The first time I ever encountered the word feminism as a term was as a freshman at my alum. It was tossed about around this one particular professor.
They would say to her:
“I hear you’re really feminist.”
“So are you the feminist professor?”
“Why do you have to talk about women so much?”
It was used dismissively, often by men (though not only) who felt they were hearing too much about women’s issues. This professor did (and still does) teach the general literature course everyone has to take at some point. It has one unit that focuses on gender, yet students frequently talked about this unit as if it were the whole class. There also were very few classes that brought up gender or women’s issues and there were no classes that focused solely on those topics.
It took me a while until I could own and wrap myself in the movement and identity of being a feminist.
What made me sure of it was when I read the book Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey and right at the top of the cover it says:
Exploring God’s radical notion that women are people too.
Women are people too.
Women are more than wives, daughters, girlfriends, sisters. More than the roles that we put them in. As much as men are women are people.
Because indeed to many that is a radical thought.
And God thinks this too.
For the longest time I thought feminists were anti-men. I thought feminists hated chivalry and wanted to pay their own way. I thought feminism was about women doing everything men can do making them replaceable. I thought faith and feminism were irreconcilable. I thought it was toxic, because implicitly and explicitly that was what I was hearing, more than anything I thought it was petty.
As a Christian and somewhat informed person I knew there were real issues. Women and men who had been sexually assaulted. Girls who lacked the basic means to be educated. Women feeling unsafe to walk in their own neighborhoods without being harassed or assaulted.
In a word I thought feminism was petty.
I am pleased to say that true feminism is anything but. I recently read Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates. It is eye opening, empathetic, and heart breaking. Bates started the Everyday Sexism Project when she realized how she downplayed and normalized the daily encounters she had with sexism. This was found to be true in her circle of friends and family, so she went to Twitter and the account Everyday Sexism was born. Since then millions of women and men have shared their stories. This book brings together those stories and looks at them across the spectrum of society. She finds practical things we can do to combat sexism, and more than anything she reminds us we are not alone.
In powerful ways we see how feminism is a movement of substance. It is the simple and radical notion that women are people too. Here are some truths I gleaned from my reading and my personal journey as a feminist, I hope they too will resonate with your souls.
We do not owe anyone our bodies.
I mean that even as a married woman. I give my body to my husband as an act of love and he does the same for me. It was a mutual commitment we made to each other, but we do not owe it and there are times we say no to touch, to sex, to cuddles and that is good because we do not owe each other out bodies; it is a gift and commitment we freely give to each other.In less sexual terms this means we don’t owe anyone physical affection. People do not have rights to us. Children do not have to hug. This is true if you are married. This is true if you are dating. This is true if you are single. This is true always.
Our value is in no way derived from our attractiveness.
That I may happen to be attractive is great. That some people find me attractive fine. When I walk down the street and you think I’m prettier if I’m smiling, not my problem. That you think I don’t bring enough to the table unless you find me physically appealing, I am so much more than that. So many of us do not fit the standards of beauty, and our stories do not get told, we are invisible. Yet we all have great worth.
We are more than our biological makeup.
This is especially about women, but goes to all people. Your value as a woman does not lie in your ability to procreate. We have value beyond being fathers, mothers, parents. We have value if we are trans gender. We have value if we are born with both genitalia or the wrong genitalia. We have value if we are disabled. Our bodies are not what define us or give us worth in society. Your skin color and features do not make you any more or less as a person. We exist and that alone gives us immeasurable worth.
You are not a sexual object for others consumption
Catcalling is not a compliment. Let me repeat. Catcalling is not a compliment. It’s a sad symptom of a society that sees women as sexual commodities. They don’t need to be willing or interested, the fact that they chose to step outside is enough reason for a man to express his desire. To call out, to touch. And if he gets angry or aggressive, you must be the nice girl and appease him. But it’s utterly untrue, men aren’t typically subjected to catcalling and street harassment, and women as fellow people deserve that same respect. So no sir, you do not get to comment on or touch, my legs, my breasts, my body just because we both happened to be walking down the street.
There are no second class citizens in the kingdom of God.
I don’t even have all the words to say it; but when you treat people as if they are not worthy of love, when you protect the majority to the detriment of the minority, when you treat others like objects, when you see others in this world as nonhuman “other”, you are doing something inherently evil. It breaks God’s heart. There are no second class humans in the kingdom of God, everyone deserves love, freedom from harm, and respect. In Christian speak something we often pray is let it be on earth like it is in heaven (or the Kingdom of God). That is my constant prayer, that just as all things are good and right there, I hope and intend to make that true here on earth. Today.
Out of college and in my early twenties I have no hang ups with the word feminism. I also don’t really want to hear about the nuances of the word. If you agree that women are people too and deserve all that comes with that, than that’s all I need.
And if you don’t agree, I’m not sure how we can proceed, I’m a person who will not be put into a box; the vibrancy of who I am might make you change your mind. I might make you see the injustice, the horror that women go through everyday. You might be a feminist too.