I have seen feminism through the lens of every cliché stereotype in the book. I would hear the word and roll my eyes, picturing militant bra-burners who hated men and really just needed to calm down a little.
I like my bras. And I really like men, I thought. Clearly I could never be a feminist.
In college (conservative Southern Baptist-leaning college) I began to associate feminism less with man-haters and more with proponents of egalitarian marriage. This is probably just because marriage was such a popular topic at my school. But still, the feminist egalitarians were laughable caricatures in my mind. They think women and men are exactly the same. Well I was in a long-term relationship and had been through enough fights to know the man I was dating was nothing like me. I mentally check-marked the ‘still silly’ box where feminism was concerned.
Essentially, I never considered taking feminism seriously until I contemplated my own impending marriage. I’d watched a few friends get married, vowing to submit to and support the leadership of their husbands, assuming all the while that I would eventually do the same. But shortly before graduating I read A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Then I started reading Rachel Held Evans’ blog, and Sarah Bessey’s, and others, and I found myself fascinated by these thoughts I had never heard firsthand before. These feminists were not raving lunatics; they loved Jesus, they loved their husbands, they loved the Bible.
I didn’t agree with everything I read but I reveled in the difference.
My analytical mind thrilled at the opportunity to assess views and perspectives that did not mirror my own—an opportunity often lacking in my conservative upbringing.
And as I considered this new idea of Christian feminism as a valid option, I considered my marriage. I always thought I was okay with the word ‘submit’ until I actually got engaged—then I began to think, why? I began to think that I didn’t want to stand up in front of my family and friends and promise my husband that he can make the decision if we disagree. I wanted to promise to be a kind and encouraging partner for him; to work alongside him in the trenches of love that is affection, yes, but also choice. To talk and fight and reason it out together as equal voices when we’re faced with decisions. My dear fiancé is a little confused by my sudden questions about our traditional complementarian views, but supportive (he says he doesn’t mind if I want to be a strong woman who believes in ‘equalitarianism-or-whatever-it-is’). So while there’s a lot of baggage attached to the word feminist and I’m still not sure I’m comfortable applying it to myself, I think for me, right now, feminism simply means I believe that I’m equal, and that the roles I take should be based on my talents and not my anatomy.
For me, personal feminism is still something I’m figuring out.
I am more comfortable identifying as a feminist when it comes to activism in things outside myself. From a socio-political standpoint, I would say I am a feminist in that I am appalled by the reality that in many places around the world, little girls are aborted, killed or abandoned solely because of their gender. That 200 million girls are missing from the world today because they are still considered ‘less than’—in so many cultures, women still depend entirely on men for financial and social viability, and thus when resources are limited baby girls are not considered worth the cost. In the face of this tragedy, I am a feminist until women everywhere are seen as fully human.
Day 1} Feminism and Me: On Tuesday, February 26, link up at J.R. Goudeau’s blog, loveiswhatyoudo.com, and write about these questions: 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?