Yesterday I listened to Emma Watson’s much-adored speech to the U.N. and as a woman, I was utterly insulted.
I felt very similar last month on my Washington, D.C. trip when I went to the 3rd-most visited museum in the world. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History dehumanized me at every turn, reducing mankind to mere members of the animal kingdom. All the brilliance and beauty that I have seen men and women from all time produce---including the tear-inducing Leonardo DaVinci painting I saw at the nearby National Gallery of Art---is degraded to the evolutionary need for survival. Nothing else. No beauty for the sake of beauty.
Emma Watson’s speech struck a similar cord as she pushed for “equality” between genders. In her call to perceive gender as a “spectrum”, she wishes to make gray what can be such a powerfully vibrant contrast. Just because genders are distinct doesn't mean they have to be combative. They just function well together, like a right hand and a left.
I’m offended by her speech because I embrace the fact that there are many things that I as a woman can do a whole lot better than men can. Women, we are belittling ourselves when we try to equalize the roles instead of strengthen them.
When my husband plays with our kids---wrestling, tossing, tickling---they respond in a delightful way that I cannot easily duplicate when I try those things. But when I comfort my children---holding them, loving them, having compassion on them---my husband watches in amazement, knowing that no one---not even he---can comfort these babies like I can (especially when it comes to breastfeeding!)
Even in our not-so-sweet days, we can welcome our differences and both shine in our respective roles. Of course I play with our kids too and Peter comforts them as well, and I’m not trying to make an argument for women being homemakers (I wrote more about this theme in How Feminism Sells Itself Short), but I wish we would all take a step back and think...what makes men and women strong? What makes them beautiful?
In today's culture, selfishness is seen as strength. Having a high self-esteem is almost the same as being considered a good person. Ms. Watson received great applause when talking about her rights over her own body (referring to abortion.) Haven't we always thought of taking an innocent person's life to be the epitome of selfishness? But now it is seen as brave, noble, and strong. The only reason such positions have continued to hold up is the collective, willful ignorance of the masses. I hope we all start realizing this and wake up from our narcissistic coma!
I would argue that the strongest thing any man or woman could ever do is sacrifice. This is what a beautiful strength looks like. Selflessness. You know, love. Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Our culture seems to suggest that “love” is merely an undeniable feeling. Again, that definition is insulting to me. After being married for three years (or even just one month!) almost anyone can quickly admit that if that’s all love is, it’s very easy to deny at times! But of course we can’t just give up. We must continue to sacrifice for the other person, dying to our immediate desires, and eventually the feelings will follow, now flowing from a richer and deeper relationship.
I agree with Ms. Watson that men are led to believe that they cannot be sensitive. They often overcorrect that stigma by putting on a macho, misogynistic persona, which is devastating to them and anyone else in their wake. Those domineering, make-me-a-sandwich men are missing the picture as well. I don't think our culture has any idea what to make of gender and offers either false dichotomies or an opposition to any definitive gender at all.
Ms. Watson and our culture speak of "submission" as if it is a bad word and there's no right way to do it. On the contrary, a person who is to humble enough to submit to another's leadership possesses great strength. A submissive person is willing to lay down his/her own desire for control for the best interest of others. Could she take charge? Probably. But she is secure enough in herself that she doesn’t need to.
When I see a woman like Emma Watson, I see a bright and talented young lady who is a gifted actress and a compelling speaker. Surely she does charity work and gives a portion of her money to worthy causes.
But then I think about some women I actually know, one friend in particular. When I look at her, I see a strong woman. She has four children---two of whom she and her husband adopted from very hard places---and she is involved in helping people in countless other ways that I’m sure I don’t even know about.
She cares for the prostitutes in our city---something her husband cannot do in the same way; he drives and offers protection.
She reaches out to her neighbors, to wounded women who would not develop the same rich and trusting friendship with a man.
And she takes in foster children when there is a need.
That, to me, is what a strong woman looks like. She is someone who actually gets into the lives of others and sacrifices her wants for their needs. She is someone who goes beyond hashtag activism and actually gives up her free time to let someone cry on her shoulder. I want women like her to be teaching me what being a woman is all about.
So as we hear "ground-breaking" feminist messages like Emma Watson's, may we begin to think for ourselves about whether the feminist view of strength for women (or anybody) is really very strong at all. May we instead consider what true strength is, for men or for women: sacrifice.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today