It’s not a new thing to have the world tell a woman what she should be: in the days leading up to this nation’s inception, a woman’s sole occupation was to be a dutiful housewife who had few legal rights, little chance at a higher education, and absolutely no formal voice in government (although some brilliant and courageous women like Abigail Adams were able to make their voices heard quite well through correspondence with their husbands and the occasional aliases in newspapers).
Almost two hundred years later, after World War II, woman felt liberation as a result of having taken over traditional male jobs. The world had given them the chance to prove that they could step up to the plate like never before, but soon the question became how they were supposed to balance their new “status” in the marketplace with the return of the soldiers and the ever-present need to still manage the home and children? Many suffered a difficult transition.
Then, with the dawn of the woman’s movement in the 60’s and 70’s, the now prevailing cultural attitude that we know as “feminism” was born. While extremely helpful in drawing attention to the inequality and injustice experienced by women the world over, it also (at least in my experience and understanding of feminism) further complicated the issue of what a woman is supposed to be. After all, feminism’s enthusiasm of the modern career woman and her complete independence from men can quickly become intolerance of those who (by choice) decide on another path, perhaps (in my case) because of a desire to one day be a stay-at-home mother or have a healthy interdependent, cooperative stance toward the opposite gender. (Now, of course, none of this is meant to ignore the fact that not all feminists have attitudes that opposes these goals or that feminism has not or is not adapting its message to suit both the times and women of all types and desires, but my experiences and those of others like me indicate that the conflict is nevertheless very real).
This is just a tiny sample of the long narrative of history concerning women. Today, young, millennial ladies face not only the influence of hundreds of years of mixed messages on their worth and place in society but also unprecedented challenges in the area of identity and the burning question “who am I supposed to be?” And, really, the current cultural narrative addressing this issue is anything but helpful.
For one thing, women today still struggle with the same burdens that the ladies of the World War II era fought and the feminists of the 60’s and 70’s sought to equalize: the balance of a career with the practical demands of a home and family. According World Regional Geography, women all over the globe are expected to earn a steady income and still come home to the full-time job of caring for a house and young ones, and there is a fundamental lack of understanding and empathy directed towards both ends of the spectrum, from the career woman to the stay-at-home mother. In the end, society’s demand that females choose between either being both or one or the other is not possible without great cost and it exerts incredible pressure not just on a woman’s mind and potential but also her heart.
The world of today is also a dangerous one for woman: rape, domestic abuse, prostitution, and a general exploitation of vulnerability are not new on the world stage but the current century poses unprecedented societal issues including an ever-surging, worldwide sex industry that, in the main, targets woman as its victims. Pornography is another explosive industry that demeans both a woman’s body and the act of sex itself with its explicit glorification of sexual abuse. In addition, several of my colleagues here at “Odyssey” have written about cultural injustices aimed specifically at women, ranging from the rape culture on college campuses, rampant misogyny in every sector of society, and even catcalling. These and other topics represent the daily struggle of simply remaining unscathed as a female in today’s world while all while trying to live up to one’s full potential without being quite sure what that potential could be.
Speaking of potential, if there’s anything that stifles and diverts a woman from discovering who she is supposed to be, it is the daily objectification of her body, worth, and self-image that can be seen in movies, music videos, popular music, billboards, commercials and advertisements. There is a literal idolatry of female sexuality in this country and the effect that it has on the male sector of society as well as the self-image of countless ladies across America is simply tragic. Really, the 21st century is matchless in its ability to degrade woman while at the same time thinking that it has come the farthest in equality and “progressive” treatment of them.
Now, as real as all of this is, I’m not going to close here because, at the end of the day, I doubt that any of my female readers really need to be reminded of the challenges of discovering who they are in our society because these challenges are literally part of our daily routine. So, the way I would like to end is by sharing these thoughts from my heart to yours: ladies, don’t ever let anyone or anything tell you that your worth resides in your appearance, your body size, your success whether at home or in the marketplace, your style, your sexual power over males (which, incidentally, is the power that the culture will try to convince you that this is your only and ultimate form of influence), or anything else that is an external source of self-confidence. Don’t rely males to give you your place or your value because they can’t and they won’t. However, on that same note, know that we deeply need the help and the perspective of men, especially in today’s culture where their voices alongside ours is what will help bring about change in areas of social injustice and objectification.
Lastly, ladies, it’s really hard to be the gender that is physically vulnerable, that is often more in touch with emotion, that is generally bent towards caring, warmth, and nurturing, that has a strength that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated in today’s rough world, that gets told to speak up and then get punished because our voices are too loud, that gets pushed in so many directions, many times opposite ones, that has double-standards shoved in our faces, that is desperate to find out who we are and how on earth we are supposed to be women in today’s world. But, ladies, I want you to know that, in answering (and still answering) this question for myself, I have found one Person who knows exactly how each of us was made and who we are meant to be and desires nothing more than to tell us; a Person who understands the struggle and the pain that our world brings and died to fight for, honor, protect, cherish, and nurture us in the midst of it all; a Person who is available 24/7, 24 hours a day. Are you intrigued to know who this Person is yet? Well, I’ll tell how to get in touch with Him: His name is Jesus.