Over the course of the past year I’ve begun to resonate with feminism. When I reflect on God’s work of justice and redemption in the world and seeing how far gender equality has yet to come, I can’t help but resonate with the cause. Gender equality is not where it used to be by any means, but it’s not where it needs to be either.
I used to buy into the idea that feminism meant hating men or some other platitude. I clearly remember my roommate telling me about feminism and how he identified with it to which I coldly replied that feminism is a joke.
However, my perception of feminism has changed drastically since then and fits perfectly in my worldview–that God has sent his people into the world to proclaim the good news and be the good news as reconcilers and redeemers. Gender equality is a huge part of the work of justice that God would have for his people. It’s not the endgame, but it brings us closer to experiencing God’s shalom on earth.
And so, this post kicks off a series on feminism that I will be writing over the next several weeks.
But Trevor–you’re a man! You can’t be a feminist, can you?!
Ah, glad you asked.
There are so many poor stereotypes about feminism out there. Stereotypes that exclaim that feminists are man-hating, bra-burning, angry women who think that femininity is better than masculinity. While there are women who subscribe to that type of feminism, they are but a small fraction of the feminist movement. There are different breeds of feminists but they all subscribe to the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. If you don’t have be a woman to believe in equality, then you don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist.
Sarah Bessey, author of “Jesus Feminist,” states that “At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people too” (13). Of course Bessey writes this slightly tongue-in-cheek because it is not a radical notion at all. The complete personhood of women should be a given, but unfortunately is distorted (often at the hands of patriarchy).
This “radical” exertion has serious implications for how we view and treat both men and women. Implications about gender roles and intrinsic value, about voting rights, and education, the ability to own property, to speak in court, about sexual violence and rape culture, to hold political offices or be in positions of leadership.
But Trevor, this is the 21st century–do we even need feminism anymore? Aren’t we past that?
An excellent question! Thank you for asking. Unfortunately, we are not quite past the need for feminism.
- Women aged 15 through 45 are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.
- Worldwide, over 135 million girls and women have undergone genital mutilation and 2 million more girls are at risk each year.
- Women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and own only 1 percent of the titled land.
- The majority of women earn on average about three-fourths of the pay that men receive for doing the same work, outside of the agricultural sector, in both developed and developing countries.
- In the United States, 300,000 women are raped a year.
- Estimates show that 17,000,000 American women have been raped in their lifetime.
- 96% of sexually objectifying advertising is of women.
- Both men and women are more prone to see women’s bodies as a collection of sexual body parts.
- A rape culture exists where it is often more shameful to be raped than to be a rapist, where people blame the victim for their assault, and where conviction of rapists is lament-worthy.
I could continue, but I hope I’ve made my point. And remember too, that behind every stat there is a person and a consequence; these aren’t just ambiguous inconsequential numbers. There is a such an vast inequality between the sexes in the United States and across the world. We’ve certainly made strides in gender equality within the past century, but we are far from not needing feminism anymore.
Unfortunately, feminism has often been treated as an enemy of Christianity. This is because of the poor stereotype of “abortion-pushing, family-hating, home wreckers” that cause the church to recoil. But the core of feminism–the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes–is not an enemy but a friend of the church! As God’s instrument of justice and reconciliation in the world, the church ought to fight for the rights of women rather than ignore or propagate their inequality.
In fact Christianity probably has the best defense in fighting for the full personhood of women. Genesis 1:27 asserts that both men and women were made in the image of God. Galatians 3:28 stresses the equality of all despite gender, race, or class. Jesus routinely treats women with respect that was uncharacteristic of the Ancient Near East culture. I hope that more people can recognize this and use Christianity as a platform for feminism rather than an attack on it.
And so I’m a Christian, but until the day when that is synonymous with fighting for the rights and full personhood of women, you can also call me a feminist.
A Jesus Feminist.