Megan McIntyre is a third year PhD student in the Rhetoric and Composition program at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include postpedagogy, material rhetorics, first year composition, and political rhetoric. Her dissertation will focus on the intersections between the postpedagogical work of Thomas Rickert and the material network theories of Bruno Latour and the other new materialists.

Community Discourse: All the Single Ladies

High Concept

How does a woman, who learned to value community, dependence, and empathy in a church that often lacked those things, pursue those values far removed from the small town, Baptist church and family situations that formed her?

Founding Story/Heroine: Charlotte "Lottie" Moon

Every year, during the month before Christmas, Baptist churches all over the US take up special offerings for missionary work abroad. These special offerings are named for the most famous female missionary in Baptist history: Lottie Moon.

Lottie Moon was a 19th century Baptist missionary from Virginia who traveled to China as a single woman at time when single female missionaries were unheard of. Moon was one of the first women to receive a graduate degree from a southern university: she received a Master of Arts from Albemarle in 1861, where she also learned Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian and Spanish.

"Can we wonder at the mortal weariness and disgust, the sense of wasted powers and the conviction that her life is a failure, that comes over a woman when, instead of the ever broadening activities that she had planned, she finds herself tied down to the petty work of teaching a few girls?" - Lottie Moon, "The Woman's Question Again," 1883

Connections to Other Mystorical Narratives

The most obvious connection here is, of course, the Christmas one: when I was a child, our progress toward our Lottie Moon goal was marked by the lighting of candles or Christmas lights, and Christmas eve services often featured a celebration of Moon, one of the few female role models (apart from those who were mothers or wives - the Virgin Mary or Martha - to important Biblical men) venerated by the Baptist church.

But there is another important connection here: Lottie Moon was perhaps the only single woman celebrated be our church. And her example (in terms of eschewing a husband in favor of a calling not in her mission to "civilize" and Christianize China) offered a welcome conterpoint to the pressures to find a husband that seemed to permeate our community of faith.

Recognizing a Central Conflict: Faith, Gender, and a Tale of Two Futures

There were a lot of amazing things about the church I grew up...and a lot of not-so-amazing things. But there was one set of expectations, bound up as it is in assumptions about the nature of God, relationships, and gender roles, that had a far greater influence on my decisions than I ever realized.

The year I graduated from high school, I was planning a wedding. I was picking out flowers and invitations and a white dress, floor length, floaty, and covered with a lace overlay. I didn't really think about the decision to get married. I was almost 18, and that's what (I thought) people (from my small town and especially those from my small chruch) expected of me. Most of the people I grew up around got married and had kids young: an 18 or 19 year old bride was not an uncommon sight where I come from.

Some of the pressure to get married young has to do with evangelical notions of sexuality (abstinence until marriage), but more of it comes, for me at least, from the church's view of women: modest, submissive, quiet, above reproach, and subject to the authority of Christ, her husband, and the church. I think I failed in most of these things before I hit puberty, but I certainly failed in all of them after that.

There's little doubt that marriage at 18 was a terrible choice for me. But the larger struggle for me has always been a set of competing desires: to fulfill the roles laid out for me by a church that saved my life or to be the person I am, to ask the questions I have, and pursue those things that bring me joy. I've largely chosen the latter, but from time to time, that first set of desires pricks my consciousness, and I wonder again about the other future.