This is part of a long series of posts which will be known as Feminist Fridays. Because individuality is at the heart of feminism, I’m going to open up this space to different people each week to share with us a little portion of their unique journey.
I met Ellie when I was a little kid. She was in my older brother’s class and I always had a friend-crush on her because she seemed so much more kind than many of the other, older kids in our small-town school. I always wanted to be like her in that way. When we were teenagers, we became very close friends for a few years. But time went on, she got married–I moved away for college. Truthfully, I always thought that Ellie would be one of those friends that I never got to see very often.
But I remedied that big time when I married her brother this past May!
So, a few months ago, Ellie asked me if I would consider interviewing her for Feminist Fridays and, of course I said yes. It’s safe to say that Ellie has a more conservative world view and lifestyle than I do and I love the way that she wanted to share a little glimpse into her life. I married into a great family filled with really strong, beautiful, kind women who love me and don’t mind our differences–allowing each of us to all be ourselves, fully. I’m so grateful for that. Especially because I am a firm believer that we grow when we are faced with differences. There is no growth that comes from hunkering down in an echo-chamber where we just hear our own thoughts over and over again. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, diversity is at the heart of Feminism. And with that, I give you my interview with my beautiful sister-in-law, Ellie.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am Ellie. I traded my super unique and interesting Irish surname of “Monaghan” for the wonderful name of “Miller” over 13 years ago! I still catch myself spelling my name for people! I am wife to Vince, my opposite in most ways and perfect match. I am Mom to Hans (10), Emitt (7), Avonlea (3) and Conlan (1). I home school myself and my kids, if they cooperate.
What does feminism mean to you?
I have never actually labeled myself as anything in regards to this topic! I have read what is on the heart of the women that you have interviewed and I must say, I agree with so much of what is shared! There are some things that I don’t agree with, but I enjoy being challenged and reevaluating my views and beliefs because of that. I was raised in a family of very strong women, that have weathered some crazy life-storms. I was taught things like, if you own your own car, you WILL be able to change the oil and tires yourself. Maybe my grandpa just wanted to make sure he didn’t have to do it?! I don’t know, but it was normal in my family for the women to be capable of things like car maintenance (even if the men in the family often did it for us anyways) and it was normal for the men in our family to babysit or do dishes. The men in my family were often just as “gah-gah” over the new babies as the women were and the women weren’t fussing about mowing the lawn either.
As a grown woman with my own family now, I’ve become very interested in the roles of men and women from a Biblical standpoint, as my Faith in Jesus as grown and developed over the years. I can’t help but to draw Truths from the Bible when I read about Feminism. The heart of God is that NO HUMAN BEING would be oppressed. He has made it clear through the scriptures that in His eyes males, females, races and socio-economic classes are equal. So, with that in mind, I feel that a real revolution will happen when we put aside the notion that I am the most important person or that I am my favorite person, or that MY happiness is the most important thing. Those beliefs will lead to the oppression of someone else. We need to be so careful, lest we risk, that in protecting ourselves or our rights, we don’t take away the protection of others or the rights of others. I have a plaque in my house that says, “Blessed is the home where each puts the other’s happiness first.” When my little family of 6 live this out, AMAZING peace and respect, love and happiness ooze from our home. We need to strive to make this happen in our interactions in the world, at the grocery store, our work place, wherever. But, we have to be vulnerable and have very tough skin. Because, in doing this we put our hearts on the line. There is nothing more rewarding than loving others. So, I would say, feminism for me is selflessness motivated by love.
Having children impacts my views from the ground up. Shopping for my boys and finding clothing that imply that they are “rule breakers” or that all they care about is sports and video games, is so obnoxious. But, then I go to find things for my little girl and see that those clothes say things like, “silly” and “daydreamer”. I also really have a problem with the tiny, sexy clothing marketed to my little 3 year old. The truth of the matter is that sex trafficking and child pornography is a huge threat for our children. BOYS too! We have such a huge job ahead of us, teaching our children to respect themselves, and others and to value who God created them to be. I also feel so angry at the media that represents “normal” women as being a perfect size 2 without a single cellulite dimple. That is NOT a real woman’s body. I cringe inside when my kids see that, because it is tippy top of my priority list to model for them a healthy self-image and to teach them that the normal, healthy female body is beautiful and something to be cherished and protected. Whenever my kids comment on a physical feature of someone, I say “God is so creative and made all people to look different! Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all looked the same? I think all people are beautiful because He made them just the way he wanted them!” So, feminism for me would also be valuing all of Gods creation, namely people, as valuable and beautiful.
Can you talk a little bit about your faith tradition for the ones who aren’t familiar?
I married into a Conservative Mennonite family. My husband was raised speaking Pennsylvania Dutch and his grandparents would have been Amish and then joined a sort of hybrid church in the 50’s-60’s that allowed cars, electricity and some other modern conveniences while continuing to embrace some of the beliefs they’d been raised with. The women in my community wear very simple clothing, have uncut hair, wear head coverings and strive to be humble and meek. Vince’s parents would have changed churches when he was about 5. We still go to that church. Our church is diverse in how we live out some of these Biblical principles, so we leave the choice of to wear, or not to wear a head covering, how to dress, how to school, ect… up to each family. On a Sunday morning at our church you will see some women covering, some in dresses, and some not. Personally, MY faith for your readers, would be that I wear a head covering, mostly all the time-but for sure at church, we are non-resistant, we believe in believers baptism, we believe in a grace-based salvation and we believe we can enter into the Kingdom of God, here and now, by professing Faith in Jesus, for the forgiveness of our sins. In other words, I will be in Heaven with Jesus someday, but my eternity in relationship with Jesus started a long time ago! By the way, we’re on the web and Facebook. We post our sermons, so if you’re curious what we teach, go listen to some! So, in a nutshell we strive to live out the scriptures in our lives.
I know this question sounds so ignorant but I’m sure that people wonder about this and I tried to come up with a really eloquent way to say it but I’m just going to go with, what’s the deal with head covering?
I don’t know. Hahaha! No, really all I know is that God said to wear one while praying and prophesying during public worship (1 Corinthians 11). I have scoured commentaries and read a wide variety of books on the topic and from what I see, in the original text, is that the word used for covering is not the same word used for your hair and it refers to an actual piece of cloth. So, as I strive to be obedient to the scriptures, this is something I’ve agreed to do, even though I don’t know “why” exactly, because it’s impossible for me to sit down with Paul and pick his brain on the topic. One description that has really resonated with me is that God gave women their long hair as something feminine, beautiful and “glorious”. While in worship, it is reverent and respectful to veil my “glory” (hair) at the unveiling of Gods glory. Think of it this way, we all know you shouldn’t wear white to a wedding. We don’t want to draw attention away from the beautiful bride on her special day, so we want all eyes on her and try not to draw attention to ourselves. Also, it shows that I agree to the headship order, which is Christ is the head of my husband and my husband is the head of me. I have a feeling most of your readers just audibly gasped in shock that is just said that in a FF post! So, let me clarify… in the next question…
In conversations that I’ve had with other feminists and conservative Christians, alike, the topic of Submission comes up as it relates to a husband and wife relationship. And I’ve noticed that it can be a divisive issue. I was wondering if you can offer any insight into submission. Is it something that you intentionally implement into your marriage? And if so, what does that look like in a real-life, day-to-day way?
Absolutely, yes, we implement submission into our marriage. Let me just say, it is the natural order of things for someone or something to be in charge, this happens in nature all the time and is vital for a healthy ecosystem, ie… the food chain. This happens in the work place and pretty much everywhere else you have more than one person, or animal, or plant even! Imagine a daycare full of toddlers. Imagine a teacher who doesn’t believe in submission. Chaos. Absolute chaos! Now, we all expect that teacher to treat those toddlers as capable, valuable people–just, people in need of some guidance. The Bible says this about submission: Ephesians 5, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife, loves himself……However let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Healthy submission is mutual submission. Ephesians 5:21 says that we should submit to “one another” out of reverence for Christ.
When Vince loves me so selflessly, purely and genuinely, I can happily submit to him because caring for me and loving me is 1st on his priority list. I know that he will not take advantage of me or neglect me. When I respect him, value his insight and appreciate him, love him and seek to bless him, even when I’m tired, that breeds his love. His love breeds my respect. This is a beautiful circle, when running smoothly. Once one of us starts getting selfish, things get ugly. Here I go back to the “selflessness motivated by love” theme again! Now, sometimes he submits to me. He sees that I know something he doesn’t and he trusts my judgment. Often I submit to him, he knows something I know nothing about and I trust his judgment. I can’t really say that if we disagree, he makes the call. Because in real life, if we disagree about something, we hash it out, talk it through, pray about it, read about it, until we reach a mutual decision. We like to keep the area under the rug really clean! Sometimes one person is more in agreement or wanting this thing or decision, but I can’t recall a single time that one of us has made a decision that the other person flat out disagreed with. We model this to our children, too. If Vince wouldn’t respect my input, that would be disastrous, and a really great way to raise totally disrespectful kids. Especially boys. I have seen my 10 year old son really push back at my authority and that is when it is necessary for Vince to model things like, “mom likes it when we fold our clothes like this, so this is how we’ll do it.” or “mom said dinner is ready, so we’ll come when she calls us because its disrespectful to make her wait.” This also shows them how to treat other people in general and it shows my little girl how she can expect to be treated. I’ve had comments from a well meaning family member, not to mention any names, but my only sister, be a little shocked by how Vince and I interact sometimes! We both have very strong personalities, so when I tell him what I think, I assure her, he can hold his own! Not every couple should interact like we do though. I think if he was passive I’d walk all over him. We were totally made for each other, because if I was passive, he’d walk all over me too!
I hope no one feels like that just ended so super abruptly.
If I was a better interviewer, I would have found a better way to close the whole thing up neat and tidy-like but we’re all learning, here. 🙂
I want to thank Ellie for coming here and talking to us about her life and her marriage and the things that are important to her.
As usual, let’s keep the conversation going in the comments section!
I love you all, thank you for being the awesome, thoughtful people that I know you are.