Friday, November 12, 2010

return to the red tent

I read The Red Tent years ago. It's a historical fiction account of what one author imagines might have happened between the matriarchs of our faith. Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, Bilhah--these four mothers of the 12 sons of Jacob (and subsequently, the 12 tribes of Israel), along with Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, and their imagined relationships make for the basis of this book.

The concept of a "red tent," a place where menstruating or women in labor found refuge, isn't exactly factual, either. The author created such a place based on evidence from other tribal traditions in the area, portraying the red tent as a place where the women could gather, temporarily released from the daily demands of domestic life, to laugh, gossip, commiserate and share in life together.

What I should have gleaned from The Red Tent was an appreciation for the unique bonds women can share.

What I got, instead, was a strong distaste for the cultural values of that time--it only served to perpetuate my unanswered questions with God over what I perceive to be sexism and unjust treatment of women in the Bible.

From the marches of Susan B. Anthony to the we-almost-had-a-female-vice-president-or-president-in-2009, women in this country have been fighting to leave the proverbial red tent. We've protested and lobbied and debated and fought, all for the cause of equal pay, equal rights and equal respect.

And so should we.

We should have whatever career choice we desire, the option to work or stay home with babies, access to education and a culture to live in that grants us the respect we deserve as the other sex created in the image of God. We no longer live in an agrarian society, where physical strength is the capital of the workforce. Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen (which is what I was for most of 2010) should not be the prescribed destination of every adult woman.

As much as a I believe in what I just wrote,

all I want to do right now is return to the red tent. 

The desire introduced itself when my mom came up and stayed with me for a week. We took care of the babies, cleaned, cooked and even finished a cornice board. We made coffee and talked about transitioning a family to two children and compared birth experiences.

I felt the urge again while visiting a girlfriend with a newborn only 2 weeks younger than Walker. We sat on her bed, curling and uncurling the babies' tiny fingers, swapping stories of c-section recovery, husbands' reactions, body image concerns and things only new mommies will share.

Later that afternoon, I reached for that connection with another friend, a mommy of three. I expressed my fears, choking through the tears, of failing Carter because I'm We shared things you don't talk about until you're there, fears and insecurities, coping strategies and the perspective from someone who's further down the road than I.

For all of my fighting, for all of these years, against an identity solely comprised of Wife and Mom, all my heart longs for right now is the fellowship of other Wives and Moms. A safe place to gather and connect and cope and care for each other appeals to the deepest parts of me.

Let the feminists have their rights; for me, for now, a red tent is all I need.

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