Throughout history, women have created ways to bond with each other. Without a whole lot of prodding, we seem to know how to help each navigate the whitewaters of our journeys, how to mark life's passages, large and small, how to listen, and how to simply be present. In the re-enacted rituals of female banter, we explore the intricacies of our relationships and the complexity of our life situations. At our core, we seem to understand that life is predominantly mystery. No, we will never "figure it all out." We will never arrive at the perfect friendship, the perfect marriage, or the perfect anything. But, somehow, that is okay. What we long for is a persistent connectedness as we live the mystery.
But there's a flip side to female bonding. Let's admit it. For some of us, connections with other women don't come as easily as we'd like. We may want to have more women friends, but we've worked long and hard developing certain strengths and we don't want to have to check them at the door. And maybe when we imagine "feminine" bonding, we see "Kleenex retreats" with pink decorations, crafts, and make-up tips.
This was on my mind when I recently facilitated "Conversations," a retreat for women leaders. As 10 of us hung out with each other for three days - telling our ministry and life stories, plumbing Scripture, sifting through cultural trends, and eating chocolate - one of the key points of exploration became, "What does feminine mean, now?" Among the diverse women in this group (aged 25 to52 including clergy, seminary students, worship leaders, and church planters), there was a marked "dis-ease" with old definitions of the feminine, whether those definitions had their roots in classic feminism or classic role-ism.
We came out with more questions and "inklings" than new definitions. And for that, I was relieved. Sometimes, the most powerful act is simply naming our discomfort - our disequilibrium - and giving each other the freedom to be in process with it. If this group meets again, perhaps we will begin redefining the feminine out of our immediate experience with each other. What do we do naturally in conversation and conflict? What are our priorities and how do we express them? What kinds of leadership and communal practices do we engage in without prompting? (Perhaps one of those is the ability to be in radical process in the first place.)
I'd love to expand the conversation about what is "feminine" and hear your reflections; experience your own wrestling; enter your story; be warmed and illuminated by the light of your insight; be challenged by your interpretation of a biblical passage.
Women followers of Christ, what does the word feminine mean to you?