I was recently asked if I am a feminist, and the question made me pause and carefully consider my answer. Am I a “feminist”? I surely hesitate to apply a label to my ideas on such a fluid subject; one of the first points I learned about feminism is that the ideology is not the same as it was ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. So I don’t know that I am a “feminist” in the same way that you, reader, would define it. But I thought it would be appropriate to take some time to lay out what I believe on the subject of women’s place in the world as it becomes an increasingly discussed subject in our culture today, from the #yesallwomen hashtag to accusations of a rape culture.
You see, I think any woman would tend toward ideas that empower women if she had ever been treated by men in her life as if she were an object that they deserved, or if she had been desired for purely carnal reasons.
I have been viewed and treated very poorly by some of the men in my life – yes, even men I thought I could trust, and yes, even men with authority in the church. Several of the men who have mistreated me have also treated other women in the same way, because they do not have any respect for the value in women. And I’m finally realizing the trend, and I’m starting to believe that I am worth more than what I can give to men or the attention that I can get from them. All my life, certain men have treated me with disregard for my mind and my soul; they have focused solely on my body and how I can use it to please them. And I’m sick and tired of that attitude in men. Truly, the only reason that I know that men can be different is that my father truly sees my mind and my heart, and he does the same for my mother. So I know it’s possible to value a woman, but surely it’s uncommon.
This is the background from which I approach society’s relationship to women – specifically, the way that men view women. Am I a feminist yet? You be the judge. For, by no means do I want women to have authority to dominate over men, nor will you find me burning bras anytime soon.
But I gravitate toward feminism in the sense that it asserts that the value of women goes deeper than the physical traits that men desire and objectify. I believe in the message behind feminism, as far as it says that women are valuable, capable, and intelligent. I accept the feminist message that says that women do not exist simply for the pleasure of men, and that unmarried women have every damn right to deny men their bodies without losing a friendship or suffering consequences.
So, am I a feminist yet?
I must note that within marriage, I believe that women are biblically commanded to submit to their own husband’s authority (which, please note, brings the male count in the command of submission up to just one), but that there must be mutual respect as well. I believe that women are inherently different from men, and that each gender has its strengths, which complement each other excellently and according to God’s perfect design. Women are surely supporters and encouragers, and they should support and honor their husbands.
But women are not meant for man’s objectification or use. Women are not designed to simply feed their husbands and pop out babies. Women are not simply meant to use their sexuality to make men happy. I believe that women have a much more significant purpose in this world, and I refuse to allow men to view me as anything less.
And why do I think I deserve this treatment from men? Who am I, a woman, to demand any kind of respect from the sex that is stronger and historically more dominant? Who says but my own self, trying to tip the scales to my advantage? Well, Jesus says.
Feminists of today probably would have lost their minds in Jesus’ time, for women were not even given the credibility or attention that they are given today. The way Jesus treated women – as if they were important and capable – was completely unheard of during his time. Jesus befriended women, healed women, forgave women, and protected women. He allowed a woman to be the first one to report that he had resurrected. Jesus completely ignored the cultural expectations for the treatment of women in favor of His Father’s expectations, and I expect nothing less from His followers.
At the end of the day, Jesus was a radical in the way that he honored and loved women. In order to follow His example, I believe we ought to treat women in exactly the same way. When I see those who claim to be His, in a nation that was supposedly founded as His, acting differently toward me and my sisters in Christ, I take serious offense. Does that make me a feminist? You be the judge.