I am a strong, independent woman.
I cannot even count the number of times I have said this. I started using this phrase when I moved to the glorious city of Chicago (unfortunately one with non-glorious weather) to attend Bible school and tried to convince the girls on my floor that I would be safe walking to McDonalds by my self. Little did I know, that this phrase was somehow a feminist thing.
For starters, I will admit that feminism is a word I”ve never been too fond of, nor cared to know too much about. Growing up in a Christian and relatively conservative home, feminism never carried a particularly good connotation. I remember my mother speaking of the women of the 60s who would burn their bras, and how Roe vs. Wade was a heinous crime against humanity. The former I couldn’t understand, I mean I’ve always liked the support, and the latter I knew only in the terms of “baby-killing”. Well, I grew up and after a couple of years at Bible college, I had had several experiences with the word. This time, feminism was thrown out as a callous insult directed at me: “Rachel, you’re such a feminist!” When I decided to buzz my hair down to a two, the reaction was amplified. I understood that lesbian women might hit on me, but I never expected Christian friends (both men and women) to amp up the use of the word feminist when it came to describing me. It was at this point that I realized something in the Christian community was really off when it came to feminism. All of this led me to believe that my experience with feminism was rather misguided.
To be fair there are different waves of feminism, and my mother’s memories of bra-burnings and court sessions are correct in one sense of the word. Yet, feminism is a term that has a lot of fluidity right now. To some, it does denote the gay-rights activists and bra burnings of the 60s and 70s, to others it means women’s rights and justice. So, it is necessary to realize that not all “feminism” is created equal. [See Amy Lepine Peterson’s post for great information on the waves of feminism]
That being said, I think it’s vitally important for Christians to have a rich understanding of what feminism represents. We cannot be so ignorant as to only associate it with sin. Yes, evangelicals will argue till they’re blue in the face about gender roles and what’s Scriptural, but even that is a subset of what feminism is about. At its root, feminism is about men and women having equal rights, which is something even the church’s most conservative member should affirm. Feminism does not deny that there are differences between men and women, nor does it fly in the face of Scripture. Rather, it says that because men and women posses equal intrinsic value, they ought to be treated as such. Being treated as though you posses worth and dignity is not a male right, or a female right– it’s a human right. I think that this is absolutely essential to the Church’s understanding of feminism.
I will be the first to admit that this idea has gotten convoluted and peppered with more extreme positions– from both sides (The pro- choice and the patriarchy movement). But, this root– this acknowledgment and treatment of woman as equal in value, dignity, and worth– is vital, and honestly, is supported Scripturally (it starts in Genesis 1 with the creation of men and women, but I won’t go into all of the Scriptures here– many blogs are already doing that).
But, here’s the thing: God created me. He created men and women. And he created us with value. And our value is only enhanced by the differences. It’s absurd to think that somehow my female-ness can take away from that worth, just as much as thinking that somehow a man’s male-ness adds to his worth. Worth and value go beyond biology or personality. The Bible is clear about that. And if feminism promotes that, I want in. It’s time to redefine the connotations of feminism. Because throwing out the “baby” of being treated as though we all have equal worth and dignity, just because the “bathwater” of the pro-choice movement and bra-burnings in the 60s were “too much” and “wrong”, is unnecessary. Because treating men and women equally actually makes sense if you’re a Christian. Because I want my future daughters to be able to cut their hair any way they want. And because I want to be able to say that I am a strong, independent woman, without fear of judgement from fellow Christians that I’m in sin.
So, Church, let’s get feminism right, for us, for the world around us, and for our future generations.
This blog is in response to the #femfest synchroblog starting on Day #1 with J.R. Goudeau’s blog, loveiswhatyoudo.com. Post your thoughts to these questions and link up: What is your experience with feminism? What’s a story or a memory or a person that you associate with that word? Why does it have negative or positive connotations for you? How do you define the term, either academically or personally? What writers have you read whose definitions you want to bring out? Or, if you don’t have a definition, what are some big questions you have?