Category Archives: Feminism

When God Calls: An Academic’s Experience

Almost three weeks ago, my denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, voted not to let major regional divisions decide whether or not they had the authority to ordain female clergy. I won’t waste time on the semantics of this vote, because the vote itself is not the point of this post. Rather, I am thinking in particular about one speech that caused me a lot of inner reflection. It is the speech of a young woman in a position of leadership, a young woman that spoke out against the ordination of women in ministry. It is a speech that has caused me to rethink what we mean by “calling.”

Brief disclaimer: I have decided, for the sake of Christian fellowship and transparency, to include the transcript of her speech, but not identify her or include the YouTube link to this post. I do not wish to shame her publicly, nor do I wish anyone reading this post to shame her publicly. Her opinion is her own, and I respect her right to her privacy and her opinion. If you, however, would be interested in watching the video for your own edification, indicate so in the comments or message me, and I will gladly share the YouTube link at my own discretion.

This is what the young woman said as a rationale for her NO vote to the ordination of female pastors in the Seventh-day Adventist Church:

  1. I want to speak on behalf of thousands whose voices are not being heard in my division. Thousands of NAD members do not agree with women’s ordination, and the initiative bringing it to the front has served not to unify but to polarize this division. As the president of GYC which has the largest annual youth and young adult conference in the Adventist church, I hear from those within the NAD who feel their voices have not been heard or at least not acknowledged. There are those in this division who believe that we should be considerate of the world church and what regional beliefs will mean for our unity rather than feeling the world needs to be considerate of us. And if our division has not acknowledged all the convictions within their own division, how can we anticipate that they will be considerate of the world church family on other issues when we once set a precedent that each locality can decide for itself?
    2. I am a young adult, a young woman, an ethnic minority, and a leader of one of the largest youth movements in Adventism, and Mr. Chair, God has already called me to work for Him and that is all the calling I need. Not all young people, not all young women, not all North Americans, want our church to be divided for the sake of having someone lay their hands on us. And while people recognize my work as the president of a young adult conference, they should give more recognition when I become a wife next February and a mother after that, since the Spirit of Prophecy says that position is higher than the minister in the desk or the king on the throne. We should focus on giving that the dignity and honor that it deserves.I say no to the question, no to dividing the church.

It’s this question of calling that caught my attention. This young woman asserts that, despite her position of leadership, there is no higher calling than becoming a wife and mother for her. Her confidence in God’s will for her life is inspiring, and I applaud her for it.

But does this apply to all women? Should her calling speak for all of us?

That’s the question I find myself engaging to this very day. The implication (given by many people, and not this young woman specifically)—that there is no higher or better calling for a woman than to be a wife and mother—suggests that unless a woman is married and has given birth, she has not fulfilled God’s calling for her. I am uncomfortable with this idea. I know many fulfilled women who do not have children, or who have not married. I myself did not always know if I would marry. And by the time I did, I had already discovered God’s calling for my own life. Yes, I am still a wife. I love my husband. I have grown closer to God as a result of my marriage. But there are many components of my life that I juggle, and it feels odd to chuck one of these pieces in favor of a calling that does not resonate with my own experience.

I’ve talked about the process of getting my PhD on this blog, but I’ve never shared how it all began. This is a story that goes twelve years back, though I had no idea at the time it had begun to unfold. About two days ago, I discovered my Senior English Portfolio, with my collection of writing projects from the course of my senior year. This list I now share, written when I was 18, shows that I had a very specific idea of what my life was going to be like:

Ten Things I Foresee in My Future:

  1. Enjoying new adventures at Andrews University
  2. Travelling all over in my new car
  3. Taking a year off to be a student missionary
  4. Falling in love and marrying a really sweet guy
  5. Graduating with a BA in English
  6. Teaching English at an [Adventist] academy
  7. Having two boys and a girl
  8. Publishing a novel
  9. Living in a two-story house that always needs repair
  10. Growing old with my husband, and enjoying grandkids

At 18, these were my big dreams. I thought in terms of other people: I would teach other kids, I would be a wife, and I would be a mother. These would define my identity and my life.

And then, God called.

My dad took me to my freshman orientation week at Andrews University. He and my mom were so excited for me. Though they are both medical professionals, they have always supported my love of reading, writing, and analysis, and they were excited that I was embarking on an English degree—a world so far removed from theirs. At the parent/student lunch, we were introduced to the Dean of Students, whose husband had been my dad’s dean at Loma Linda University Medical College. She jokingly remarked, “When you get your PhD, you can come back here and teach!” I remember laughing politely and turning to my dad after she left. “I’m not going to get my PhD,” I told him.

My dad looked at me and, with all seriousness, responded, “Don’t count it out.”

Those four words would mark the shift to a future I never even knew existed.

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I had never considered an academic career, and it wasn’t until my junior year in college that I actually returned to that moment and asked myself, “Is this what I should be doing with my life?” In the midst of rousing discussions of John Dryden (no easy feat), Aphra Behn, and Jane Austen in my English Literature II survey, I began to see a new idea and a new purpose.

And yet I decided to be safe and continue on my English education course. I determined to finish my degree as if I was going to teach high school, with an option for graduate school, if I really wanted to.

I forged on with student teaching, on the fence about what to do with my life. But that rigorous semester was fraught with the struggles of balancing preconceived ideas with the realities of high school education, questioning God’s plan for my life, and the simple discouragement from being mentally and emotionally drained constantly. I cried every Sunday night, because that meant school was starting on Monday (The Chancellor can attest to this—he and I had been dating by this point, and he often had to pep me up before the week even started). I had to face reality: this was not my calling. I returned to the fragile, yet growing, idea of going to graduate school, and I decided to take a leap of faith.

I spent money I did not have on the Graduate Record Exam and four MA program in English applications. I asked my professors for last-minute recommendations, which they all very graciously provided. And I waited. After two immediate rejections, I received the miraculous email from Western Michigan University. I was going to get my Master’s Degree in English.

When I began my program, I knew immediately that I had found my calling. I was stimulated by interesting, challenging discussions with my colleagues. I was energized by the diverse capabilities of the students in my classroom. On my worst day, I never felt any regret that I had turned away from my high school dream. I was called.

But at the end of my first year at WMU, I fully began to realize the implications of my calling. If God was guiding me towards a PhD, that would mean a LOT more work. It would mean spending money I didn’t have to retake the GRE to get a better score, spending more money I didn’t have on graduate school applications, getting rejected again, and then, at least four, if not five, years of school, which included qualifying exams and a dissertation to write and defend.

That summer, I had two big decisions to make. First, whether to apply for PhD programs. And second, what to do about my relationship with The Chancellor. I haven’t written too much about the US part of our marriage, for the sake of his privacy and mine, but this actually became really integral to my calling. He had just received his own calling. After finishing his MA at Andrews—where we had met in a young adult literature class—he had gotten an interview from a day school outside a large Midwestern city. I was in agony. I didn’t think there were ANY programs in the area. I began to think that I would have to make a choice: go forward with The Chancellor and give up my calling, or give up The Chancellor. I hated both ideas.

A lot of people in my personal or church life would have told me to get married and forget the PhD. After all, I was 25, not getting younger, and not at an Adventist school anymore.

Several academic friends and colleagues would have told me to go forward with my career. If The Chancellor did not fit in, he didn’t fit in. After all, this was my career.

The Chancellor had his own say: “If you give up the PhD to marry me, I’m breaking up with you.” This was perhaps the most miraculous intervention I’ve ever had. God did not present me with the “really sweet guy” I yearned for at 18. I mean, The Chancellor is a good and kind man, and yes, he can very sweet. But he’s also tough as nails, an ardent feminist, and a believer in standing up for what’s right and following God’s leading in your life. He’s the guy I needed to have the confidence in God’s calling for me, and for him, as well.

So, in the biggest leap of faith we both took, we decided to make it work. He would accept the job. I would apply to every PhD program relevant to my field (at the time 18th and 19th century British literature) within a three-hour driving radius (as it turns out, there were 11 such programs). And then we would get married in the summer of 2011. We were in this with God—together.

When God calls, it’s really scary. You make choices. You make sacrifices. You make it work.

I was accepted into Marquette University’s PhD program in English, which meant a 90-mile one-way drive. One of my dearest childhood friends and her best friend opened up their home to me, which meant I had a place to live during the week. But that meant being away from my brand-new husband for part of the week.

It was a wrenching and sometimes very stressful sacrifice. My first semester of my PhD was awful, in ways I will not expand on here. But I survived it, and I discovered the field I was meant to be in my second semester. From there, I began to find a rhythm in living two lives at the same time, of balancing my academic life with my teaching, my work life with my personal life, my marriage, and my friends. It was not easy, and it’s still not. Not everyone can do this. Not everyone wants to do this. Not everyone was called to do this. But I was.

Not every day of my teaching career at the college level has been magical by any means. But even on my worst day, I can’t even think of doing anything else. I have found the calling God made for me. I balance it with my daily life, and with my marriage. It is in my marriage that my calling has been strengthened. The Chancellor bounces ideas off me, and I off him. We read some of the same books, provide each other with inspiration, and challenge each other. I could not have done this alone. I am grateful that The Chancellor acknowledges my calling, and I his. We strengthen each other and glorify God together.

Fulfilling God’s calling for my life has meant research and teaching. It has entailed me to use my mind and challenge preconceived ideas with new ones. My calling has asked me to consider new perspectives and possibilities, to read books that challenge my Western ideas of thinking. It has asked me to accept students whose views are not my own and to treat them with dignity and respect. It has asked me to spend summer hours on my dissertation, to forgo pleasure in order to fulfill my role for God. And it has asked me to be open to communicating those ideas in my life, in my church, and in my work.

When God calls, and when you answer, there are beautiful moments beyond compare. I cannot describe the moment in which my name was called, and I walked across an auditorium stage to receive my diploma and have my hood draped around me. It all pales to the moment I heard my family and friends cheering loudly and shouting my name as I smiled into the light. The dream God had given me had come true on May 17, 2015.

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And it’s true to this day. While I do not have a tenure-track job at this moment (I’m on the market, so I hope to be employed full-time next year!), I do have teaching to look forward to. I have faith that God will provide me with the employment to fulfill my calling for Him. I have training, a mind He has prepared, a curiosity to seek knowledge and use it to make others’ lives richer and better.

When God calls…He changes your life forever. But only if you let Him do it. You can choose to follow the path you think is acceptable based on ideas of tradition, or you can accept His calling for you. Sometimes, it is that “traditional” path to which He leads you. And other times, as in the case of a teenaged girl with a third-grade education, He leads you beyond the boundaries of your home to reach classrooms, churches, ministries, individuals hungry for Him. When God calls…what will your answer be?

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Filed under Beginnings, Doctorate, Faith, Family, Feminism, Marriage, Teaching

Why I need feminism (and why you do too)

Tonight, my brother posted the following link to a friend’s feed and asked for her opinion. I post it here now, simply because I want you to understand why I am bursting into flames as we speak:

http://www.ijreview.com/2014/07/156463-15-women-share-reasons-dont-need-empowered-feminist-movement/

Wait, what? SERIOUSLY? These are the reasons not to be a feminist? You aren’t a victim, therefore you aren’t a feminist? You don’t believe in the evils of patriarchy, therefore you don’t need feminism? Susan B. Anthony just rolled over in her grave. Not to mention Eleanor Roosevelt.

Cleopatra or Eleanor

Nothing against these (I’m sure) lovely young women, but they have a grave misunderstanding of what feminism is, and what it does for us all.

I’m not going to bore you with definitions of feminism or direct rebuttals, but I’m going to get personal. Here’s why I need feminism:

*Feminism is what gives me the right to be recognized by my society as an equal to a man. My gender does not make me lesser, but an equal.

*Feminism has granted me the right to vote, the right to a driver’s license, a contract to rent, a bank account, a job, and access to quality medical attention.

*On that note, feminism has fought for my body to be seen as an instrument of my own making–not a baby machine. Because feminism fought for my right to access birth control, I don’t have to worry about getting married and getting pregnant with baby after baby after baby until I die or wear out with a brood of 12 children in 12 years–unless I want to, that is. And then, I *get* to make that choice–it’s not my fate.

*Because of feminism, I don’t have to contort my body into a girdle, hoopskirts, corsets, footbindings, or other equally painful “beauty” devices to be seen as more desirable to a man.

*Feminism has fought for laws that protect me as a person from domestic abuse or unwanted sexual attention. I am a person, not a man’s property, plaything, or object. Feminism treats rape victims like people, not children, and not sluts.

*Feminism allows me to be educated at a university and to pursue postgraduate degrees. My only degree does not have to be M.R.S.

The beauty of feminism is…you, as a woman, don’t have to “choose” it or “believe” in it, because there are enough women willing to fight for other women to be recognized as equals (I’m only being slightly sarcastic here).

I realize that I’m (a) generalizing a bit; (b) idealizing A LOT (equal pay? not being career-penalized for maternity leave [in the guise of another excuse]? Yeah, I am looking forward to that day); and (c) not being super eloquent (but my dissertation is to blame for that one). But there are just some things that feminism has historically stood for and currently fights for. And they’re basic human rights, not even the “politicizing” of gender that is apparently happening to women everywhere (because a man telling me to put an Aspirin between my knees is *not* getting political? Whatever. I don’t reason with madness).

In more anecdotal news, last Christmas I was at church, when a parent at The Chancellor’s school stopped to talk to us. I had never met this woman before, and I am always pleased to meet parents. I reached out to shake her hand, but she brushed mine away, grabbed my stomach–we’re at church, mind you–and then asked, “No baby yet?”

Kids, I’m 29.

29.

No baby. At 29. I can just feel my ovaries drying up. There are women being raped and kidnapped and poorly educated the world over and the REAL tragedy is that a white, educated, 29-year-old woman has chosen not to have a baby yet.

And this is why I need feminism. The End.

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Filed under Family, Feminism, Outlook

5 Women By Whom Aaron Sorkin Can Be Inspired

My doctoral exam is eight days away (less, by now), so I’m obviously expending my emotional energy on Aaron Sorkin. Of course I am. I’m on Season 1, episode 9 of The Newsroom, and I am so emotionally split on it. The news aspect is done really well–I find it fascinating to see how news is vetted and made, and how the personalities fit together. I’m also drawn to the finely depicted masculinities present in the show, especially with great performances by Jeff Daniels and John Gallagher, Jr.

I think you can guess where my issues with the show lie.

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Isn’t it just hilarious that Maggie Jordan, a college-educated, white, blond woman, the only representative for young twenty-something women on this show, is also constantly falling, dropping, and tripping, suffering from panic attacks, and doesn’t even know what LOL stands for? I’m dying laughing in my corner (sarcasm font). Also: doesn’t it seem absurd that a 26-year-old woman who owns a cell phone and went to college and works in news has somehow missed what LOL means? Unlikely. She either watches no TV or internet miscellany or she is beyond hopelessly naïve. I don’t buy it. Also also: why are we turning the young blond woman into the punching bag for weak and poorly drawn women everywhere? It feels slightly nasty to me.

But maybe it’s a weak link? What about Mackenzie McHale, the executive producer and former love interest of the protagonist Will McAvoy, who spent 26 months embedded in the Middle East with marines, who has been shot and lived to tell about it? Well, let’s see. The first episode is promisingly awesome. She threatens Will that she “owns” him for an hour every evening as his executive producer and pulls together an awesome, revamped show in short notice. But the second episode finds her dropping a board and accidentally emailing a confidential message to the entire newsroom. Oh, and she loses her sh*t at Will in every other episode.

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It’s so feminist, right? A successful, strong, and gutsy 30-something woman with career moxie spends most of her on-camera time giving longing glances and expending jealous energy on her ex-boyfriend. Hm. I think I rejected this plotline in a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Oh, wait, there’s MORE! Isn’t it just hysterical that Sloan Sabbith, our representative smart lady with a doctoral degree in economics is completely socially inept and is often treated like “one of the guys” by our noble male protagonist? Hilarious! Even more so because she doesn’t have ANY feelings! Just like a guy! Because it’s feminism!

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Ha ha ha. This sounds kind of familiar…where have I seen it before?

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Oh, right. The Big Bang Theory got there first. Way to be, Sorkin.

Listen, I KNOW that women like these three mentioned are out there. There is some basis of truth in these depictions. What I find so disheartening is that these are the three MAJOR women characters, and they are balanced by far more heroic, noble, less flawed, interesting male characters. If you’re going to make the women into screechy, ditzy klutzes, then you need to balance with men who are themselves klutzy, awkward, inept, I don’t know. Which leads to CBS comedy. Blurgh to that plan, too.

I want to like The Newsroom. Really, I do. I think Aaron Sorkin can make his show great by writing his women better. It can be done. And it’s been done before. Let me introduce you to five delightful, complex TV women who can elevate the quality of Sorkin’s show with their complexity, delicious smartness, and overall awesomeness. Even better, these women I picked are ALL currently on network TV (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW). So this means cutting out Peggy Olsen, the women of Orange is the New Black, the women of Game of Thrones, Liz Lemon, and the women of Happy Endings. But I wanted to make a very specific point. You see, the networks get slammed so very often for not having the “quality” and edginess that a cable company can infuse into its show. But I am trying to show that certain network shows CAN and DO get it right, over the privilege and affluence afforded to shows like Sorkin’s.

So, without further ado, 5 of the smartest, most complex, interesting, human women on Network TV:

5. Dr. Mindy Lahiri, The Mindy Project: Most people I know have written off The Mindy Project as girly TV. It’s a shame, too. The first few episodes are kind of rough. In its pilot season, TMP had to work out the kinks in friendships, relationships, and overall chemistry. But let me commend the show in its portrayal of a woman who is a smart and successful OB-GYN. She is also obsessed with romantic comedies, and the show spends its time satirizing the stereotypes to which she aspires. Ultimately, Mindy learns more about herself throughout the journey. I have hopes for this show. Granted, it’s only been a season, but I’ve laughed hard and rooted for Mindy harder.

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Seriously, Mindy. I’d let you be my gynecologist.

4. Cecelia “Cece” Parekh, New Girl: You might be wondering why I picked Cece over Jess, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl du jour. Trust me, Cece doesn’t take any guff. She’s a model who possesses a lot of self-awareness about what it means to be seen as an object by men. She makes jokes about her model roommates and is an awesome wing-woman to the off-the-wall and so-quirky-it-sometimes-hurts Jess.

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In the above photo, she talks Jess out of a cowboy ensemble for a blind date, instead swapping outfits so that Jess looks flattering and confident in a black dress. Of course, “best friend” is not the only role Cece gets to play. She often gets to play “straight man” in an ensemble comedy that plays well off diverse styles of humor.

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Cece’s dry wit helps her stand out in the network lineup and makes her far more than “just a pretty face.”

3. Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife: Alicia Florrick went to law school, met her husband Peter, a rising politician, and then promptly quit the law upon getting married or having babies in order to support Peter and her children from the home. 15 years later, Peter’s infidelity scandal tears the home apart, and Alicia goes back to work in order to make something of her life. That’s all in the first ten minutes of the first episode. Wow.

But Alicia proves that there is more to her than disgraced wife or longsuffering mother. She is a fine attorney in her own right. She learns to battle in court and stand up for clients whom she believes can use her legal expertise. And she tries valiantly to abstain from wielding Peter’s still-present influence at the State’s Attorney’s Office (and occasionally slips the ethical line, which is always interesting and disappointing, but HUMAN).

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Alicia accurately shows how difficult it can be to balance work, family, romance, and free time, but that a well-balanced life is incredibly rewarding. Not to mention the joys in a fulfilling career that one is good at. At some point, the show did launch into a love triangle that I did not find terribly interesting, BUT it was a minor focus and did not define Alicia in the show. She is herself, and that is such an awesome thing.

2. Diane Lockhart, also The Good Wife: I realize it’s a bit of a cheat to place TWO women from the same show on this list. But I don’t care, because Diane? Rules my world. She is a take-no-prisoners attorney and second-wave feminist. She has a biting tongue and accepts no nonsense in the courtroom.

Diane Lockhart

Having come of professional age in an era populated by men, Diane made difficult choices and has never looked back. She ultimately proves a valuable mentor to Alicia and sets an example of professional integrity. Neither does Diane let romance define her, but shows that she has learned to develop many facets of her personality.

If you know me, you can guess who my number one favorite Galentine on Network TV is, right? Right:

1. Leslie Knope, the ORIGINAL Khaleesi, Parks and Recreation: I’m going to try and not go overboard on why I love Leslie so much it hurts. What started as a spin-off of The Office turned into a glorious comedy about the joy of living, working, love, and friendship, even through the best and worst of times. Leslie is a government employee deflected at every turn by incompetent or uncaring peers and community who want to wade through the 9-5 with the minimum amount of work. Leslie, however, wants to make a difference in her town, the fictional Pawnee, Indiana. She never lets the discouragement get to her, and she determines to make her goals, come hell or high water.

So, why love Leslie Knope?

Because she wants to move like a cheetah.

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Because she is a cheerleader for her best friend, Ann.

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Because she is sophisticated with a hint of slutty.

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Because she likes powerful depictions of awesome ladies.

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Because hoes come before bros, ovaries before brovaries.

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Because she can send up a sexist stereotype like no other.

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Because her stripper name is Equality.

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Because she knows when love is right and when to fight for it.

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Because she refuses to be subdued in the face of defeat.

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Because she wants to smell Joe Biden.

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Because work has to come third.

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Because winning is her destiny AND her dream.

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And finally, because if anyone can do it…

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it’s the Khaleesi herself.

Your move, Sorkin.

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Filed under Culture, Feminism, Television