I’ve never described myself as a feminist. I do not ascribe to some of the combative views of second or even third wave feminism and I consider that many feminists are ignorant of the liberation I believe I have as a Christian woman. But, feminism is a massive spectrum like any -ism and there’s no one definition of what feminists think about a topic. In part, I make this apophatic declaration in order to ward off attacks from those who use the label derisively.
I have friends (men and women) who happily assume the label of feminist and I enjoy their company and points of view. In particular, this post from Vicky Beeching, from last night gives a persuasive apologetic for a Christian feminism.
Now, onto the meat:
My empathy has vastly increased recently toward those who feel strongly about the need for woman to stand up and say, “No” and to declare that “sexism” is wrong and that many men, including those who consider themselves enlightened and who love the women around them, are still quite oppressive in their views toward women. In the last week, I’ve been observing the way in which more often than not, in the comments on blog posts, it is women who are called out on “tone,” are accused of being bitter or who are told they are being “too sensitive,” or that they really should be more “gracious.” It is also women who are told that Christianity views women as subordinate (that was reported in a tweet from a Christian leader at a synod meeting by the way), and who it is assumed are attempting to be usurpers of man’s rightful role as dominator of all – god complex, much? [There is one God and one judge, and you my man, are neither!]
A recent commenter on my post Why it bugs me when the church tells me how to be a woman declared that i was “having [my] cake and eating it too” by suggesting that when i quote Galations 3:28 in saying that there is “neither jew, nor greek, neither male nor female” I cannot also say that “there is a sense in which there’s great power in women being aware of her significance and singularity as a woman.” Oh, as much I often enjoy satire, this piece is not satire. However, this response, to that which is not satire no matter how much it claims to be, is right on the money.
I cannot explain to you how bizarre it is to me, as someone who frankly has never had much interest in calling attention to the fact I’m a woman, that I’m feeling compelled to stand up and emphatically call out those who think that the world is enlightened and completely equitable (especially in the west), and declaring that those who believe that women, like men, are presently judged on the quality of their work and ideas separate from their gender are deluded. There is still a long way to go for equality within society and within the church to be a reality – that notwitshstanding, if God deems me equal to men, then who is anyone to declare otherwise?
As an aside, in a perfect storm, I read this piece from the guardian after I started writing this post: What should we do about sexist abuse online? ; along with this piece from Suzanne Moore; and this one from Jane Martinson.
To assuage yet another potential criticism, Equal does not mean that men and women are the same. You can be equals and be different, you know!
As a woman who has worked entirely in male dominated professions and workplaces I have come to realise that there is more overt sexism and denigration of women online (especially when controversial topics are being discussed) than I’ve experienced over the last decade and a half of working in potentially hostile environments (military, law and academia). Although to be honest, academia is still where I’ve seen, heard and experienced more condescension, glib backhanded compliments and inexcusable sexism out of the three professions in which I have worked.
I joked on twitter the other day, that I may start using a male nom de plume and see if it makes a difference. One fellow traveler (a gentleman) responded wryly saying “I’m sure it would.” For the record, this was his way of showing support for the reality that often women get given a hard time for being women online.
Seriously people, I’m not a polemicist at heart, I really dislike conflict (online or offline) but I’m starting to get really ticked off by comments that suggest that women are being over-sensitive when they suggest that there are not real inequalities that exist between men and women in the west – let’s not even talk about lack of pay parity and institutional discrimination – and the way in which It’s assumed that I’m not a fully formed adult woman because I’m not married or a mother.
I’m even more annoyed when I’m dismissed as exaggerating things when I start talking about the real discrimination and oppression of women and children in many parts of the women when it comes to access to education, especially in the majority world. And I’m not a raving ….[fill in your pejorative] if I declare that I am a [theologically trained] christian woman who does not agree with the church being oppressive and claiming that this oppression is biblical (and if this is from the pulpit, it doesn’t automatically mean it is ‘the offence of the gospel’). I’m not “over sensitive,” and I’m not a blithering idiot.
I’ve happily existed within male dominated professions without the need to call attention to the fact I’m a woman but I i’m really starting to get the sense that there are some systemically sexist attitudes that need to be called out. (for more on just how pervasive this is, read Eve Ensler’s Huffington Post piece from last week, Over It). And when and if they are, if you put it down to a woman being over-sensitive, just know that i’ll probably move from being mildly ticked off to pretty darn irritated.
It makes me sad that I felt so compelled to write this.
Let me do away with my anger, to say this:
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,”
This is my prayer for all those who read this. I seek Truth, not to be right, but to honor my creator and my Lord. I am a woman. I am glad.