Look, I get it. It’s hard to identify one unifying definition within a group so large. Feminism means different things to different people; this becomes obvious whenever the debate comes up. Some see only the anti-femininity impulses behind bra burnings; others the man-hating rejections of chivalry; while still others see the movement to obtain equal treatment and compensation in the workplace, fighting for the right to vote.
We need to allow for nuance here. Is there a way we can accept and welcome the feelings and ideas of individuals in a group so widely varying as femaleness, while still working toward a common goal?
I think it’s possible, and I think it’s essential.
Perhaps we should agree on a few fundamentals. How about these? Safety. Acceptance. Freedom to pursue interests without injustice. Those are some of my fundamentals for feminism… which is weird, because they are the same exact fundamentals I have for everyone, regardless of gender.
It’s such a rigid and exhausting culture to live in, one that is so insistently binary. If we are to get anywhere at all, we must open ourselves up to the idea that there can be a movement that is simply “for” something, without being “against” something else. Isn’t that the essence of creation? Leonard Bernstein said that for him, musical creation was “cosmos out of chaos.” Not cosmos against chaos – or even in spite of chaos – but out of chaos.
I was discouraged recently to find an extensive group called “Ladies Against Feminism“, a group advocating for what they call “beautiful Biblical womanhood.” I have to smile a little as Biblical women come to mind… Ruth, laying with Boaz. Sarah, laughing in the face of God’s prophecy for her pregnancy. Tamar, incestuous daughter. Mary, heart and hands and eyes wide open. The virgin daughters of Lot given over by their father to a rapacious crowd of men in Sodom. The Canaanite woman shamed by Jesus, who calls her a dog. The original dream girl, the Wife of Noble Character from Proverbs.
They’re so different! I’m not trying to be willfully troublesome here, but what is Biblical womanhood, anyway? How is it different from Biblical personhood? In fact, the Scriptures that root myself in my Christian womanhood are really not gender specific in any way. “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God,” comes to mind.
I find that, as with most of my anger, it comes from a place of fear. I become angry with groups such as “Ladies Against Feminism” because I fear they have left no room for me at the table, nor for many of my family members and friends, nor for those who – gasp! – don’t identify as one of two genders at all. I fear they may be hurting women who need advocates, but don’t fit the narrow definition of biblical womanhood presented.
I believe in the power and mystery of women, all women. I imagine a world where we are free to walk by ourselves at night. Free to choose the life we want, to live in our homes and in the world without judgment or injustice. The power of choice over our bodies.
To me, that is feminism. I’m learning it doesn’t mean that to all people, so I agree with the Time Magazine poll that suggested banning the word. The meaning and power has been beaten out of it. Let’s come together and pick a new one, and move into a humanity that is affirming of all personhood.
Who doesn’t want that? I truly do not understand a position that says they do not want those things for women – or anyone – today. I reject the idea that that makes me an unbiblical woman. There’s just not enough room at this table. I won’t sit.
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