Once upon a time, feminists burned their bras, eschewed lipstick, attacked patriarchy, and got really loud and angry. This was apparently very necessary, though I wasn’t there to see it. I know for sure that we could not be doing what we do now, if they had not done what they did first. But some things are different now.
I always assumed that feminists don’t wear makeup. But sometimes, these days, feminists put on a lot of lipstick, and expensive bras, and our best (black and pink and red) fancy clothes, and we get on stage and we talk about our vaginas. And about womanhood, and about rape and violence and pleasure. We act out orgasmic moans on stage and this is as important as any march or protest sign.
In some ways this is even harder. For me it is easy to be ugly and outraged. It is much harder to be beautiful and happy. It is easier to complain about what’s bad than to celebrate what is good. When we (group of directors) did casting for the Vagina Monologues, we asked the cast members which monologues they were comfortable with, and people were overwhelmingly MORE comfortable with talking about death, rape, pain, Haiti, and New Orleans, than with pleasure, clitoris, affection, love, and orgasm.
I do not mean to break the world into a gender dichotomy, but I offer a tentative thesis that this is more of a female problem. Theology often reinforces it, because theology is still so steeped in the voices of the only people who were allowed to talk for millenia, men – who often don’t have this problem the way we do.
The problem is that we (women) are too willing to martyr ourselves, and even when we fight for our own rights and power, we end up martyring ourselves in the cause to liberate that very self we’ve just martyred. Oops.
Someone wanted to sing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in praise band last week, but I resisted that one. The chorus sings in jubilant tones that the “wonderful” cross “bids me come and die, and find that I may truly live.” This may be someone’s favorite verse, but for us, it is the very opposite of our message. Coming to die is the easy part, for too many women. We are raped every 90 seconds, we die every day, we deny ourselves at each meal, and we internalize this suffering as if it could somehow be our salvation. We swallow it every morning with our nasty medicinal protein shakes, and it goes down easy.
The hard part is to realize we are invited “to come and live.” To live, to breathe, to not apologize for the space we take up, to hunger, to demand justice, to want, to create. Christ came that we might have life, and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). And so we spit out that medicine of suffering and death, and claim our vocation: to flourish in spite of it all.
Sometimes we do this with arguments, books, debates, seven-point sermons. But sometimes we do it in narrative form. Instead of a counterargument, we tell a counterstory. A story about love and violence and no more violence, a story about how we have stopped hating ourselves and started loving, enjoying, taking pleasure in life. It is a radical statement to be beautiful and happy in the face of such suffering. In our makeup and dresses and artistry and song, we embody our faith – that God loves us, heals us, sets us free, and wants us to have that life abundant. We claim it now and step into it now.
We are giving up silence for Lent.
We will dare to be alive, instead.
More pics on picasa