When I'm Bad at Being a Woman

I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who isn’t ashamed of the unique gifts God has given to her, even when they don’t fit a feminine mold. I saw her smash snakes in our yard with a shovel, start campfires from scratch and scoop mucky leaves out of our gutters.

She worked full-time, part-time and sometimes not at all through my youth, and never seemed to hang her identity on how much she accomplished. Through it all, she said in actions and words to her husband, “I love you and respect you and trust you to lead our family.”

That, I have discovered, doesn’t come so easily to me.

I’ll have to admit that I have an ugly alter-ego who occasionally hatches out inside me and goes on a rampage. We call her The Female Terminator, or The Feminator.

The Feminator especially likes to show up in situations when I’m feeling unrecognized and undervalued. And she loves to blame it all on being a woman.

If you read the first couple chapters of This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling (go read them here now), you’ll get the sense that I was not having a very good year when I wrote it. How right you are.

I was lying in bed crying mid-morning, measuring myself up against everyone else to see how I could be cool enough, hating my un-amazing life and whacking a dishwasher with a butcher knife.

It was exactly the kind of year when The Feminator did a lot of sulking and shouting.

We were freshly returned from some of the best years of my life working some of my favorite jobs ever—then suddenly I was unemployed. While my husband was heading off every day to the best job of his life, I was working on a major writing project that quickly fell apart.

In the midst of all this, I had the stupid idea to write about the “Amazing Days” approach Adam and I tried to take in life. But had I been asked how “Amazing” I felt on a scale of 1 to 10, I would have been at a negative 17.

For the first months of the project, I was sitting around at home all day deciding what topics the book should cover, agonizing over hard lessons God was teaching me that went into the book, and writing the book proposal followed by the bulk of the book itself. Oh, and I was also not getting paid at that point.

Yes, to give credit where credit is absolutely due, my husband did also write a lot of the book. We traded every chapter back and forth numerous times, writing pieces of each other’s chapters and providing feedback every step of the way. But he got to go off to work every day and feel good at something. And he got paid for something.

The Feminator stayed home all day, with no pay, simmering beneath the surface, waiting for opportunities to whine. She started connecting dots and saying life’s not fair and never will be when you’re a woman.

Why am I the one spending more time with our kids (even though I like my life that way)? Why am I the one getting paid less (even though at times I’ve been paid more)? Surely there must be some kind of systemic injustice here, even though Rational Me says otherwise.

We submitted the book manuscript with my name first on the cover because I wrote a couple more chapters of it. And when it came back with Adam’s name first, my head started shooting off roman candles. Adam graciously wrote back to the publisher and said, “Chrissy wrote most of it, so please put her name first.”

Then a few weeks later, when the book went through another round of edits, it showed up again with his name first. Maybe it was somebody being alphabetical, or liking the sound of his name first, or a subconscious slip that had nothing to do with being a boy or a girl.

And anyway, as my 9-year-old Phoebe wisely reminded me, “Mom, it doesn’t matter whose name is first.”

But The Feminator was busy going berserk. “What’s the deal? Are they misogynists? Am I not enough?” The Feminator contemplated throwing tables across the room. “What do I need to do to get credit for my hard work? Do I need to get a $50 hair cut? Or to friend another hundreds of people on Facebook? Or morph into a man?”

The Feminator is not a very nice person to be around.

When The Feminator shows up, the best thing to do is shut the door and open a Bible. Fast.

So I did that.

I got down to the business of asking, “What does make me valuable, if not proving to the world what a woman can do?” What can I tell The Feminator to hold her in her seat instead of using a shouting match or throwing grenades to convince the world that she matters?

So I read stuff like this: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

And this: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

There’s this great word “grace” that tells me two things that might seem contradictory. First, I learned that The Feminator can shut up because all her accomplishments are not all that impressive in the grand scheme of things anyway. And, second, grace teaches me that my life is totally worthwhile and full of gifts to offer the world.

Put those two pieces together.

In some divine alchemy, you get wonderful freedom.

Grace says you don’t have to wave an angry fist at the world screaming, “Why don’t you see how awesome I am!” Grace says you are plenty awesome just because God made you. Grace says, “Look around, these people are awesome, too, and that doesn’t threaten you.” And most importantly, grace says God is the awesomest, and any awesomeness we have pales in comparison. But the awesomest God made us able to do some awesome things with our lives just because he loves us.

Adam tells me that Feminator flare-ups aren’t unique to women. Maybe you’ve got your own armed, rebel, robot alter-ego who bursts out now and then when you’re tempted to believe people are undervaluing your awesomeness.

How do you deal with those moments? How have you dealt with times when the world seems to be saying you’re worth less or simply worthless?

19 Comments

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Nanr42 commented…

I think you're right, Maylin, but I think there needs to be a balance. That would be true for non-Christians and Christians. I get very angry at injustice aimed at others and at me. And yet, I follow Jesus. I heave sighs and look at the injustice he went through. I don't feel guilty so much as "Rats. I don't get to go postal." But I definitely do get to deal with the injustices another way, not ignore them.

I like "Feminator." I think it gives that balance, to back up a few steps and learn to be angry and not sin. It's hard.

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Nanr42 commented…

I see what you mean, Abswitala, but I think it does matter whose name goes first, if that is what the authors specify. I think Christine made the point that squabbling over name placement wasn't the thing to do. The Feminator is not a personality she wants to be. Having tantrums over these things isn't ok, is what I got from the article. And so settling it appropriately is what actually happened.

Brandi G Brown

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Brandi G Brown commented…

Ego is a giant problem for me too. Although it has nothing to do with me being a woman, I do assign that as a justification for expressing my anger or resentment. My issue is not really with them, it is with me and my insecurities. Why can't be satisfied with being A mom instead of demanding of myself to be THE mom, or insert any statement that I think I need to feel good about myself. I know that God made me just how he wants me and placed my just where he wanted me to play my part in his perfect plan. I believe that in my head but I don't always feel that in my heart. I needed this article. I especially love the verses shared. Thanks for sharing!

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Chezsmith115 commented…

Yes! Maylin: THIS! This!! This!!!
When anger or standing up is the "just" thing to do- why downplay it? I know that a name in order on a book doesn't warrant rage, but frustration that a repeated request went undone is not "crazy". It's rational. I have seen many women downplay their feelings, ambition, and talents to the point where a couple of my friends ended up taking 'nerve' pills for the stress of daily living.
Things I liked about this article: that it resonated, that it was rational and that the author tries to better herself when faced with these situations.
Things I didn't like about this article: "The Feminator" (being a feminist is NOT a bad thing; you can be a Christian and still believe in being treated equally regarding rights and social justice, to turn feminism into a negative is disempowering, imo), and "I feel" statements. Using "feelings" instead of "thoughts" can come across as weaker, because feelings come and go while the rational mind is often given more consideration due to less passive wording. Finally, and not trying to be rough- but please consider that not fitting a little pink mold DOES NOT mean one is "bad at being a woman". I'll be honest- I am glad I read the article, but almost didn't- because that was a horrible way to phrase the fact that you react a certain way or think outside the box. I am in fact quite similar-- and I don't believe I am "bad" at being a woman because I don't submit easily or shrink into the distance. Thanks

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Anonymous commented…

Thanks Maylin. Great points. I think you're right that there are definitely times when we need to get angry at injustice. Maybe the problem is that I very rarely see people use anger well, as what we could call "productive anger." Productive anger gets us moving to do something to fix the problem, even when it means carefully and graciously rooting down to the cause of the problem and getting there in a way that won't do more damage than good. Unproductive anger just wants to complain and hate somebody about it and "get even." Take a situation where a boss makes degrading comments about a female employee. You could spew out unproductive anger complaining about him to your friends every day and coming up with biting comments to shoot back at him. Or you could use productive anger to really consider, "What's making him think this way? How can I teach him to think differently? How can I address this directly and boldly in a conversation, and then go on being the best employee I can be so he sees he's wrong?" The Feminator is the impersonation of unproductive anger. My experience seeing people storm through life as Feminators is they end up just distancing and alienating men and making men feel like they have to work even harder to prove they're not wrong, which is not the end goal.

And thanks for your link. Incidentally I wrote some more on the topic here, too, about women struggling with the opposite of pride, which goes along with what you said about needing some ego.

http://www.intothemud.com/2012...

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