Monday, February 13, 2006

Pieces of a Puzzle.

This has been an interesting semester so far, and in some ways the past two weeks have been unusual, in that I am finding myself confronted with an array of reading material, situations, and conversations that have combined to get me thinking on the subject of feminism.

Let me begin by stating that I am not a feminist, not in the conventional sense that my generation gives to this word. I don't necessarily believe that women should be paid the same as men for the same jobs. I don't think that women can do any job as well as men (nor do I believe the opposite). I don't think women should be in the military. I don't believe women should be sovereign over "their own bodies". I do believe that there is a primary place and task for women, but that not all women will have opportunity to pursue it. I believe that women should be protected and provided for.

On the other hand, I see no reason to think that a woman cannot pursue some things for which she displays a talent and thinks she has a calling, and be renumerated for the doing of them. And while I believe it is a woman's right to be protected and provided for, that is not an excuse for men to lord it over her, patronise her, or treat her as a mindless thing with no capacity for real wisdom. She is the perfect helpmeet for the man because she is capable of all these. She is meant to be his crown, not his shoe.

This past week, we had an interesting discussion in painting class. The instructor, Vicki, who is an older lady with some rough edges and a heart of gold, brought up the subject of content in painting composition. It is not always necessary, but it is usually desirable, to have something to say when we paint. One student's work had in it a reproduction or a classical Greek female form. The head had neatly been cut out of the composition, while the rest of the composition included mostly things like househole items and kitchen utensils. Clearly, this was meant to be a statement against tradional female roles (so the student admitted herself). Vicki declared herself to be a feminist, and spoke about the need for artists to express their views in their paintings, and to be prepared to get questioned about them. This is not the sort of thing I ever experienced at Boston University, where the discussion was limited to formal subjects such as light, color, form, negative space, and line. BU at the time was a politically liberal place to be. Purdue is considered a conservative place among state universities. Anyway, I was gratified that we were speaking about these things as a class, but it made me wonder how I might present my ideas of godly femininity without resorting to cliches that would make the viewer either yawn or retch. One does get tired of bad art. And one gets tired of having one's eye poked out with in-your-face messages. How can I do it in such a ways as to cause the viewer, however much a jaded feminist, want to linger on the beauty of the thing?

Juxtaposed with this discussion was the fact that in the past two weeks I have been reading a wonderful book called Reading Lolita In Tehran, by Azar Nafisi; and Washington Square by Henry James, which is the subject of some discussion in Nafisi's book. Then, in a weird twist of things, I'd gotten out the chick-flick movie Kate and Leopold at the end of last week. We watched it Frday night. All of these things have their own things to say about women which are truthful, revealing, and incredibly poignant.

What does God want me to do with all this, and what does it mean for the direction in which I ma headed? For it seems to me that God is saying something to me that is rather strong, but I haven't heard the last of it yet.

But you can believe I'm paying attention. More on this later.


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