In preparation for this Saturday’s pijamada (slumber party), I’ve just started reading Mentiras que las jóvenes creen (Lies Young Women Believe)**, which we’ll be discussing with the chicas.

I’ve only read the introduction and chapter one, but it just made me so angry.

During the discussion session at our last SIM team meeting (which I facilitated), we looked at the buenaventuranzas (the Beatitudes, Matthew 5) as a set of essential characteristics for servants of God. Focusing on the first four, I asked the other missionaries to consider which trait was most fully developed in them, and which trait they needed to work on most.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,                   (humility, total dependence on God)
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,        (deep compassion and true concern and care for others)
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,                     (gentleness, ability to control their strength)
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

For myself, I think the last of the four is the strongest in me. There was definitely an element of hungering and thirsting for righteousness in some of the work I was doing back home, in my interest in social justice. Yet I think I have felt this even more in the last few weeks here – and primarily as a result of talking with some of the women and hearing about what they have suffered.

These conversations – juxtaposed with the locura that is the coronation of the all the reinas (beauty queens) last month – have reminded me of my own personal experiences. Whilst I count myself fortunate and give thanks to God for protecting me, I cannot deny that there are some not-so-great things that have happened to me too. The one (big) upside of this is that I can truly understand what other women go through, and I recognise that many people (especially men, but also other women who haven’t been through the same things) are really still in the dark about these issues. There are so many misconceptions.

An example. The other day at one of the September fiestas, I was being hassled by a dirty old drunk guy. Nothing particularly unusual or frightening about that, it comes with attendance at these things. I told him repeatedly I didn’t want to dance with him and I even walked away, but he followed me and continued to harass me. J was nearby talking to another friend and didn’t do a thing; eventually R (a friend of J’s) came and took me over to sit with his family. Later I told J I would’ve appreciated some help that night, and asked him if he even realised what was happening. His answer I think is straightforward and yet so interesting and telling:

“Yes, but I think you are independent, and you know what you want and what you don’t want.”

I suspect many really decent guys would’ve thought the same way. Thank you, feminism.

The funny thing is that growing up, I never saw the fact of my sex and gender as being very important at all in my identity. For a long time I saw myself as Christian, Australian, independent, etc, before I saw myself as being female, let alone feminine.

Looking back, I now realise that is not the case. Although I didn’t admit or accept it at the time, I have been conscious of being female, at least since I was seventeen. Conscious in the sense that it influences my behaviour in different contexts.

This led me to pick up a Christian book about being a woman – something I normally stay clear of! It’s called God’s Design For Biblical Women: Biblical womanhood for today, by Sharon James. I don’t agree with everything in it, but reading it definitely got me to reflect on this whole issue of who God has made me to be.

*Here’s the pop culture reference: ‘I Am Woman’ by Helen Reddy.

**By Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh (2008, Moody Publishers).

Header image: Diao Darius (added 2023).

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