I am honoured that Sarah has invited me to pen my words on this page today. To commemorate Sarah’s 30th birthday I’ll be sharing thirty things I want the church to know about Christian feminism.
I will be using the word “we” as I talk about Christian feminists. I want to be clear that “we” are a diverse group of people. Just like not all Christians agree on every doctrinal matter, not all Christian feminists agree on every feminist issue, or every theological tenant. I use the word “we”, but I do not speak for all Christians who are feminists, just as I do not speak for all Canadians who blog, or all brunettes who own dogs.
1. Feminism is the belief in the “political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”* Seriously. That’s it. Do you believe that women should have political, economic, and social equality with men? Then, congratulations! You’re a feminist!
2. Christianity is “the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the bible as sacred scripture.”* Do you believe that women should have political, economic, and social equality with men AND identify as a follower of Christ? Well, golly gee! You just might be a Christian feminist! (Don’t worry, we’ll teach you the secret handshake later.)
*Yes, I broke out my Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Yes, I am nerd.
3. Okay, so I might be oversimplifying things a bit. But that’s the point. We often paint those with whom we disagree, or don’t understand, as evil villains out to destroy our carefully constructed castles of Christendom. We create foils of those who may believe differently than we do, or have slightly different hermeneutical approaches. This is about engaging, about turning on the lights and realizing that those who looked so menacing in the shadows are actually more similar to us than we originally thought.
4. For the love of all that is holy and good, please stop talking about how feminism was created in the 1960s. Please! Read a book, or a Wikipedia article. Please?
5. Feminism is not out-dated. It is needed. Desperately.
6. …Because only 16 of the world’s 188 directly elected leaders are women.
7. …Because even in a developed country, such as the one in which I live, half of all women have experienced physical or sexual violence before they have celebrated there sweet sixteen.
9. …Because the majority of women earn on average about 75% of the pay of males for the same work, in both developed and developing countries. And the church is no exception, where men make 28% more than their female counterparts.
10. You may hear some us identify ourselves as “womanist”. Others of us will wear the label of “egalitarian”, or “women’s lib/rights activist”.
11. There are those of us who whole heartily embrace the title of Christian feminist. There are pews overflowing with those who are feminists precisely because they are followers of Christ.
12. There are others who cringe a little at the Christian Feminist banner. Who view the combination of the two terms as diminishing the depth of our passion and belief. The first word apologizing for the second, the second qualifying the first. (“Yes I am a Christian, but I’m a feminist Christian.” Or “Well, I’m a feminist, but I’m a Christian feminist.”) I am a Christian. Full Stop. I am a Feminist. Full Stop.
13. Most of us are perfectly okay if you just call us “Leigha” or “Rebecca” or “Tim”. I’ve honestly been introduced as “This is my friend, Sheisafeminist.” Using my name is always preferred. I promise I am capable of interacting in public without inviting all the women to “burn their bindings of patriarchy”.
14. Some of us have momma arms, tired from all the rocking and holding of our little ones, or momma arms that are aching with emptiness and longing.
15. Some of us do not. And our decision to have or not have children, does not affect our value in the Kingdom of Heaven.
16. Some of us are better women, better Christians, by serving in areas outside of parenthood.
17. You might discover us preaching from pulpits, or shouting our message of good news for all from metaphorical street corners.
18. You can find us birthing books, or babies, or blogs, or all three.
19. Or you may stumble upon us, living out our lives, upholding the quiet dignity of equality.
20. The opposite of a patriarchy is not a matriarchy
21. We believe in mutual submission.
22. We can be feminine too, you know. Feminist and feminine are not opposite ends of the same spectrum.
23. We are not about diluting the gospel. We don’t pick and chose what sections of scripture we wish to apply.
24. …Or we do. In the same way that everyone does. By which I mean we look at scripture within the linguistic, cultural, historical context that it was written.
25. There are prolife feminists, and prochoice feminists, and feminists who find the two terms utterly insufficient in addressing the sanctity of life.
26. If you want to know our view on a controversial issue, ask us. Most of us are still working it out with fear and trembling. We’re wrestling and walking with limps.
27. Men can be Christian feminists too! There are Christian feminists who are men, Christian feminists who are women and Christian feminists who don’t fit gender binaries.
28. We have a shameful history of excluding women of colour, queer women, (dis)abled women. And we are sorry. Feminism isn’t just for white, cis-women. It should be intersectional and inclusive. It’s for everyone, just as Christ is for everyone.
29. We will continue to call out injustices we see inside and outside the church. We will full torso wrestle for freedom. Because, in the words of Audre Lorde, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
30. Whether or not you identify as feminist isn’t the issue here. The label on your nametag doesn’t really matter. We are all apart of the body of Christ. We strengthen each other. You need us. And we need you to hear our voice. We need you.
Leigha is a recovering Sunday School Scholar, who is learning to embrace questions without answers. An MSW candidate and lover of words, she believes in the power of narratives, both the personal and the collective. Leigha writes her words and lives her life on the East Coast of Canada. She blogs at leighamayspeak.blogspot.com and is on twitter @leighacann