feminism and faith

I’ve grown up in the christian faith and throughout my 30 years of life have heard many sermons preached about the submission of women to their husbands. I’ve also witnessed the scathing disdain held towards the feminist movement by many of the members of the christian faith.

While in college (a christian liberal arts college) students were required to attend chapel services 3 times a week. During one of these services, a speaker was brought in, a feminist, and though I don’t remember her message, I do remember the crowds reaction when she stated she was a feminist. Men AND women actually booed her. So there’s the attitude I grew up with regarding feminism and it’s movement.

I have to admit that I used to uphold that general disdain towards the feminist movement, basically because it was the status quo. But I’m glad to say that has changed and I now consider myself a feminist. I’m sure my dad would be less than thrilled.

What began to sway me was that feminism, in it’s simplest form, is about equal rights no matter your gender. I’m all for this. I do believe that there are some things men can do better, just as there are some things women can do better, and generally, there are physical differences that both hinder and help each gender to excel and perhaps out-perform each other in certain circumstances. But I’m all for equal opportunity. The genders should be allowed the opportunity to face-off in all circumstances.

Backing up a bit, one of the main reasons I was opposed to feminism was this idea perpetuated by “them” (whoever they may be) that feminists were, in general, butch femi-nazi’s, that would eventually turn all women into bra-burning, mullet-wearing, lesbians…a far cry from the stereotypical christian woman.

What ultimately convinced me to embrace feminism was a story my boss shared with me about her first job experience after college (in the 1970’s). She was working at an office in a secretarial-like position and was brining coffee or papers (can’t remember which) into her boss while he was meeting with a client. Once the items were delivered her boss requested that she sit on the clients lap. She refused to be seated and found herself a new job shortly after.

When I heard this story, my jaw hit the floor. I realized that I have grown up in a relatively safe environment for women when compared to the generations past. And the only reason I’ve been able to enjoy this female-friendly environment is because of the stance taken by women of generations past. 

How would I react to a male boss asking me to sit on his male clients lap? Honestly, I don’t know. I hope that I would at the very least refuse and go about my business. I’d prefer that I throw some coffee on him or punch him and threaten to bring a lawsuit for sexual harassment against him if he ever suggested such a disgusting thing again.

It occurs to me now that as women (and men who love strong women), we need to take a hard line about these issues so that future generations never have to experience such humiliation and degradation. I want to believe that I can do my part in this all while being graceful and somewhat ladylike. But I suspect there will be times when ladylike won’t cut it and I’ll have to sprout fangs.

If I’m a bitch for that, so be it. At least my niece will have the freedom and confidence to refuse a man requesting her to sit on his lap. 

I wish now that I could remember the message shared by the feminist speaker in the chapel service. I’m sure it would be helpful in navigating my faith as a feminist. Feminism is not incongruent with the christian faith or the teachings of the bible. I do firmly believe that God is a feminist. He is for women just as much as he is for men, despite what many preachers and teachers of the bible would have you believe.

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