Anne’s Call To Mobilize: Thoughts on Anne Lamott’s Nashville Talk

Recently, New York Times bestselling author, Anne Lamott graced Nashville with her presence; more specifically, she graced the Nashville Public Library’s Salon series, which seems so appropriate as she is a relentless advocate of the necessity of public libraries. If you are reading and are not familiar with Anne, I would suggest you pick up the nearest Traveling Mercies available. With all due haste. Make it a date night to go buy this book then read it with your significant other…

ASC End celebration 006

I promised that I would share some of Anne’s thoughts, which are really, all of our thoughts, said in a profound and hilarious way…

Anne spent most of the night conversing with another NYT bestselling author, Ann Patchett, who co-owns Parnassus Books, one of Nashville’s last independent book stores. The two were just hilarious, feeding off of each other, with elevated dialogue laced with grace and introspection.

Lamott covered the gamete of topics ranging from her new grandson, Jax, to faith, to writing, to activism. In her dialogue about writing a good story, she stated: “If someone will write about the mess with a sense of humor, I’m all in. Tell me a story. We are a species who is fed and enlivened by stories.” She also noted the discipline of writing is where the joy comes from and that being published is not (publishing makes you even more mentally ill than you were before, according to Anne).

Informing us about her grandson’s most recent sagacity into her slight tendencies to become over-committed, she quoted from Jax: “Nana, you are carrying too much and you are going to fast.”

By far though, my favorite part of the evening was her discussion of activism. “Listen young women, we [older, female activists] have fought for you to have the freedoms you have today… and our backs are tired and our feet hurt and our vision is failing. We need you to mobilize.”

Ultimately the evening ended because we were out of time and Anne had to use the ladies room. But I left with a sigh of relief on my breath, gratitude in my heart, and the fortitude to persist.

So Millennial women, what do you say? Can we elicit change? Can we carry the baton which is extended to us by generations of oppressed women?

If In Doubt, Blame Feminism

Recently Denny Burk, a professor at Boyce College of Southern Seminary, wrote an article that essentially blamed feminism for Elizabeth Wurtzel’s fall from glory and arrival at a low spot in life.

I do not believe feminism is to blame for all women who find themselves single. Nor do I think that feminism alone accounts for all the moral pathologies on display in Wurtzel’s article. But I do believe that feminism has provided the social context for women to be congratulated by the culture for sad choices that they make. Third wave feminism in particular–and especially its tendency to ape male promiscuity–has left many women desolate and alone. As one feminist put it, these women have become the shocked victims of their own sex lives.

He did not make us unisex. He did not make us genderless humanoids with no direction for our intimate lives. He made us male and female. And for those to whom it has been given, He made us to give ourselves away to years of finding stale Cheerios in every hidden crevice of the minivan, to seasons of graduations and of anniversaries and of empty nests, to gray years with the love of your life who is your best friend, to lifetimes of covenant love.

Feminism is the killer of that dream, even though precious few seem to notice.

Burk, among other popular conservative evangelicals such as John Piper, is a complementarian. This term is defined in Christian-dome as someone who believes that the Bible requires women to submit to male leadership in the household, marriage, church, and possibly beyond. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is a complementarian group dedicated to promoting the idea that men and women are equal in God’s eyes, but have separate and complementary roles in the home and church. Men are to lovingly lead and women are to intelligently submit in the home AND there are some governing and teaching roles in the church which are solely restricted to men. There are many, including myself, who would classify this line of thought as patriarchy.

Burk’s post is not surprising coming from an outspoken proponent of complentmentarianism and anti-feminism, but it is quite troubling. It’s troubling that leaders in conservative evangelicalism have such disdain for feminism. Granted, the term “feminism” has encompassed many different faces through the years, yet at the very core of the definition, is female equality, not superiority. Burk seems to blame feminism for Wurtzel’s woes. It’s feminism’s fault that she doesn’t have a family, money, investments, real estate, etc. It’s feminism which congratulated and encouraged her to live such a life and it’s feminism which has left her alone and desolate in 2012. He then calls feminism the “killer of a dream”… the dream of seeing children graduate, searching for your kid’s lost cheerios in between the minivan seats, and going gray with the love of your life.

There is something very alarming in Burk’s logic and his words. Granted, in the blogging world you seek to create articles that will ruffle feathers, so I understand that aspect, but what alarms me is that he really believes this about feminism. And he is not alone. Patriarchy is a popular idea in evangelicalism and has spent many unfortunate years lingering in the moral framework of American households, businesses, and churches. It is a vile thing that continues to create imbalance in the places it pervades. The truth of patriarchy is that it doesn’t help men either. One person being the head of another based on fixed gender is equally as damaging and awful for the head as it is the foot. An imbalance is created when women give life through birth and men take it over. I strongly believe that gender equality is a prerequisite for peace. So to suggest that feminism (the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men) is to blame for this woman’s life choices and subsequent disenfranchisement is completely unfounded and actually, quite illogical. Her choices were her own and I cannot speculate on her life choices as I have very little knowledge of them. It is very possible for a woman to promote women’s equality AND have a loving, stable, egalitarian marriage with a man. AND have children in that marriage. Children who require her to clean cheerios out of the minivan and children who will eventually graduate from college and leave an empty nest.

Remember that it is possible for both a man and a woman to be feminists, to promote women’s equality. It seems like one Jewish man did it a few thousand years ago and he changed the world.

Does complementarianism/ patriarchy have a place in marriage, the church, or society? Do you agree that gender equality is a prerequisite for peace?