Why Feminism (Part 1)
Jean Rhys once spoke about writing as if it were a lake. She said that all writers feed the lake, some are massive rivers and some just tiny trickles but all of them matter, they’re all important and the lake needs to be fed.
I haven’t really been around this whole feminist thing for very long, and in fact I still can’t call myself a feminist to others without explaining what I mean by it. I’m not totally comfortable with the whole thing yet, I’m still sort of trying to figure it out. So, with my own views being so uncertain I’m not sure how much I can contribute to this whole femfest thing. But the more I hear about feminism the more I think it’s important and worth feeding, so here goes my own attempt at feeding the lake.
I grew up in the Midwest, I was homeschooled in a moderately conservative Christian home by an incredibly supportive family. I never thought there was anything I couldn’t do. I never felt that as a woman I was somehow ‘inhibited’, that is until I attended a conservative Bible college. Now, to be fair it was also at this college that I met some incredible women who introduced me to the importance of feminist thought. It was also at this college that I really discovered my passion for theology. It was also at this college that I sat under the instruction and encouragement of numerous gifted professors both male and female. It was at this college that I received an education that I wouldn’t trade for any other schools in the world. I am thankful to that college, I am grateful, my time there was good. Nonetheless, it was also there that for the first time I felt limited. It was there that for the first I felt there was only so much I could contribute to the Kingdom of God. And it was not that my contribution would be limited by my sinful nature, or limited because I was a finite creature. My contribution would be limited due to the sole fact that I was a woman.
Overtime I learned to adjust to the new rules of my academic community. I learned that emotions must be set-aside in theological discussions. I learned that logic and reason and masculine language must be adopted in all theological discrepancies if I wanted to be taken seriously. I learned that the Bible was clear about the roles of men and women and that alternate interpretations were just slippery slopes to getting the Gospel wrong. I learned that being a man was a trump card I would never be allowed to play. And I learned that in spite of all of those rules I still had a voice and my stubborn Irish personality wouldn’t let me be silent. So I kept speaking, even when I felt like no one was listening.
I spoke about art and the Church. I spoke about symbolic drama. I spoke about Christian apologetics. I spoke about abuse and justice and love and beauty and hope and redemption. But I didn’t speak about feminism. Not there, not then, that would have broken too many rules.
I regret that in the past I’ve been so dismissive of feminism. I regret that I chose to operate in a broken system instead of speak against it. I regret that fear of rejection or invalidation or of being written off kept me from exploring feminism for the majority of my undergraduate career.
Towards the end of my time at college I began to read some of the blogs my feminist friends read. I began to ask them more questions and actually listen openly to their answers. These investigations left me with a lot to think about and a lot to say. They left me with more questions, and some of them still haven’t been answered. So I’ve started a journey, a journey that’s really just begun, a journey that explores faith and feminism and forward motion.
My little sister recently asked what being a feminist meant. I told her that it meant different things to different people a lot of the time, but I told her that I was feminist because when I said I believed men and women were created equally I meant it. And I think that feminism is important because I’ve talked to far too many Christian women who’ve said the only place they’ve felt inferior as a woman was in the church.
As far as all the nitty gritty’s of my beliefs, well I’m still getting there, like I said this is a journey and I’ve only just started. But as to why I’m a feminist, I’m a feminist so that maybe my little sister won’t have to be one. Maybe she’ll go on to any college she wants and serve in churches and never feel inferior, because maybe the term “feminist” will be obsolete, because maybe that term will be synonymous with Christ-follower. And I may not contribute very much to seeing that world realized, but for now I’ll keep feeding the lake.
“All of writing is huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.” -Jean Rhys