Feminism is a radical territory.
I try to remember this when conversations turn toward the topic. Ever since I slipped into feminism two or three years ago, it seems like a most natural set of beliefs to hold. But I know it gets a bad rap from the media, biasing people against it; extremist positions get passed off as the core tenets of the movement. I try to remind myself that we all need guides into unknown areas, to make it past the obstructing brambles and onto the meadow abloom with life-giving flowers.
Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist, is an excellent guide for this kind of journey. She treks through these controversial lands with grace and passion. She brings wisdom and even-handedness to the topic, serving as a capable mentor.
One of the most hopeful and inspiring parts of the feminist movement, one that Sarah addresses throughout her book, is when women show up for one another. The world is a hard place for women to exist, made even harder by the fact that we have been conditioned to compete with each other, been made to believe that another woman’s success is our failure. Thankfully, this is changing.
Tumblr posts tell stories of women taking stands against the patriarchy in ways that always make me cry. There is something about life-saving, rule-breaking love between women that makes me want to cheer and sob at the same time.
Poet Melissa Newman says in her poem “9 Things I Would Like to Tell to Every Teenage Girl,”
Sometimes the world will actually try to kill you.
Which is why, you need to hold up your sisters. Everyone is your sister.
The world is trying to kill each and every one of you, and if you don’t hold each other up, no one else will.
But how do we hold each other up?
In Jesus Feminist, Sarah writes, “You have a great women’s ministry when you have detoxed from the world’s views and unattainable standards for women and begun to celebrate the everyday women of valor, sitting next to you, and when you encourage, affirm, and welcome the diversity of women—their lives, their voices, their experiences—to the community…We are creating a world where every woman can be who she is, without apology, in freedom.”
Celebrating diversity and detoxing from unrealistic standards, this is good work.
On a more personal scale, Sarah writes about recognizing the Spiritual Midwives in our lives. Spiritual Midwives are “the people intrinsically linked to my spiritual journey. Maybe they were the midwives—by their lives, their faith, their obedience, their work, their prayers—for the work that God has birthed in me and through me, and countless others…And I rise up and call blessed the women who have mothered—nurtured, nourished, sourced, watched over—my spiritual journey. Most of them won’t ever know that they influenced me as much as they did, but it’s true.”
I am going to take the time here to recognize and celebrate the women, call them blessed, who have acted as Spiritual Midwives in my life.
There are the mothers—Vicki, my mom; Dottie, my grandma; and Reba, my second mom—the ones who fight for me, who have modeled resourcefulness, hard work, unceasing hospitality, faithfulness, spiritual discipline, and wonder. They have taught me the value of a listening ear; they have taught me to always ask questions. They seem to know intrinsically how to create something out of nothing—be it a meal, a piece of art, a cold remedy, a garden, or an evening of friendship.
And there are the poets—Emily Joy, Tania Runyan, Andrea Gibson, Margaret Atwood—who have saved my life and faith through their questions and doubts, sculpting their words into art that has found its way to me.
Then there are the strong women I had in my life for short seasons. There was Amy who helped me process the painful transition out of a relationship. And my hall director, Sara, who pushed me away from my comfort zones of shyness and indecision, but always had hot tea and Mary Oliver waiting for me. And Caroline who welcomed my anger at injustice and sat with me in confusion and doubt. And Jess, who told me it was okay to cry upon arrival in a foreign country and showed me how to pray.
And there are the friends who I have felt a deep, soul connection with—bosom friends. In high school, Miranda, who let her love of poetry overflow into me. In college, Paula and Malinda and Sush, who discovered the Episcopal church with me, who ran through thunderstorms with me, who shared words with me. And Jillian and Caroline and Topps, who made time to explore and hike and listen to me. Who still do.
There are also the teachers who spurred me on to read and write and pursue words in all their glorious forms. Mrs. Peterson who cheered on my writing in those tender, formative middle school years. Mrs. Kilmer who helped me examine literature. Mrs. Stoeger who shared her poetry and ongoing education, and who inspired the love of library work. Ms. Knispel, who pushed and pushed me to become a better writer. Lana, who mentored me through my first year of working in a library and applying to graduate school.
There are many more, of course, but they will wait for another day.
Who are the women in your life who have served as spiritual midwives? Take a few moments today to thank them, to call them blessed.