Portrait of a Real-Life Feminist.

For some reason, I’ve been meeting a lot of new people lately (cue panic). As I’ve been meeting what feels like the entire world population, I’ve had to answer the following series of questions several times.


So, you’re a student? What are you studying?

Feminist theology? Really? At a seminary? I didn’t even know that existed!

You’re a feminist then? Oh. You don’t look like a feminist.



I’ve been thinking about this a lot, though. I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that, despite my strong commitment to and activism for women’s rights, people are so surprised that I, of all people, am so persuaded.

And then I had a “well, duh” moment.

People are so surprised because feminists, like any other socio-political group, are better known as a caricature than as real people.

A cursory Google images or iStockPhoto search will return a shocking amount of photos of female dominance over men, overly hairy (we’re talking wookie status) women lighting bras on fire, and other similar, unrealistic photos.

And, while many of the people in my life are committed feminists, I had to wonder if this is what those who do not identify this way imagine when they think of us.

So I decided to prove them wrong.


This is a portrait of a real-life feminist, namely, me.

I am a feminist, and I am married. To a man. I even took his name.

I am a feminist, and I enjoy quilting.

I am a feminist, and I wear skirts. And dresses. And makeup.

I am a feminist, and I have a Pinterest account.

I am a feminist, and I struggle with accepting my body.

I am a feminist, and I shave.

I am a feminist, and I wear bras.

I am a feminist, and I feel safer when I’m with my husband.

I am a feminist, and I want kids.

I am a feminist, and I earn less than my husband.

I am a feminist, and I think men are pretty great. Usually.

I am a feminist, and I am religious.

I am a feminist, and I am in seminary.

I am a feminist, and I love it when my husband brings me flowers.

I am a feminist, and I have a hard time being confident.

I am a feminist, and I have far more male friends than female friends.

I am a feminist, and I was given away at my wedding.

I am a feminist, and I really, really love being female.

I am a feminist, and I am not a caricature.


I am a feminist, and I believe that, whoever you are, you deserve the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else.


Why I DON’T Use Birth Control: A Response to Rachel Held Evans and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

I’m sure, by this point, you’ve all heard about the absolute cluster that was the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case (or, in our household, that which is referred to as “The time when five middle-aged, rich, Catholic men decided that companies are people but women aren’t.”) In case you haven’t, this should sufficiently enrage you.

Today, Rachel Held Evans posted a response, including statements from eleven women who explained why it is they use birth control. This was an excellent response to a very complicated issue. I’ve long admired (read: envied) Rachel’s ability to navigate controversial topics with respect and grace, while still bringing a much-needed critical eye.

I really appreciated this. The reasons these women shared were varied, and really helped to show that being sexually active and being on birth control are not interchangeable, though they often do correlate.

I, however, found one voice not represented: that of women who are, by choice, not on birth control.

I am one of them.

And I think my voice counts, too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very much pro-birth control, pro-family planning, and pro-women’s health. I used to be on birth control. I was a Planned Parenthood client.

I wasn’t on it because of health issues, and I wasn’t on it because I wanted to be able to sleep with anyone on a whim without the risk of an unplanned pregnancy.* I was a newly married woman and a college student, and my husband and I neither wanted to have children at the time, nor were we, in any sense, ready.

Last winter, I stopped taking my birth control. Not because we were trying to have kids. Not because it was too expensive (I’m lucky to live in a state that covers family planning services, including birth control, for low-income women).

I stopped taking it because I didn’t want to take it anymore.

I have an anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, and a bunch of other mental health challenges. I am on, between prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbal supplements, and homeopathic remedies, roughly twenty different medicinal treatments.

Being on birth control, however, seemed to counteract much of the effort put into managing my mental health challenges. I was moody, grumpy, and tired, I gained weight, I had headaches, and my periods were, at best, unpredictable.

When I was diagnosed with anxiety et. al. in February 2013, I started to pay more attention to what I put into my body. Body chemistry affects brain chemistry, and therefore a body unbalanced begets a brain unbalanced–and more susceptible to attacks.

Putting extra hormones into my body seemed like an unnecessary risk.

But more than all of that, I just didn’t want it. I was plain old tired of taking it.

So I stopped.

That was nearly a year ago. Thus far, I have managed to not get pregnant, but who knows what will happen.

Some of my fellow feminists may call this irresponsible. They may tell me that I’m experiencing internalized sexism. They may tell me to embrace my sexuality, that my body is glorious and that I should realize that.

And, while some of that is true, whether or not I take birth control doesn’t change any of it.

Just like being on birth control doesn’t change whether or not a woman is sexually active.

I am grateful for the women (and men) who have encouraged me, helped me, called me out, and liberated me. I am grateful that I live in a time and place in which I can easily get birth control legally, inexpensively, and safely (even though my current insurance does not cover it). I am grateful that we, as feminists, are calling out injustice, sexism, and prejudice.

But I feel like I’m being pressured into a decision all the same. Because I’m a feminist, I ought to be on birth control.

So, to everyone, to those who think birth control is a right and to those who think it’s a sin, here’s a reminder:

My body, my choice. 


*Not that there’s anything wrong with this. I’m just deconstructing a caricature. Get some. Or don’t. Your body, your choice.

Choosing to be Mrs. Anderson

When my husband and I got married (two years ago, now), I took his last name.

I’ve taken a lot of flak for this decision, mostly from fellow feminists. Because taking your husband’s name is a relic of patriarchy (agreed), and because it denotes his ownership of me (disagreed), and because it claims that my life up to that point is worth disregarding (disagreed), I ought not to have done it.

But here’s the thing: I did not take his name because I had to.

I did it because I wanted to.

I chose to be Mrs. Anderson for a lot of reasons. First, my maiden name was an eastern European jumble of consonants that made no sense at all and no one (myself included) could ever seem to pronounce it right. Combined with my seemingly unpronouncable first name…let’s just say introducing myself to anyone was a nightmare. In college (and currently), I would frequently just go by my first initial, which is a lot easier, but it didn’t solve the problem. Anderson is a much easier name (especially in Minnesota), so I decided to change to that.

Second, and more importantly, when we got married I was going through the process of leaving a family in which nothing good could come of my continued presence, on either side. Significant damage had been done and it was time to move on. This change of my name was a marker for me, that I was moving on to something new, that I now had the chance to redefine family and create one that was going to function like a family should. Not normal, not sane, but loving, real, and other-oriented.

I am still a feminist, and I was then too. Having the same last name as my husband does not prevent me from this belief and practice. I am not his property, I am his companion, his co-leader, his faithful supporter, and his best friend.

If you meet a woman who bears the last name of the man she loves, think, just for a second, before you judge her, that she might have a better reason than cultural expectation for doing so. Ask for the story first.

On Misconceptions.

Hello, dear friends.

I’m in the midst of summer intensives. Which means my brain, body, and all my free time are consumed by compacted classes that are, well…intense. So this isn’t a real post. And I’m also sorry I’ve been gone for, oh, a month now? Sheesh.

But anyway. I’ve decided to address some of the common misconceptions or misunderstandings about certain aspects of my theology, or my life in general. I get asked these questions a lot, and it would be a lot easier to just point people to a post than to have to explain them over and over again.

So, when I say that I am a pluralist, what I mean is that I think no one religion has a monopoly on truth. Furthermore, I also mean that I don’t think religion or faith in a supreme being is necessary for “salvation.” (I don’t like this word, but it’s the best one for this explanation). I still do my faith and spirituality in a generally Christ-oriented environment–I go to a Lutheran seminary, I go to church, I have a degree in Bible and Theology, et cetera.

When I say that I don’t identify as Christian, what I mean is that I don’t ascribe to the “branded” or, if you want to use fancy words, systematized Christianity that currently exists. Additionally, Christianity has some core dogmas that I disagree with, and thus I do not align with that title or group in order to promote harmony. I’ve found people are less offended by what I say when they know I am not trying to say it as a member of their religious tribe.

I am not “lucky” because I got married at 18. My husband and I chose to get married young because we love each other and we saw no point in putting it off until we were older. It may not have been the wisest decision, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. But, and please, please hear me, being married does not make your life better or easier, and it is not some box to check off on your list of life accomplishments. Our two years of marriage together have been really, really hard, but it’s been far more than worth it. We’ve both grown so much, both individually and together. So, when you find out that I’m 20 and have been married for two years, don’t say I’m “lucky” or I’m “ahead of the game.” I made a choice, which I am thankful for every day, but it didn’t flip some magical switch that suddenly fixed all my problems.

When I tell you I have Asperger’s (or what is now known as high-functioning Autism), don’t tell me that I seem so “normal.” I’ve had 20 years to learn how to cope, and a lot of what I do is not instinctual, but is learned behavior. For instance, I apologize when I say something that someone might find offensive (theologically speaking), because I’ve learned that grace and humility build harmony. Or, I look people in the eye when I speak with them because I’ve learned that conveys respect and attention. I’ve learned how my husband acts when he’s mad, or moody, or antsy, or amorous, not because I can sense it, but because I’ve studied him intensely. If I commit a social faux pas, please know that I’m not a massive jerk–I simply haven’t yet learned what to do in this particular situation. Calmly explain what offended or upset you, and I will make amends and learn from that event.

When I say that I believe in works righteousness, I am not saying that I think I can buy or work my way into Heaven, or that I am capable of saving myself. What I am saying is that I don’t believe faith has anything to do with salvation. Living a life in pursuit of letting love abound and continually choosing selflessness over selfishness with care and respect for all of creation is what “saves” a person, not whether or not they happen to believe in the “right” God. Do I succeed at this? HELL. NO. But if God is real, and God is love, and God knows our character, then God will know what I tried (and failed) to do with my life, and count that as righteousness.

When I say that I am a socialist, I do not mean that I want the government to control everyone’s paycheck and that we all should get the same amount of money regardless of how much we work. What I do mean is that I think wealth needs to be spread more equally, so that all people have the ability to meet their basic needs and work towards living a full life. This means that higher education and healthcare would be socialized, banks would be more heavily regulated, and individuals would have a right to housing. Also, and I’m sad I even have to say this, being a socialist does not make you a communist. They are two very different things.

When I say I am a feminist, I do not mean that I hate men, or that I want to reverse history and establish matriarchy. What I do mean is that I believe in equality for the sexes, which requires (at this time) measures directed towards women to bring them up to the socioeconomic level of men.

When I say that I am nonviolent, I don’t mean that I hate soldiers. Also, I would like to point out, pacifism is a specific set of beliefs, nonviolence is a practice. I eat meat, I yell at people, I know how to fight. What nonviolence actually means is that I do not believe in the use of violent force against another human being. So, to make this practical, I don’t support the military, but I am comfortable with the National Guard.

I hope this clears some things up. If there are terms you’d like me to clarify, let me know.

On Death, Red Lipstick, And My Affection For Communion Wine, Part II

Originally, this post, the one that precedes it, and the one that will follow it were supposed to be one post. I forgot that I am, in fact, very long winded and thus the three parts to this post are split over three different posts. For the previous post, you can go here. For the next installment, check back tomorrow, provided I remember to post it.

Part Two: I read a blog post recently that stated that every woman can wear red lipstick well. As a person who has never really been into wearing a lot of makeup, especially lipstick, and being very pale, wearing red lipstick never seemed like something I would try.

Added to this, I think the idea that women need to wear makeup in order to be beautiful is simply wrong. I wear makeup most every day, yes, but very little, and I have been trying to wear less (or, at least, not feel like I need to wear it constantly). That mentality objectifies women and creates a gender binary that is not only unnecessary but can also be damaging.

So, for most of my time in college, I was the girl who lived in t-shirts and jeans and limp, straight hair with an almost indistinguishable amount of makeup on. Part of this was that I was a theology major–it’s sort of a boys’ club still at my university, which is stupid, but I wanted to be one of the best in my class and to do that, I couldn’t be too concerned with my appearance. However, it was mainly that, as a feminist, I didn’t want to fall into the trap that my beauty could be bought from Sephora.

But I was intrigued by the concept of red lipstick. So I decided to give it a go.

And I really did feel so much more confident. I also dyed my hair from its previous washed-out-cedar color to a striking walnut (why are all of my colors wood?) and bought jet-black eyeliner. I raided my closet and pulled out a couple more fashionable outfits that did not include a Target v-neck t-shirt, my staple of the last three years.

It’s all beginning to make me think that, just maybe, looking good and feeling confident, or even (God forbid) sexy isn’t such a bad thing. Because now I feel like people don’t look at me and see some college kid, but a woman, and one worth respecting and listening to. And I’m pretty sure it’s because I feel like I look like one, and so I act like one.

And maybe, just maybe, having confidence in my appearance might help me to have confidence in myself.

Domesticated Feminist

We’re entering into a whole new phase of life, my husband and I.

I just graduated a week and a half ago. We moved five days ago. He started a new, much higher paying job yesterday. And I turn in my last timesheet for my old job (which ends with school) today.

His income is now more than enough to support us. And since I’m exhausted from school and don’t have a job lined up, I’m taking some time off.

I thought this time would be super relaxing. I was looking forward to catching up with friends I had neglected throughout the school year. I was excited to build a couple pieces of furniture and revamp some pieces we already have. I couldn’t wait to get all our stuff unpacked and try to make our new place feel even half as much like home as our old place.

I thought that I would enjoy a little time off.

But honestly? It’s really hard.

Because I feel like I’m not living up to my own standards. I have fought and continue to fight really hard for gender equality. I get excited with women who can’t wait to do something amazing in their careers. I love it when women aren’t afraid to be bold, aren’t afraid to take charge, and aren’t afraid that, if they make more money than their husbands, they’ll be doing something wrong.

I know it’s not for everyone, and that’s cool. But I still get excited when I encounter such women. And I want to be one of them. I want to do something radical in my career.

Yet, where do I find myself? Sitting at home, cleaning, without so much as a bike to get myself around (our bikes are still in a few different pieces, in our car, which my husband takes to work). I’m in a new city and I only know how to find Target and a coffeeshop (priorities), so even if I had a mode of transportation, I don’t know where I would go. I have nowhere to be anyway, so even if I had a mode of transportation and an idea of where things are, I don’t know why I would bother going to them.

Yesterday, I didn’t leave our apartment until 6:30 p.m.

I am, currently, the definition of what it means to be domestic.

And as a feminist, I’m having a really hard time being okay with that.

Now, I know this is temporary. I’ll find a job in a few weeks when I’ve had time to rejuvenate from the last 16 or so years of perpetual schooling. And eventually I’ll remember to drag my bike out of our car and find some places to go so I can at least travel a little during the day. I’ll make plans and do things and get involved in some sort of mischief, I’m sure.

But, right now, in this moment, I am doing exactly what I swore I would never do.

Now, I’m hesitant to think that God ordained this, because it seems like a minor detail in the grand fabric of existence and it’s easily explainable. But I have no doubt that God is using this time. If you’ve met me, you know that my ego rivals Jeff Winger’s. I am not a humble person. I’m not saying that’s okay, but it is the truth.

Yet I’m currently taking one of the greatest blows to my ego of all time.

God is constantly reminding me that, yes, egalitarianism is a biblical picture of marriage-love, that there’s a reason I want to do something with my life (and my career) and it’s a good thing, that I cannot stop fighting for the equal rights of my sisters, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a 60-hour-per-week breadwinner career woman.

Feminists can fight from the home, too.

And God reminds me of all my sisters who have fought and still fight for the same things, but are most content in the home, whether raising a garden or raising babies, cultivating life in its functional locus.

It’s really hard for me to accept. But, little by little, I’m learning that it takes all types–yes, even domestics–to fight for equality. If I don’t acknowledge their work, I pass judgment on them and I render their efforts useless.

So I thank you, stay-at-homes, work-at-homes, or for-some-other-reason-at-homes, because your work is important too. Don’t forget that it’s your choice, not your role, to be there, but keep fighting the good fight alongside your sisters who find their place elsewhere.

Because whether male or female, domestic or employed, we’re all one in Christ Jesus.

Theological War Zone

I am a college student.

I am a senior Bible and Theology major in my final semester.

Thus, I am dealing with the perpetual hell that is senior seminar. Apparently I’m enough of an idiot to choose to do the GREEK senior seminar. Don’t ever do this. EVER.

Really, though, the work itself isn’t that bad. If it were just that, I’d be fine.

The problem is my classmates.

There are five of us, plus the professor. I am the only woman. I am also one of two egalitarians in the room. Three of the students attend Piper’s church. I go to Boyd’s. My professor has openly stated, as if it were fact, that women ought to submit to their husbands, that it is not possible to defend both Christ and homosexuality, and that everyone knows socialism is wrong.

Needless to say, I don’t belong there.

It’s like walking into a war zone every time I go to class.

I’ve realized, though, that this class is much like life for me on a daily basis, when it comes to theology.

I am a feminist. I support gay rights both inside and outside the Church. I believe in socialism and I think everyone deserves decent healthcare and education without spending the rest of their lives in debt. I don’t believe in violence and I think that using it in efforts of making peace is contradictory. I think what we do matters just as much as who we believe in, and sometimes I’m persuaded that works matters even more than faith. I believe that God is after every person’s heart and is open to influence and change. I think that we ought to live simply and wealth is not something to be gained, but something to be shared. I believe that it is our job to advocate for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized, and that we have to break down ethnic, sexual, and religious discrimination. And I believe in a God who is on our, and everyone else’s, side.

I know that when I take these stances, I put myself on the outside. I know I’m going to face opposition. I’m okay with that.

The problem is when this opposition doesn’t take the form of dialogue, but instead turns into dismissal. It isn’t that someone disagrees with me, but that they refuse to even listen to me.

When I have to raise my hand in a student-led, discussion-based class every time I want to say anything, and I still end up waiting three or four minutes to speak, I don’t feel as though my opinions are valued.

When my professor and all but one of my classmates use gender-exclusive language, I feel  like I don’t belong.

When I bring in sources by Gutierrez and Bell and Boyd and nearly the whole class is spent attacking them, I spend the rest of the day wondering why my heroes, the people whose words and actions inspire me and renew my faith in Jesus, aren’t even worth consideration.

When I am mocked, picked on, and disrespected, and it is written off as playful banter, I wonder if I made the wrong decision in my choice of this class, this major, and even this school.

I don’t know how many times I’ve pulled up the websites of other schools that I know would have been a better fit because I so badly want to transfer. And, honestly, if it weren’t my final semester, I would.

There’s something wrong with that. That I feel so unwelcome that I want to switch schools less than three months before graduation. That, because I made my stances (listed above) public, I lost my leadership role in a campus ministry and I was nearly kicked out of a pre-vocational ministry program. That I start to get nauseous and wheezy and panicky before every senior sem class. There is something wrong with this school when a senior theology major who has invested years of her life and countless hours of studying, writing, discussing, reflecting, and praying about her theological beliefs can’t even voice those beliefs without being responded to with anger and disrespect.

I had a friend tell me recently that this opposition should only encourage me to fight harder. What about when that opposition and disrespect comes from my friends? What about when I point out a sexist remark in a conversation or a reading assignment and it is met with mockery? What about when that opposition is so fierce that I have to leave in the middle of class because I’m either about to throw punches or there are already tears building up in my eyes?

It is impossible to fight harder when the other side won’t even engage the battle. When you aren’t even respected as a worthwhile opponent.

I feel like David against Goliath. But I don’t have the Israelites behind me and instead of Goliath stepping out to fight me, he says, “She’s not even worth fighting,” and the army just camps out right there on the hillside.

This post won’t end with a resolution, because I have no resolution to offer. I am stuck in a war zone. Though I wish we could discuss our theologies like equals and be okay with the disagreements, I doubt I’ll ever gain that kind of respect here. Until then, the fight continues.

Stronger than your Strength.

I’ve debated telling this story for months now. I had decided not to until Sarah Moon’s post here prompted me to do so in the name of feminism (and you all had better know by now that I can’t resist that).

It’s a hard one. One that, of all the people in my kome, only one other person knows, and that’s because I married him. And he doesn’t even know the whole story because I can never tell the whole thing at once. Even here, it will not be complete, or even close to it.

This story is my story.

I haven’t always followed Jesus. That was a recent development, somewhere in late 2008-early 2009. I grew up in the shadow of the church, though, perhaps because my middle and high school shared a parking lot with a Lutheran megachurch. My mother and I went there occasionally throughout my youth, and I went through confirmation there, though it meant very little to me at the time. I sang in the senior high choir at this church as well, but my doing so wasn’t out of desire to praise Jesus or even to make beautiful music for him, but because I loved to sing and didn’t have time to be involved in my school’s choir.

All of that changed during my junior year of high school. But before we get into that, a much more painful story needs to be told.

Remember how I said that my mother and I would attend church? Notice that my father is nowhere in that statement? This is not because my parents are divorced or even that my father is dead, but simply because he had no desire to be a part of a church, or even a part of my or my mother’s lives.

I say this as one convicted of how wrong it is of me to judge him: my father is an awful man. This may not really be true, I don’t know, but every experience I had while forced to live in close proximity to him makes it seem pretty accurate.

In his (not our, his) household, he was the king, and my mother and I were his servants. Everything had to be done his way, and he was never wrong nor could he ever be wrong. His authority was not questioned, and should anyone attempt to do so, they would hear it (as I would quickly learn in high school). If we did something wrong, he would yell at us, degrade us, tell us we were worthless and that we couldn’t survive without him. This started with my mother before I could remember, and with me when I was six years old, if not earlier (I can’t fully remember).

My mother, born in the late 50’s and an ardent feminist in high school and after, did not know what to do. She ended up in a constant state of chaos, smiling one minute and crying the next, and furious the minute after that. She became very controlling over me, as I was the only person over whom she could have any authority. She would often chastise me for not meeting my father’s expectations, blaming me for his rampages, and then come into my bedroom late at night, weeping, saying she wasn’t sure if she loved my father anymore and that she wanted out.

For this reason, I had a suitcase packed in my closet from the time I was twelve or so until I went away to college. I was always ready to get out of that hellhole. But where would we go? My father was right in one thing, we couldn’t really survive without him. My mother worked full time, but her highest level of education was an Associate’s degree, and thus she didn’t make nearly as much money as my father did (especially after the company for which she worked 25 years shut down, leaving her in a very difficult place for finding a new job). She paid the bills with her income, leaving her with not a whole lot to spare. We would have had nowhere to stay if we had left, since her family lived far away, as does my father’s, not that they would have taken her side. We both wanted to leave, but we had nowhere to go. We were stuck.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit rebellious. I’m also very hotheaded. In high school, I decided not to be like my mother, that I would be strong, and I started standing up to my father, though not always in the best manner or in the most profitable situations. This went swimmingly, as you can assume, and I made things a hell of a lot worse. I ended up running away to friends’ houses for the night on occasion, simply because I thought that if I stayed in that house, I would not see the next morning.

I finally reached a point where I would do anything to not go back to that house. I stayed out as long as I could. Remember the bit earlier about my school sharing a parking lot with a church?

That church became my new home.

One of the youth pastors there who I knew well invited me to come to their youth group. This happened near the beginning of my pivotal junior year. It was a few hours after school got out, so I would hang out at school, or the coffee shop near my school, and do homework until group started. Eventually, I just started going straight over to church after school and either doing homework or volunteering there. I became a permanent fixture in the youth department and ended up being the worship coordinator for the young adult service they held on Sunday nights. I also started dating a guy from that church who had a great Christian family that took me in. It was a pretty sweet deal.

Until I became so consumed with the love of Christ, though I didn’t know it at the time, that he started changing my life.

I was all set up to do exactly what my father wanted me to do. I was going to go to the University of MN-Duluth for my senior year of high school (MN has a program where high school juniors and seniors can do college classes for both high school and college credit, and the state pays for it, which I did do both years), and then I was going to go to Purdue University and study neuropharmacology, become a doctor, and make lots of money. That was how he had planned things. That was what I was going to do.

But, after all of my involvement in the church, I felt pulled towards–today I call this “called by Jesus”–to vocational ministry. I started looking at other colleges, Christian colleges, to attend. I talked to my pastors about seminary and ministry and everything else related to that. I eventually settled on the school I now go to, partially because my boyfriend was going there.

I had finally found someone who loved me and loved Jesus, and I didn’t want to let him go.

There’s this thing with abuse victims that makes them people pleasers, which was the only way I knew how to relate to anyone, and so I just started doing whatever this boyfriend wanted. He loved Jesus, but he was still a teenage boy, and it wasn’t long until he started pressuring me to have sex with him. We never did, thank God, but that led me on a slippery slope that would end literally with me choosing life or death for myself.

But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

My choice to go to a Christian school and do vocational ministry did not sit well with either of my parents, especially my father. He now had two faces, one full of rage, the other of disengagement. He either hated me or I simply did not exist. My mother became very frustrated, probably because she didn’t understand my decisions. This pushed me further and further out of their house and into the church and the arms of my boyfriend.

He was a normal teenage boy. He wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship. I was not a normal teenage girl. I was looking for someone to promise to love me, to really love me, forever. I looked for this in him. In the same way that he pressured me into physical commitment, I pressured him into emotional commitment. This cracked the summer after my junior year of high school. He tried to break up with me, I was devastated, and convinced him to stick around. This lasted for two and a half weeks. He finally had enough and broke up with me.

I didn’t know what to do. I felt like the only person who ever loved me had just left me in the dust. I came dangerously close to committing suicide.

I still thank Jesus for that church. Three different girls who had become very close friends of mine came and visited me after all of this went down (my parents were out of town), as did two of my pastors. They brought me food and gifts and gave me rides to church. I was there every day, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and they never let me be alone.

At the same time as all of this, I had been reading The Shack by William Paul Young. I will not argue over its merits here, that is not the point. The picture of God in that book showed me that the unconditional, forever-love I had been seeking was only available from one Source. I committed myself to Jesus, to loving and following him, on July 5th, 2009.

Since then I have grown and struggled with this Jesus in remarkable ways. I married an amazing man of God who knows that the best way to cultivate a marriage and a family is to do as Paul said, to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). My faith life has not been easy in this time, and there have been many seasons of doubt, but the beautiful Love that first called me has captivated me ever since.

Here I stand. Breaking the cycle of abuse. Refusing to be an angry dictator or a passive subject. Stronger than my father ever was, not by my own strength, but through Jesus.

I said I was doing this in the name of feminism, so I figure I ought to address it. Piper, Driscoll, and anyone else out there who wants to tell me I am not strong enough, let this story be a message to you. Neither I nor you nor anyone else is strong enough on their own. Jesus, the great Love, is the only one who can provide us with the strength to overcome anything that we may endure. You say I am weak, you say I need a man to lead me. I say to hell with that. I am strong. I overcame. I needed no man, no leader, solely Love.

I dare you, tell me I am not enough.

Share the pants, please.

I need to give a little background before I write this post.

1. I am a young woman.

2. I am (happily, blissfully, sickeningly ecstatically) married.

3. I am not sure I could be more of a feminist.

4. I follow Christ

Usually, these four things don’t work together in one person. Most young women, and especially young feminist women, are not married, most feminists are not Christ followers, et cetera.

But I am all four of these things. Without question or conflict.

My husband’s family is, for the most part, complementarian. This means that they believe that, while men and women are equal in the eyes of God in terms of justification, they have different (read: patriarchal) roles in ministry and marriage. (My blood relatives do not really figure into this equation, as they are not Christ followers, in the least. They’re not in my picture anymore, and I’m completely fine with that, but I’ll address that later, if at all.) His family tried to emphasize the complementarian viewpoint and some of his family members were actually quite surprised to find out that, not only did I believe something different, but that I supported it with the Bible. Surprisingly, this was not taken all that well.

The same is true of churches I’ve worked at and the school I go to. Many do not address this issue and continue to blindly perpetuate a way of structuring communities and households that denies the gifts women have from God, including the ability to lead. Others, like my school, officially claim an egalitarian (men and women are entirely equal and serving/leadership is based on gifting, not gender) view, but they don’t do anything to advance this. An official statement is put in a handbook or website, but men still see women as less, and women just take the role they’re given because they’re so used to it that it just seems natural.

All of this is to say that, when my husband and I announced our engagement, we were bombarded with “marriage advice”–from overwhelmingly complementarian points of view.

I assume you understand how well we accepted that.

I’m tired of ranting about how destructive complementarianism is (I’ve learned that no one listens anyway), so instead, I’ll provide a different paradigm, starting with an anecdote about my husband and I.

My husband is skinny. Really, really, REALLY skinny. He eats like a horse, but never gains any weight. We’re about the same size (aside from the fact that he’s four inches taller than me). One time last winter, after a playful romp in the snow, he came back to my apartment with me. Our clothes were soaking wet. I changed, but he didn’t have anything to change in to. I, somewhat pathetically, offered him a pair of my pants that were warm and dry. He accepted and found that they were rather comfortable. Shortly thereafter, we got him his own pair. I have three pairs of these pants (I’m tall with no rear end, thus it’s hard to find pants that fit, and when I do, I buy multiples), and, once we got married, it became difficult to tell them apart. A few days ago, we had to leave unexpectedly and got dressed very quickly. I grabbed a pair of jeans, as did he. Only when we got home did we realize that I was wearing his pants (a size bigger, to accommodate his height) and he, mine. We laughed about it, but I’ve since realized it’s a pretty good metaphor for our marriage.

We’re different from each other. Like the pants, he has his gifts and I have mine. They work together very well, but they’re different. And sometimes, we swap positions. Sometimes he leads, sometimes I do. It depends on which pair of pants fits which person better. But most of the time, we can’t really tell the difference. We share the leadership, submit to one another, and make decisions together. There isn’t one designated leader who “wears the pants” in our marriage–we share the pants, and we don’t bother to look at the size tag unless we notice later on.

This isn’t a theological argument. If you want that, I’ll most likely address it later (in multiple posts), but I encourage you to check out Christians for Biblical Equality (www.cbeinternational.org); they have a plethora of support for the egalitarian view, theological and otherwise. This is a practical argument.

If you’re married, or soon will be, don’t try to dominate your partner. Don’t automatically be submissive, either. Both men and women are equally called to leadership AND submission. Look to build your family and home based on following Christ and building one another up in the Lord.

Share the pants, please.