Feminism and Christianity are two of my favorite topics. They both play a huge role in my life and my beliefs. Sadly, much of the time the two do not mix, but I think most Christians hold strong beliefs against Feminists because they have a skewed understanding of what it means to be a feminist. Likewise it’s the same on the other side – Feminists also have a skewed view of Christianity.
Speaking from a Christian perspective, I believe you cannot be a Christian without also being a feminist. I have a minor in Women’s Studies and have thoroughly studied feminist issues. Though I do NOT agree with all feminist thoughts, I do strongly support the main message of feminism – which is equality for all regardless of not only sex (being male of female), but also ethnicity, social status, family background, etc.
Christ in scripture also calls for equality of all. God created all uniquely (Psalm 139) and loves us all. Jesus did not discriminate against anyone for any reason – He associated with the Samaritan woman, the outcasts, the lepers, the sick, even the sinners regardless of what sins they committed. He accepted people just the way they were. (I will say that though he did accept sinners, he did not expect them to stay in their sin, but that’s for another time). In Galatians, Paul writes there is no distinction between individuals: “27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ we are all seen as equal, as one. Because of this, I proudly call myself a feminist and seek to support feminist issues throughout my life, here in America and hopefully in my future career serving overseas.
For my capstone paper in Contemporary Feminist Thought last semester, I focused my studies on Mary Daly and her stance on gynecology. In her studies she points out ‘rites’ throughout history that have brought suffering upon women. Some of those include Chinese footbinding, female genital mutilation and widow burning. Daly says that women in America experience some of the same effects as a result of our cultural practices. She fights against the practice of gynecology. I myself fight against plastic surgery, pornography and unequal pay for women in the workforce. Though the negative consequences of these cultural practices may not seem as harsh as those historical rites mentioned above, they do have serious implications particularly for women and we allow them to happen each day.
As we talked about these historical rites throughout history, we didn’t really ever cover the way these practices were ended. Unfortunately some still happen today, but for the most part Chinese footbinding and widow burning is not widely practiced anymore. In feminist classes, it is never mentioned if Christians played any role in stopping these events. I honestly assumed since Christians are so against feminism, that they had no role in helping women over come these obstacles mentioned in the feminist classroom. Feminists don’t seem to want to talk about Christians and Christians don’t seem to want to talk about Feminists…unless in a negative way But I want to talk about the two together and make a positive connect for you that was made for me this week.
In my missions class these two movements were connected in such an awesome way that no one had ever explained to me before. Lottie Moon and William Carey were some of the front runners in setting women free from these rites. Lottie put a stop to Chinese footbinding and Carey stopped widow burning. Both of these missionaries saw injustice against women and desired to fix it. In a sense, they were feminists. Yet neither side, Feminists nor Christians, are willing to acknowledge the fact. We are working toward the same goal. Who knew that of all places seminary would make this connection for me.
Our missionary role models supported feminist ideas and worked to improve the status of women around the world. A huge need for feminist workers like this still exists today. Women, the poor, outcasts, they all suffer every day because they are not see an equal or important human beings. Instead they don’t live up to cultural standards. Being both a Christian and a Feminist, I have something to offer those in need that those who are solely feminist cannot offer. A feminist can go to another country and put an end to social injustice for the sake of helping others. I can go put an end to social injustice for the sake of the Gospel and I can offer them something more than just a better lifestyle, I can offer them the saving power of Christ Jesus who loves them. That’s what I want my ministry to be about.