Faith and Feminism Part Two - Bra burning man hater

Monday, 11 April 2016

Feminist.adjectiveSometimes, feministic

1.
advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.
2.
an advocate of such rights.

- Dictionary.com
I get that feminism is a bit of a loaded term. I'd be ignorant to ignore it. So I thought I'd define it for the sake of continuing this series. Above is the dictionary definition of feminist.

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the term 'feminist' as far back as 1852. It has a long and complex history, of which (apart from the bare basics) I have been, up to now, unacquainted with. But the essential definition is as above: a feminist is a person who believes in, and stands up for, equal rights for women.

Not more rights than men. Equal.

People might find the titles 'Christian' and 'feminist' to be fundamentally at odds with each other. I don't. In a later post, I will go into this a bit more, because a woman's position in the church is something I have been wrestling with for the past year or so and is a huge part of my faith-based wobbles last year, and I feel it needs at least one blog post in itself. But for now, I'll say this: that feminist ideals tie in with my faith and the two coexist happily.

It's easy to dismiss the modern feminist movement as a bunch of whiny women, women who can't take a joke, women that won't shut up, women that are so sensitive that the smallest thing makes them spring up screaming 'SEXIST!' I'll admit, there are people like that. There are feminists out there that despise men for one reason or another. There are things that people label 'sexist' that I think more of as thoughtless. But there's no real way of defining this. To a certain extent it is private opinion. But in the same way that I wouldn't expect you to judge me, because I am a Christian, as a placard-wielding, hellfire-and-brimstole screeching street evangelist, so I don't expect you to lump me into a category with man-hating bra-burning people.

Feminism for me marks the point in my life in which I say 'enough'.

I am sick of sticking my head in the sand. Sick of living in my happy little bubble while women around me suffer. I'm sick of rape jokes, sick of people telling girls to shut up, be well behaved, be submissive. I'm sick of the horrific global injustice being suffered by women and girls around the globe.

I label myself with a kind of controversial word, yes, but I think it matters. The things we say matter. Attitudes toward women matter. We need, desperately need, to move beyond what we currently see as acceptable. In our culture, we've come a long way, but it isn't enough. I don't believe that everything that has gone before - especially when it comes to church - history and tradition and wisdom - should be thrown out and be replaced with modern replacements, just for the sake of it. That would be foolish. But just because something has always been that way, doesn't mean that way is right. Or maybe it has worked before, but it is still in the process of growing and changing and becoming what it needs to be. We can't throw out the legacy of people that have come before, but I believe we cannot afford to stay still, stubbornly unmoving. That's when something becomes stagnant. That is one of the tightropes we walk along as Christians - that tension between what is good about the old and good about the new, and how to reconcile them.

I believe that small incidents of women being oppressed, ridiculed, or mistreated, need to be dealt with. Because small things, small moments where a woman is silenced or shut down or abused contribute to a much darker story. A legacy of a partiarchal society which has allowed women to be trodden on, treated as less-than-men for far too long. Worldwide, women are being killed, raped, tortured, because they had the audacity to be born female, and by not speaking up against that we allow it to continue. As people, we send a message that it doesn't matter. That it can continue.

In no way am I suggesting a girl in the UK being paid less than a man is the same level of awful as a woman being raped in Afghanistan. Obviously not. But they share a common theme - that women aren't worth as much as men. That women don't count. That they don't matter.

I believe that God loves women as much as He loves men. I believe that equality is something we SHOULD be striving for. As a Christian I have to pursue this, I feel now. I feel it passionately, deep in the marrow of my being. How can I not respond, not try and pursue peace and equality in the time that I walk the earth? I can't reconcile that God cares about women, that He has gifted them and given them passions and abilities, but that they still matter less than men because ultimately, men are the ones that matter the most, and women are just there to facilitate their success.

For the sake of my daughter, who for all her comforts, will still have to navigate body image pressure, objectification, stereotyping, and possibly less pay for doing the same job as a man - and for the sake of girls globally who are told they aren't worthy of a voice, or an education, or even of life: I no longer want to contribute to this narrative, even if only by allowing myself to pretend it doesn't exist. It makes me equally heartbroken and furious to see this long-standing message of worthlessness to be taught to women worldwide.

I have a voice because I was born in a country where this is allowed. I will not take that for granted.

And I won't shut up.

***

Shortly after writing this post, my lovely friend Adele sent me a link to an amazing TED Talk. If you were reading this thinking - even slightly - that I might be exaggerating the issue of sexism, especially in our country, I implore you to watch this video - this is why I am so passionate about it!

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