Lengthy, way back, again earlier than I met my husband, I met one other younger man at (my former) church.
I assumed he was cute, enjoyable, and humorous. We spent just a few months assembly up recurrently for lunch, dinner, or boba. At all times speaking, all the time laughing.
By no means doing something that clearly wasn’t simply friendship. By no means defining the connection.
Ultimately, I seen that he wasn’t initiating as a lot as he used to. I figured he was most likely shedding curiosity in something doubtlessly romantic, however I needed to verify I wasn’t misunderstanding. So, over bubble tea drinks, I requested if he might make clear how he understood what we’d been doing these previous few months—did he see it as a friendship or as courting?
He mentioned he was all for courting at first however then determined he wasn’t anymore. Which is okay.
He then proceeded to inform me why he wasn’t anymore. Which I can’t think about I requested for—however I additionally wasn’t going to cease him from telling me.
He advised me he was searching for somebody slightly extra, properly, female.
A reminiscence sprang to thoughts: just a few weeks prior, he and I had met up for lunch at an superior Mexican restaurant that made these scrumptious, unusually monumental burritos. I ordered one and ate the entire thing.
I didn’t do it to attempt to impress him. However a part of me imagined he is perhaps at the very least slightly bit impressed. As an alternative, he seemed barely perturbed. This stunned me, however I didn’t suppose an excessive amount of of it on the time.
However sure, if he was searching for a younger girl with a dainty urge for food, demure and never opinionated, somebody who batted her mascara-laced eyelashes attractively at him fairly than speaking and laughing with him as a good friend, as an equal—I used to be definitely not that girl.
I replicate on this expertise, now—way back because it was—as a result of I discovered myself pondering of it not too long ago, whereas facilitating a six-week class at my present church.
The category was referred to as “God, Gender, Energy.”
I began off the primary session by inviting individuals to collectively brainstorm qualities and traits that our tradition—significantly dominant US tradition, but in addition another cultures individuals within the class had expertise with—tends to affiliate with masculinity and femininity.
What precisely is taken into account masculine? What is taken into account female? The lists started to fill out.
One the one facet: bodily sturdy, emotionally composed. Mental, educated, professionally profitable. Assertive, aggressive, instructions respect. Self-sufficient, is aware of how to make things better. Might be offended, could be violent. Rational, goal.
One the opposite facet: nurtures, cares for youngsters. Passive and submissive. Weak, dainty, harmless. Depending on others, significantly on a person. Prioritizes household and relationships over skilled success. Emotional, irrational, unpredictable, subjective.
It turned very clear, in a short time, that every of those lists paints a caricature. The overwhelming majority of people should not precisely described by both set of qualities.
In the case of a dominant US cultural development of femininity—recognizing that concepts of gender are sometimes constructed very in a different way in several cultures and in several eras—not one of the girls within the room match the invoice. And none of us significantly needed to.
We acknowledged that each one of us—male, feminine, nonbinary, or in any other case—embody some mixture of each lists.
As individuals of religion, we consider that that is how God created us. And we consider that God created us good.
Within the class, we talked about how our society’s development of femininity typically takes the form of an unimaginable internet of conflicting expectations. Brené Brown fleshes out this concept compellingly in I Thought It Was Simply Me (However It Isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will Individuals Suppose?” to “I Am Sufficient”—as, in fact, does America Ferrera’s character within the current Barbie film.
We additionally talked about how our societal development of masculinity typically takes the form of a “man field”—that’s, as Rose Hackman places it in Emotional Labor: The Invisible Work Shaping Our Lives and Easy methods to Declare Our Energy,“a really inflexible set of habits and persona guidelines males are anticipated to stick to if they’re to be secure from being challenged on their standing as ‘actual males.’”
Individuals within the class appeared to resonate with the concept it’s essential to speak about how these items are constructed—in order that we are able to have an opportunity of deconstructing them. And most of us needed to deconstruct them.
None of us girls needed to really feel like we’re failing at performing a femininity that’s, as Ferrera put it, “actually unimaginable”—or, for the boys, that they’re much less of a person in the event that they don’t conform to the (typically poisonous) traits thought of manly.
I shared with the group in our final session that these conversations have been personally therapeutic for me. It was a robust expertise, to talk instantly about gendered roles and stereotypes in neighborhood—in a church neighborhood—with the hope of busting up these stereotypes collectively.
I already knew that God didn’t create me to examine off a set of bins deemed “female” by dominant US tradition. God created me as a singular human with a singular set of traits—within the phrases of the psalmist, fearfully and splendidly made (Ps 139:14).
I don’t wish to be “extra female,” no matter that may imply. I simply wish to be the very best model of me.
I knew these items for myself. And it was nonetheless so highly effective to have them affirmed by a religion neighborhood. To be reminded that I’m not alone within the journey of studying the way to be a lady in no matter superior methods God made me to be one, constricting societal expectations be damned. To really feel that maybe collectively we are able to break freed from the unimaginable internet and change into extra totally who we have been meant to be.
This can be a present that spiritual communities, at their greatest, can provide. They’re typically locations of gendered disgrace—however they don’t need to be. They are often locations of belonging, of neighborhood, of exploring who we’re collectively and inspiring each other on the journey.
That is therapeutic; that is my hope. That is what individuals of religion can construct collectively.