In my experience, the people who plan these events make all kinds of assumptions about who I am as a woman. For starters, most assume I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom (and the best time of day for a meeting is, of course, 10:00 in the morning). They also seem to believe I enjoy making refrigerator magnets, spend most of my time thinking about fashion and chocolate, and can think of nothing better than getting away from my husband and kids (even though I’ve been at work all day) and hanging out with my "girlfriends." This isn’t me—at all.Later on, she says, "Why do so many of our women’s ministry efforts treat women as if they all have the same lifestyle, schedule, goals, affinity for June Cleaver, and penchant for pink roses? And why are we expected to call ourselves “girlfriends”?" (Go read the whole thing.)
This all rings so true. In college, I managed to avoid my all-girls floor retreat every year I lived in the dorms. I would go to the girls' fall retreat with the youth group during high school only because I led a bible study, and I had to go so the girls in my small group would. I went to the women's conference at Taylor my freshman year, just to see what it was like. It was OK... but, in general, I'm not a fan of events geared toward women.
There have been two notable exceptions, that I can think of. The retreat that most impacted me during high school (and possibly since!) was planned and run by three ladies that worked with the youth group. (As I write this, I realize all three ladies still hold a special place in my heart- and always have a big hug for me every time I see them around church!). The ladies put together a retreat for girls, but limited the number of participants for each weekend- which was a rare thing in such a large church and youth group. I signed up to go on the trip- it was early on in my freshman year, and the only other person going who I knew was a junior girl that I really looked up to. Well, she bowed out of the trip at the last minute, and I was pretty terrified. Did I mention I didn't like girls' events, especially when they were full of strangers?
Well, I went anyway. The retreat came at a time when I was really struggling with identity and body image (not so unusual for a 14-year-old girl starting high school) and the message presented over the weekend was just what I needed. We're princesses, they told us, Daughters of the King of kings (which I've written about before). Radiant, blameless, pure, and holy. That thought stuck with me through high school & college, till today.
The other wasn't a ministry event at all- it was a women-in-computing conference my senior year of college. I went on my own and was amazed at all the women that were just as interested in technology as I was (or more!). It was as if I was given permission to be myself- I could both discuss artificial intelligence research AND make a beaded necklace. It was OK to be feminine and smart.
At school, I hung out in the computer lab and had to be all about technology, all the time. If I went back to the dorm, I was expected to giggle about how hot Orlando Bloom was, or gossip about who might've gotten engaged this weekend... I don't fit in either world, totally. Since graduating, I've blossomed into Myself- allowed to pursue whatever I like, whether it be geeky or girly or liberal or conservative or whatever, and I'm loving it. I feel like I'm more of who God is making me to be.