When I was ten, I started blogging. My first blog was hosted on a small homeschool blogging platform, and because I was so young, I was only allowed to visit blogs on the same site as mine. This arrangement was amazing and allowed me to make a ton of friends, but it also exposed me to a different niche of Christian homeschoolers than the ones I’d previously experienced.
This niche is hard for me to describe, though if you’ve been in it, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s often referred to as fundamentalist Christianity, or patriocentrism. This culture can be extremely oppressive to women, and is most often twisted in order to be that way. Strict modesty is encouraged. The idea of wearing skirts only is popular, as well as head coverings. Instead of dating, the young people are required to “court,” which is where the parents have a strong say in who the children marry. In addition, and perhaps the most awful, daughters belong to their fathers until they get married, are under their father’s “headship”, and often have little to no agency of their own. Getting married young was highly recommended, and starting as young as fourteen, women were preparing for their ultimate roles as wives and homemakers. (This can also fall under the term “Biblical womanhood.”) It was almost like going back in time, and as you can imagine, the ways that this belief set can go wrong are numerous.
Several of my old friends were among those who believed this way, and I wanted to fit in. So I became one of them for a while. Even though my parents were not encouraging me in this way at all, and often questioned what I was doing, I subscribed to this belief set in a lot of ways. I awaited the day when I’d get married and have an unrealistically perfect romance. (I still do, but to a much lesser extent.) I wore skirts only, and I tried to bake and crochet. These things were hard for me to accomplish, and it honestly was not what I was interested in. I look back on those times with mild embarrassment, and I wonder how I could have fallen for it. But I was young, and I wanted to be included. Call it the Christian homeschooling version of “peer pressure.”
But even during my time trying to fit in, I had a hard time with this sect of homeschooling. I still felt so out of place there. Instead of Jane Austen, I loved C.S. Lewis and fantasy. Instead of baking, I enjoyed blogging and writing stories. I had a secret longing for adventure. I didn’t like period dramas, I liked action and adventure movies! This was pretty hard for me to reconcile with my outer world. To be honest, I felt like less of a woman, which wasn’t helpful to my already-fragile self esteem. I remember having several impassioned conversations with my parents and possibly others where I expressed how frustrating it was. Even while trying to follow the rules, I was angry with them.
Somehow, I got out of the phase I was in. I got tired of the endless list of what a woman should be. I got tired of trying to aim for perfection. In addition, most of the friendships related to this culture ended, and I slowly drifted away from it. My old friends were replaced with new ones. I started wearing pants again. I wore skinny jeans and graphic teens instead. I’m okay now with being a geek. I don’t enjoy or want to actively pursue traditionally female pursuits like cooking and crafts, which I’m trying to be okay with. I’m not entirely comfortable in my skin, but it’s a lot easier now that I’m not trying to pretend to be something I’m not.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I know what feminism is. I don’t really know how I discovered it wasn’t a bad thing, but last year it crept up on me, and my beliefs have radically changed. Feminism has liberated the twelve-year-old in me, the one that would rather carry a sword than a handbag, and wear a cape instead of a skirt. Though I didn’t know it, that side of me is the feminist side, the one that wants to be free to follow whatever pursuits she wants, regardless of their “gender.” (I have to say, it’s my dream to go to a shooting range one day.)
I think back to when I was trying to fit the mold of “Biblical womanhood,” and it makes me sad. I don’t think forcing women to be submissive and homemakers only is the way to go. Please don’t misunderstand me: homemaking is a noble pursuit. The problem is that far too often women feel that it is their only option, and the patriocentric belief system can be so easily twisted. The mindset of “waiting for Prince Charming” is destructive as well, because it causes women to sit at home, “preparing for marriage.” Often this holds them back from experiencing everything that life has to offer.
I have feminism now, and I’m a strong believer in women finding themselves before they even consider finding a man. Homemaking isn’t your only fate, friends. Neither is “preparing for marriage.” Don’t subscribe to the notion that you are less of a woman because you are not with a man. (Don’t subscribe to the notion that you are less of a woman, period. There is not a checklist for things to make you a “perfect” or “Biblical” woman. This is not what God wants for us.) If you don’t want to get married, don’t. If you do want to get married, go for it–you are not less of a woman if you do get married, and a balanced marriage can have so much to offer. But until you do get married, you absolutely do not have to wait around.
In fact, I beg of you: please don’t wait. Don’t sit around waiting for a man in order for you to start living. Travel the world. Make a shit-ton of art. Write your first novel. Paint a picture. Cook and bake and read. Do things. Your life is not dependent on a man to come in and save you. Neither are you. You are whole and complete without a man or a list of “Biblical womanhood” requirements. You always have been whole and complete. And regardless of whether you get married down the line, or if you don’t, you have a life now. Go live it.