If you’d asked me 5 years ago whether you could be a Christian feminist, I would have categorically said no. Nope. Cannot be done. Oxymoron. Now, I’m not so sure. You see, my idea of feminism age 19 was a mish mash of some brief, albeit well taught history lessons at GCSE level, various rants on feminism from conservative Christian pundits, coupled with a few more balanced talks from some other conservative Christians. So basically a smidgen of truth mixed in with misinformation. Which is unsurprising – ‘opposing’ sides are often pretty uninformed about what the other side thinks. Atheists often have weird misconceptions about what people of faith believe, some of us who believe in capitalism don’t really understand what socialism is, and conservative christians very often don’t understand feminism. In fact, let me not only point the finger at my own people – a lot of people regardless of faith don’t understand what feminism is.
The problem with feminism is that it’s a pretty broad church (I used that phrase intentionally, did you see that?) but it comes with a pretty narrow set of stereotypes. When people think of feminists they think of:
1) Burning bras
3) Unattractive women
5) More anger
6) Hair. Hair everywhere.
7) Hatred of men.
8) Destruction of family structure.
9) More anger.
10) Hair. Hair everywhere.
None of these things are necessarily false. There were some bra burning incidents. Some feminists are understandably angry. Some leading feminists were/are lesbians. Some feminists don’t shave as a part of their feminism. Some of them do sound like they hate men. And some more radical feminists have made statements that point to the fact that they want to destroy traditional family structures. However…..
A lot of feminists shave, wax, epilate and thread their life away. Many of them are married to men, and love the men they’re married to. Most feminists are straight – because most people on this planet are straight and half the people on this planet are women. There are pretty feminists and ones that aren’t conventionally attractive. Furthermore, let’s not put on rose tinted glasses and act like the 1950’s housewife gig was a perfect era for family structure. It wasn’t – and a lot of good things have come out of the feminist movement although there are admittedly a some negative outcomes. In fact, a significant number of Christian women who berate feminism wouldn’t be able to articulate their views with such poise had it not been for a feminist movement that campaigned for women to be allowed to attend university. Slightly ironic right?
Not only that, but there are so many different types of feminism. There are the more radical streams of feminism, which frankly I find a little bit crazy, but to each her own – there is Islamic feminism, there is choice feminism, there is womanism (which is arguably a distinct belief system in itself), there is anti-porn feminism and pro-porn feminism, there are second wave and first wave feminists, and there are some self described Christian feminists. There are also feminists who actively reject the idea that anyone who subscribes to the biblical views of gender can be a feminist. And there are arguments within Christianity about what the bible actually says about gender. Basically, there are so many different belief systems within the broad label of feminism, that it’s a bit irresponsible to blanketly term the whole thing ‘anti-Christian’. It’s not like Christianity – there isn’t a book that believers can refer back to as a final point of reference with which to argue out their creed.
I think the Bible is pretty clear on some things. God is anti-oppression, God loves men and women equally, God uses people regardless of their gender, God created men and women differently and God values men and women equally, but obviously we’re the ones (well men are the ones), who’ve screwed things up in regards to how women are treated. Because I believe this, it means my future little girl will be told that she is just a capable of being CEO of a top company as her brother, that she won’t be made to feel that her value to a man is in her virginity or lack of virginity, that she will get told that her sexuality is something God created for her to enjoy just as much as men do, that her intelligence will be celebrated as much as her beauty, and that she probably won’t be playing with stick thin, ginormous breasted Barbies. My beliefs might also mean though that within my Christian home, the roles of the husband and wife are different. Because I believe that spiritual leadership within a home is completely different to secular leadership in a workplace. And I think that that’s the point where other feminists would kick me out of the club. That’s fine because I don’t actually need that label, but I hate the fact that other Christian women who do choose to label themselves as feminist automatically get raised eyebrows.
Dictionary definitions can be flawed, but the simple definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. What’s so un-Christian about that?
What do you think? What do you believe feminism is?