I am a woman.
This might, at times, be easily overlooked: I’m not girly, I don’t bat my eyes or flirt coyly, my cooking sucks, and it takes a lot of encouragement to get my cleavage any air time (Beth had to engineer an entire shopping trip, force me to buy “cute shirts,” then nag me for a month before I would wear them). Most of all, I don’t shy away from discussion and debate, and, for the most part, I know what I’m talking about when I jump in.
Still, I am a woman.
My friends are men.
Well, for all intents and purposes, I call them “boys,” though I recognize my hypocrisy in the matter, insisting as I do on being referred to as a woman instead of “girl,” “chick,” or the ultimate offense, “chick-woman.” And it’s not entirely true: I share a weird and wonderful connection (birthed from a shared love of football and our families’ penchant for the Hampton Inn) with a certain post-modern pilgrim. Seven out of ten of the Received Calls on my cell phone are from women I love dearly. But they are far from me, unavailable for floor-sitting sessions.
Even here in the ATL, a majority of my time is spent with Beth: cooker of pot-roast, lover of asymmetry, master of spontaneity and perhaps the most girl-y female friend I’ve had. She loves flowers, beauty, poetry and thrives on providing hospitality and making people comfortable. But she displays Gloria Steinem’s books prominently on her shelf and has no qualms about speaking up to defend the poor and the oppressed, to champion women’s rights or insist that chick flicks have value. She is both cute and in charge.
The rest of this makeshift, rag-tag family that we’ve put together, though, is made up of boys. I love them all; don’t misunderstand me. They are brilliant, hilarious, loyal and appreciative, the lot of them. They are (it’s true!) lower maintenance than my female friends - unconcerned with such extraneous things as combing their hair, having more than one shirt and tie to wear to work, or putting a polite spin on a difficult observation. They dismiss pretense and small-talk, getting right to the core with their implication-laden theological comments and piercing humor. They are the friends I hoped to find here.
Why, then, should it be so problematic that I am a woman?
The answer is, of course, that on most days, in most moments, it isn’t. We are friends, we are some kind of family, and we go about our living. But our living is thinking about theology – that is what we do. Theology, linguistics, literature, philosophy, and whatever else gets thrown into the mix. Our living is examining the implications of metaphysical claims.
The simple truth is that I, as a woman, think differently than they, as boys (okay, men) do. Be it social convention, genetic difference or distinctive spiritual orientation, the way I approach things and the responses I have to certain claims are different. I can pretend they’re not, play the masculine argument game and be a part of the discussion, or I can opt out, keep my feminine observations and alternatives to myself and let them go on in the never-ending attempt to duke it out. In those few moments where the fact that I am a woman does matter, when it is problematic, there is no third alternative.
There is no third alternative.
But I’m unwilling to continue choosing the first, and too stubborn and arrogant to practice the second.
I am a woman.
I might be a feminist. I might feel marginalized. I might be one of the exalted poor and oppressed. I might crave power. I might be forsaking the inherent good of the female in refusing the two available options. I might be wrong. I don’t know.
What I know is that I am a woman. And I am frustrated.