Saturday, November 26, 2005

Why I'm a Feminist, Part One: Definitions

"I have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat."
- Rebecca West, 1913.

I’ve been posting so much lately on my views about women in the world that I thought I’d expound on them. Being a Christian and a feminist simultaneously might seem really contradictory, but I disagree. So first, some definitions.

According to Webster’s, feminism is:

1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests

That’s a good start, but I would have much more to add to it. For starters, add “spiritual” to the above list. I’m going to define it this way (I'd welcome other additions):

1 : the belief in the equality of all people regardless of, and considering, gender
2 : the right to choices in all aspects of life
3 : see 2 above

A word about choices... The tenets of Christianity do not condone all choices, though we are given free will. Judging someone's choice is not what I'm talking about, but merely the right to exercise free will.

Finally, to quote the Femist Majority Foundation,

"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."


APN said...

And women ARE people, though they haven't been treated as such.

I remember a section from Sumner's Men and Women in the Church where she talks about the "traditional" position not really being that biblically accurate, esp in light of the early NT church. It was the post-first century church that brought in their cultural (i.e. NOT Biblical) ideas of women. She brings up Tertullian and how he blamed and accused women for original sin and that they were rather worse than second-class citizens/Christians. It was amazing to read such comments & such commentary on ideas/impressions that I've always had, but have never been able to properly state.

ALL women are exceptional; thus I feel that I must state to Mr. Piper, Mr. Grudem, and their cohorts that to say that only a few women were exceptional and don't fall into your template only proves that your template really doesn't work all that well.

And yes, my dear friend LK, you are a feminist. And so am I.

LK said...

Yes, absolutely!

And I want to clarify that feminism fosters compassion for both sexes and encourages diversity while considering all people equal. It really fits in quite nicely with God's template.

APN said...

Femisism does foster equality, or at least it does in its non-radical, non-polarizing format. And equality IS part of God's template, God's original creation -- equal in being loved & equal in the responsibility to share/live out the love of God to the world around us.

Tmproff said...

I've learned a lot about Christian Feminism in the past few months from you LK and a few other sources / experiences. It's something that I haven't been exposed to in the past (well not in a healthy way at least), and in that point, you have succeeded in educating me. Score one for the good girls.

If feminism is the act of educating / persuing equal rights amongst the sexes. Why don't feminists persue actions that involve men and women working together more often?

Instead of feminism vs masculinism, why isnt there a term (maybe humanitism?) that is a joint effort to persue equality?

Maybe I can answer my own question that men probably can't relate to what women must deal with on a daily basis.

LK said...

In response, tmproff:

Men do work with women in feminist efforts... even historically in the U.S. men were involved in Seneca Falls, suffrage parades, etc. Men can most certainly be feminists (in fact some men I know are more feminists than I am).

Yes, it should happen more often. I recently entered an art show exhibiting feminist art and was dismayed than only 2 or 3 out of 25 or so pieces were by men.

As far as relating... I may not completely relate to a woman of a different ethnicity or family background, but that doesn't mean I don't relate at all. Solidarity is an important part of the equation, and men's/women's experience may not be as far off as you think.

EXCELLENT POINT!!! There should be a gender neutral term for the fight for equality. (I can't even seem to get "you guys" out of my vocabularly since living in CA) However, feminism is a useful term because it centers in on women, which is still necessary.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Tmproff said...

Solidarity is an important part of the equation, and men's/women's experience may not be as far off as you think.

If that's the case, than why is there a need for a feministic movement?

Phil said...

I like the post, and, perhaps for the "non-historian" you might consider giving brief historical snapshots of feminist history, or maybe a kind of "Top Five" best feminist books to read. Just and thought, and I've noted this post on my blog.


APN said...

Solidarity is an important part of the equation, and men's/women's experience may not be as far off as you think.

If that's the case, than why is there a need for a feministic movement?

It's needed mostly because men haven't paid much attention to women's experiences throughout world history. It's needed because there are differences that must be understood, studied, realized, and respected before we can build upon those similiarities to create such a solidarity.

And Phil, I have REALLY enjoyed your posts on the Emerging Church recently. A) I plan on linking your blog to mine in an attempt to increase exposure to such wonderful writing. B) Is there a way you could send all of that to me in a Word document so that I could read through it at other times and analyze it more fully? I'd appreciate that....

Tmproff said...

It reminds me of a water faucet. On one side is cold, on the other hot (you pick which ones are feminism and masculinism). The goal is warm water in the basin.

Do you turn on the hot water for a while, turn it off, then turn on the cold water for a while?

The best way would be for both of them to be on at the same can define "warm" when the basin is first filling up.

LK said...

That is assuming that men are on one side of the spectrum and women on the other (men from mars, women from venus), which essentializes both men and women, which is too polarizing and untrue according to the literature and the way men and women interact...

But the metaphor isn't bad, in that we should all aim to be one.

Ruth said...

And when ONE temperature of water has been pouring into the basin in large quantities while the other has been held back for whatever reason, sometimes you need more of that other temperature water to be added to the mix in order to achieve balance...

But, that metaphor indicates that the two things being compared are opposites, neutralize each other, or cancel one another out when they are combined. (Hot water loses its "hotness" and cold water loses its "coldness" when they are combined to make warm water.)
I definitely don't think that's the case with men and women. I think men and women can maintain their individual strengths while complementing one another and working together as equals, regardless of the setting.

APN said...

Excellent discourse ladies and gentlemen....

Such is the problem that coalition governments face when working to achieve solidarity, yet attempting to retain their individuality, their distinctiveness.

Such is the problem that any decent couple in a relationship faces when needing to compromise their tastes & preferences, yet maintaining their personhood (i.e. -- no one really wants to be seen as a "Bennifer"-like couple).

Such is the problem that humanity in general faces when trying to work together to achieve ends larger than themselves, ends which ask us to set aside our petty differences in order to work for the common good. We don't want the common good to drown out our personal quirks and eccentricities.

It's a historical problem that we've never really faced until the past 100 or so years, with so much tumult and misunderstanding. I just hope that we can continue this progression and this dialogue in such positive and open-minded spirits.

Tmproff said...

When you use the terms balance and equality, you must be talking about things on different sides of the specturm. If this wasn't the case, you'd be using terms like similarities and differences.

Ruth, I definatly agree that the basin is full of one of the temperatures of water based on our past. If this is a bad thing, why would be doing the same action, yet with the other temperature be ok?

In other words:
If women have been treated as less than equals (which I agree can be the case), How does focusing totally on a feministic cause be the solution?

Tmproff said...

A few more thoughts on equality and balance (I think best in the shower in the morning!)

In Mathematics, the term equality is when 2 functions result in the same value on opposite sides of an '=' sign. If you add for example 5n+8 to one side, you must add the resulting value to the other side for the equality to exist.

In the dictionary, balance can be described as:
The difference in magnitude between opposing forces or influences.

If you look at a weighing scale, both sides cannot move in the same direction. For balance to occur, one must go down while the other up (thus strengthening the "hot/cold" water already in the basin comment).

I'm not trying to cause a frivolous debate, I just want to be able to recognize the problems, and understand steps for a solution.

Brian Russell said...

Good essay and subsequent discussion.