Post Mission Week 2017

Before I publish any blog post, I usually wait two to three days after writing it before I share it with the world. Out of all of my blog posts, the only two exceptions to that rule have been my last two. I regret nothing I’ve shared on this blog, because it is my personal truth. However, I do want to go back to waiting a few days to think about the impact of my words before hitting the publish button.

Even though I sometimes share my blog posts on Facebook, I never really expect a ton of people to read them. In my mind, my blog is still a secret part of the internet where I share my crazy thoughts and passions. My last blog post created a different kind of stir than what I am used to. A couple of my friends who were also on Mission Week are subscribed to my blog, so they get an email whenever I posted something. They both read my last blog post on the way to our worksite and shared it with a couple of other girls in their vans. Throughout the morning I had a few people approach me saying they had read what I had written and appreciated me using my voice.

About an hour before lunch that Wednesday, I stapled my finger with the staple gun while installing insulation underneath the house. Not gonna lie, it hurt a LOT. Luckily, one of my awesome work team adults, Robin, was a nurse and she was able to get my finger bandaged up pretty quickly.

After she did that, Pastor Tina called me over to talk to her and M’Kenna* behind a truck and out of view. She had set out a blanket for us to sit on, and her, M’Kenna, Robin and I sat down to talk. They had read my blog post and were deeply concerned about what I had written and what it had revealed about a few of the boys’ behavior on the worksite. Pastor Tina told me she appreciated what I had written, but she wished I had said something to her before writing it. I completely agreed with her, and that is something I deeply regret doing.

We then talked about feminism, and they gave me a chance to release some of my pent up frustration. I told them that what it came down to was that I just wanted to be taken seriously for the work that I was doing. And I wasn’t just talking about that worksite. I was talking about all women, in pretty much all aspects of life.

Pastor Tina asked me what I wanted to come from all of this. I told her I thought something should be said to the whole group, and she agreed with me. I told her I didn’t want anyone to be specifically called out, because that would only muddle the overall message. She asked if I wanted to speak too, and I politely declined.

Later, at lunch, Pastor Tina and Mr. Gene (her husband and the resident construction expert), talked about how everyone on the worksite was working hard and that everyone should be treated with equal respect. They reminded everyone to be more careful with their words and the impact that they may have on different people. Pastor Tina expressed to everyone that even though no one may have been intentionally sexist, it had become apparent that there was some underlying sexism on the worksite, and that it needed to change.

I was satisfied with what they had said, and was happy that they had addressed the issue. In that circumstance, that was the best course of action. After they spoke, more people figured out that it was my blog that spurred that conversation. To my face, everyone seemed to have a pretty positive reaction to it. I had one negative comment on my blog, but I dealt with it, and I’m okay with it. The boys who wrote it needed to hear what I wrote and what Pastor Tina expressed. Even though they disagreed with it, they needed to know that they deem as seemingly harmless jokes are wrong.

Despite what you may have thought based off of my last blog post, Mission Week is still and will forever be one of my favorite weeks out of the whole entire year. I love it. It’s a week where I can help better my little corner of the world, build upon my relationship with Christ and spend time with some of the best people I know.

I did not let my week be dominated by what I had written and the ripple effect it caused. I am still happy I wrote it, because nothing ever changes if no one ever says anything. I’m pleased with the after effects of what I wrote, because it pushed everyone into an uncomfortable conversation.

After the week was over, and I was talking to my Mom about it, and she mentioned something that really got me thinking. Pastor Tina is a feminist in her own right by being a pastor. In such a male dominated field, and in a job where many denominations don’t even allow female pastors, she’s a bad*ss just by following what God has called her to do. It made me realize how many feminists I really know, who are quietly or not-so-quietly challenging the status quo and improving not only their lives, but the lives of those who will come after them. And I love that.


*M’Kenna is a sweet young woman who was the sort-of nurse throughout Mission Week. She was Pastor Tina’s pastoral intern this summer and meeting her was one of the best things to come out of writing my blog post. She was there when I needed to talk and she gives great hugs. Getting to meet her kind, strong, feminist and God-loving heart was one of the greatest blessings of my week.

Another Note: A few people commented on FaceBook wanting to know where all of the adults were when a few of the comments I mentioned happened. There were 36 teenagers and 9 adults. The adults couldn’t be everywhere at once, but they tried their best. As the oldest group, we were given a special project. At the ages of 17 and 18, they shouldn’t have to babysit us anymore. We should know by now what is appropriate to say and do.

Worksite Sexism

Right now as I’m writing this, it’s night 3 of Mission Week 2017. Today was our second day on our worksite and I am already exhausted. To switch it up a bit this year, all of the seniors and recent high school graduates are together on one work site that is over an hour away from the church. It’s very different, but for the most part I like it.

The homeowner that we are helping is a man whose home experienced massive flooding over a year ago and still has a ton of damage. A few groups have come before us and helped with small projects, and we’re redoing insulation, dry wall, repairing the foundation, clearing out trash, replacing doors, building a new deck, etc. It’s a massive project, which is why we have a team of about 36 high schoolers and 8 adults there at the site. The sad thing is we won’t even be able to do everything that needs to eventually be repaired in these short four days.

But what I’ve been thinking about, and what my friends and I have been talking about quite a bit, is how sexist some of the guys in our group are. We’ve been mocked, ridiculed, belittled, and been manhandled by quite a few of them. We’re doing the same amount of work and performing at the same level, yet they treat us like we’re inferior. It’s interesting because I haven’t noticed this on a Mission Week before, and this is the sixth year I’ve participated. I think it may have to do with how many more guys there are on the worksite than what I’m used to, and I notice it more now than I ever have. I try not to get offended easily, but some of the things I heard were just downright disrespectful.

Here are a few examples of the things that have been said to my friends and I:

  • “Are you sure a pretty thing like you should be down here? You’re gonna get dirty.”
  • “You’re so skinny. You’ve always been skinny. You’re so nice to look at.”
  • “Geez. It must be her time of the month.”
  • “I’m surprised you’re helping with the ice since women usually don’t do anything.”
  • “Yeah women are property.”
  • “Why don’t you let us boys do this job?”

It’s super insulting, because us girls signed up for Mission Week to work. And we’re working our asses off, just like the guys. We’re climbing ladders, using saws, carrying heavy loads, crawling underneath the house, etc.

Yesterday, we had to clean out old insulation that was underneath the house. Most people didn’t want to do that job, because there were a ton of bugs, a potential for snakes, and many people are claustrophobic. Three guys stepped up and put on the white suits, mask, and safety goggles. When the work team leaders were going around asking who was interested, they pointed the question at the boys, for the most part assuming the girls would not want to.

I hate bugs, spiders give me the heeby jeebies, and if I see a snake I’m likely to scream. But every Mission Week I like to do something that scares me so I can grow and push my boundaries a little bit. I volunteered to go down there and clear out debris. Most girls applauded me, but many of the guys tried to talk me out of it. I suited up and went down there. And then I stayed down there, longer than any other guy. The suits get hot, but I wanted to prove that girls can do anything that guys can do, and we can do it just as well, if not better.

I thought of it like this. A few months ago I spoke at Mansfield Speaks, a speaking event that my school hosts that’s similar to a Tedx Talk. I spoke about feminism and why men should be feminists too. But I can’t give a speech about feminism and then turn around and say “I can’t do that, that job is for a guy.”

Today, I suited up again to help install the new insulation. I also helped repair some plumbing that was underneath the house as well. As I was climbing out from underneath of the house I was thrilled to see two more girls underneath the house on the other side. I was proud to see two more powerful young women showing the boys that we can do anything, just like they can.

As a young woman it’s frustrating and infuriating to hear guys my age talk about women in such a derogatory way. And most of the time they don’t even see how what they just said or did was wrong. Today when I finally snapped at a guy for manspaining me and calling me “sweetheart” even after I told him to stop several times, he accused me of being on my period. That shouldn’t matter. I was doing just as good of a job as he was, and even if I was bleeding out of my vagina, that would of just made what I was doing that much more impressive.

I’m forever hopeful that as guys mature and continue to witness the powerful things that the women around them are doing, they’ll eventually see that we’re just as strong as they are. But until then, I’m going to continue to challenge myself and show the boys who is boss, and encourage other young women around me to do the same.

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Below is my speech from Mansfield Speaks, in case you are interested.

“About a year and a half ago, I was at a drag race in Ennis, Texas. My dad had worked for a drag racing team for the past ten years, so I’ve grown up around the sport. I decided to take my boyfriend at the time with me, because they’re an interesting way to spend a Sunday and I thought we’d have fun. We were standing near one of the pits, watching the cars warm up, when a guy who was probably in his mid fifties walked up to stand next to us. Now granted, he may have been a little drunk, but he started talking to my boyfriend. He mentioned that the drag races were a perfect date to take your girlfriend on. Keep in mind, I was the one wearing the John Force Racing tank top, and the one pointing out different racers and cars. I politely told the man that I was actually the one who took my boyfriend to the races, not the other way around- and he looked shocked. He then began quizzing me on the sport, asking me about five questions about the drivers, cars and history of drag racing. When I was able to answer all of his questions, he then turned to my boyfriend, said “good luck with this one,” and walked off, calling me a ‘feminazi’ underneath his breath. A few days later, I was telling a friend about it, and she told me I shouldn’t have said anything, because I could’ve embarrassed my boyfriend, and that I shouldn’t have worried about being such a feminist.

It was those two events that pushed me to learn what being a feminist really means. In today’s society, feminism tends to be a dirty word. People think it means that you hate men, or think that you’re better than them, when in reality that couldn’t be farther from the truth. They confuse feminism with misandry, which is really unfortunate, because feminism actually kinda rocks. The real definition of feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of all genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, religion, ability, and sexual orientation. Which I know that sounds really long and scary, but it’s actually quite simple. Feminism means equality.

When I first auditioned for tonight, my speech had a different direction. I was surprised to learn that many men think that because they are male, they can’t be a feminist. I’m here to tell you that feminism is inclusive to everyone, which means men can be feminists too. Because believe it or not, men benefit from feminism as well. 

Up until the age of 8 or 9 boys and girls cry about the same amount. And then suddenly it’s not okay for the boys to cry anymore. Boys are taught that showing emotion is emasculating and that if they want to be seen as a man, they shouldn’t cry. This leads to men learning to bottle up their emotions without a proper outlet to let those feelings out. Because of that men commit suicide at a rate of 3:1 to women.

Having emotion is normal. It’s human. And we should not look down upon men who choose to show it. If a guy is grieving, let him grieve. It’s not girly or gay. It’s healthy, it’s normal, and it should be encouraged. Feminism promotes the idea that everyone should be able to share their emotions without fear of retaliation.

According to a recent study at the University of Michigan, men on average receive 63% longer prison sentences than women who commit comparable crimes. The study also found that women are twice as likely than men to avoid going to prison if convicted of a crime. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, currently 93% of their inmates are men. Another example is if a couple with kids is getting divorced, the mother is granted primary custody 68% of the time. 

Feminists want equal rights of all people, even in the areas where the patriarchy benefits women. We want an equal playing field. The idea that women are delicate flowers or that they are naturally better caregivers is simply not true. And if you commit a crime, your gender should not come into play. 

In commercials and and on TV in general men are depicted as bumbling idiots who mess up the laundry or don’t know how to handle their kids and then their wives have to come in and fix it.

Once again, feminists believe that men are just as capable of carrying out household chores and raising their children. What gender you are should play no role in your ability to do anything. Likewise, women can do anything that men can do, and it should not be seen as threatening to her partner. Just because your significant other excels at something, does not mean that you are any less amazing.

When a girl walks out of her house wearing shorts and a tank top because it’s Texas, and it’s crazy hot, she’s often told that what she is wearing is too revealing and that she is asking to be catcalled, or worse– raped. This idea that men are incapable of keeping it in their pants is absurd.

Feminists like to believe that men are capable of controlling themselves. That they aren’t controlled by some animal instinct. And most importantly, that men are decent human beings. This isn’t hard to understand. Feminists like to believe that when a girl tells a guy no, their ego is strong enough to handle it. Feminism is basically saying that we see you as a human, past your gender and past what society stereotypes you to be.

But men shouldn’t be feminists just because it benefits them. They should be feminists because they respect women and strive for equality in all areas. Feminism is awesome. It should be celebrated. It should be encouraged. And it’s something everyone should be a part of. Tonight I hope I changed your perspective that men can and should be feminists too, because feminism matters.”