I’m a feminist but…

Nope. ‘But’, nothing. There’s no but. I’m a feminist.

The woman who has just become the Turnbull Government’s Minister for Women said, in 2014;

“I have never been someone who labels herself in terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.”

Sigh.

I don’t even begin to know where to go with that.

It’s not just frustrating, it’s also incorrect. This article provides a good, quick overview.

(Look, this post is a bit directionless. I have lots of feelings about this but I’m not entirely sure what they are exactly…)

So many teen girls that I know don’t want to be associated with the term, and one of my male students said last week ‘I think people should have equal rights but I don’t like it when women get all Feminazi’. Surprisingly, he couldn’t actually articulate what that meant. And then I made the joke about how wanting equality is exactly like invading Poland…

I’d like to say that I’ve never had a problem identifying as a feminist, but I’m pretty sure I was in the ‘well I want equality but I wouldn’t want it to go too far’ camp when I was younger.
Too far.
Too seriously.
Silencing tactics that try to stop dialogue and infer that you are being unreasonable. I still don’t know what people mean when they say ‘too far’. Well, I do know what it means actually, because I have been stupid enough to engage in parts of the internet where MRAs lurk. And Reddit. I should know better…

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(there’s a certain irony that this is the largest size that this top comes in but it only just fits me)

Christianity and feminism.

The two things aren’t incompatible.

I’ve been surprised to learn just how ‘feminist’ the early Jesus movement was, as recorded in the New Testament.

Although current dialogue often sees Christianity as a patriarchal religion that relegates women to roles of subservience and deliberate silence, this does not accurately reflect the early church. Within a patriarchal Greco-Roman society, Jesus chose women as disciples, supporters and travelling companions, and Paul, long regarded as a misogynist (certainly by myself) , praises many women active in ministry at the time, describing Phoebe in Romans 16 as a ‘deacon’ and Junia as ‘outstanding among the apostles’.

Some of the lines that have stopped me connecting with any of Paul’s writings (‘the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak’ 1 Cor 14:34) are now regarded by many to have been inserted by those who composed the deutero-Pauline writings. When read in light of the approval and encouragement that Paul gives to women in his other writings, this line is totally incongruous.

Of course, as it became part of the establishment, these early beginnings were silenced because = Patriarchy. But, at its heart, Christianity isn’t incompatible with feminism. Women were leaders, passionate adherents, and an important factor in the spread of the Gospel in the Roman Empire.

Maybe if we can understand that within any given group, there is a huge array of ideas, and apart from certain broad definitions there is room for a diversity of viewpoints.

The fear of claiming a truth because of the perceptions of others, or buying into the idea that ‘feminism’ or ‘Christianity’ is so narrow that it can’t handle discussion or diversity trivialises the importance of both these traditions.

They are both old enough, and tough enough, to handle our questions and our doubts.

11 thoughts on “I’m a feminist but…

  1. Girls I worked with responded differently to feminism depending on their age (to broadly generalise). The older ones (who would be around 60+ now) lived through the process when feminists fought for equality, and were granted it in the public service via equal employment opportunity and other requirements. They knew it was a battle, and they were very much committed to holding the line.

    But the younger ones (women we appointed just out of university 25 years ago, so now approaching 50) took all that for granted. They expected to be treated equally, and they didn’t really understand how much tougher it had been 20 years before. SO they just weren’t as committed to the cause, because they were indeed treated equally (at least at the level I worked).

    I’m sure it would be different in different places, but I think that may explain why some younger people aren’t so feminist today.

    I agree with you, too, that christianity earlier on was radically supportive of women and children, but this didn’t last. Of course many branches of christianity still don’t treat women equally, but I think it is changing. It requires a new attitude to the Bible and how it is interpreted, and so that will take time.

    • I despair, sometimes, at the way young (and When I say sound I mean 20s) women allow themselves to be treated. It’s far more a cultural issue today than a legislative one, I think.

  2. You might want to look at Rodney Stark’s book, The Rise of Christianity, a sociological book that shows that women were largely responsible for creating the Christianity we know today.

  3. I have a huge family tree of feminist. My mother, who would be 85, was the second woman allowed in her union (printing industry) and was usually the only woman in her shop. My paternal grandmother, born in 1887 worked even after she was married and was a post mistress, so she had authority over men. Gasp! I agree with unkleE above that younger women don’t understand what paths were taken so that they can hold the jobs that they have now. I can’t even get it through to my daughters.

    And feminism and Christianity definitely go hand in hand. Think about who stayed with Jesus while he was on the cross. It was the women. The men ran and hid. So many other instances of important women in the Bible, just most of them aren’t given names. It is always fun to read and “look” for the women.

      • It is a history that I am very proud of and something that was shared and highlighted at my mom’s funeral. My paternal grandparents had a very non-traditional marriage. He did most of the housework and cooking ~ he is the one who taught my mom to cook. They had a farm and he did all the chores, etc and she worked outside the home. My dad did a lot of the housework too because they both worked. I had wonderful role models.

        • I come from fairly traditional role models. And have married someone who is also traditional (sigh). But I can still be a feminist, dammit!

  4. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

    Any time you want to borrow Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s “In memory of her” let me know.

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