3 Reasons to Be a Feminist

Kim Hunt

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THREE REASONS FEMINIST

From the editor: We’ve extended our series of personal stories of Christian women who identify in some way as feminists. We hope that hearing these stories will broaden our understanding and give us a fuller context in which to have conversations about equality in the Church.

My adventure of becoming a feminist was like one of those silly love stories you read where people say they were halfway there before they even knew they had begun.

My mum is a feminist, though she hardly ever uttered the actual word. It wasn’t until I found myself immersed in a non-Christian, higher education environment that I finally had the opportunity to learn what feminism was and is. I learned I had been a feminist for years without even knowing it.

Unfortunately feminism has garnered a poor reputation within our society. The Women Against Feminism movement makes me want to cry, because it seems as though people just don’t understand what feminism is. According to a Facebook poll (clearly the most reliable way to gather information), some people hear the word “feminist” and think:

• Man haters (all men must pay for thousands of years of sexism and abuse)

• Lesbian (feminists can only love other feminists, who are all female because a male can’t be a feminist – therefore all feminists are lesbians)

• Anti-procreation (children are the devil incarnate and force women to adhere to gender stereotypes, didn’t you know?)

• Pro-choice (because every feminist thinks and believes exactly the same)

• Anti-God/religion (God is the religious depiction of patriarchal values)

• Hate stay-at-home moms (who are not living up to their full potential in society)

• Sarcastic and opinionated (who me? Sarcastic? Opinionated? Never!)

Sometimes when I tell people I’m a feminist I can literally feel negative vibes emanating from their souls. Seriously, from the depths of their souls.

We don’t all hate men. We aren’t all lesbians. In fact, we aren’t all women. Some of us are stay-at-home moms. Some of us are Christians. And many of us are pro-life.

Feminists come in all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and stories, genders and cultures. What unites us is our belief in equality. That’s what feminism is about. Equality in thinking, acting, perceiving, and ability to make choices in life.

So, here are three reasons why I believe you should be a feminist:

1. Feminism seeks equality for everyone.

It’s a common misconception that all feminists think women are better than men, and seek to put women above men. Historically feminism has sought for equal rights for just women, but it has evolved over the years to seek equal rights for everyone. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, feminism envelopes not only gender disparities, but cultural, sociological, political, and economic disparities, seeking justice and equality for all marginalized populations.

What does that mean? It means that feminism fights for more than just women.

Feminism fights for men who shouldn’t have to worry about being teased if they choose to become a nurse or stay-at-home dad just like it fights for women who want to be doctors and CEOs as opposed to nurses and secretaries.

Feminism fights for the American Middle Eastern community to be treated like people as opposed to potential terrorists because of their family origin just like it does for girls around the world who are denied an education because of their gender.

Feminism fights for the downtrodden, abused, marginalized, and picked over. Feminism stares injustice in the face and decides to do something about it – not just for women, but for everyone.

2. Women must constantly ask themselves: Is this safe?

I get lost on Reddit sometimes. Not too long ago I came across a sub-reddit about “girly” things men wished they could do without being judged. The responses were hilarious, ranging from “wanting to order a girly drink” to “being the little spoon” to “carrying a purse.”

While entertaining, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What would I like to be able to do that men can do without being judged…?”

My first thought: Walk to my car alone in the dark without the fear that someone might try to kidnap and rape me.

That’s an extreme thought. However, isn’t it true? Wouldn’t we all like to feel safe while walking by ourselves? As women we have to constantly be aware of possible danger.

Here are some statistics for the U.S.: Every 2 minutes an American is sexually assaulted. One in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. One in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in his lifetime. Ninety-seven percent of rapists never spend a single day in jail. Sixty percent of sexual assaults are never reported to police.

Situations of sexual assault are normalized and excused through blaming and objectifying the victim and saying “boys will be boys.”

This. Is. Not. Okay.

There is no excuse for sexual assault. It’s not her fault for wearing a short dress or for walking home alone at night. It’s not his fault for getting black-out drunk at a party. It’s the perpetrator’s fault. It’s always the perpetrator’s fault.

We carry mace, rape whistles, our keys strategically placed between our fingers as a possible weapon, and our phones set to dial 911 with one touch. We constantly watch our drinks in public to make sure no one puts anything in them. We make sure someone knows where we are at all times “just in case.”

I just want to walk to my car alone at night without being afraid.

3. Jesus was a Feminist, and we’re supposed to be like Jesus, right?

Okay. So I don’t have a written letter signed by Jesus saying “I, Jesus Christ the Son of God, am a Feminist.” But, I do have his biblical example and teachings.

Jesus provides one of the greatest examples of feminist values within a culture that offered more exclusivity than inclusivity. Perhaps the best illustration of this is that of the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well (John 4:4-26). As a teacher, he was expected to mingle with the Jewish male population; they were his equals within society. And yet we find Jesus seeking out a Samaritan woman. The Samaritan people were highly marginalized within Jewish society, women were highly marginalized within Jewish society; yet Jesus sought her out, conversed with her, counseled her, and sent her out as a voice for change.

When the Church tells women they can’t hold the same positions as men within a church setting, it’s not okay.

That is not how Jesus lived out his life. He treated men and women the same. The fact that women were present among the disciples of Jesus broke a long tradition of exclusion (see Luke 8:1-3). Jesus never disgraced, belittled, or stereotyped a woman based upon her gender. Rather, he removed society’s shackles and affirmed women as people throughout his ministry.

Jesus challenged the conventional patriarchy of his culture. He sought to include women, children, and marginalized populations as a part of his ministry and tutelage. He broke barriers. He stood up for those who had no one else speaking out for them. There is no greater example of the love and justice of God than Jesus, and there is no greater example of feminism than Jesus.

I am a Feminist; hear me roar. Will you roar with me?

 

Kim Hunt

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15 Comments

  • Three great points, Kim. I grew up with the Women’s Lib movement, so it’s hard for me not to see gender issues in the light of feminism. Still, the main reason I’m a feminist is the third point you made: Jesus treated women as he treated men, and the Bible explicitly states that in him there is no male or female distinction to being in his family.

  • I really like this article, and the more I study theology the more I recognize the very socially radical nature of Jesus’ life and teachings. I cannot help but think, though, that Christian feminists need to identify themselves as such…Christian feminists, not feminists like every other kind of feminist (and there are many different kinds of feminists). There are good reasons and bad reasons to support anything, and a Christian feminist is such because of his or her convictions regarding the social nature of Christ and the gospel. We are not feminists for the reasons non-Christians are feminists. This may seem divisive, but I think the gospel is divisive. Am I wrong? (That’s a genuine question, not mere snobbery.)

    • Rick – thanks so much for your question! There are definitely different kinds of feminists and different waves of feminism, but I see it almost like “Christian” in terminology – there are different denominations and different beliefs, but at the core all Christians believe that Christ is the human image of God who came to save us from our sins. Rather than focus on the divisive nature of each denomination I prefer to work alongside those who may share different opinions/interpretations. The same is true of feminism. I prefer to look at what unites us (belief that all humans are equal and should be treated as such) rather than what divides us. Does that make sense? This is just my opinion, though. I think we fight too much over things that we can’t necessarily change about each other and that causes more conflict and keeps us from getting good work done.

  • Nice work, Kim! I am with you all the way. Both of my folks are feminists and never said it. The funny thing is that my dad is more of a feminist than my mom…lol. Following you on Twitter now…Looking forward to some girl-power tweets! xoxo

  • What a clear outline as to what feminism really is and stands for. Executed beautifully! More gentle but to-the-point articles – such as this one – need to be circulated to help reverse the damage done to the name of feminism, especially in Christian circles.

    • I completely agree, Breanne! I think the Junia Project is doing such great work with this feminism series. I know a lot of closet feminists in Christian communities who are afraid of the “F” word as they call it. The more we talk about it and demystify it, the greater acceptance it will receive!

  • I would avoid using the feminist title – while you redefine it here – when the secular community hears or sees it they are going with the presupposed idea they came to the table with.

    • Mark, I have actually found using the title “Christian feminist” to be a great way to establish common ground with non-Christian friends and acquaintances – even strangers. Most are surprised to learn that there are Christians who believe women should be treated as equals in the church without limitations on roles. Many tell me they were raised in the church but left as soon as they realized there was no place for them. A couple have told me that hearing the egalitarian theological view has made them reconsider believing in God. Where I find more presupposed ideas about the term feminist (and much more judgement) is from other Christians. I would be interested to know what others have experienced in this regard.

    • Mark – I hear you! People definitely assume a lot when you say you’re a feminist! I’ve been doing what I can within different feminist circles to really talk about the different kinds of feminism out there. I think we should embrace the title as much as we can. There are always going to be prejudices and presupposed ideas of things, I want to break barriers and pull down those prejudicial ideas. That’s how we make change!

  • Great article, Kim. While I can be critical of silent feminists, it sounds like your mother’s actions spoke as loudly as her words, and that often just as powerful, as noted by her influence on you. Much work is needed to save the term feminist from hegemonic forces seeking to denigrate it and this article does the work. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for those kind words, Patti! My mother’s actions definitely spoke loud! That’s how she lives her life, though – she is wise, and soft spoken, and so so so giving – but she and my dad also raised us to be the individuals we are and never put barriers on us for what we could accomplish in life. For that I am so ridiculously thankful. I recently learned she roared Iin her own quiet way) with the feminists back in the 70s, and I’ve been bringing her out of her shell a bit more in the modern times so we can roar together 🙂

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