Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Sometimes, I'm jealous that my mother was an adult in the 1970s. There was so much to love...avocado green kitchen appliances, roller disco, the original Charlie's Angels, and (lest we forget), great hairstyles like this:

Today, though, I'm thinking about a uniquely Seventies event: "Feminist Consciousness Raising." This website outlines the rules and regulations of said groups. To quote the text, a consciousness raising group was designed for "understanding what it is to be a woman in a patriarchal society that oppresses men."

My mother was a member of one of these groups, but of course, her consciousness raising group was based out of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, a denomination that does not allow women to serve communion or serve in ministry.

Let that soak in for a just a minute.

She meet with other women to discuss gender-normative roles and then went home to make hot-dish for the pot luck. And you know what? It worked for her---she taught me, her only daughter, that the world was truly limitless (with, I guess, the exception of becoming a pastor). She did not fetish-ize me into a swirly world of princessy goop. On the other hand, she did not dress me in overalls and force me to play exclusively with European, gender-neutral toys. Rather, she addressed my dignity and intellect by having conversations with me about what is means to be a woman, and how to use my gifts for others. I'm so lucky to have her example.

I think about this, because every so often, I'll pick up a book or an article, and I'll have my very own consciousness-raising, right there on my living room couch. I recently read a book which discussed the terrifying issues of sex trafficking, and sexual abuse. As I read about these beautiful women getting treated like animals, I was enraged. Did you know that some men become pimps because, if caught, a drug dealer faces much stiffer penalties than a pimp?  It is apparently worse to sell drugs than to sell another human.

And today, as I was going about my business, I noticed all the negative messages out there---dumb shows playing on mute while I worked out, bumper stickers talking about female politicians with such utter disdain, songs on the radio. Everywhere, there was a pernicious, constant message that some women are mere toys, sexual objects, things to be used and discarded. And then, to bring it to the most local of levels, a fellow mother told me that her four-year-old daughter said, "Mommy, my thighs are too big."

As a woman who has had an "easy" life, I can think of five people with eating disorders and three victims of rape, just off the top of my head. This saddens me, and makes me wonder why I'm not sad, or fired-up, or anything besides selfish most of the time.

I used to feel like I was serving the women of the world by teaching---I hoped to be a good example, to show these young women that there is an alternative to acting dumb or sexy to get attention. I'll never know if I was successful, but at least I tried. Later on, I always felt that I would have a daughter, and I would do the same precious, life-saving work as my mother.

God must have other plans for me. But today, with my consciousness raised a bit, I feel the need to do something---to mentor, to teach,  to help the women of the world.

What point is a raised consciousness, if I just allow it to fall to the earth?


Corrie Howe said...

Nancy, the best man in our wedding worked in India for over three years. His office was in charge of investigating sex trafficking, rescuing underage girls and placing them in safer homes. It is part of an international ministry called "International Justice Ministry."

Check out their website at I know there are a lot of families in these ministries in this foreign countries who could use someone from American just writing them and praying for them. It is an indirect way of helping in these areas, but a huge way!

Tricia said...

Definitely something to think about. Changing the world could be as simple as shaping the way your boys view the world, just as your mother did with you. May God bless you as you wrestle with these thoughts.

won said...

Aho Nancy, Aho (desert term of agreement).

I think if we all get a bit "fired up" about something, anything and make a move toward action on it, no matter how large or small...the world would function better.

I applaud you for acknowledging just that.

Now the avocado green appliance thing, not so much!