The Unifying Factor

When I started dating my husband, one of the hallmarks of our relationship was political banter. I think it’s one of the first things that attracted us to one another…and, also annoyed us. He was conservative. I was progressive. This was 2004, so there was no shortage of topics to discuss. Everything from war to abortion, presidential picks to corporal punishment, spanking to gun control. Neither of us was shy, and definitely not always tactful. But, we somehow came away still liking, and loving each other, even if he teased me by calling me a liberal feminist. There are worse things to be called. It was a tiny picture of what the world could be like if we allowed each other space to be who we are, and truly include one another.

My political mouth has certainly caused rifts in other places, mainly with family. My grandma always said that politics and religion should be off the table around family. Wise words, ones I’ve heeded more recently. Like many of us, I spent my early 20’s spouting off my beliefs as if anyone gave a shit. They didn’t. I thought I had something fierce to defend, something that was being attacked. The reality was that I probably just liked to hear my own voice and sound cool and progressive and smart. Age gives us the wisdom to shut our mouths more often.

While I’ve taken a quieter, softer way the past 10 years, most of my political leanings have remained the same; I’ve just been much better at discerning proper times to let those be voiced. Today is one of those times.

<Deep breath in><Deep breath out>

I am pro-life.

To my faith community, this will be no surprise; a welcomed belief in a group that has long stood up for the rights of the unborn, and even hung their hats on that singular issue (something else I have opinions on that I’ll reserve for another day).

To my yoga/everywhere else community, this may be a surprise; perhaps an unwelcomed belief that may threaten their own views of women’s rights and cause them to look at me differently.

I am pro LGBTQ rights.

To my faith community, this may be a surprise. It hasn’t been very safe to openly speak about your pro-gay rights views in the Christian church.

To my yoga/everywhere else community, this will be no surprise; a welcomed belief in a group that has long stood up for the rights of people groups that have been marginalized by the church (but, have also used this to judge church folks unfairly, an issue for another day).

I am anti-gun.

I am against the electoral college.

I am a non-partisan voter.

I am for universal healthcare.

I am pro-refugee.

I am pro-immigration.

I am a believer in climate change.

I am pro-creationism.

I am for legalization of marijuana.

I am a believer in God, and in Christ as the ultimate representation of God.

I am a believer that Truth is everywhere, and The Way is not singular.

I am a feminist.

I am a woman.

I am a paradox.

I am a human.

I am Love.

If you’ve read this far, you may be feeling a mix of cheers, boos and disbelief. So basically, you’re a human. And that is the whole point. Being human, supporting one another, living in community with one another does not mean that you have to agree 100% with the others around you. Love doesn’t have pre-requisites.

But, what inspired this entire post is, unfortunately, about some pre-requisites in the feminist community that really struck me as contradictory and judgmental, the very things that, in my understanding, these marches are against.

<Deep breath in> <Deep breath out>

Before you all go crazy and think me archaic and start questioning my above statement about being a feminist, give me a few moments to explain.

When the election happened and a Women’s March started being planned in D.C., I immediately told Jared I wanted to be there. I was fired up, still terribly disturbed by the insane rhetoric of our president-elect, and the shock that so many Americans found some way to justify giving him their vote. My more mature self suddenly gave rise to my younger, activist self and all I wanted to do was scream. A women’s march seemed like a good place to scream out all my frustration.

I knew I couldn’t make it to D.C., so I found myself considering joining our local march today. I had a couple friends ask if I was attending, invitations to join their groups and carry the signs. I felt included and heard. What we all want to feel.

I went back-and-forth yesterday, considering how I could rearrange my day to make it to the march, even if only for a short while. I thought about all the great posts we could make, laughing, standing up, uniting. It sounds magical, really.

During a conversation with Jared, he asked if I was OK getting lumped in with people stepping onto a firm pro-choice platform. I was fine with that, and still believed, idealistically, that the march was more about the basic premise of inclusion, feeling empowered to speak out about who we are, and unify, even if some of our ideas differed. We’re all still pro-woman, pro-human, pro-love, right?

Then, it all changed. The pro-life feminists were not allowed to partner with the Women’s March. They could attend, of course, but they would not be recognized as a partnering organization because the Women’s March had a platform that was pro-choice. In my mind, this stopped being about unity, and became a political agenda.

I’m not upset about individuals being pro-choice. But, if you call something a Women’s March, and claim to want to include anyone in support of empowering women, AND you’re speaking out against judging others for what they believe, then you shouldn’t be leaving out a group of women that have the same rights to march as you do.  If this is a pro-choice march, fine. I get it. But, it’s not. It’s a women’s march: Women for gay rights, pro-life, pro-choice, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, those with kids, those without, those that never want to have children, republican, democrat, U.S. citizen or not, etc. The whole point is that all women, and all people deserve a voice.

<Deep breath in><Deep breath out>

I am fired up.

As a mother to a daughter, I feel passionately about guiding her towards feeling empowered to be exactly who she is, even if her beliefs differ from mine. Most likely, she will grow to develop her own views, but those are not the things that define her. She is defined by her humanity, her Love.

I will continue to raise her believing that she is not any less a woman if she is an evangelical Christian, or an agnostic. That she is not any less of a woman if she has 10 kids or 0. That she is not any less of a woman if she takes her spouses last name, or keeps her maiden name. That she is not any less of a woman if she gets married, or chooses to be single. That she is not any less of a woman if she believes in birth control, or not. That she is not any less of a woman if she is gay, or straight. That she is not any less of a woman if she chooses to have a successful career, or to be a successful stay-at-home-mom. That she is not any less of a woman if she chooses to have a natural birth, or be induced. That she is not any less of woman if she has sex before marriage, or waits. That she is not any less of a woman if she votes conservative, or liberal. That she is not any less of a woman because she dresses feminine, or is a tomboy. That she is not any less of a woman if she likes sports, or doesn’t. That she is not any less of a woman if she cooks, or loathes it. That she is not any less of a woman because she speaks her mind, or chooses to keep her thoughts to herself. That she is not any less of a woman if she has big boobs, or an A cup. That she is not any less of a woman because she decides to cut her hair, or keep it long. That she is not any less of a woman because she’s thin, or heavy. That she is not any less of a woman if she gets a college education, or not. And never, never is she any less of a woman if she chooses to be pro-life, or pro-choice.

The biggest mistake those that headed up the Women’s March made was to start defining what it means to be a valid woman in our society, that somehow I am anti-woman if I’m anti-abortion (and here, I’d call to mind what the original suffragists and feminists believed, if you’re really going to go that political route). I am not marching just to be put back into another box defined by a few key issues. I was going to march AGAINST being defined by anything else than that I am a Human, I am a Woman, and I am Love.

While I won’t be marching, I still stand in solidarity, in hope that we all can keep learning from each other, keep moving forward with grace, patience and understanding; that no one, no matter where they come from or what they believe, is less than anyone else. We are called to Unity-and the greatest unifier isn’t our political platforms; it is our Love.