When I had the happy fortune of sharing breakfast with Tony last year, I asked him if there was a particular way to inspire and equip women whose basic needs are metthe kind, like me, that read blogs like thisto make a difference in the world.
Tell me this, he began, with a devilish little twinkle in his eye, who is it that makes the money?
I looked at him blankly. This was clearly one of those questions where the teacher already knows the right answer and its up to the student to read the teachers mind.
I really hate these situations.
Then, with a happy little twinkle, he proudly announced, Men!
Okay, that I did not see coming. Because that was like, way old school. That was Leave it to Beaver old school.
Men make the money, and women spend it! he continued with delight. He really said those words out loud.
My mind raced to make sense of how someone I respect so much could have just said something so ridiculous and sexist. Our conversation suddenly felt to me like a weird 1950s train wreck.
He continued to press demanding, Who buys the groceries?
I had just enough self respect left to not parrot the answer I suspected he was fishing for by saying, Women.
Women, he said, proudly. And who buys the clothes for the family, for the children? he continued to press.
It was not at all clear to me that he was aware either that it was no longer 1950 or that every woman was not married with children.
Women, he continued, gathering steam.
Who decides where the family lives? he queried. Women! he trumpeted again.
I quickly scanned the perimeter of the breakfast table for any sane allies because I really wanted some witnesses. Everyone else at the round table, though, was busy chatting in other directions.
A thought slowly began to form in my mind, What if hes not as wrong as I want him to be?
Hear me out, now, hear me out!
Obvious offense asidewhich the more I listened I realized that, like a needling big brother, he was actually aiming for all alongI began to wonder if he might actually be on to something.
I may have been a teeny bit sensitive because the domestic sphere happens to be the actual location where I do my work and gather food and make sure my kids are wearing shoes when they leave the house. (Of course if we need the food to taste good, or the kids to look right, a consult with my husband is often requisite, but I can manage the basics. Most days.)
So as all the rage chemicals that had been released in my brain started to dissipate, I could admit that women in these more traditional situations probably do wield a fair bit of influence over the households choice of neighborhood and food and clothes and other stuff.
Can you see where this is going?
I was clearly wanting to be incensed about Tonys antiquated gender notions on behalf of the single women, and married ones, and divorced ones, and the working-in-an-office women, and the working-from-home women. I even wanted to be a little furious on behalf of those of us who manage households and children and sippy cups and magazine subscriptions.
But all Tony was really saying was that women, even in the most traditional circumstances, have real power in a household. (Using this single sentence would have been much more efficient, I believe, though it would not have achieved the blood-boiling impact.) As the pieces started falling into place, my rage quickly shifted to intrigue. After all, if women in the most traditional circumstances have, as Tony suggested, more power than at first meets the eyeby virtue of their economic influencewomen who are not married, and those who are working outside the home, and those who arent raising children, most certainly do too. More, it seems.
Are you tracking with me?
I understand that it might be hard for some women to get really jazzed about this, because given the choice between all that great influence and the alternativemaybe popping open a beer, kicking our feet up onto a footstool, and watching a football gamewed prefer the latter. I get that.
This is big, though, women. This is very big.
Whether youre a CEO, or home-schooling your children, or pursuing a graduate degreeor all of these at once, God bless youyou might just possibly have a world of untapped influence that youve not yet even considered. Specifically, Im thinking about the healthy ways women are often connected relationally to others. Im thinking about our naturally acute peripheral perspective that holds the needs of the collective in view, especially those on the margins. And while theres a legitimate argument to be made that bearing the lions share of cooking and shopping and clothing is a real bummer, theres also this fabulous possibility that, should this be your personal situation, you can use all that influenceand more!to impact the world that God loves.
Do you see how thrilling all this begins to be? Sisters, you were made for this. Return to Jesus red letters and begin to dream.