Monday, September 12, 2011

Tammy Faye Messner (aka Tammy Faye Bakker)

Today’s Awesome Woman of the Day is Tammy Faye Messner (aka Tammy Faye Bakker) (1942-2007). I know, I know Tammy Faye--what the hell? But hear me out. I discovered Tammy Faye’s Awesomeness after seeing the documentary “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” I had an epiphany on the subject of her (to me) grotesque make-up: by mocking Tammy Faye’s ultra-heavy-handed make-up like everyone else did, I was buying in to some cultural insistence that women should look a certain way. Tammy Faye wasn’t obeying the rules, and for this she was ridiculed. When I re-looked at the idea of Tammy Faye’s make-up, I thought, “Good for her!” How ballsy was it that she faced the derision of pretty much the entire world, but did what the hell she wanted to anyway? In a way, Tammy Faye’s make-up was akin to woman sporting unusual piercings or tattoos or butch clothing--a way that any of us might challenge the status quo of what a woman should look like. Tammy Faye’s (perhaps unwitting) protest was maybe the most radical of all.

I also admire Tammy Faye for her embrace of the gay community. According to the CNN: Tammy Faye Messner has also been known as one of the few evangelical Christians who had the support of the gay community. She was one of the first televangelists to reach out to those with AIDS when it was a little-known and much-feared disease. In return, she told [Larry] King in July, "When I went -- when we lost everything, it was the gay people that came to my rescue, and I will always love them for that." (In fairness, it should be noted that, unfortunately, she stuck with her outmoded, church-instilled marriage-only-between-and-man-and-a-woman b.s.)

“I refuse to label people,” Ms. Messner said in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” when asked about her attitudes toward gay rights. “We’re all just people made out of the same old dirt, and God didn’t make any junk.”

As she was dying of cancer, she continued her public work and even appeared on Larry King the day before she died. According to Wikipedia: “She had frequently spoken about her medical problems, saying she hoped to be an inspiration to others. ‘Don't let fear rule your life,’ she said. ‘Live one day at a time, and never be afraid.’”

Like all of us, Tammy Faye was a mixed bag. Maybe she wasn’t an entirely Awesome Woman, but I think she was at least an Awesomeish Woman.
Tamara Faye LaValley Bakker Messner (March 7, 1942 – July 20, 2007) was an American Christian singer, evangelist, entrepreneur, author, talk show host, and television personality. She was married to televangelist, and later convicted felon, Jim Bakker (1961–92). She co-hosted with him on The PTL Clu...