In Celebration of the Girl Child

11 10 2013

0051_###*Today is the International Day of the Girl Child.

I was never told that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. Quite the opposite: I grew up in a home that (to use today’s phraseology) “empowered women.” It wasn’t a political thing. My parents never sat me down and told me about the complicated world and how I might bump into ceilings. Instead of discussing potential restrictions, they just pointed me towards a world of possibilities and that is how I grew up: the glass is half full.

My mother was a big voice in my life, telling me I could “do it,” whatever it was. She encouraged me to try new things, to create, to think, and to be brave. She cheered me on and questioned me at the same time.  She would listen to my latest scheme and then she would help me sift through it. I could easily be swept up by what was great in my head, and she taught me to consider and value other viewpoints. What a brilliant sounding board she was; she taught me so much about the power of collaboration.

My mother, grandmothers, aunts and other older women told me their stories and those of our ancestors; many of them opened the door wide to their own lives so I could see what strength looked like. I don’t remember any of them teaching me a recognizably feminist doctrine though. They simply showed me what was possible even when faced by great adversity, and I believed it. There are so many women I know in person or on a page who have been an influence on me. Resilience, tenacity, faith, and improvisation: all things I learned from these women.

And, this is a privilege I have experienced as well: I have had terrific male role models walk with me. Uncles, friends, co-workers, leaders, and authors. My own father was more of a silent man, but he backed me. These men influenced me and encouraged me so I never really felt a sense of competition with the male world. Well…maybe a little healthy competition, which I still enjoy (a shout-out to Aunt Heidi for giving the T-shirt that said, “Whatever boys can do girls can do better.” Being a little scrappy isn’t a bad thing either).

 As I recently celebrated 25 years of marriage, I can’t go further without mentioning the unwavering belief my husband has in me. Our partnership has never been about defined gender roles; we have just naturally taken on what we are best at and have helped each other where we aren’t as strong. He appreciates my feminine traits and I appreciate his masculine traits. I deeply, deeply value how God has given him a different kind of strength than me. And he deeply, deeply values the strength God has given me – I can say this because he has told me so, many times. We are different from each other, but we don’t have to tell each other that. We don’t have to come up with a label or an assignment. When you are in love and choose to love guided by Christ, you see the need for what the other person has; you don’t resent it or resist it.

As I think about it, this is how Jesus Christ was. He just mingled with men and women and children and those of means and those without means and He just showed a great respect for all of them. The only ones he went after were those small minded, legalistic individuals who resisted His kind of super-natural natural way of relating. Jesus knew people; knowing people makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

I have bumped into men who demean women. I have been in conversations in mixed circles and have seen men disengage when I speak. I have been in situations where my husband gets what he wants in four words or less but I have to call back ten times to get any results. I have cringed at innuendos and disparaging remarks; I have felt my heart race when insulted and compartmentalized. I have felt my blood boil when I see young men make disgusting remarks about young women.  I have felt so grieved and deflated when I hear young women agree with them.

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 10.30.28 AMAnd all of that pales, it pales in comparison to what other women – young and old – are experiencing all over the world. These are the women who are literally risking life and limb to eat, to be educated, to have some small ounce of respect as they live and breathe. What a Satanic thing, the oppression of women! Half of whom God has made with His own hands, half of the human race who have His breath in their lungs, are treated like garbage. Well, less than half, since little baby girls are routinely killed without much a thought.

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 10.30.38 AMWithout a doubt, all of that is so incredibly insulting and demeaning and evil. Why should we have to stand up and fight for ourselves? Why should we have to carry signs, or raise our voices about inequality, or get shot in the streets for standing up for what is just right. God calls us all to defend justice, and the devaluing of women is a great injustice. A man who is worth his salt flexes his muscles on behalf of those who are oppressed, including women.

As for me, one who lives more privileged than most, I know who I have been created and called to be.  I have ideas and abilities and I know how to be a part of a team and I know how to lead a team too. I have something to say and I want to listen also. I don’t want to overshadow anyone, but neither do I want to live in a shadow. I know God does not view men or women as one more valuable than the other. I won’t be “put in my place” as I know what my place is: I am a treasured daughter of the Most High God who bears His image also. I will walk that way.

I am disinterested in any sort of pecking order. I love the uniqueness of men and what they bring to the table; and I love the uniqueness of women and what they bring to the table. Let’s sit at the table together and be ourselves.

—   Teresa Klassen

P.S. And I must add, this is what I love, love, love about the work going on in some homes in India. They are taking girls and boys and loving them for who they are. They are educating both boys and girls and showing them that they have a hope and a future and are loved beyond measure by the God who made them.




One response

12 10 2013

I LOVE this blog entry! Thank you for being so fantastic & inspirational!

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