I grew up in a rural community in the midwest portion of the United States, the oldest daughter of a dentist and a former English teacher. Both of my parents are extremely intelligent, hard-working and honest individuals who decided to homeschool their children when I was ready for kindergarten. My mom was well-suited to homeschooling, having been an English teacher before marrying my dad, as well as being very organized and hard-working. My siblings and I are all very well-educated as a result of her efforts and dedication to teaching us well.
My parents never told me that there were certain things that I could not do because I was a girl. On the contrary, my list of childhood career aspirations was long and changed frequently, including teacher, doctor, writer, astronaut, first female President, and an exceptionally long stretch in early childhood when I wanted to be "a builder of houses and fences." However, as I grew up in the homeschool community, my perceptions of what it meant to be female subtly shifted, apart even from the realization of my parents. Up until I hit puberty being a girl had never posed a problem: I fell nicely in line with the patriarchal ideal of female childhood. Though always a strong-willed child with very definite ideas and opinions, I was respectful and obedient to my parents and to other adults. I loved to wear dresses and play Little House on the Prairie with my friends. I idealized pioneer times and secretly wished I had been born about 150 years earlier. I loved to cross-stitch, knit and make up patterns for dresses for my stuffed animals. I was a patriarchal poster child.
It was around age 12 or 13 when I began to realize: I'm a girl. Of course I had always known I was female and I had always liked fairly stereotypically female things, but this had never been an obstacle or imposed any limits on my ambitions. Up until age 12 my thoughts on being a girl, if I had even had any, would have been something like "I'm a girl and I can do anything I want." Once puberty began and I started "developing", things started to change. "Modesty" was a new thing I learned about, and only girls had to worry about it. Boys began to be much more interesting than they had been, and thus I learned about "guarding my heart" and about Godly Courtship. I started to get more involved in social activities within the homeschooling movement, and there I learned about Equal Value, Separate Callings and the inability of a woman to hold a leadership position without severely offending God. In short, I was surrounded by people who, if they were not quite actively proselytizing the conservative Christian/patriarchal movement, were living it loudly all around me. They were my peers, my mentors, and my examples in everyday life.
However, it was not only the true role of women that I learned from my homeschooling peers. I also became an extremely conservative Christian in terms of social issues. Gays? Abomination. Evolution? There are Answers in Genesis! The environment? Only hippies care, and hippies are unmanly. Female Pastors? Get thee behind me, Satan! God said it, I believe it, that settles it. But even as I became convinced deep in my soul that being female made me less worthy of God's attention and that the liberals were out to destroy America, God's country, I began to feel an unrest in my soul. Why do I believe these things? I wondered. Why am I even a Christian? Try as I might, I couldn't come up with a meaningful answer that wasn't "because I was raised this way." Throughout highshool I became deeply concerned with the reasons behind the things I believed, using all the resources offered me to determine what I really thought about things. Not surprisingly, since all the resources I could get hold of were conservative Christian resources, I reasoned my way right back to where I had started, and I was still unhappy. It seemed like a pretty rough deal that the gay people would have to go through their entire lives miserably unhappy and in bondage to their sin, since homosexuality was such a difficult sin to get rid of. But I knew that God could only accept them if they stopped being gay (or at east acting gay) first - that was what the Bible said, definitively. Similarly, I wondered why women were the weaker vessels - did the smaller proportions of our bodies relative to men's really affect our intellects and abilities as well? I had out-reasoned many of my male peers in the debate tournaments my mom took me to - were those just coincidences? How did all these teachings actually make any sense?
I have now been avidly reading and following a variety of homeschooling/patriarchy/conservative Christianity blogs for more than a year, intrigued and unsettled and frequently angered by the experiences of those who have dealt with the conservative movement in America. Though I've faithfully read these blogs, I have never commented or joined in any discussions, preferring to watch and listen. It's not that I don't have opinions - I do. I have always been mistrustful of my ability to express my own point of view within the space constraints of a comments section. For this reason I've created this blog - Daughters of Junia - to give a voice to my own experiences and concerns and to tell the story of my divorce from the socially conservative, patriarchal homeschooling movement that I grew up immersed in. I hope that it will be an experience of healing for me and a way of coming to terms with the things I've been taught and the things I believe now. I hope too that my experiences can be a comfort to others who have similar stories but who were not given the resources I was given to help them come out of the destructive and debilitating mindset of Biblical Patriarchy.
It was going to a small Christian liberal arts college that opened my mind to the whole world of Christian thought - not just the small, narrow, very recent strain of Christianity that I met in my conservative upbringing. My faith now is much broader, wider and deeper than it was in my conservative years. I believe now that true religion is what the conservative movement gives a lot of lip service to but makes very little true effort to actually put into action - to serve those who are outcasts, to care for the least of these, and to become the greatest by being the slave of all.