I have written about the dangers of the single story of my life in Africa, I’ve written about the danger of the single story of using Social Media. Now I want to address the single story I wrestle with constantly around the fact that I AM A WOMAN.
Furthermore, I am a woman who moved on her own to an African country, I am a woman who acts as a manager in her workplace. I am a woman who takes a leadership role in her Bible study group. And recently, I became a woman prepared to say ‘yes’ to preaching in her church.
When this opportunity to step up in my leadership role and try my hand at teaching arose, I found myself questioning whether I felt it fit into the “woman’s role” in the church. Simultaneously, I was beginning to explore whether I want to study further or pursue business development or continue with my current work position longer term. I also found myself longing for and wondering whether I could maybe choose to invest in the marriage option (though there is still an essential factor missing from this dream for me). As I pondered all these options, I found myself asking what I felt fit into the “woman’s role”.
But God challenged that through a collection of experiences, one of these being reading the book ‘Jesus Feminist’. That we need to stop asking about roles and start asking about hearts. Because otherwise we continue to walk the dangerous ground of having a single story of women. And THERE IS ALWAYS DANGER IN THE SINGLE STORY.
I suspect that I have had more conversations about women than the average person. My desperate hope is that through these conversations I convey to you a humble, kind, joyful, loving and womanly heart. I find it difficult to navigate these conversations. Especially after the ‘f-word’ comes up.
I find this word tends to either get people clamouring for their high-horse or reaching for stones. I also tend to find these conversation perfect breeding ground for single, dominant and limited stories of women.
When feminism comes up, many people want to tell stories of successful women in leadership to make their point of equality. I am not opposed to this, I love Maggie Thatcher and Mother Teresa as much as the next person, but that again falls into this trap of a single story. Women have conquered and triumphed in leadership. Women have also failed miserably in leadership, moralistically, in their tasks and roles, as parents, as servants, as lovers and as people. And sometimes when these stories come up in the midst of the “f-word conversation”, we quickly fall into the trap of the single story that they failed because they’re women, therefore all women will fail. THERE IS DANGER IN THE SINGLE STORY.
Therefore, I dare to believe that there is no single story of women, I dare to believe that there is no single ‘role’ for women. Hence, there is no single role for me. I must stop asking what is my role and start asking other questions. So I asked different questions. I asked what has God asked of me, how has God gifted me and how can I show love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The answer was to ‘say’ yes to preaching from a humble, servant-heart. To say ‘yes’ to opportunities to study further and taking daring and hard leadership roles at church and work and to enjoy the daily opportunities I get to delight in being domestic and invest in children.
I want to thank the women who have gone before me and taught and inspired me in their many different stories. Thanks for your daring leadership, your fearless work approaches, your humble servant hearts. Thanks for your successes that have created opportunity for me to have such roles in this world. Thank you also for being honest and open enough to share your failures with me, that I can also dare to live ‘in the knowledge of grace’ and trust God to lead my heart, in roles far beyond what my limited imagination could dream of.