I remember the first time I was labeled a feminist.
I was sitting in the common area of our dorm in college and someone came up to our table where we were studying. He struck up a conversation and asked about the paper I was writing, eyeing the pile of books next to me curiously. For some reason I was incredibly hesitant to respond but I finally just tilted the computer screen toward him. It read “Is Islam Misogynistic?” (by the way that’s a forthcoming article and the answer might surprise you) and contained pages and pages of research. The look on his face was one of mingled disgust and confusion. To apparently cover up my faux pas, my friend said in an over-exaggerated, joking tone: “Rachel’s our resident feminist… don’t worry” and giggled, trying to lighten the mood.
At that point in the conversation the guy accused me of hating men. It was hard to tell if he was being sarcastic, but my gut says no. Even if he was, it was coming from a very bitter place. It was implied that I was “too much.” I had officially been typecast in my role as “the feminist”. Apparently this meant that I was to always give the “female opinion” on things and had to write every academic paper with a feminist slant. The role might come with a t-shirt but I’ve yet to get one.
There are some feminists who probably legitimately hate men. They, as many oppressed groups are, are angry at their oppressors. There was a time in the history of feminism when we might have swung the pendulum too far toward anger and hatred, and that isn’t helpful for anyone. However, now, it seems, while most of society has moved on from this connotation of the word feminist, the Church holds onto it, screaming that no good Christian woman can be a feminist. Apparently we are anti-family and anti-man and anti-God (that escalated quickly).
I have an opinion on this. My opinion is that it is dumb.
A feminist is someone who believes women are equal to men. Do you know who also believes that? God. A feminist is someone who believes that women and men should have equal opportunities and equal worth. This is a description of basic human rights. The reason we still need feminism is because few women are living in situations where they actually ARE equal to men and have equal opportunities, let alone are seen as having equal value.
So I am a Christian and a feminist. I know many men who are also Christians and also feminists. Feminism is awesome because it allows people to fight for women and it takes up the charge to grant women basic things like: not being afraid of rape, being able to make the same money as men, etc..
Jesus also is very into giving women dignity, respect and affirming their worth. Which is awesome. Because Christianity and feminism are not opposed.
But I wasn’t always a feminist.
When I first became a follower of Jesus at the precious yet turbulent age of 15, I cautiously dipped my toe into this whole church thing. I joined a small group and met Christian friends and faithfully attended worship services. I slowly picked up on a subculture that I somehow equated with belief in core Christian tenants. It seemed to me that in order to follow Jesus I needed to fit a predetermined mold. One of those things was to hold a lesser view of women. Oh, I was never outright told to believe this… I just sort of picked up on it. Good Christian women should abhor feminism. Good Christian women should be quiet, submissive and not lead men. Good Christian women should certainly not speak out on behalf of other women, nor should they take up any sort of cause that would advocate women’s equality. According to these “vibes” I was getting, feminism means that women are emasculating men and tearing Christian men down. Feminism, in the Church’s eyes, was not Christian and not submissive and I noticed.
Desperate to fit into this thing called church, I tried so hard to fit this. I tried not to look too strong. Speak softer. And not be a feminist.
But the thing is, after years of doing this, of toeing the line between what a subculture wanted and what I knew was against everything I knew about myself and other women, I discovered something beautiful. I discovered a God who fights for women and that Jesus is actually quite known for caring for the marginalized, which throughout all time, has included the majority of women.
So, here I am, the pour-over Christian feminist who loves Jesus and other men also. I declare it loud and proud. Because maybe being typecast as a feminist isn’t so bad after all.