Friday, February 4, 2011


I read an interesting article yesterday - "7 Reasons There Are No Women Speaking at Your Conference." The author, Rachel Held Evans, talks in it about getting yet another announcement about a keynote lineup at a Christian conference. It was being headlined by six white men. No one is surprised by this, but she offers an articulate series of thoughts about why this is the case - women have their own separate Christian subculture, hold fewer pastoral positions and seminary degrees, and they're expected to be submissive.

It's a really interesting and thoughtful post, but I was a little bit (really, just a little) bothered by the opening paragraph. Specifically, the sentence in which Held says:

"not because I’m a raging feminist . . . "

In the Christian world, 'feminist' is (still) usually thought of as a four-letter word. It cuts quickly and deeply to the heart of our deep-seated and funky gender dynamic. A 'feminist' is someone who thinks that women and men are equal. It's pretty simple. And everyone, but especially Christians, should be proud to identify themselves as such.

Instead, it's become a label that Christians are quick to dissociate themselves from. I've heard so many variations of "I'm not a feminist, but I do believe that men and women are created equal."

Guess what? You're a feminist! Congratulations! You can keep right on wearing pink and getting pedicures and shopping, or wearing black and kickboxing, or wearing neutrals and going to yoga. Women have historically and systematically oppressed -- and no, it isn't nearly as bad as it used to be and yes, we have many more opportunities than our forbears. But women still get paid less than men for doing the same work. They still hold far fewer executive positions across the board than men do. And they are under more pressure than ever to look and act Just Right, some ludicrous combination of sexy and confident and demure and skinny and intelligent and not too intelligent and nonthreatening and a little bit helpless and on and on. We have a long ways to go.

So let's go there. Together. In all our messy and nonconformist ways. And let's give credence to what - and who - we are along the way.


Roy said...

Yesterday I was called an aging white guy. Which is true. But I'm still a feminist.

Lesley Miller said...

Well, this is just a damn good post. And, you know what? I'm one of those people who would say, "I'm not a feminist but..."

I won't do that any more. Thanks for convicting me in the right way. :)

Anna Jordan said...

Amen. I can't tell you how many times I've enlightened someone to the fact that they - actually - a feminist. Keep preachin' it!

Brendan said...

I think the difficulty is that the word "feminist" has been twisted to mean more than equality. It has unfortunately taken on the meaning (this is a general statement, not always true) that women are/should be better than men. Not the word's original intention, but now a nuance that it carries. I think that's why people want to be distant from the word. It no longer means equality, it means a total reversal of the hierarchy.