feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests — feminist n or adj — feministic adj
I am constantly bemused by the number of people I meet who say “I’m not a feminist but…. [insert statement that implies the person making the statement believes in the importance of equality between men and women]”. Many of my friends, my uni mates, work colleagues, and wider family do not think they are feminists, yet believe in the equality of women and their right to fair treatment. Kelly Clarkson claims not to be a feminist yet protests against the “Old Boys’ Club” she is constantly up against in the music industry. Just who do all these people think a feminist is? Contrary to popular myth, feminists come in all shapes and sizes, ages, genders, sexualities and religions. You do not have to a) be a lesbian, b) be abundantly, unabashedly hairy, c) eschew makeup and all kinds of laughter (although if you so choose any of the above, that is entirely up to you). It is not a prerequisite that you hate men. In fact, you can even be a man and still be a feminist. In fact, you can be a Christian, even a Lutheran and still be a feminist. Heck, I even know some pastors who would describe themselves as feminist. I even would go so far as to describe Jesus Christ as a feminist. The Feminist even.
Sojourner Truth in 1851 argued: “that …man…, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? …From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” While he was bodily on earth, Jesus consistently acted in a manner that affirmed the worth and equality of women. Christ advocated for the equal application of Jewish law to men and women (Jn 8:3-7). Christ appeared after his resurrection to women first and commissioned them to give statements about this (in those times women were unable to give evidence in a court of law) (Jn 20:13-18; Mt 28:8-10). He included several women within his close group, teaching them (Mt 27:55-56; Lk 8:1-3; 10:39, 42). Throughout the Bible, God ordains female leaders, apostles and prophets such as Miriam, Deborah, Anna, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla and Junia. The first chapter of the Bible highlights that both men and women were made in the image of God (Gen 1: 27). God even answers to names with feminine overtones – for instance, ‘El Shaddai’ can be translated as “The Breasted One” and has connotations of abundance and fertility.
Christianity in general has always been concerned with issues of injustice and oppression. Feminism can sit comfortably alongside other important social justice concerns such as disability, poverty and homelessness, exploitative trade practices, Indigenous rights and the rights of prisoners. Despite this, many Christians still seem loath to be associated with feminism. I think this is partly to do with confusing the arguments of some feminists with the arguments of the whole group. Christians are not a homogenous group. We are not all prudish, cross-wearing, Bible-waving, teetotallers (though again, if you so choose, that’s your prerogative). Feminists are not a homogenous group either. The stereotypes are merely stereotypes. There is only one criterion in order to be a feminist: that you think that equality and fair treatment of women is a good thing. So am I a feminist? Absolutely. Do I need to qualify that? No. Do you believe that equal rights and fair treatment for women is a good thing? Yes? You are a feminist.