I am a voracious reader. And I find myself fascinated by almost everything I read. That means I frequently start with one article or book and end up reading for hour upon hour, looking up new words and unfamiliar people and remote geographical locations… anything I come across that piques my interest. It was on one of these marathon reading journeys a few years ago that I discovered something surprising about myself: I… am a feminist. It was a surprising discovery because all to frequently, feminist and Christian are two words you don’t hear joined together.
Rachel Held Evans, author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood and who calls herself an “accidental” feminist, describes her experience of feminism as growing out of the hierarchal gender relationships she found in church:
It wasn’t a formal feminist education that taught me to be frustrated with gender stereotypes. It was all the women’s Bible studies that focused on domesticity, motherhood, sweetness, and submission, and that thrust upon me flower-speckled books that turned Proverbs 31 into a job description befitting June Cleaver rather than a poem of celebration befitting an ancient Near Eastern royal wife.”
Sarah Bessey, who examines the Biblical view of women in her book Jesus Feminist, expressed her own frustrations as she pursued Christian preaching and writing:
I wonder sometimes when I’ll stop hearing the qualifiers. When being the woman in the room isn’t a novelty. When being a woman who preaches the Gospel or teaches with authority or writes a book that actually isn’t expressly meant to be shelved in the “Women” section of the bookstore isn’t so worthy of note.
Bessey also quotes a United Nations report about the injustices inflicted upon women worldwide simply because they are women: one-third of the world’s women are abused at home; over 135 million girls and women have experienced genital mutilation; women make up 70% of the poorest people in the world and own only 1% of titled land. Read that again… worldwide, women own only 1% of titled land.
“Feminism is complicated and it varies for each person, much like Christianity,” writes Bessey. “You don’t have to subscribe to all the opinions within feminism to call yourself a feminist…. But until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about [injustices against women], you can also call me a feminist.” Well, alright then.
I am a Woman. I am a Christian.
And, I am a Feminist.