If I had to describe the person I hope to be, I would describe her as brazen. Period included. I’m not there yet, but I will be.

I need to be brazen because I just graduated from the second largest university in the state of Texas, and I have yet to meet another female premedical student from rural, white-steeple East Texas. And that’s probably for a reason.

Discounting the Catholic church I attended until the age of five (I have three whole memories of being Catholic), I have attended three churches in my life: all rural, all ‘nondenominational’-but-mostly-Baptist, and all believing that women should submit to their husbands.

The one I attended the longest loved its music. For those familiar with the trope, it was a ‘cowboy’ church, with over half the morning dedicated to the guitar (pronounced GHI-tar) and Christian rock. The pastor’s son and the assistant pastor’s daughter were both very musical, but the pastor’s son stood center stage while the assistant pastor’s daughter — who had been singing in church since kindergarten and was a far better singer — stood in the back with her microphone turned down so low I never heard her.

In this church, women were called to “lead” — but “lead” actually meant “service,” like childcare, volunteering during the monthly potlucks, and teaching Sunday school (but only to the little kids — the youth needed a ‘youth pastor,’ and pastors are male).

I’m not disparaging Christianity. However, I will never accept the Christian teachings that have shaped so many of my female friends into anxiety-ridden and beat-down young women who are constantly told to fill subservient positions in their church, community, and relationships.

When I say that it’s no surprise I don’t meet other female premedical students with my background, I’m not saying that women must hold professional degrees or STEM careers to be empowered. I’m not saying that being a stay-at-home mother, Sunday school teacher, or even ‘pastor’s wife’ is less important, less valid, or less worthy. I simply wish that other women I grew up with felt empowered at a young age to pursue the dreams or passions they wanted, not what ‘god’ (ie, their fathers, their deacons, their youth pastors, their pastor) wanted. I wish someone had told them to be brazen, not quiet. And not just brazen, but brazen with a period. Brazen. Ready to stand their ground. To speak up when boys in the youth group were treating them like shit or when they wanted to say the prayer or lead the Bible study because they had something important to say.

Even as I write this, I hear my old youth pastor quoting Bible verses at me about Jesus’s humility, subservience, meekness, mildness — everything ‘we all’ were supposed to be, except none of the male pastors/deacons/leaders/etc were. And I’m not pretending the boys got where they wanted to be, either — instilling in impressionable young men the importance of toxic masculinity and the ubiquitous hatred for everything ‘girly’ or ‘gay’ doesn’t lead to much better outcomes. And I’m not even pretending girls get the shortest stick, since I’ve also witnessed the appalling ostracization and denial of humanity aimed at queer and ‘looks queer’ kids.

I was lucky to be shielded by a number of factors — the most important of which was probably that my own father didn’t (consciously) buy into that subservient crap, or that having a middle-class income made opportunities more of a thing — but I did not escape without literal scars. And I am at a loss of what to do.

I’ve looked up girl empowerment organizations in my city. When my elementary or middle school students disagree with me or something about our tutoring sessions, I tell them to write me a persuasive essay and own their opinions on their education; if it’s within reason, I even grant them their demands. But I’m worried about the girls that I don’t see in these spaces — those whose parents take them to purity balls instead of girl camps, whose parents don’t hire tutors, or even enroll the girls in school, because their education isn’t important (instead of homeschooling for the benefit of the child, which is a perfectly valid form of education).

So I’m stuck right now critiquing the kind of Christianity I had to experience growing up. Did you know that, even though brassy is a synonym for bold, its definition according to Google is: (typically of a woman) tastelessly showy or loud in appearance or manner?

That is my entire childhood in a nutshell: to be female and bold is to be tasteless.

And that is why I prefer brazen: to be bold and without shame. 

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