This weekend I went to my second Covergence, a gathering of Christian women leaders. Now, I don't really consider myself that much of a leader, but I'm a supporter of gender equality, women's empowerment, and the emerging church movement, so I went. It was just the thing I needed. First, it was a weekend away from the Bosco House, which has been very stressful and frustrating since I've been trying to get out of the job for several months. I got to see my friend Bex from Oregon State for the first time in six years. But besides all that, it gave me a lot of hope for womankind.
I got to join women of all ages and marital statuses in a discussion about sexuality (in a warm soaking pool! rawr!) We talked about our hope that the church would step up to give a sex-positive education to our young people. Women who had been married for a few years said that they wished they had known so much more about sex and intimacy before their marriages, even if that didn't include sex itself. A non-Christian woman who joined her friend and who had had a child at a young age said that she now considered abstinence sexy and exotic. A married woman shared that she was looking forward to some "sexploration" with her husband in their 50s. We talked about the stigma against "self-love" and agreed that being blessed with the possession of our own bodies and being forbidden to understand how they worked was more than a little ridiculous. We agreed that we should affirm the external beauty of our friends and ourselves.
Later that night, over drinks with the gals, I had the opportunity to talk about honoring the external beauty of signs of aging and the things that life does to our bodies. A woman shared a story about her friend's son, who, tracing the stretch marks on her skin, asked "Mommy, where did you get your rainbows?" There is hope for our men after all! Together we wondered what kind of education growing boys and men needed to really start treating women with respect and fully realize equality. The single girls and I agreed to expect the men we date to treat us like equals who have ownership of our own bodies and minds instead of objects made to nod our heads at whatever they say.
I think that the diversity of ages at Convergence totally made it what it was to me. I benefited so much from the wisdom of the elder women at the gathering, and in turn, they affirmed me and the other younger women by saying things like "You girls are so much farther along than I was at your age." I didn't have very many elder women who gave me a positive and empowering view of myself and other women growing up, and I think that's something that's been missing from my life. I hope that I can somehow still be that woman to someone else a few decades down the road.
I wish that some of my CCF friends could have been part of those conversations. At one time I also internalized that patriarchy that has held women hostage as perpetual servants to men. And when I finally started to think outside that box and asked if there was anything that I didn't have to submit to my husband, I was asked "Why would you want to?" and told "Oh, when you find the right guy you'll understand." What a colossal cop-out it is that we tell ourselves so that we don't have to feel frustrated at our lack of equality. But I see the women at Convergence taking ownership of their rights and abilities. Women can lead congregations in the way of Jesus. We can expect an equal partnership instead of a head of household and servant relationship. We are not angels and we are not whores, but we are strong, and we are more than an old fashioned view that's been misinterpreted as biblical. Ladies, start roaring. Men, start listening.