work with--someone with whom I continually have conflict yet refuses to actually address that conflict. I find it infuriating.  I work with several women like this who I know do not like me. I desperately want to bridge the gap that exists, and yet, they seem to keep their power by not letting the gap be bridged. Perhaps men also operate like this and I am not aware of it, but so far I only have this sort of conflict with women. It deeply saddens me.

In my own marriage, I struggle to find ways and places to "choose weakness" in order to give space for my marriage to thrive. This may seem counter-intuitive or maybe not the place for a feminist, and yet after 10+ years of marriage, here I am. Just like as Christians it is often true that in our weakness, Christ lives. I think I am learning more of what it means to die to self--that I can choose to be less assertive, choose to not always be completely truthful (not in lying but in keeping thoughts to myself), choose to not insist on co-leading in every situation--all in order to empower someone else whom I care about deeply. I think this probably spills over into my other relationships, but I am working on practicing it first in my most important, and most difficult one.

Now, as [Husband] is in the [N]th year of being on the job market, I am in a place where I struggling to find what it means to look to the needs of our kids and me, but to support [Husband] as his "helpmate." I cringe to use that word, as I think it is often applied only to wives as a means to force them into a one-way role of submission. But, maybe as a couple we take turns being "helpmates" in various aspects of our lives? Maybe this is true of friendships also? 

As always, thanks to Friend for sharing this with me and allowing me to pass it on, and for welcoming me into both the hard and the beautiful aspects of your life. I shall do my best to return the favor.

1 comment:

  1. Many, many thanks to Friend. This is a really wonderful, thoughtful meditation.


Please comment! And please be nice. We'd prefer if you'd use your first name, but understand if you'd rather not.