A slightly different vibe.

Tomorrow...I cease to be a teenager. I am desperately trying to listen to as much Take That and Jesse McCartney as possible whilst dreaming of the Baby Sitters Club, remembering when it was still cool to crimp your hair and wishing that the dentist was still free. Rugrats, Recess, Fresh prince of Bel Air, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dunkaroos, Jelly shoes, Chatter Rings, Tamagotchi, flare jeans and platform shoes, choker chains and midriff tank tops. Oh the golden days...once upon a time, I was walking down the road in bare feet to get a Bubble O'Bill at the dairy and singing 'The Tide is High' at the top of my lungs. Now I am growing up, never again to experience the wonder that is fairy bread and fish and chips on the beach, climbing to the top of the the Tor and getting the hems of my acid wash denim jeans bejewelled so that they will flash and gleam in the assembly performance of the Ketchup Song. But, despite having to look in to the bright and promising future without fear or hesitation...this song will always play in my heart.

Au revior, les enfants.


Women, hear me.

Lately, I've been thinking about what it means to be a woman. It is a big issue that, to be honest, kind of scares me. I have never been a girly girl. I refused to wear pink when I was in primary school (and still do). I hated netball, so instead I joined the touch rugby and indoor soccer teams. When I am told that I can't do something because I am a girl, I will do it to prove that I can. The patriarchal assumptions made that associate femininity with inferiority really and truly grate me. I have this fire burning inside of me that resists anything that says "because you a woman, you must fit [this box]." And I also have a fire burning inside of me that says, "Olivia. You are a woman. Own it. Love it. Grow it."

In The Second Sex, published in 1949, Simone de Beauvoir said "A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex; it goes without saying that he is man. The terms masculine; and feminine are used symmetrically only as a matter of form, as on legal papers. In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electrical poles, for man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general...She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute - she is the Other."

It is mere ignorance to assume that modern Western society is not influenced and permeated by patriarchy and the repression of women. America, England and France, three of the leaders of the Western World, all sitting permanently on the UN Security Council, have only between 20-39% of their government made up of women.  New Zealand has a greater discrepancy between the number of females being educated and the number of males being educated than America, Canada, Australia, and most of the Western European States including Britain. In America, women earn 77.5 cents to every dollar that a man earns. However, even more shocking is that minority women get a worse deal, with African-American women earning just 66cents to every dollar that a male earns. Research shows that in America, if working women earned the same as men (those who work the same number of hours; have the same education, age, and union status; and live in the same region of the country), their annual family incomes would rise by $4,000 and poverty rates would be cut in half (http://www.buyinginfluence.com/wage_gap.html). The New York Times published an interesting graph illustrating pay disparities between men and women. Check it out at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/03/01/business/20090301_WageGap.html?8dpc

And then there is the church. The inherent traditions that have been built up over centuries of religion in a male-dominated society. Women not being able to be priests, women being told they are "the weaker vessel". The other day I watched a video on YouTube where a reverend spoke for half an hour about the causes of the Global Financial Crisis, and the various issues society is facing. His reason? "We've given women too much power, and they can't handle it. They get emotional, and needy, and they aren't logical, and the power belongs with the men but woman have it and so everything gets messed up." I didn't quite know whether to laugh, or cry, but it pushed me to ask myself; in  world in which women are increasingly powerful and the discrepancies between our capabilities and the recognition we receive are increasingly noticed, where do we stand as woman of God? 

There are a fair share of women in the Bible who display enormous courage and efficacy as leaders and inspiration to the church. Miriam, Tamar, Esther, and Ruth all defied the status quo and stepped out to save their people and those they loved. They all honored God in scandalous and brave ways. Deborah, in Judges, was not only a prophetess, but also military leader of the Israelite people, called by God to lead His people forward. She is the only leader in judges that encompasses all three of those roles, and did so successfully and with integrity. In the New Testament, we see Mary sacrificing her body to carry Jesus and we see the Mary and Martha working alongside Jesus. We see Priscilla, Phoebe and Junia as leaders of the early Church, teaching the gospel and assisting Paul in his ministry. The early church transcended the cultural boundaries of the Ancient Roman Empire and was one of the few religious movements to actively include and acknowledge not only slaves and foreigners, but women also. Jesus spoke of freedom and empowerment. We are no longer slave to the law - we are not to conform to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed by the renewing of our mind. So then, we are to seek liberated from the paradigms that enslave us to archaic patriarchy, and to value each person for their heart, regardless of gender, race or class. We are called to value the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Qualities that have no limit in men or women. Qualities against which there can be no law. Qualities with empower and engage women to live lives of integrity, strength and love. To me, proverbs 31 describes such a woman perfectly. 

"A woman of noble character who can find? 
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value. 
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands. 
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy. 
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

This is a woman with a household to run, but who nevertheless is industrious and capable. She is not dependent or weak but instead knows she is worthy and lives according to that. Her husband is respected and powerful, but she is not content being a trophy wife - instead, she trades, makes investments and ends up planting a vineyard with her own earnings. She is profitable, but that does not satisfy her - instead, she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. And my favourite verse; "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." She works hard, laughs easily, loves fiercely.

I am sick of seeing kids being taught socially constructed gender roles from when they first begin to play with Lego or Barbies. I am sick of being told that as a woman, I will have less of a chance to earn the same amount of money as my male counterpart. I am sick of being told that "Adam came first" and I am sick of the bad theology that tells me that women are the weaker and therefore lesser sex. It is high time that we recognise that women are God's children too, and we are also shepherds, pastors, mothers, wives, teachers, sisters, CEO's and political leaders. We may choose to stay at home with the kids, or we may decide that our dream is to become the next president of the USA. We may decide to be missionaries in Africa, or to live a life among community in Wellington. And men have the same choices to make. But archaic male-dominated world-views that dictate who we are and what we can become based on gender are not acceptable.

Séjour avec moi, je veux être seul. 
Stay with me, I want to be alone.