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Feminism in process

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?

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8 thoughts on “Feminism in process

  1. “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.”

    Excellent.

    Also, “egalitarianism-or-whatever-it-is.” That made me smile, your good humor comes through in this post, thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. I can relate a lot to this post. The whole still figuring it out part, and identifying as a feminist when it comes to activism… “In the face of this tragedy, I am a feminist until women everywhere are seen as fully human.” Thanks for writing this!

    • I think one of the hardest things to do in a Christian environment is talk about things you’re still working through, or issues when you don’t have an answer for everything. It’s like there’s this perception that you have to have an ironclad stance before speaking up, and that was a bit of a hurdle for me with feminism. But I think you kind of touched on this in one of your posts as well- that we shouldn’t fear identifying with something just because we’re still figuring it out, our stories are still important. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  3. First- love and miss you! You know that any talk about gender roles intrigues me!Second, it’s been a long time since I’ve really thought through this topic. If I could offer any comment it would be that in almost a year of marriage, I don’t remember a single occasion in which submitting was put to the test over decision-making. We’ve found where we’re naturally talented, creative, practical—sometimes these areas are “traditional,” other times they’re just not. It’s much harder to “submit,” in basic humility. Will I say something damaging to my husband out of emotion because I can? Will I create opportunities for him to succeed and be encouraged or instead have a critical attitude? Will I allow him to provide for or protect me, even if I thrive on being in control? (This doesn’t mean I stay home and knit 😉 )

    I hope that if the time ever came when he did have to make a decision that I couldn’t initially understand, I’d consider his character and integrity to prove that he is a trustworthy man who wants to lead his family and honor me in the process. I would, and even have, extended this type grace and compromise to a friend and an employer—how much more so should I extend these to my own spouse? (I asked my hubs this. His response was that as a display of love, he couldn’t think of a time when it would be appropriate to make a rash decision or put me in the position where I didn’t matter. That’s the great second part to this discussion.)

    Luckily, we’ve never had to pretend that Ephesians 5, or anything similar, is a one-way street. Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ is a banner over everything and applies in areas where marriage is not the topic. Always uncomfortable, but true. While I don’t think submission is as simple as mutual respect, I believe it begins there, as a condition of the heart. A favorite professor told us, “The two of you can’t go on living as two individuals and expect to live as one in marriage.” Regardless of gender roles, it’s obvious that marriage is and has to be self-sacrificing—a problem I run into daily when my pride and selfishness are at their utmost.

    I’m sure you’ve studied much of this already, and some of it is common sense 🙂 I thought I would offer a different spin, knowing that I’ve easily been pulled to either extreme.

    • Love you Hill! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think what you touched on– that submission is kind of a general and fluid (and circumstantially influenced) concept– is one of the reasons I’ve struggled with it. It seems no one can ever really say how it’s supposed to play out in real life marriage; so hearing about how it’s worked for you and Jon is really helpful.

      I also think the mutual submission you discussed is the most important thing, and is probably what all of us should be focusing on in marriage anyway- I think almost everyone would be able to agree that they want a mutually respectful, kind and sacrificial marriage.

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