[Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Ronel Sidney’s new book, Freestyle Faith: Around the Table. I feel so blessed to share this excerpt with you today. I think all women know that there are things that happen to women in this world that just aren’t right (understatement), and the more we speak up the more things will change. We can change things. P.S. military friends, this one is for you, too!]
Freestyle Faith: Breaking the Glass Ceiling
No glass ceiling was ever shattered by a whiner.”–Melanie Hope
Struggling and pushing to breakthrough to uncharted territory can be daunting and painful. Women have been treated as less capable and valuable than men for years, and yet many people do not want to discuss the topic. Much like avoiding talks of racism, people think if we pretend it does not exist then we can continue life without making any waves. The problem with this idea is that not talking or fighting to change the stigma keeps us stuck in the cycle of labeling, marginalizing and holding women back from reaching their full potential.
Recently I heard someone describe breaking the glass ceiling in a broader sense of the phrase. Breaking the glass ceiling is when you embark on pushing outside the box of what you were told was normal or acceptable in society or even in your family of origin. This description really intrigued me and gave me words to describe how I had been feeling for years. Guilt, shame and striving for acceptance kept me from speaking out or even breaking out of the “box” I was told was good enough for me and my life.
It began in my last year of high school, when my father and brother sat down with a military recruiter and it was as if I did not exist. The whole conversation was about what the military could do for my brother. There was no mention of what it could provide me and my future. The stigma of women in the military has been fought for years before me; however, women are still fighting to gain recognition and acceptance among their male counterparts. I have been “voted out” of offices, told I could not attend school, and even told by my own recruiter that I would do fine in the Navy because I was “decent” looking. I am sure you can imagine my surprise at these words.
The way we treat woman in the military and society in general keeps them stuck and often silenced about the wrongdoing that occurs aboard ships, during deployments and in the world environment. It is much like when you leave home and realize the way you were raised was not exactly conducive for the reality of the outside world.
We all come to a point of fight or flight. In some ways, I wish I could run from the glass ceiling, and yet, I have been able to break through it enough times to know the pain is worth the reward. Dealing with the intangible barriers within society and the military was expected; however, the barriers I faced within the church and my family took me by surprise. Fighting for a position or school in the military was much easier than fighting for a place at the table in the church. Being told I could attend classes with men at church but could only perform some of the duties because I am a woman infuriates me to no end. I tried to stay and wait patiently for change, but why do we do this to women?
Why do we tell women they aren’t equal to men or they are incapable of doing what a man can do in ministry?
Acceptance is easy. Fighting to break the mold can be depleting. While attending seminary, I realized the truth was that we allowed men to keep us from being equal in order to make them feel okay with our presence. How crazy is that? We are minimized because of their insecurities and inability to accept us as equals in work, home, life and ministry? Seems a bit old school.
I have come to accept that we have two choices. We can stay within whatever system minimizes us, or we can choose to do things differently. In the military, I had no choice but to fight. In ministry and the church, I decided not to fight and instead begin a new journey outside the Sunday morning meeting and the building we call church. Within my family of origin, I have also decided to reject the “rules” of acceptance in order to embark on a journey of healing and self-discovery.
The choice is yours. You get to navigate this life with God, and He will give you the power to make changes in whatever situation you face in life. I believe the hardest part of breaking the glass ceiling is choosing not to whine and instead to be a part of changing the way women are perceived in the world. Yes, there will be women who make choices we may not agree with. However, standing together and fighting for equality is a must for the next generation.
I do not have a daughter, but I pray my nieces have less of a fight ahead of them because of the battles I decided to fight. I pray they have more opportunities because of other women who choose to fight and stand up to the stigmas of our culture. Mostly, I pray that we as women can begin to see our worth and value together and not in competition with one another.
Excerpt from Freestyle Faith: Around the Table by Ronel Sidney
Ronel Sidney was born and raised in Northern California but, has made San Diego home with her husband and son. She has a business degree and works as a contractor for the United States Navy. As the National Director of Praise and Coffee she has a passion for encouraging women to share life and faith outside religious obligation.
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