Well, another Women’s History Month has come and gone by the time you read this. Many classrooms across the United States have talked about the contributions of women in the past, and some websites have contributed special news reports concerning women during this time. At my own seminary, we celebrated the contributions and achievements of women by honoring Women’s History Month through a couple of our chapel services. In addition to speaking on some of the struggles women face today, we utilized a variety of feminist liturgies that honored women, acknowledged their struggles, and called out to God identified as both Mother and Father. In my own time, I listened to music that celebrated the lives, bodies, thoughts and spirits of women. The things I experienced greatly uplifted my spirit and made me proud to be a woman.
Nationally, though, or perhaps better yet politically, it seems like Women’s History Month was not on the radar at all. Women’s rights and health were topics of political debate among Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers alike. As I have heard, women were not even present as some of the laws and policies were decided upon. Oh, and one cannot forget Rush Limbaugh’s comments regarding Sandra Fluke as February ended and Women’s History Month began. In addition to his infamous “slut” comment, he also threw out the term “feminazis” and asked that if “we” were going to pay for contraceptives and thus for women to have sex, women might as well put videos of themselves having sex online so that those paying for it can get something for it. What a way to celebrate the contributions of women!
What has emerged this past Women’s History Month is the continuing dichotomy regarding women in the United States. On the one hand, we are nationally recognizing the contributions, past and present, of women for an entire month. Schools, websites, blogs, chapel services, music, and many more outlets are recognizing and affirming women. On the other hand, however, women are seemingly unable to make decisions regarding their own bodies and health, and some call those that try to contribute to the discussion "sluts." If anything, this past Women’s History Month has given mixed signals about the contributions and value of women in our society today.
So what are we to do? In terms of the upcoming elections, women are already reacting to what has happened in the past month. A recent Huffington Post piece noted that the gender gap favoring President Obama is wider than it was in 2008, and many women who identify as conservative are saying that they prefer Obama over Romney. Another Huffington Post blogger notes that more women are running for U.S. Senate than before.
Those are needed contributions, for sure, but I also think we need to continue to affirm women in our homes, schools, communities, and faith traditions. When I think about it, my tradition, Christianity, has many positive things to say about women. True, I cannot ignore the Bible verses that instruct women to remain silent and argue that women are saved through giving birth. They are there, yes, but they are not the totality of the Bible and they are not the end of the story. Many other verses and passages affirm and honor women.
One I would like to share in particular is the very first creation story in Genesis that affirms women as imago dei, or that women are created in the image of God. According to Genesis 1:27 (NRSV), “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
God proceeds to bless and instruct them, and then finally finishes this act of creation in verse 31: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good.”
God made male and female at the same time, as equals, in God’s own image. It can be debated whether this is a physical likeness, a mental likeness, or even an emotional likeness. Nevertheless, my personhood, my identity as a woman, my body, my gender; all of this was looked over by God and declared “good.”
There are many more stories and passages in my tradition that affirm women, and I am proud of that. These passages and stories uplift my spirit and make me proud to be a woman, and I am grateful for those in my tradition and churches who have continued to remind me of these things. So in light of the dichotomous message in the United States regarding women this past Women’s History Month, I think we need to continue to support and affirm women. We need to tell our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, girlfriends, nieces, aunts, so on and so forth, that they are women of worth and value.
Our religious traditions can be important voices. We must not be discouraged by the language, rhetoric, and messages that devalue women, but continue in our own places to affirm the value and personhood of women with our own voices and stories.
Do you have any stories and voices from your tradition and/or community(ies) that honor and affirm women? I would love to hear them in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and can be found at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_Smiling_Women.jpg