Not Ashamed of Modesty

Feminism constantly tells women we have no reason to be ashamed of our bodies, our desires, our gender, our career goals – of anything really. We can do and be whatever we want and nothing should hold us back. It sounds good in theory, but like many things humans do it can be taken to extremes.

Take the Women’s March from a few weeks ago as an example. If you want to march around with what one blogger I follow delicately called a pink taco on your head I won’t stop you. But those of us who don’t do things like that aren’t any less “women” than you are, nor are we less interested in being treated with dignity, respect, and equality. In fact, that’s a big reason we express our notions of feminism (and femininity) in different ways.

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Photo credit: “Day 68” by Quinn Dombrowski, CC BY-SA via Flickr

Today, I’m going to take society’s claim that there’s no need to feel shame about the kind of woman you are to heart and say I’m not ashamed of modesty. Depending on your background this word may have provoked a strong reaction. Perhaps you think modesty is a repressive, old-fashioned list of rules telling women how not to dress and act. Or maybe you think modesty sounds safe – a way to hide from attention you don’t want any more. But modestly is about so much more than a set of rules for covering yourself up. It’s more powerful and – dare I say it? – sexy than we often think.

Let’s start with a working definition of modesty: Modesty is concealing what you do not want everyone to know or see so that you can reveal yourself only to someone you trust. It’s typically associated with the idea of sex and how much skin you show, but it has to do with other things as well. For example, you might also exercise modesty by not calling undue attention to yourself or by reserving certain parts of your personality for people you know well. Continue reading

Don’t Hate Me For Rejecting Your Holiday

The season touted as “the most wonderful time of the year” is my least favorite. I’ve found a few things I can appreciate about December (BBC specials, Star Wars film releases, Hanukkah, sales on baking ingredients). But mostly the unrelenting holiday cheer blaring from radios and dripping from public locations tries my soul.

Even though I don’t keep Christmas I try not to be a Grinch about it (which, by definition, means a person “who is mean-spirited and unfriendly” and “spoils or dampens the pleasure of others”). If you wish me a “Merry Christmas” I’ll just smile and thank you. I might even appreciate it because I understand the sentiment behind your greeting. I’m certainly not going to launch into a rant about how much Christmas offends me or how insensitive you are to assume everyone keeps Christmas.

But for some reason, not enjoying/keeping Christmas  horrifies some people. In an age where people go nuts if someone tries to “cram your religion down my throat,” you can still be shamed for not keeping Christmas. And I think that’s weird. Don't Hate Me For Rejecting Your Holiday | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Here’s one example of people “grinch-ing” someone for not being Christmassy enough. Yesterday I saw an article from Young Conservatives critiquing the fact that the Obama’s final White House Christmas card doesn’t feature the White House and wasn’t explicitly Christmas related. “It’s basically a ‘Holiday’ card,” they wined, “because writing the word ‘Christmas’ would hurt too many feelings.” Apparently, their feelings were hurt by the leader of a very diverse country trying to cover all the winter holidays observed by the people he’s leading.

It’s not just articles from biased political sites about public figures. It’s the unrelenting Christmas music for a full month on the radio. It’s the pressure to enjoy the decorations and participate in the “spirit of Christmas.” It’s when you say don’t keep Christmas and someone shoots back “Couldn’t you just go caroling?” or “Don’t you love Jesus?”

I don’t really deal with much pressure to keep Christmas. Most of the people I attend church with don’t keep Christmas either (a few Messianics do, but most people I know gave up Christmas when they discovered God’s holy days). When people ask, I’ll explain why I don’t keep Christmas. Mostly, though, I just try to ignore it. But I still see people, mostly online, talking about Christmas and shaming those who don’t get into the seasonal spirit. I don’t care if you want to keep Christmas. I’d just like a little space peacefully not keep it without being bombarded with holiday cheer that makes me feel anything but merry.

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It Doesn’t Matter Who’s President. What Matters Is How You Act

So the election happened a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, one of our candidates won. We all knew it was going to happen. Most of us wouldn’t have been all that happy either way, plenty of people would have been scared and upset with either outcome, and some few would have been dancing for joy when their candidate won because they honestly thought they’d be a good president.

My title is a bit misleading, I suppose. It does matter who the president is because that impacts the future course of our nation, how other nations see us, and the policy that affects every day life for many people. But now that Donald Trump is president, we have to live with it. He won fairly according to the rules set up in our country. If Hillary Clinton had won, I’d be writing pretty much the exact same thing.

But though it does matter who’s president, it is shocking to see how many people are taking their candidate’s loss as a personal affront and the way they’re vilifying other Americans who disagreed with them. If you supported Trump, you’re therefore a racist misogynist who hates Muslims and women. If you supported Clinton, you’re therefore an air-head liberal not in touch with reality and careless of society’s moral decline. And on and on we go, painting people we don’t know with broad bush strokes according to how we view the candidate they supported.

That has to stop. We are not our political parties. We don’t always vote for someone because we agree with all their actions or every view they hold. (Just in case you’re wondering, I voted 3rd party because I couldn’t in good conscience choose either Clinton or Trump. My alternate plan was not voting at all.) Some people who voted for Trump did so because they preferred his policies even though they couldn’t stand his personal morals and don’t share the bigoted views that have been associated with his campaign. Some people who voted for Clinton did so because they thought she was the less-terrifying option or agreed with her policies, not because they wanted a female president at any cost or permission to slaughter babies.

But if you go out and use Trump’s election as an excuse to harass a young black woman walking at her college or suggest a Muslim woman hang herself with her headscarf, then you become exactly the type of bigot that scares non-Trump supporters. And if you sit in your dorm room sobbing until you vomit or march around shouting that he’s not your president because you didn’t get your way in the election, you become the self-entitled liberal that disgusts non-Clinton supporters.

How you and I choose to act in response to the election results has become so much more important than who won and who lost. If we want to hold our country and the new president to a higher standard, we must first start by holding ourselves to a higher standard. Don’t want to live in a country where people are harassed for how they look, think, or worship? Then don’t go around harassing people who disagree with you and stand up against such harrasment whenever you can. Dislike the idea of someone being thrown out of your country for speaking their mind or living life how they choose? Don’t threaten someone else’s liberties of expression and belief.

It’s become startlingly obvious to people throughout America that there are plenty of Americans who don’t agree with us. Yet we still have to live together. We need to find a way to disagree without attacking each other. We need to figure out how to work together for a more united society while still respecting others’ differences. And we need to give our new president a chance to live up to his promises to “bind the wounds of division,” “work together and unify our great country,” and “deal fairly with everyone, with everyone — all people and all other nations” as we “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.”

Whether or not you believe him is moot at this point. Encourage him to actually do it instead of pretending he’s not president. And meanwhile, remember to be the change you want to see in the world. Or, to quote Gandhi more directly, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Instead of adapting to the growing culture of hate, let’s dig deep inside ourselves and stand for goodness.

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Wanting Children While Single

You snuggle babies every chance you get, longing for the day when you might hold your own child. Or perhaps you don’t hold babies any more because the ache of wishing they were yours is just too much. That’s the kind of grief and longing we associate with women in relationships who want to have a child and can’t get pregnant. Yet this desire isn’t confined to women with a man in their lives whom they love.

I’ve always felt guilty for how much I sympathize with the barren women of the Bible. As far as I know, I could have children if I found the right guy to marry and it seems rude to compare myself with women who are physically unable to have children. It also seems out-of-order to long for children before meeting the man I’d want to be their father.

I’m not alone, though. A woman I met through this blog while working on The INFJ Handbook shared her desire for children by asking why so many children are born into broken families while we, who would make good moms, are left barren. Since then, I’ve come across other women who feel the same way. If you’re committed to not having sex before marriage and/or not having children without a man in your life, then single women can know the pain of empty arms that long to hold a child.

Cultural Back-lash

Longing for children is unpopular in today’s society. We’ve become so obsessed with the fact that women are more than “baby producing machines” that the notion of being a mother has becomes synonymous with female oppression. Instead of seeing motherhood as a beautiful thing that many women desire, we’re told kids should take a back-seat to your career, your other desires, and your empowerment as a woman. And if having kids is actually one of your top life goals? well, clearly you’re still living in the pre-feminism dark ages. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Men and Leadership

When people in the Christian churches talk about gender roles, it often ends up being a discussion about women and submission. If you’ve been keeping up with these discussions even a little, you’ve surely learned that good Christian women should view their role as a blessing. You’ve been told that submission isn’t a dirty word, but rather part of God’s ordained order for the church and the family. When we submit, we’re following the example of Jesus Christ and putting ourselves under His authority.

Even though I still hear ministers joke about how discussing submission will get them in trouble, I actually talk with very few women in the churches today who haven’t embraced, or at least acknowledge, the value of being a virtuous woman with a meek and gentle spirit. We might disagree on exactly what it looks like and we all still have much to learn about being a godly woman (though it really should be simple — a godly woman is a woman who’s following God), but we have a pretty good idea what our gender role is.

Let's Talk About Men and Leadership | marissabaker.wordpress.com

photo credit: “Father and son” by Lisa Williams, CC BY via Flickr

We talk about men’s roles in the church far less often. Women hear “submission is a good thing. It’s not always easy but it’s part of God’s plan and sometimes you just have to do it.” But how often do men hear, “leadership is a good thing. It’s not always easy but it’s part of God’s plan and sometimes you just have to do it”?

I wonder if one reason we over look this is because we don’t understand why they might not want to take on their role as head, lover, provider, and protector. Why wouldn’t men want to be the ones in charge? Isn’t it much easier to “love your wife” than “submit to your husband”? They should be thankful they get to be leaders in the family, that they’re the ones who hold public ministry positions. After all, that’s the role everyone wants. That’s why we have to talk about submission for woman so much, because otherwise she’d be trying to steal man’s role, right?

But don’t men try to steal woman’s role as well? Or, to phrase it differently, aren’t both gender’s tempted to shirk the responsibilities God has given us and avoid living up to His expectations? Continue reading

History Has Its Eyes On Us

I’m sitting here thinking, “What does one write on Independence Day when one is rather disappointed in the direction one’s country is headed?” Thousands of babies are being slaughtered, we just had the largest mass shooting in US history, there’s a systematized rejection of gender and acceptance of child abuse … the list goes on and on, and our presidential candidates aren’t making things look any better. I wonder if this is something like how Hamilton felt facing the election of 1800.

Except I’m not sure which of our current candidates is Burr in this analogy and which is Jefferson. I’m probably just going to not vote at all (side note: for some reason I’ve always felt uncomfortable with/guilty for voting, even though my church doesn’t teach against it. Weird, huh?).

Anyway, this isn’t going to be a depressing post! We’re celebrating Independence Day, and I’m quite certain the best way to do that this year is listening to the Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording. It’s on Amazon Prime, Spotify, YouTube — you have no excuse not to listen. Nor any excuse not to think about what you’re listening to.

Hamilton didn’t win 11 out of the record-breaking 16 Tony nominations just because it’s a run-away hit with a unique musical approach. The catchiest music couldn’t have sustained this level of success without a story that resonates deeply with fans. One of the many fantastic things about Hamilton is that it presents the founding father’s as real people. They’re not glorified by rose-eyed historical glasses or torn to shreds by an opposing historical perspective trying to vilify them. They’re just real men with a vision for the future and the necessary skills and commitment to found a country that is now celebrating its  240th birthday. Not too shabby a legacy. So what does that mean for us, real people today who have the chance to influence the course of history?

History Has Its Eye On Us | marissabaker.wordpress.com

A More Accurate Picture of America’s Ethnic Landscape

The only reason I would ever advocate casting with race in mind is for the purpose of historical or cultural accuracy. Now I’m re-thinking even that. A racially diverse cast works perfectly for Hamilton — America of today telling the story of America’s founding. And even though the individual characters’ casting doesn’t match the race of their historical counterparts, a racially diverse group working together to found our country is more accurate than most people think. Peter Salem (hero of the Battle of Bunker Hill), Prince Whipple (who fought alongside Washington), James Armistead (the double-spy who may have “won the revolutionary war”), Wentworth Cheswell (who rode to say “the British are coming” at the same time as Paul Revere) — they were all black, along with many other key figures in America’s founding.

Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler)

Renee Elise Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler, says that the most beautiful thing about Hamilton is that “it’s told by such a diverse cast with a such diverse styles of music. … We have the opportunity to reclaim a history that some of us don’t necessarily think is our own” (quote from Times article “Why History Has Its Eyes on Hamilton’s Diversity“).

One of the lines in Hamilton is “history has its eyes on me/you.” The founders knew what they were doing was going to make a mark on history, but this phrase can also be true of us today. Every generation has the potential to make its mark on history. Will future Americans look back on us and see a group of people who wouldn’t stand for white-washing of their history any more? or will they see us as complicit in maintaining the accepted historic narrative that all blacks were slaves and all whites were oppressors, even if that means marginalizing blacks who held influential positions at key points in American history?

Redefining The Moral Climate of Our Nation

One of the things Alexander Hamilton is known for is being involved in our country’s first political sex scandal. Perhaps this is one reason he was so often overlooked — he didn’t fit the squeaky-clean mold of a founding father that was popular in history books until very recently (now we seem to be going the other direction, trying to dig up as much dirt as possible on everyone. No one’s ever accused the human race of being balanced, have they?).

History Has Its Eye On Us | marissabaker.wordpress.com

In a post-Clinton age it seems strange to us that when Hamilton’s affair came out the immediate reaction was “Well, he’s never gon’ be President now” (though I’m sure in more historically accurate language). The idea of someone who cheated on his wife and openly confessed it becoming president was unimaginable. Hamilton himself down-played the seriousness of the affair, concentrating on proving he was a virtuous man innocent of the financial crimes he was accused of. Or, as he says in the play, “I have not committed treason, and sullied my good name.” He even wrote that he believed his wife “will approve, that even at so great an expence, I should effectually wipe away a more serious stain from a name, which it cherishes with no less elevation than tenderness. The public too will I trust excuse the confession” (read the full text of Hamilton’s Reynold’s Pamphlet here).

Committed treason he did not, but sully his good name Hamilton certainly did. “Hamilton’s reputation was in tatters,” an article from the Smithsonian says, “Talk of further political office effectively ceased.” Now, 219 years later, can you even imagine living in nation that expects moral behavior from its politicians? Or where the politicians themselves take responsibility for their own behavior? Hamilton was so worried about the possibility of a stain on his reputation that he confessed to an affair. And even though he did down-play its severity in light of the other charges, he still said of the affair, “I bow to the just censure which it merits. I have paid pretty severely for the folly and can never recollect it without disgust and self condemnation.”

It is one of my favorite things about the play Hamilton that Hamilton takes responsibility for the affair, acknowledging that he should have said “no to this.” It doesn’t absolve Maria Reynolds of her role in seducing a married man, but there’s “No Slut Shaming in Hamilton” either (<- that blog post is what prompted me to listen to Hamilton for the first time). Today, we don’t expect people in the public eye to even take responsibility, much less to hold themselves to a certain standard of morality. We’re scandal-hungry and ready to offer judgement on celebrity short-comings, but we don’t expect anything better. Perhaps this trend will continue until there’s no longer any such thing as a socially accepted moral standard, but I hope not. And when history turns its eyes back on us, will they see a generation sliding farther into cultural decay, or one that took a stand and said, “We expect better things of our role-models and leaders”?


There are plenty of other moral, social, and political issues we could discuss. If history’s eyes really are on America today, what would you like to see change for the better in our generation? financial disparity between rich and poor? the foster care system? environmental issues? whether or not to forfeit our second amendment rights? Please share your thoughts in the comments (bonus points for using Hamilton quotes)!