Monday, August 25, 2008

My library presentation... It's a little wordy but I still agree with most of it :-)

Is there a place for the Feminine Mind in the 21st century?
By Jen Stuck
Occasion: panel on biblical manhood and womanhood.

I have chosen to present my paper, not as a definitive, all- encompassing thesis, but as the beginning of a discussion, these following pages illustrate nothing so strongly as my own opinions and contemplations. I was raised in a very cerebral culture, thriving on rationality and logic. I was trained throughout high school to think of myself as occupying a place within a ranking system based on nothing but my capacity for intellectual reasoning. The only concessions made to gender were the separate changing rooms in the gym. Gender was a purely physical, sexual distinction. You, as an individual, were far more than your genital make-up. Your choices concerning sexuality had become as casual and as un-defining as your choices of restaurants. Yet in my home, an ideal more familiar to American Christianity was held up for us to follow. The concept Man and Woman as taught in my culture and school, and the concepts raised in my home were as different as night and day. Upon moving to the states, and interacting with American Christians, I became even more confused. I began to realize that the notions I hold concerning such terms as “man”, “woman”, ‘Femininity” and “masculinity” had never been accurately and thoughtfully defined. Those teaching me about them were simply extrapolating from their own personal worldview, without questioning the validity of their stance. I needed to investigate this topic so as to have a valid opinion concerning it. In essence, I found that I had been filtering what I perceived to be biblical views of gender through my culture. I had to question the foundational beliefs of my own psyche and found that although I had always thought I lived a Christian life, my perceptions of the world around me had been formed in ways contrary to the scriptures both within the church and within the secular culture around me. The conclusions I have come to I hope to accurately convey to you in this presentation. Since I am a woman, I will focus predominantly on femininity. It is, after all, what I know best. The evolution of the thoughts concerning male/female interaction throughout history will serve as my rather long introduction to the topic of biblical femininity. I have focused on a few salient historical points on which to string a thread of cause and effect, acknowledging always that no single cause, outside of God, is responsible for a single effect.

When asking the question “What is Biblical Femininity?” we are presupposing things that we shouldn’t. Are we confident that we know what femininity is, and that there is a clear model for it in the bible? Is it that simple? The 21st century is the first in which even the physical differences between the genders have been called into question. The age of complete artificial environments and stimulants has made the common functions of the body obsolete. Us moderns can now with impunity add or remove any body part we wish, trying on something exotic for size. Yet upon contemplation, as much as we would like to fool ourselves into thinking that the body does not affect the Geist within, that it is a toy we can manipulate at will, we must acknowledge that the body does indeed influence and regulate the mind in myriad ways, some of which we, perhaps, have not yet fathomed. I think that this point is the beginning of all discussion of gender, the human body being the most obvious, as well as the ultimate test of gender. The sparest of definitions of gender will give you that males produce semen and women posses a womb and eggs. There is more of course:
A woman lives cyclically, bound to her menstruation cycle. She lives in a continuing repetition of the same events, her body going through distinct changes with each ovulation, incubation and final expulsion. At the end she knows, no matter how painful, that she will be facing the same events in three week’s time. If she is sexually active, each time she copulates, she stands a chance of spending the next 9 months with symptoms quite similar to suffering from a stomach bug, a fever and allergies all rolled into one. A woman is never free from chemical imbalances stemming from changes taking place within the body. She exists in a repeating pattern, one she learns to recognize and work around. She is at the mercy of her body in a way a man is not. Without this cyclical connection, a man can view his body as a tool, separate and in subjugation to his thoughts, plans and goal. These very different approaches to the body can and, I believe, should be complementary.
Historically, from these differences the classic division of labor springs up. In its basic, primitive stage, civilization has always recognized the complimentary aspect of the male and female. Within sexual relations the female receives, conceives and nurtures, the male approaches and provides. The sheer practicality of this is instinctively felt, as one looks at the needs and capabilities of these people living so precariously in balance with nature. Any disturbance or deviance would result in obliteration. A woman, who will spend most of her active years pregnant or nursing, will take on tasks closer to home, because a large belly or small child would seriously hinder the more active tasks of hunting and defending. The gender roles are based primarily on the physical differences between the genders, and are geared towards satisfying the primary needs of mankind, shelter, food and procreation. Each culture and climate zone will have different roles for the male and female, which may contradict cross-culturally, but within their own community there will be a strong differentiation between genders, with tasks and traditions allotted to one, which is taboo for the other. The concept of a woman being inherently and completely a woman, and as such foreign and incomprehensible to men (and vise versa) can be seen in the many shamanistic rituals and taboos concerning childbirth, placenta, menstrual blood, and semen. This agrarian, primitive pattern continued until the birth of cities and their industries.

The Industrial revolution moved people from the small tradition-filled communities to the cities, transformed them from agrarian to urban. With the institution of the mills and factories, men and women were reduced to workers for the machine. The rapid rate of invention created another, stronger division than the gender division. Man versus woman becomes man versus machine, woman siding with man, united in their sameness instead of in their differences, against the machine. Women not having the same abilities, physically, as men do, combined with their propensity to still beget children, damaged their chances in the new urban work centers. They became relegated to the home, while the man went out to become the principle breadwinner. The complimentary relationship built up in the primitive and agrarian society turns into a dependant one. On the intellectual level, the enlightenment blurs the distinctions between men and women by creating the Human Being, which is defined by one entity, the mind. Descartes introduces his mind/body division. The new age of thinking views the body as something less real than the mind, and in right relations subjugated to it. It becomes a prop, even a mirage, rather than a fundamental part of the whole. As such one should cultivate the mind and discipline the body. Since women have a far more symbiotic relationship with their bodies, they must struggle harder to free themselves. The age of intellectual enlightenment ends with women being both positionally and essentially degraded to the level of a child. In the working class, she is barred from earning the same wages as a man, and is sloughed off to supporting role, adding small earnings to the steady wages of the man. In upper society, if they are inclined to study, they are to assist the dominant men in their lives. To hide their learning and to pretend ignorance is the highest mark of feminine modesty and it would have been expected of her to do so to maintain the dignity of her family. (Incidentally the terms used to praise this false modesty are often the same terminology the modern church unwittingly uses to teach biblical femininity. Serving others, modesty, a gentle spirit, the terms are loaded with years of misuse and misrepresentation and before they are so freely used by Christians they should be unpacked of their historical baggage, considering that the first time these phrases are heard by many is in connection with the suffragist movement)

At this point in history, instead of restoring the balance, by elevating their sex to a counterpart with equal status to men, women chose to assert themselves within a masculine setting. Fixating on the body as the most glaring difference, women began to dress more masculine, tying down their breasts and bobbing their hair. Intellectually, they masked their femininity and joined the ranks of Wall Street and Capitol Hill. Determined to prove their equality, they gave up their uniqueness in the process. With this desperate bid for sameness, women disconnected from their bodies. Contraceptives are created that free women from childbearing, allowing them the freedom to sleep around, again leveling out the playing field. The body becomes fully disconnected from the mind within popular culture, and form no longer dictates function. This creates a homogeny since when creatures are all mind (or all will) the vessels that carry them loose their importance. The human, physical body becomes a thing of shame, not because it is sinful but because it is a reminder of a previous evolutionary stage, it is primitive and crude. As such the only feelings relegated to it are primitive and crude. Having a female or a male body no more indicates capacity, as any other form of physical distinction. The phrase so often repeated today, “Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean…” shows that the concept of complimentary gender roles is completely obsolete. In today’s society the gender differences have become so unnecessary to survival or even superficial contentment that they are often forgotten. Any obsolete gesture that would draw attention to it has to be prefaced by explanations and apologies. Since people are thinking from a platform of complete equality the statement weaker than directly translates to lesser than. To today’s woman that statement is unacceptable, woman is no more or no less than the man and no different from him. Gender characteristics are a matter of personal choice and should not be catered to unless the individual has given you permission to. I am not disagreeing with the importance of woman; I am simply trying to readjust the lens through which this importance is viewed.
As much as the rights of the individual should be valued, the implication that each person is completely free to follow his or her own volition in every life choice is a little absurd. However, this is the worldview that is widely held in the west. Without a direct confrontation with this ideology, which is often unconsciously held by many Christians as well, Christianity will only insert it’s worldview on top of this basis, causing confusion and unnecessary, but understandable hurt. The church’s ideas are still derived from a pre industrial society and regardless of the truth value of that position; it does not translate without careful thought into the modern setting.
Traditionally Christianity has held an ambivalent stance on women. From its initial founders, throughout history, Christianity has been identified as a firm proponent of women’s rights. They have found in the church a place to express themselves with freedom, and even on occasion to gain power. Christianity is inherently concerned with liberation and personal growth. Christ died to allow the Godhead to enter into a personal union with the human creature, regardless of sex, culture or political affiliation. Yet why is it that the modern attitude of the church seems to repress women, and hold them back, rather than encourage them in their gifting?
There is a disconnect between understanding Womanhood and understanding its cultural functioning. Our Christian understanding of a woman’s place seems unsatisfactory in the light of the mind-centered, individualistic society we live in today. Yet, as Christians we believe that we are made in the image of God.”Man and woman he made them” indicates that neither man nor woman, but both combined serve as the image of God. In other words woman are made in God’s image in a different way than man is. This gives us validity and uniqueness, in our own right.
The word used for helper used to describe eve is used only for one other character in the bible, namely the Holy Spirit. When we look at the trinity, I can’t help but wonder if we are given Jesus as a masculine and the Holy Spirit as a more feminine character of God. If so then both are equally represented within the Trinity.
I realize that I have as yet to mention a single bible verse in relation to the information I have so profusely shared with you. In truth, I cannot as yet tell you what biblical Femininity looks like. I can only encourage you to question the very premises upon which your concepts of male and female, masculine and feminine are built. The first and fundamental step would be to understand that masculine and feminine are facts. They are truth statements of each individual. They are not relationships. One cannot be feminine in one relationship, and masculine in another. The concept gender involves the whole mind/body spectrum of human nature, experiences, memories and relationships. They are not externals, they influence externals. As such there is no such thing as a man’s job, or a woman’s job. The job might be done 300 times better by a male, the job in and of itself carries no signifiers except those placed there by culture and habit. The question then becomes not “Is this my role?” but “Is this true to my God-given nature?”
Men and women physically different, mentally different, emotionally different, yet equal.
No one in this room would argue against that. Christian community understand this difference, traditionally, yet it often neglects the very pressing reality that our world is not a Christian one, and that the basic premises of equality and value which are assumed by those addressing male and female interactions in a Christian sense, are not understood by my generation. The church is filled with confused people who hold to a post-modern, relational mindset, yet espouse modern Christian ideals. The tension brought on by being so essentially divided is stunting the growth of many Christian women. What needs to happen is a separation of the biblical truths from a framework that is anchored in time and as such obsolete. The roles of men and women in relation to each other have always been culturally defined. We need to form a clear understanding of what exactly our culture is defining concerning male and female. We must each suspend for a moment our preconceived notions and beliefs as we look to map out what exactly these are. As such I believe biblical femininity to be the understanding that as women, regardless of culture, there are strengths and weaknesses we posses innately. It is not our concern as women to look to the men to exhibit godly lives and examples. Neither is it our concern to critique them when these are lacking. Rather, I think it is time for women to understand that they have their own relationship with their creator, for which they are responsible. They are to work out their own salvation in fear and trembling, realizing that there is a pattern, divinely inspired, on which to base their lives. It is not one of competition with or reliance upon the male gender, but one of prayerfully stretching oneself to fit the divine design. Not exploring and understanding my design as a women would be showing a disrespect for my creator. Hence the title of my paper “Is there a place for the feminine mind in the 21st century?” There is if I create it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I signed up for arabic today. I still need to prove that I'm a resident of these parts, but once I do that, I will be free to go and become part of the academic comunity again. S and I are really looking forward to being students again.
The RCC campus is much different from the Nyack one, in that it is new and huge and very much designed for the scholastic functions designated to it. There is also a pool, so I am hoping very much that we will be able to get at least a weekly workout in. this fall I will once again dissapear into business. With working 40 hours a week it will be more difficult to manage, but I also realize that this is real living. this is my life and if I don't take the chances offered me, I will regret it later anyways. So I'd rather regret knowing I tried. I've also realized that I sometimes wait because I don't want to miss the oppertunities that might be coming, by comiting to something now. I am older and wiser and so I would rather have the bird in the hand.
Speaking of older. my birthday was pretty spectacular, especially since I get so down going into them. the whole let's go eat worms thing hits pretty hard. But saturday S, L and I headed into the city and had lunch in grand central station foodcourt. I've never been down there, but the food is excellent. It's a very high end foodcourt type deal. I had a very homemade soup and sandwhich which was very tasty. Then we walked up to central park to meet with friends for a concert. It was a very interesting free experimental concert which meant two out of three of the bands were mostly good. For the first time at a concert I was able to put my head back and close my eyes and just listen and enjoy the experience. (usually I am fainting or something) after the concert the three of us headed towards union square and the belgian dinner I had planned
there's a belgian waffle cart that is actually run by a belgian (although the only times I've been there I've seen a marokaan which is still authentic, I guess) so reall waffles. they were not as good as the ones you get in belgium, but they past muster. we then walked down to Pommes Frites and got belgian frites for dinner. Yummy.
Then S and I took a train to friends of ours and spent the night. well, we stayed up until 2 talking about books and life and music. They are some pretty cool people. We then drove to church with them in the morning and then in the afternoon cleaned the appartment. in the evening friends came over, and since they were on the hallelujah diet, they cooked dinner. beans, plantains, couscous and salade. it was pretty filling. we then sat around and played games and had fun. I played them some Eddie Izzard and we had fun with the La sange est sur la branche!
All in all, a good weekend. I also was taken out to diner by a friend and taken to a thrift store. so much fun!
So I've been reading Carl Jung and about the subconcious and it's taught me a valuable lesson: people project subconciously. I knew this, but the point Jung made hit very close to home. He was describing a patient who had isolated himself from everyone but could only see the world as a cruel place, working against him. I recognized myself in that, quite a bit and it scared me. Especially when he, at age 40, was brought to say that he couldn't admit that he'd been wrong since it meant he'd wasted the best part of his life. I don't want to do that. I want to live life and live it well and full and large.
I want to work hard, but not out of a sense of inadequacy, and I want to enjoy the moment, not just because I'm afraid that the next will cost me. I'm tired of living niggardly ( I wonder what the root of that word is, and if it's PC) because I want to hoard life.
So's that's me at 24.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

a week one

Last night we watched the opening olympic ceremony. I was not even aware that the opening ceremony was that intense. Way to go china! It seems that there was an uneasy tension that everyone was ignoring by being way too happy about little stuff. I'm not up on enough of the world news to really understand the politics, but I was pretty sure china's not number one hero at the moment. When all the countries walked in to the stadium, waving their flags, I wondered what all the pageantry meant. Was it really an oppertunity to extend the hand of peace, in the name of sports? because if it was, then I almost unbelievingly applaud the effort. But I can't help think of all the money and sponsorships that went into it, and all the commercials and "special olympic deals" I wonder if they are trying to merge peace with consumerism. Which is a scary though. Peace can be found more readily in living simply and knowing your neighbours, than in shutting out the world and buying more things.
problem is the pictures to big. There's always justification for different sides.
hmm. anyways.
How was my week?
well. I can't really remember my week that well. I know that last sunday I went to church with a friend other than my roommate, which was strangly enjoyable. I also took a sketch pad with me and crayons (the reasoning being that they don't get on the carpet) and instead of singing, I sat on the floor in the back and drew pictures. I always wanted to draw when I worshiped. I'm not sure why. and I think it's the main reason I enjoy doing it is because I don't question it like everything else. in singing I wonder if I'm hittting the notes right or I'm enjoying hitting them right. In drawing I let go and wonder. It's allot of fun, because often I just queit myself and listen to the song, or just wait, and then I see a colour, or a shape, and I draw it, and move on from there, there's no structure, just a picture and a reason that's not quite clear as I'm drawing. I love looking at the finished drawing and seeing a story there. some of them are inexplicable, some of them are quite clear. Last week I drew a tree branching up into the sky, no leaves and the oceans of the world were pouring down into it's roots. It was at the center of the world with stars in it's branches and the rising sun coming up behind it. Once I saw the finished picture, I knew that this was a promise. (it ties in with biblical promises G-d makes, but it was sort of like the big picture for my personal life)
There were no leaves on the branches yet, but there would be. I like that, when it applies to my life. (although it's not very botanically accurate)
after church I must have talked to everyone, got roped into helping with the costumes for their productions. got talked into going to New York. It was fun.
Then R and I went shopping which was even more fun.
The rest of the week is a blur, I only know that tuesday my computer arrived, my little baby computet that is so addorable and functional! I've been monopolizing it ever since. Which would be a lot more impressive if it wasn't just me anyways. I'm on the porch right now with the trees all around and music playing in the background. I get quite distracted writing these little notes, and I forget that these are for you all to read, not just me talking to myself. I like that I can just ramble on, but I know I should be more sensible as to what and how and where and all that jazz. My friend K from pensylvania came and spent the weekend with me. She and I used to work at Starbucks together and she graduated Nyack years before me.
We had fun, talking to people. dragging her to meet my friends.
You know, I like people one on one. I like groups, but not very often. I like to get to know people on their own. It makes for a much more intesive upkeep program I tell you. It would be easier to have one group and hang out with different parts of it all the time, but I don't think it really gives me the human connection we all so desperatly are looking for. The sad thing though, is when you get people alone, and you spend enough time with them, they let their guard down and show you how confused and worried they are. To much time in that mode, and you need to hang out with a group just to cheer yourself up. I think that's why we're communal people, and why we "should not forsake the meeting with brothers" because in a group we remember happiness and alone, we remember that life is an uphill struggle. hmm.
E told me that the happiest group of people (the most balanced emotionaly) were those who woke up each morning and set aside a time to share their dreams with each other. This gave them an opportunity to share, and it gave their friends an opportunity to comment on what they had dreamed, bringing insights into it that hadn't been available to the dreamer.
I like it. I'd be willing to give it a shot. Anyways, I better post this before it takes to much longer.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

teakettles and pasta

As I was cleaning my room today, (which incidentally, included me installing a shoe rack on the back of my closet door, that can now hold two thirds of my shoes. 18 pairs. you do the math) I was listening to Beck and as I had never listened to them before I was listening more intensly than I usually do. They're pretty good, and slightly odd in an aw, how cute, fashion. At one point I was admiring their seemingly flawless merging of everyday sounds with the customary drums and guitars. I was trying to identidy just how many strange sounds they were creating, when I realized that the striking background violin high notes, were in fact not comming from my stereo, but from the kitchen fornuis, where I had left my teakettle to sing to itself in ever increasing intensity. Unfortunatly for it, it was vibrating on the same pitch as my music of choice at the moment.
Once again I am amused at my fuzzy headedness in the kitchen.

Last night I managed to burn pasta. Yes, I know, this is a new height even for me! It got a headpat and a look of awe from my roommate. Considering how well I've been doing, this is a healthy reminder that I can, when not paying attention, blow the lights out on the microwave and decorate the opposing wall with egg yokes. One of many stories.
Apparantly when one leaves spaghetti sitting half in the water, and half out, the part that it not in the water, will touch the hot metal pan and recoil, but only after it has turned a loverly shade of black.
Didn't affect the tast to much though.
I'm on a big herb kick at the moment, putting fresh basil in almost everything I eat. I bought some fresh fruit at the village market (which is a store. I know, it always sounds like small tents should be involved) and so's I've been quite au natural these last few days.

on the accademic side, I'm debating as to wether to take two classes or one this fall. I want to pursue a second bachelors while I'm here. I could do most of the classes on my free tuition deal from the school, but I don't want to fry my brein. On the other hand, perhaps I could use some stimulation.
I can't wait untill school starts again. The summer has been fun and has flown by. Asides from learning my job as I go, and not feeling at all trained or adeqaute at it, I've had a good time. But I will very much enjoy the people rushing through the building and stopping in to talk and music pouring from all the rooms again.