Finding Why I Need Feminism

Posted By Kallie C on Jul 23, 2014 | 5 comments


Fire With Fire

 

T his past week has brought a new flurry of discussions and debates over the ever-controversial topic of Feminism. On twitter this week, there are two #Campaigns filling my feed — one being #FaithFeminisms and the other #WomenAgainstFeminism.

 

Tweets like this:

 

 

 

 

And Tweets like this:

 

 

 

 


The more I wander into this world of Feminism, Feminist Theory, Faith Feminism, the history of Feminism, and the strong reactions to Feminism I am beginning to get a better picture of why I was raised with such a vehemently negative view of the word, the movement, and its proponents.

I wanted to know why that was?

Why was Feminism like an F-Word?

Why do women today feel the need to so adamantly propose themselves as against “Feminism”?

If this is truly a movement for not only women, but all humanity, what happened to the message and where did it get lost?

 

One Feminist Author who is actually helping me to better understand it is Naomi Wolf through her book, Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change the 21st Century.  This book is filled with interesting information, and largely covers the backlash Anti-Feminist movement through the 1980s and 1990s, as women felt misrepresented, frustrated, and cornered by a women’s movement that was largely portrayed as elitist, left-wing, aggressive, and radical by mainstream media. Suddenly, many believed Feminism was solely composed of women and solely for women who were more about man-hating, being Lesbian or asexual, aggressive, pro-choice, and purely career-focused than anything else.

 

Naomi Wolf writes,

Thus, Feminism stopped being seen as guaranteeing every woman’s choice–whatever that may be–and fell captive to social attitudes held only by a minority that often could not even reach agreement among its own members. To be sure, this development might have been inescapable, a result of the abortion wars that demanded an us-and-them worldview. But, the ideological overloading closed the word “feminism” off to enormous numbers of people: women who are not sure about, or who actively oppose abortion; women who are terrified of being tarred with the brush of homophobia; women who strongly resist identifying themselves as victims; women who are uneasy with what they see as man bashing and blaming; conservative women; and men themselves. Distorted by lack of debating room in the backlash years, some of feminism’s ways of phrasing reality have lagged so far behind–or veered so far afield–of daily experience that they have fallen out of sync with many American women’s lives.  (p. 61.)

 

Suddenly the picture becomes just a little clearer.

Naomi goes on to share how Feminism suddenly became more about these few litmus tests of what you were for or against, then about women in all of their individuality and diversity. Instead of allowing for diversity of opinion and experience, as well as for healthy, safe discussion, it became a battleground where sides were chosen and lines were drawn.

My heart was convicted, when she took that history and brought it home by challenging not only her readers, but also her own feminist convictions and comfort zone, when she says:

Ambiguities in issues such as this show how damaging to feminism are litmus tests, which ultimately come down to women failing to accord respect to other women. I have met too many women who don’t ‘look right,’ in the terms of my own subculture–who are traditionally religious Jews or Christians or Muslims, who are deeply patriotic servicewomen who believe in military solutions, who are free-market, socially conservative businesswomen, but all of whom share commitments to improving women’s status and securing their dignity–to believe any longer that my style of feminism, or that of my friends, is the only answer for everyone.

 

Sometimes, power is letting go.

 

We must reclaim feminism as that which makes women stronger in ways that each woman is entitled to define for herself….

 

A feminism worthy of its name will fit every woman, and every man who cares about women, comfortably. (p. 132)

 

I must confess it is often far easier for me to get caught up in the emotion, embarrassment, and frustration of looking back on my past that I want to forget I ever belonged among a group of women and a community that seriously questioned feminism and everything we believed it stood for.

Knowing how in my world, we often just believed what we were told from the pulpit, from other women, from men, from conservative radio and TV, without actually ever taking the time to objectively study, consider, or listen to the other perspective makes me inherently skeptical.

For me, it was never about learning from each other, appreciating diversity of experience and opinions, or approaching each other with understanding and honor.  It was always us versus them, we were right, God was on our side, and they were so very wrong. Because of this, now I struggle greatly with hearing any of the #womenagainstfeminism arguments without cringing, as I hear my own voice and judgments from years past — and while some of these women today may have arrived at their beliefs with careful and fair consideration, I know I never did.

 

 

I merely regurgitated what I heard.

 

So now, I want to learn how to do it differently. I want to learn how to articulate well what I believe in, but also find the heart to create space for others to do so too, knowing that we will each see things from different perspectives and different experiences.

 

Rachel Held Evans piece this week, broke my heart as it reminded me on so many levels of why I agree that Feminism is still very much-needed.

 

So, I do believe that Feminism, even with all its very human baggage, still brings a perspective of women and humanity to the world that is very needed. 

 

But, I also want to find the grace to allow that not everyone will see it like me.

 

So today, I am going to share with you why I need it. 

 

 

I need Feminism because it helps me see the person and the heart over gender and stereotypes.

I need Feminism because it teaches me to care about and be aware of how women are continually still victims of violence, objectification, abuse, sexism, and more just because they are women.

I need Feminism because I have found women among its ranks that made room for me, even when I hated and judged them.  Even with a history  of women reacting out of hurt and anger and retaliating against men and other women, the movement has still found a way to give women like me space to learn.

I need Feminism because it has also taught me to care when men are abused, objectified, or held to repressive standards of masculinity.

I need Feminism because the best of its leaders challenges me and other women to recognize when we are the source of our own limitations, patriarchal views, sexism, abuse, and gender stereotyping.

I need Feminism because it has challenged me to live authentically and vulnerably, and to believe in myself.

I need Feminism because it has given life to my marriage.

I need Feminism because it has challenged me on how much I allow my husband and  the men in my life that I value to be themselves too.

Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, when discussing vulnerability challenged me with the idea that sometimes, as women we are our own worst enemies, when it comes to letting the men in our lives be truly vulnerable. So now I try to remember questions like these to remind myself,

Am I asking them to talk, to open up, to share, but then react uncomfortably or cut them down when they don’t fit my masculine stereotype and actually dare to show vulnerability or admit to weakness?

Am I discouraging him from being involved in the home or in supporting my dreams by nagging and complaining when he isn’t, and then when he dares to offer an opinion, or help with housework, or cooking, or parenting (future) do I grow defensive because I don’t like what he has to say or jump to correct him for not doing it the way I would?

I know I am guilty of all of the above. 

 

I need Feminism because it challenges me to be stronger, to listen harder, to be more compassionate, and to be diligent in building both humility and confidence.

I need Feminism because it has taught me to be aware of not only where I am limited, but to also be increasingly aware of my own privilege and other’s lack, suffering, or loss.

I need Feminism because it has taught me how to see, respect, and truly love others, not just people like me.

I need Feminism because it has taught me through women of the Church that there is a place for everyone at the table and in Christ.

I need Feminism because it is inspiring women to follow God’s call into Church leadership despite opposition — women who I hope will show my future sons or daughters that they can live and be not only who they want to be, but also have a faith that values them as people first and not for their gender.

I need Feminism because it has taught me to find myself in women of the Bible, instead of struggling to identify and learn from a God and scriptures I once thought only really valued men.

I need Feminism because it has taught me that I no longer have to discount my voice, my faith, my dreams, my intelligence, my thoughts, my emotions, and my ability all for the lie claiming I must for the mere fact that I am a woman and somehow inherently lesser.

I need Feminism because it not only teaches me its possible to be a leader with influence and power, but it also asks of me to move beyond my fears to actually become one who handles such additions with grace, confidence, and responsibility.

 

I need Feminism because it has taught me to love being me. 

 

And just maybe, if you don’t already claim to love or need Feminism yourself, you will consider anew that maybe there is more to it worth learning about and more to it than meets the eye.

Maybe it holds some truths for you too.

 

Discussion:

  1. Why do you love Feminism and claim to be one? or Conversely, why do you not?
  2. How do you see Feminism evolving from even the Third Wave of Feminism and the Backlash era to be more inclusive?
  3. Who are your favorite Feminist Authors or Bloggers?
  4. Why do you need Feminism? What has its legacy given to you?

 

 

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  • 1). I love feminism (and am a feminist!) because it’s given me freedom to be who God made me to be, whether I fit into the stereotypical Christian Woman mold or not (and I really don’t). Feminism says I’m human – the image of God is in me and other women, as well as men and intersex people. And that stirs up my love for people.
    2). Eh, not sure, but I’m always excited for inclusivity.
    3). Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, Samantha Field, Micah Murray, Libby Anne from Love, Joy, Feminism. The list goes ever on. 🙂
    4). We need feminism because we need justice for women who are abused, enslaved, harasses, assaulted, etc. I also need feminism because I’m deeply uncomfortable being a woman. Somewhere, despite my feminist stance, I internalized the misogyny in church and culture, and directed it towards myself. :/

    • Kelley,

      I love all those authors too and yes the list is never ending. 🙂 I guess that’s half the fun of getting to discover it all now.

      Thanks for being so honest about your struggle with how uncomfortable you feel about being a woman and realizing how much of growing up around negative and limited views of women impacted you. I know for me it has been and continues to be a process. Every time I think I get to a place where I feel more secure and more confident, something happens or comes up where I find myself shaking or doubting or I catch myself thinking in old mindsets without even realizing it.

      For example, yesterday I went to the public pool here on base. As I was leaving, some teenagers were hanging out in the street. As I looked over I saw this girl and this boy, probably mid teens whacking each other with towels. At first my reaction was to scrutinize to make sure it wasn’t a situation where the girl was getting hurt, and suddenly I relaxed when I could see how hard they were laughing and that they were merely having fun. My next thought surprised me even more, the kids had obviously just come from the pool too and the girl was wearing just a tshirt over her swimsuit, dancing around in her bare legs and flip-flops. My first instinct was to hesitate, to question, to think uh maybe that girl should put some shorts on… and then I wanted to slap myself… what am I doing? She obviously feels comfortable and she is standing outside a public pool for crying out loud… why are you sitting here and not judging all the young boys running around in just their swim trunks and yet your first reaction is to her appearance?

      I drove home thinking about how this really is a process. Some of those old mindsets and thought patterns are so ingrained, but now I am trying to learn how to recognize them and to think deeper about what the deeper motives and beliefs and fears are that lie underneath them. I think once I begin to truly acknowledge and understand those that will be where the true change and freedom begin to surface.

      What about you? Do you ever catch yourself thinking or judging other women according to those old standards, even when you don’t want to anymore?

      • Yes – yes I do catch myself silently criticizing women who are wearing, say, super tight pants or skirts that seem “too” short. And then I’m like, how dare I judge this woman?
        So, yeah, it definitely seems to be a process. I despise judging people according to such “modesty” standards, but in some deep (dark) level, it feels almost instinctual. And while it’s unpleasant to admit, I wonder sometimes if that instinct comes from comparison – like “I look all nice and good now compared to her, right? Don’t you like me and think I’m special?”

        Ugh. But yes, it’s good to face this problem in myself, even if it’s not very pretty.

  • 1. I identify as a feminist because I believe in a God who loves each human being equally, which includes cishet males AND everyone else too. Feminism gives me hope for positive change in the world!
    2. I believe that there are hints of people believing that feminism is less vitriolic/antagonistic than it was in the 3rd wave, and this will lead to greater inclusivity. ‘Tis still a complicated area to navigate, especially among those who are confused to think feminists hate men.
    3. Sarah Bessey is near the top of my list because she is gentle and loving but also says what needs to be said about feminism and God’s design for equal human value. I also really appreciate Jessica Valenti, whose early blogging and books were really important for my development as a feminist.
    4. OH, do I need feminism. I need it because I need to be reminded that I am no more or no less valuable than any of God’s creations.

    Thanks for your excellent post!

    • Christie,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I too love Sarah Bessey, and I have just started reading Jessica Valenti. Her stuff seems really good so far!