Can you be a Christian and a feminist?
(This question is aimed at Christians, by the way. Comments remotely resembling ‘OMG the bible oppresses wOmeN!!111 trollolol’ will probably be ignored).
Anyway I’ll leave you to make up your own mind after I tell you why I stopped calling myself a feminist.
I watched a YouTube video recently by a political and social commentator, who talked about a group of women in Iran who are removing their hijabs in public, as a way of protesting an oppressive Islamist regime. He commented on the absurd backlash that this received from Buzzfeed and other leftist social commentators, criticising Buzzfeed for “throwing actual feminists under the bus”.
The video kind of summed up my feelings towards feminism so I was inspired to write about it.
Whilst studying English at university I saw no problem with feminism. Supporting women’s rights? Supporting equality? What’s not to love?
Ah, naive younger me…
Looking back, the university curriculum quite unapologetically shoved feminism down my throat. For example, my degree introduced me, with no scientific critique, to the idea that gender is a social construct.
I get it – feminism in the West began as a reaction to real injustice. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication on the Rights of Women, published in 1792, cemented her as one of the founders of early feminist philosophy – and rightly so. Mary Wollstonecraft kicked some serious ass. So did the suffragettes. And I think we can all agree that the Equal Pay Act 1970 was a victory for common sense.
It would be nice to have more Mary Wollstonecrafts walking the earth today, crusading against the serious injustices affecting women in certain parts of the globe.
But what do we have instead? Let’s do a quick throwback to last January’s U.S Women’s March – the ultimate feminist utopia. An opportunity for women to stand together in peace, love and solidarity…. Right? Uh, not quite.
Highlights included Madonna proudly saying that she’d thought about blowing up the White House, and groups of women dressed as giant vaginas. Signs were held up saying truly intelligent things like ‘witches against fascism’ and ‘the future is female’.
Worst of all, no feminist groups who didn’t support abortion were allowed to participate at all.
But, I can hear you thinking, feminism just means equality for men and women. If you care about equality that makes you a feminist, right?
Well first of all, in the West, men and women do have equal rights under the law. (Let me know if you can provide any examples where this is not the case, though).
Secondly, it matters more to me what feminism does and promotes, than how it’s defined.
Here are two recent examples of feminism’s outworkings: The ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign, and the Slut Walk, which is a pretty extreme way to protest what they consider to be a ‘rape culture’ (and saying we have a ‘rape culture’ in Western society is also pretty extreme).
Feminism today has little to do with true equality. Instead, it has largely become a political movement that tries to erase gender distinctions, demonises men, and doesn’t accept that the gender pay gap is (LARGELY) a myth (obviously they didn’t tell me that during my Lit course).
And the icing on this ugly cake is that it seems one of feminism’s primary aims now is to secure abortion on demand, and to propagate abortion as a symbol of empowerment. This is the complete antithesis of what early feminists believed.
There’s a tragic irony in how feminism has become synonymous with abortion, when gendercide (abortions solely on the grounds of the baby’s gender) has wiped out up to 200 million girls worldwide. How’s that for women’s rights?
So I can’t call myself a feminist anymore.
I hope it’s obvious that this is not about ‘staying in the kitchen’. I care about women being empowered and free – just not the way feminism currently defines those things.
If your heart burns for injustice, you’re carrying God’s heart – because God is just. But direct that passion and that energy into something that matters.
If all you can do is pray, pray for women being sold into slavery or trafficking. Women suffering sexual or domestic abuse. Women in the sex industry. Female genital mutilation. Forced arranged marriages. Women who, in some nations, are forbidden to walk down the street alone.
God’s desire was never that women should be silenced or considered inferior. Men and women are designed to work together in unity, not to war against one another. Society and even the Church has often got this wrong and it’s easy to understand why many women are reacting out of anger. Yet like everything else in the Kingdom, the solution is counter-cultural. Upside down.
Some time ago I attended a weekend away with my church. During the final session, our pastor asked us to participate in a time of collective forgiveness between the men and women. This act of forgiving went both ways, including instances of mistreatment and abuse by men towards women, but also of women emasculating and undermining men.
This wasn’t simply paying lip-service to some complex issues or taking on a false sense of guilt. It was a moment where lies about who we were supposed to be and how we were supposed to view and treat each other were replaced with the truth of God’s Word. As always when lies are replaced with truth, there was tangible freedom and restoration. What struck me most was that it was rooted in love and honour – and that’s why it was so effective.
And why feminism will never achieve this kind of result.
OK. That’s all for today. I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic so I will most likely revisit it- but I hope that for now this has offered sufficient food for thought.
Thanks for making it to the end.
There are some great insights into the pay gap and ‘gender equality’ in this fascinating Channel 4 interview with Jordan Peterson, aired only this week.
If you’re interested in learning more on the drawbacks of modern-day feminism, Christina Hoff Sommers (who does identify as a feminist) is sane and reasonable. This video is clear and concise.
If you’re interested in further reading on women and the Bible, I’d recommend Lisa Bevere’s book Without Rival– empowering, accessible and scriptural. Or look her up on YouTube, loads of good stuff there too.