Some women can cite the exact moment of their “conversion” to feminism. My story, on the other hand, is more of a process.
Childhood shapes us in ways we don’t often fully acknowledge. I am the oldest of two girls and grew up with an inherent understanding that I could do or be anything. My parents encouraged me to try many things. The Bible was my central teacher for life and my parents repeated its lesson of “God loves everybody the same” over and over. My first big “when I grow up” dream was to become the first female president of the U.S. In all my eight-year-old wisdom I felt that a woman could run the country, and because someone had to be the first, it should be me.
My first interest in activism was in pro-life organizations. As a teenager I helped out at crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence programs. I remember thinking that pregnant women needed to be encouraged and assisted in keeping their babies and that abstinence was a brave choice that showed a woman’s respect for herself. I found the message of God’s love and spirit at work within me to be very empowering.
Skip ahead to college where I served as the first female president of the BSM at my university (see, some of my childhood dream came true). It never occurred to me that I shouldn’t hold that position, even though this was a Baptist organization we’re talking about. During my undergrad years I went through a phase where I didn’t want a male to open the door or to lift anything for me, as I felt that undercut my abilities (I have since come to realize the difference between chivalry and misogyny). I felt that a lot of people didn’t know what to do with me, a young, intelligent, Christian outspoken female who was neither a bookworm nor a member of sorority. People often told me I was “intimidating”.
I chose to go into women’s studies for several reasons. First, my self-proclaimed “raging feminist” history professor during my master’s study had a pretty big influence on me. Second, and most importantly, I hadn’t heard of any Christians in the field (since then I have met several). I wanted to help infuse it with the love of Christ and the Bible’s messages of equality and morality. I wanted to equip young women to view themselves as important and competent, to educate people about history that is typically ignored, to assist in the aid of women who cannot speak for themselves, and to cultivate understanding and compassion for both sexes. I wanted to make a difference, no matter how cliché that sounds. These goals have remained.
I didn't wake up one day and become a feminist. I had been heading in that direction for most of my life, I just articulated it differently at different points. My story is not finished… I might very well be at the height of my feminist consciousness at this moment. Or I might become more outspoken in the future, who knows. We’ll see.