I have always been a feminist.
For me, it’s never really been a question. When I was 14 and the boys in my tiny Christian junior high called me a feminazi - the boys whose parents apparently listened to Rush Limbaugh in the car on the way to school - I don’t remember even being offended. If what they meant by “feminazi” was that I was fiercely militant about the full equality and humanity of men and women, then it was a title I would embrace with pride.
(Besides, they were trying to flirt, not fight.)
Maybe - on the one hand -I don’t deserve to call myself a feminist, because I haven’t had to fight for the title, like so many women throughout history have. I can vote, own property, get as much education as I want, and receive equal pay for my work. Any misogyny I’ve faced in my life has been implicit and mild.
Maybe - on the other hand - I shouldn’t call myself a feminist, because it has so many different connotations for different people. I don’t hate men; I would rather tear down male-dominated power structures which prize selfishness than fight for a place within them; I am in favor of reducing the number of abortions; and I don’t embrace “sexual freedom” as a prize in the same way many feminists do.
But, as Julie Clawson noted in her excellent series on feminism this summer, there are some titles we choose to embrace regardless of the negative stereotypes they carry. I call myself a Christian, though lord knows there is a lot that’s called “christian” that I hate, because I believe it’s an important term to claim. And I call myself a feminist for the same reason.
|Suffrage Parade in New York, 1912 (wikipedia)|
Last summer an older male pastor whom I greatly respect referred to something as “classic man-hating feminism” and I was shocked speechless. Was that really what he understood feminism to mean?
Now, I know that there has been some man-hating in the expansive, varied, historical feminist movement, but that’s not what I believe the core of feminism to be.
And so, for those pastors and teachers and parents and mentors and friends who are as disturbed to hear me call myself a feminist as I was to hear feminism reduced to “man-hating,” let me be clear:
When I call myself a feminist, I’m saying that I believe in and will fight for the equality and full humanity of women.
And if you think that’s not something that needs to be said, not something that needs to be fought for, then let me remind you that without the feminist movement over the last 150 years in America, most women would be unable to vote, to own property, to have rights over their children, to earn income, to go to college, to refuse to have sex with their husbands (marital rape was legal, in other words).
Let me remind you that even today, across the world, men are routinely valued more than women are. Girl babies are aborted, killed after birth for being girls, unvaccinated though their brothers get all the shots, sold into brothels, expected to jump into the fire when their husbands die.
More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine "gendercide" in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.
I’m a feminist because Jesus was (and if you don't agree that he was, then that's another post I should write).
Pastors, fathers, teachers, junior high boys: for the kingdom to come, we need you to be peacefully, militantly feminist, too.