I Am a Feminist. Am I?

Actually, to be exact, I am a pro-life, complementarian feminist.

Webster defines feminism as:

“the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

And to that I say, “Amen, brother!”

So why do I not actually go around telling people that I’m a feminist?

Well, that’s both easy and complicated. It’s easy: feminists are loud, mean, pro-choice, man-eaters. But are they? That’s what I think most people would say. And I’m not at all prepared to deal with that label. Don’t fence me in!

But people assume things that are not nice or true of me when they hear the label “Christian” too, right? So here’s the complication:

Why do I accept the label “Christian,” but not the label “feminist?”

That’s a good question, I’ll admit. And honestly, I’m still working out the answer. Here are a few of my thoughts. If you have thoughts, feel free to weigh in.

  • Christianity is who I am – the very core of my being is Christian. I belong heart, soul, and mind to Christ. I have Christ’s righteousness, I am God’s child, and I take his name. If there was another good way to say this, I would, but they all sound hipster and cheesy, so “Christian” is the way to go.
  • Feminism is something I believe. It’s a biblical belief – God created the sexes with equal dignity and honor, and they deserve to have the same basic rights (God just gave us different jobs). But it’s not quite at the core of who I am. It’s something I choose to put on.

Yes, but they’re still both labels. Calling yourself a Christian or not has nothing to do with your identity and salvation. Christians have done a lot of evil things in the name of Christ but you’re still willing to wear the label.

  • I think that the difference here is that yes, even Christians have done some awful things. But despite some people’s horrible feelings about Christians, most people recognize that there is diversity within the church. Calling yourself a Christian begs for further description.
  • There are a lot of nuances in feminism as well. The difference is that people don’t seem to be aware of them. The vocal feminists are often pro-choice, sexually inclusive, and, if they are in the church and all, egalitarian. And that’s what people expect of them. This isn’t necessarily safe to assume, but because that’s what most people think, I don’t feel comfortable donning that label.

Okay. So why do people have a narrower view of feminists than of Christians? Where does this come from?

I wonder if it comes from the church. I live in a bit of a Christian bubble, and I wonder if the outside world sees feminists the way Christians seem to. The church’s view of feminism seems to be fairly monolithic, which I would argue is untrue and unfair. Christians have denominational lines, and they’re helpful for distinguishing theological differences. But we (Christians) don’t seem to distinguish between different kinds of feminists, and I think that we might be missing out because of it.

The only place I would feel comfortable admitting to feminism is a place where I can define my terms (like here on this blog). In the church, my announcement would be looked at with skepticism and I wonder if anyone would even ask me what I meant before assuming that I was biblically out of line.

But I do think that women are just as valuable as men, and I do think that we have wonderful, God-given talents and abilities! And I think that the church, by viewing the feminist movement through such a narrow view has kept women from embracing the strengths of their womanhood. For example – I really don’t like women’s Bible studies. I’d rather study hard theology with a group of men than sit in a small group eating brownies and discussing how my husband reacts when I need a good cry. But I’ve always felt like a little bit of a failure as a woman because of this. I’m also more rational than emotional, and honestly don’t always get along with girls that well. I also hate small talk and talking about feelings takes some serious effort. So when people talk about how much women like to talk about feelings I feel out of place and not like a real woman.

This is wrong! Why aren’t we celebrating the differences among women? Why aren’t we proclaiming the excellencies of the Creator who made the fine and delicate women as well as the women who have blazing wit and a fiery disposition? Meek doesn’t mean low-volume or timid. It means patient, kind, and slow to judge. These women can change the world, and I don’t think God wishes, or that the Bible demands, that they sit quietly at home with their knitting instead of using their feisty qualities to serve him.

Women’s rights do matter, and it is not a bad thing to fight for them. And we need women who will fight for them.

Do you really think that pro-choice, man-hating, feminists will listen to a man telling them to submit to their husbands? We need godly women who are smart, strong, wise, bold, meek, and humble to engage this facet of the feminist spectrum.

So. I’m a feminist — but one who gladly submits to my husband (the God-made manager of our marriage and family institution), who claims my God-given authority over the care of our home, who celebrates womanhood in all its forms, and seeks for both sexes to be valued and honored as equal creations made in the image of God.

But don’t tell anybody, because I’m still not ready to admit it.