Christian feminism is not an oxymoron

“Jesus was a feminist and so am I”. This is a phrase I use a lot when I deliver seminars on feminism and gender equality. It’s interesting to see the reaction I get when I use that phrase in front of a religious audience.

It seems to have polar effects, especially among Christians. Some Christians are delighted by the term ‘feminism’ and feel it represents a movement championing women’s full equality in society and the church.

Others are repelled by the term, associating it only with bra burning, shrill angry voices and a mission to overthrow men. Those who dislike it have told me the term is so negative in its connotations that I should not associate myself with it at all, as women within Christianity are ‘supposed to be gracious, gentle and patient’ according to their interpretation of what the Bible says.

Feminism is a potent word. It often does conjure up caricatures from nineteen sixties stereotypes. Yes, feminism has involved bra burning and a lot of yelling and protest. But since when has this been incompatible with Christian faith? Are we not supposed to get righteously angry at injustice? Are we meant to just speak in hushed sentences about 50% of the population being abused, sidelined and undermined? I don’t think so. There is a place for shouting, for passion, for urgency. Jesus clearing out the Temple with a whip is a pretty good example of passion and righteous anger in action.

When I’ve questioned the Christians who tell me that feminism is not compatible with the Bible, the reasons they’ve given me are that it represents: (a) women who hate men (b) women who are rebelling against God’s created order of gender hierarchy (c) women who don’t embody the loving and gentle character the Bible encourages and (d) women who reject the idea of marriage.

None of these things are inherently true of feminism. They are simply stereotypes and caricatures. Feminism at heart is a desire for ALL to be equal. If the movement at times pushes an attitude of man-hating, then it’s simply propagating inequality of a different kind which is hypocritical and does not represent the movement as a whole.

// Time-worn Words

Yes words are loaded with meanings they acquire throughout the years. Words grow weary and tired from over-use. But with many words we keep on using them despite this. “Christian” is a great example; surely a word that’s become heavily loaded with negative meaning from events like the Crusades. But we don’t throw this term out the window. Feminism likewise is an important term and needs to be retained, even if some of it’s caricature meanings need to be brushed off and dusted down.

As I said at the start of this piece – Jesus was a feminism and so am I. The manner in which he treated women in his social era was revolutionary. He gave them respect, dignity and worth. His behaviour meshes perfectly with the definition of feminism:

“Feminism: a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic, social rights and equal opportunities for women.”

He broke numerous cultural traditions by taking women seriously and giving them equal respect and dignity. For example, talking with the woman at the well while his disciples watched with total shock. Or having friends like Mary Magdalene whose past was dubious. Or choosing not to judge the woman caught in adultery. Or choosing a woman to be the first person who saw his resurrected body. Or choosing women to be among the group of disciples who followed him everywhere.

Granted, there were no women chosen within the twelve disciples, but to me that is related to the culture of that era and the lack of education available to women, rather than being a doctrinal statement. There also weren’t any non-Jews chosen, so does that mean that only Jews can be Christians?! The disciples had brown hair, so does that mean blonde people can’t be Christians?! The logic is flawed.

// Is the Bible anti-women?

Despite its reputation for being patriarchal, the Bible contains some pretty powerful portraits of women. In the New Testament women were among those who funded the whole ‘discipleship tour’ as Jesus and all the followers went from place to place. Luke 8 says: “Jesus travelled from one town to another, proclaiming the good news…The Twelve were with him and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary…Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”

Far from not being central to the core of Jesus’ ministry, women were actively supporting the entire operation. “But they were helping administrate rather than teach”,  you may say. Well, take another look at the story of Mary and Martha. Here Jesus gave teaching that was shocking to his era. Rather than affirming the cultural limitations of women doing domestic work, Jesus declares that Mary wanting to sit at his feet (as one learning from a Rabbi) and to engage in theological study was good and in his words ‘the better part’.

In the Old testament we see Deborah who bravely stood as the Judge of Israel and led Israel into fierce battle. In Proverbs chapter 31 we read of the ‘ideal woman’ who excelled in business, provided for her family and bought and sold property. In the book of Esther, we read that Esther’s courage rescued the entire nation.

The portrait of the ‘ideal woman’ in Proverbs 31 is one of my favourites. She was a woman with vision a powerful career, a strong home life and someone who is held up as a model for us all to imitate. I’m not quiet, or a shrinking violet. I’ve got things to say and I’m righteously angry about some of them when they relate to injustice.

On the basis of its true definition and on the women who stood up courageously in the Bible, I feel comfortable saying I believe that Jesus is a feminist and that Christian feminism is a not an oxymoron. Jesus was a feminist – and so am I.

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[A shorter version of this piece was also published by BBC Online – read that one here]

  • Video – great find!!

  • I will be brutally honest, the term feminism or feminist, even in it’s Christian form, actually conjures up for me images of a movement which was very agressive in its nature and actually gone into positive discrimination – which is still discrimination of a kind, and the movement that has made it much harder to be a Christian man today – or a man at all. I’m only just being awoken to the real, true meaning of the term. You may have read my blog on the role of women and you know that I’m an egalitarian, very pro the role of women and them having an equal role in leadership, in both church, marriage and society. However I will say one thing about how feminism has been such a blow to masculinity. There is a Maltesers advert, where two girlfriends set up their sleeping (and implied stupid) boyfriends to be leaning on each other and cuddling up whilst they are asleep, so they look stupid. If the opposite was done – women being set up to look stupid in an advert by men – then there would be public outcry, it would be banned and the people who made it (rightly) condemned. But apparently it’s okay to do that to men, it’s okay for us to be made to look stupid and ridiculous. This has to do with my old perceptions of feminism because in some ways although women are still needing further empowerment and participation in society – especially in the church, and should be encouraged to lead and teach and fully participate, and never made to feel second class at all, there is a slight frustration from a lot of men that feminism has made it harder and harder to be a man, or even know what a man is anymore, and made it okay for men to be mocked and patronised. I know a lot of women who say they wish men could be more masculine, but a lot of Christian men I know are afraid to do that too much in case they get called sexist. 

    I think what we need to really embrace here and fully reclaim is the true meaning of masculinity and feminiity, what it really means to be both a man and a woman, and celebrate our differences but also allow freedom for women to lead and teach in a church environment if that is their gift and calling. 

    I know I have struggled with my male identity – partly because of the culture I’ve grown up in. I’ll be honest that I feel very aware of what I write on this subject because I don’t want to offend anyone, I don’t want any woman who reads this thinking I’m a chauvanist pig or complimentarian. 

    I want to help empower women and give them opportunuties equal with men – and equal means not more or less, it means equal, which means men need to be treated and brought up as men, with a more masculine idea of what it means to be a man which at the same time embraces freedoms and equal rights for women. Part of being a man is allowing the women in your life the freedom to be whoever they are called and gifted to be, and treating women as equals – but remembering women are different in some ways, positive ways and at the same time remembering they deserve equal rights and treatment, and equal opportunities.

    Good post again Vicky!

  • Ruthwells

    Great post. I find it interesting that people flare their nostrils and raise their eyebrows when I say I’m a feminist. So many Christians say ‘ oh I agree with the principles of feminism but I wouldn’t give myself that label because there are a lot of feminists I don’t agree with’. My response is always the same ‘do you give yourself the label Christian’ ‘yes’ (standard response with indignant look!) ‘do you always agree with all other people with that label?’ I certainly wouldn’t want align myself with certains factions of Christianity but I still refer to myself as a Christian. The same is true for me with the term Feminist.
    Happy to be a feminist and a christian!

  • Actually, just to add to this – thank you for changing my perceptions and ideas of what feminism actually is. I really needed to hear that. According to the definition you advocate, I would say in many ways Jesus was a feminist – just as he was ‘maculinist’ too. 

    Thanks again.

  • Hi Vicky,  A great post and I agree with much of what you say.

    My concern is that the word Feminism may be beyond redeeming because of some of the things you have listed and the nature of the radical feminism in the secular world that perhaps goes past the right and proper call for equality to a hint or suggestion that actually we’d be better off if the inequality was the other way around.  I know that for most women this is not how they think of themselves or men but perhaps a new word needs coining because the old word is too broken.  However as a man I feel uncomfortable even  straying into these waters an am probably guilty of characterising women into a  stereotype as I type!I am uncomfortable with any breed of theology that comes with a  qualifying prefix ‘Feminist Theology’ ‘Liberation Theology’ ‘Black Theology’ etc. To qualify in advance the theological treatise one is offering is to influence the outcome of ones thought before we’ve typed a  single word.  If we get back to pure theological  study we would surely see, as you have pointed out, that prejudiced thought and oppression would dissolve.  To quote those great 80’s theologians Fat & Frantic: “My Jesus never gave to anyone, the freedom to oppress”As I say my thought may be prejudiced purely my the fact that I am male.  But thank you for a challenging, and very pertinent blog. 
    A.

  • Thank you for this important blog.  I feel so sad that we live in a Christian world in which there is a need to justify yourself as a “reasonable woman” before discussing feminism.  I think something people do not understand is that the abuse/rape/murder of women will only be solved through feminism.  Although it is sad that women did not recieve equal education with men until 1910, I believe it is much more horrific to realise that rape within marriage in the UK only became illegal in 1991.  I think we need to stay focused that women are dying, being mutilated, being abused, tortured and murdered.  In some countries girl babies are murdered, girl children do not get educated and have their genitals mutilated, girls are forced into marraige and women bear a disproportionate burden of poverty.  In this country 25% of women and girls will be abused by a partner and 2 women a week are murdered by a partner.  This is what feminism is actually about.  Jesus so often stood against men abusing women and Paul said that there “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

    The reason people are so against feminism is because their security comes from the power structures we have in place.  Very quickly after the church became established, women yet again were squashed, because it is much easier and more secure to keep the power structures than truly exploring the freedom and responsibility which comes from blasting open the power and domination structures that keep everything moving along so smoothly for men.

    It is only as we truly live out Jesus’ radical message of equality for women that we will see the Kingdom come.

  • Vicky,
    All I can say is that your blog has been a real inspiration this week; yes the word feminism carries bagage (all words do) but the notion that Jesus came to put us back on the path that God has intended for his creation to have is key here; now we are in Christ there is a new creation. The effects of the fall may still be around but God’s purpose in Christ is being / will be fulfilled.

  • Andrew Finden

    Interesting post! I’m very glad for many of the hard-won advances of the feminist movement in the last century or so. (though I think we should not confuse equality with onter-changeability..)

    I was wondering if you could perhaps elaborate on this:
    Granted, there were no women in the 12 disciples, but to me that is related to the culture of that era and the lack of education available to women, rather than doctrine.

    Women were clearly disciples, but none were part of the appointed ’12’ , what significance do you understand the 12 to have, and why do you see education as the issue?

  • radical disciple

    i wrote a teeny blog post about 4 years ago, saying what i think of being a feminist here: http://radical-disciple.blogspot.com/2007/05/f-word.html

    i’m so sad that you didn’t want to retweet stuff because your followers might write you off…

    not sure what to say.

    except, there may be someone out there who needs to know that vicky beeching is a bra wearing, app running, song writing, theology studying, ass kicking FEMINIST

    i may even be one of those.

  • Wendy Thomson

    So encouraged by what you have to say Vicky. As God created mankind in his image – male and female – then the god of this age is the only winner when we fail to take hold of our true vocation, ie. male and female, together, revealing God’s glory.

    Just as the Church is still coming to terms with the cultural issues of slavery and race, I believe that one day the gospel will eventually challenge and transform the Church’s broken and oppressive understandings of women and men.

  • Dan Miller

    I don’t like the term feminist for Christians because I think use of the term immediately takes the conversation away from Christ.  For me, it’s like the word “crusade” – there’s nothing wrong with the word, but the images that come to mind for many people tend to take away from the gospel rather than add to it. 

    Rather than try to wrestle away the definition of “feminist” from those who may have hijacked it, why don’t we put our efforts into wrestling away “Christian” from those who have hijacked it?  Wouldn’t it be nice if people heard “Christian” and thought “those are people who believe in gender equality”

  • I totally get what you mean, and I think you expressed yourself really beautifully. I’m a woman and I say that. :) I too have seen what being confused about what it really means to be male and in the church. Some men seem to think it’s about being overly nice (with little backbone) and others swing the other way and act like they rule over women. God designed us to fill in the gaps in each other, but to also be equal. Keep talking and praying about how you can be a start of a change in the inequality we see on both sides! Jesus will be with you! And if He is for you, who can be against you!

  • I think there’s an important point here that as Christian feminists we are motivated by a very different starting point. Just as Christians who care for the poor or oppose racism, etc are. 

    It’s important that we invest in explaining WHY we’re against oppression of women in reference to God and his word. And it’s important that (like many other forms of feminism) we affirm that we believe in this in order to bless men as well as women – Oppression of women is a sin that damages all humanity. Thanks for your thoughts Dan!

  • For me, I can tend to picture the radical images you just mentioned, but gratefully even my Sociology book in the current course I’m taking states that the so called “bra burning” may of never actually happened, and that true feminism isn’t what we think it is.
     I think Christian feminism can exist but maybe by another name, as it may cost a church way too much time and money to deal with the “bad press” such a term would conjure up.  It must be done in a truthful, and compassionate way with NO man bashing. We should address problems of course, but always rooted in love, and sometimes that’s tough love.
    Of course I want us to be protected, treated, paid, and valued equally. and  I do not believe we are really being treated completely equally. It’s sad but true, the statistics tell us that something is wrong, and so did that brilliant video for International Women’s Day.
     We can avoid “ranty” arguments by taking time to think before we speak, and be guided by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is truth, so let’s not leave Him or His glory out of it. Eat, drink or whatever to do, do it to His glory. :) Also, to know what we are actually talking about, as in research and education on the subject.
     I hope my post interested someone and was not just the same ol’, same ol’. Gob Bless you Vicky for intelligently presenting this topic and many others.

  • I think feminism is PART of my understanding of what Jesus does on the cross – the dignity and role of women are influenced by the fall, they’re prophesied as being restored with the out pouring of the Spirit in Joel and Acts 2 – and in Galatians 3:28 – This is the ultimate Biblical feminist statement and stands against much of the culture of the day and “Christian” and “Nonchristian” cultures through history since then that says a woman can only access God through her father or husband as they were the property of them. Jesus overturns this – and this work of Christ is the fuel for authentic Christian feminism.  It seeks to serve by being no less than who God has called us to be.

  • Anonymous

    I am open to a feminist interpretation and agree with Derrida on phallogecentrism.  For me it represents acknowledging a bias when engaging with faith and text- a bias that i often struggle/fail to acknowledge as a white male.  In that sense it is a mere stating of the obvious. Yes, some women portray this feminism as an enlightenment and I am not convinced of that other than an awakening to themselves and their own sexuality.

    With that said christian feminism is often misunderstood as “what do I take from the text? rather than “what do I bring…?” 

  • Graham Pointer

    “Granted, there were no women in the 12 disciples, but to me that is related to the culture of that era and the lack of education available to women, rather than doctrine”

    There is something in this which concerns me. Jesus was readily challenging the culture of His day when it went against what God wanted, yet at the same time He is a prisoner of His culture when it came to appointing the apostles- a decision He made after praying to His Father about.

    I would suggest that if Jesus wanted to appoint women apostles, He would have appointed some women apostles, regardless of what culture or the Pharisees would say about it,

  • Beth

    Feminism to me is both a historical movement I remember though my forebears, who provoked and agitated in the 1970’s for feminism to have it’s own space on the academic radar; and a place which is being built for women to live in now and is championed by some leading female thinkers, who I regretfully regard as increasingly male-minded. I am prepared to concede this is perhaps because of a different value system underpinning our idea of gender, rather than because men have expressly sought to influence the feminist argument. 

    Recently I feel liberated in the area of feminism and biblical studies. This is because I have resigned myself to the fact that the Bible is true. It actually happened and the events took place in time and space, and were consequently recorded in a compendium of knowledge which has been passed down to us; toyed and tampered with; bits have been expelled and others expanded upon via explicit and exponential expository commentaries, until we are left with the text as we see it in font of us in various editions of said book; or as we chose to listen to or receive it in translation via our favourite preacher, pastor or priest.

    It didn’t occur apropos of nothing. I found this concept truly freeing.

    Because if we believe these things actually happened, then we can conjure ourselves into Paul’s mind as he wrote his letters, perhaps in a fragmentary way, perhaps with a team of secretaries or scribes to help him, and imagine him taking a consultative approach. I like to think Paul was sensitive enough to women and other sometime-oppressed groups of people who wanted into the church, to not only consider their background past but to think pragmatically, as a strategist, what would be best for the particular community he was addressing moving forward? I think there are intuitive bits of the Bible we miss completely in our modern-day super translation with its inevitable emphasis on textual criticism.

    Perhaps most importantly we need to put on the glasses of love before we turn the pages. God’s love. And trust Him to magnify the right issues and trouble spots for us today, and to deal with them appropriately in the Pauline spirit; providing you are reading a letter of Paul of course; and sentitively in the light of over 2000 years of culture having occured since the history took place. With the exception of the Catholic church, who claim a father in the apostle Peter; and by attachment, perhaps the strict Church of England, none of the churches listed in the epistles are still alive and worshiping today. As far as I know the physical congregations cannot be traced by historians with any certainty, although their spirit lives on, through the accounts we have of their lives; the equivalent of listening to one half of a telephone conversation.

    I could compare the debate over the role of a woman in the church: because it does come down to the role of each woman, the part she plays and the ways she is able to influence the church body she is part of; to the era when women were finally allowed political franchise and had, from such a time onward, the right to vote. I think we are facing a similar era of change in the Church. If the suffragettes had not gained their right, I think eventually women would have had to be suppressed to a more sufficient degree. The label itself, coined by The Daily Mail, apparently in relation to the victim narrative acted out in the first person by Pankhurst and others, after they had reclaimed the term, presumably gave a slogan to a dissenting movement that already existed in the hearts and minds of women, and, with greatest respect, perhaps also in the hearts and minds of their husbands, brothers, sons and fathers.

    Our gender identity, whatever sex we are, does not exist in isolation to the sex we are not. If women feel oppressed, men subsequently suffer. I found a great website dealing with this last year. It basically tackled the issue of individual men suffering with the pain of their gender and inheriting the sinfulness of other men who have raped, abused, mutilated and oppressed women.  The pastoral attempt of the site, which wasn’t a Christian one, was to recognize that men often feel different emotions as a product of these situations, most often anger, which is a response to vulnerability or hurt, and can lead to depression. I’d like churches to focus on these issues more. To let men talk more about what they want being a Christian man to look like, as you already have in your blog.

    I think we have to think carefully how best we can dispense grace to men and women of the Church. And then follow a plan of action.

    I’ll leave you to decide if I’m a feminist. I think you are right and we miss a lot of who Jesus is and what he stands for when we leave women out of ministry. Sorry this is so long and also so newspapery. Perhaps I’m trying to disguise my real, aggravated feelings. Loved the clip and the whole post blessed me so much.

  • Feminism gets blamed for a whole bunch of things that really have nothing to do with feminism. 

    Do anyone think that “being a man” means being in charge of women? Of course not. Feminism is no threat to manliness. If it’s difficult to be a man nowadays, I honestly don’t think we can blame the feminists. To my mind, modern men struggle with finding responsibility and healthy ambition, not with an urgent need to get paid more than their female colleagues.

    Adverts that make fun of men have nothing to do with feminism. Usually the opposite! That Maltesers ad involves two women worrying about calories and then cuddling their men together, apparently because Maltesers still thinks looking gay is funny. Fattist and homophobic is not feminist.

    Anyway, rant over. Keep thinking about this stuff, James, and I will too!

  • *stands up and applauds* Thank you, Vicky! I’m all about reclaiming terms, and “feminist” is a label many women (and Christians) should hold with pride. :)

  • Beth

    Just to tidy up my previous post, I’m not saying sinfulness is generational or men should be responsible for taking on the debts of others’, but in the articles I read, this is how the non-christian men featured reported they were feeling – as if crimes and abuses dished out by other men had damaged their identity in some way. I am not saying all men are damaged or responsible for others, or should be. I know I pick up on how others are feeling sometimes, men or women, and the site I looked at reported their social group had felt the same kind of empathy, which isn’t always easy to understand.

  • Pingback: The F word; or, I don’t have to be a feminist to object to sexism — Goannatree()

  • David Watt

    The church is about equality. Just as there should be a place for feminism, there should be a place for masculinity. Both should be allowed to flourish because it is ultimately about our identity in God. It is not a competition or a battle between sexes, the church should be able to see that! 

  • Tanya_Marlow

    Great post! Go Boudicca!! Raaaa! I particularly love the photo of the guy feminist.

    I wholeheartedly agree with what you’ve written about the importance of feminism, and it’s great to see how you’ve defined it – I think (and hope) that’s something everyone would want to sign up to. But what do you do about the problem of ‘radical feminists’ who want to go beyond equality to establishing ‘superiority’ of women? And I get a bit twitchy about ‘feminist theology’. The limited amount of ‘feminist theology’ that I have read seems to want to reject anything in the Bible that infers patriarchy. Since the Bible was written in a patriarchal culture, that doesn’t leave an awful lot! I guess it’s for this reason that many ‘evangelical feminists’ (Gordon Fee et al) prefer the term egalitarian, to help distinguish the type of feminism they stand for.

    Admittedly I haven’t read much feminist theology but it does seem to be more in the liberal tradition and ‘reader response’ theory rather than taking the whole Bible as God’s word, which as an evangelical I would want to affirm. What stuff are you thinking of?

  • I think with a lot of radfems it is often more about *separatism* from men rather than superiority *over* them. And even within ‘radical feminism’ there is a spectrum of views. I would, for example, consider myself ‘radical’ in some aspects of my feminism but not others. 

    I would also appreciate recommendations of literature on the subject, Vicky :)

  • Well.
    As you know I am a fully paid-up, dyed in the wool Christian feminist. So unlike a lot of people, I have a very positive view of the word and what it stands for. Like every controversial political movement, feminism has been subject to a great many attacks and slurs from society over the decades – from the pamphlets and mocking posters that derided those women fighting for the right to vote a century ago, to today’s negative stereotypes which seek to hit us where they think all women should hurt, mocking us for being ‘ugly’ and ‘jealous’ and ‘bitter’. We must not be taken in by these stereotypes. Of course there are feminists who have done things or said things that we don’t agree with, but isn’t it the same for some Christians? And let’s remember, bra burning is one of the great media myths of our time. At the protest in question, in 1970, women threw items they saw as restrictive and constraining to their existence, like make-up, high heels and bras, into a “freedom trash can”. They were not allowed to set fire to it due to safety concerns. But a journalist covering the story mentioned bra burning and the image stuck.

    I think being a Christian feminist is a very real possibility. It’s not just about our role in the church and in the home. I often see a lot of misunderstanding about what feminists want and what we are fighting for, which is incredibly wide-ranging. The fact is that women are not treated as equals in society and we should not be afraid to speak out about this just because it doesn’t say anything direct in scripture about these issues. Equal pay. Race issues. Poverty. Violence against women and girls. Trafficking. Under-representation in public life, politics and senior positions in business and decision-making jobs. The sort of future available to today’s girls and their aspirations. Issues surrounding motherhood, income and workplace. All this cannot be ignored while the discussion is reduced to simplistic statements about “anger” and “feminism going too far”. It will never go far enough until women are treated with the same respect as men and afforded the same opportunities. I’m not forcing people to care about these issues but I do call for a greater understanding of what we do and what we have *done* in the last 150 years.

    The fact that all the old ‘ranty’ and ’emotional’ stereotypes are wheeled out at the first opportunity when discussing women’s issues is proof in itself that our concerns continue to be dismissed and not taken seriously – and that these sorts of words are used by people who don’t want to engage, but to silence and patronize. As you know there has been a lot of discussion about this online of late and it certainly applies to the Christian blogosphere; I’ve seen it myself many times, with both men and women going on the attack about issues of equality. We absolutely need to avoid using ANY stereotypes when we discuss these issues; I know complementarians hate being stereotyped as much as anyone and it does go both ways. There also needs to be understanding that gender equality is a great issue of injustice and one that is full of hurt for many women whose lives have been affected by it. If they are not allowed to express their feelings about it, this is wrong. I do think that we have a responsibility to debate in a Christlike way, and while this should never involve vitriolic attacks and bullying, showing emotion or anger should not be something we shame people for doing.

  • Feels encouraging to have this word reclaimed and put into a Christian context. It’s conjured notions, as you rightly say, of aggressive women with hairy armpits for too long!

    Let’s rather perpetuate, at Jesus did, social rights and equal opportunities for women. With the onus being on ‘Love one another.’

  • Hey! Thanks for commenting :-)
    Radical feminism is, in my opinion, only as much of a problem as odd branches of Christianity that fall under the banner of ‘Christian’ but don’t represent the same kind of Jesus-following that you or I would hold to. There will always be different versions of a school of thought…but I don’t see why the radical end should prevent us from using a genuinely useful and good term. There has been lots of great research and writing in the area of Christian Feminism, so actually that’s one reason I wrote this post. If we shun the label Christian Feminism totally, then we throw out any good Feminist Theology that has been produced.. I’d say Elaine Storkey’s ‘Whats Right With Feminism’ is the best starting point. That’s what I’ve been reading. Dr Kristin Aune was a name that cam up yesterday as someone who’s written some great stuff, so I’ll be hunting out her writings. I’ll find some other good books and recommend them here :)

  • Pam Smith

    I’m not a Christian feminist. I’m a Christian and I’m a feminist. I was a feminist first and I wouldn’t be a follower of Jesus if I’d judged him by the some of the stereotypical views of Christianity that are presented n the media – so as you say, Vicky, Christians really should look beneath the stereotypes. 

    James, I have the utmost respect for you but if you seriously think the Maltesers advert represents feminism you maybe need to find out a bit more! 

    Women and men are pushed into boxes when we allow society or our bit of society to stereotype us according to gender. Both patriarchy and matriarchy are clearly wrong if they declare one group of people should be advantaged because of their physical attributes. Men who don’t conform to the male stereotype propagated by patriarchy – the physically superior hunter/provider – are also damaged by patriarchy and by the Church if it enshrines patriarchy.

  • Tanya_Marlow

    Preach it!

  • Tanya_Marlow

    Thanks – yes Hannah, I think the fact there is a spectrum means there can be some difficulty on engaging with feminism (and radical feminism). Interesting to hear the idea of ‘separatism’rather than superiority (although separating sounds potentially sad too!) For me, feminism has quite positive associations and I don’t view it as a negative term, but I’m wary of what has become associated with ‘feminist theology’ (or thealogy…)

    Vicky – Elaine Storkey is a legend!!! Love her stuff, and interested that she is keen to use the ‘f word’. Will have to check out her book. I’m much more familiar with feminism in regards to language and linguistics (Luce Irigaray etc) so this is foggy territory for me.

  • Thanks for the response Laura! Feel free to check out my blog, got a great post about the role of women in church. Think I might be writing one about issues facing men too. :-)

    http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk

  • Thanks for this Tim. I think my perceptions are more down to lack of education than anything. I’m trying to find the Christ-like perception here. Whatever label you put on it, I am pro-women in leadership/teaching in church, marriage and society. I do think though with the Maltesers advert that if it was done the opposite way in terms of gender it would never get allowed – so why should it be allowed for men? Not saying the advert is feminist, but we need to be careful we don’t go the other way and go against man being men. I will think about this more, and think I might write a ‘testimonial’ about my experiences as a man. Hmmm.

  • @drgeorgemorley

    Hmmm…That’s twice today I’ve seen a man respond to a woman’s post about sexism by saying it’s tough being a man. Yes, there’s a ‘crisis of masculinity’, but please be a bit cautious about airing it in this arena. I don’t know you, and I guess (I hope) this isn’t what you mean, but it comes across as… woman say this is tough, we need to challenge this… and straightaway a man says ‘you’ve made it hard for us to be men by raising this issue’. It’s a sort of soft aggression, very difficult to challenge, very insidious.

  • Thanks for commenting Pam! I’m loving getting to know you through Twitter. Hopefully our paths will cross for a cuppa sometime soon!

    “Both patriarchy and matriarchy are clearly wrong if they declare one group of people should be advantaged” – absolutely agree!

    “I’m not a Christian feminist. I’m a Christian and I’m a feminist.” – I guess I feel ok saying ‘Christian Feminist’ as to me that’s just shorthand for embracing both schools of thought. Like I’d say “I’m an Evangelical Charismatic Christian” rather than the much more long winded “I’m a Christian and an Evangelical and a Charismatic”.  I also like ‘Christian Feminist’ as for me, putting Christian before Feminist emphasises that it’s Jesus who shapes my Feminist ideologies and not the other way around.

    Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

  • @drgeorgemorley

    Great post and great comments!
    I’d like to say, NO – boys cannot be feminists! They can (and should!) fight against sexism/patriarchy and work actively towards gender equality, but that is not the same as being a feminist. ‘Feminism’ has always meant the critique of sexism/patriarchy from the experience and perspective of being a woman. Feminism is about the voice of women saying how it is for women as women.
    I guess you can challenge that in reclaiming the term, but why? We need all the help we can get in articulating clearly how we experience inequality, and ‘feminism’ is one sort of space for that clarity. When men want to claim the label for themselves, it feels a bit like an encroachment on women’s experience as women.

  • Loved this video, and a thought-provoking post.

    Intrigued how the debate is unfolding above me. I agree with the basic feminist principles – equality – but am still convinced that somewhere there is a difference. What that is, and how it impacts, is something I’m thinking about.

    What would you recommend in terms of reading that is more broadly evangelical? I’ve read some quite weird stuff, and would love to engage with the kind of more relaxed but determined feminism you espouse, Vicky.

    Thanks for your continued posts and input into some good issues!

  • The Maltesers advert is only demeaning to men if you think seeing two men hug is humiliating. The whole point of the advert is that anything that might look gay is inherently hilarious. It’s a bad advert, but it’s not bad because it makes fun of men. 

    There are indeed lots of adverts that play on the stereotype that women need to do all the housework and childcare because men are too lazy/irresponsible/stupid/clumsy. This is a really, really old joke, and it’s one of the ways society has legitimised the idea that women have to stay at home and do housework and childcare. These jokes are much more damaging to women than to men. 

  • Wendy Thomson

    A suggestion of a book for those interested in a measured Biblical perspective might include

    ‘Finally Feminist’ by John G Stackhouse Jr. Stackhouse comes from a Brethern perspective and looks at the Biblical, hermeneutic, and cultural issues. He teaches at Regent College Vancouver in replacing the chair for Dr JI Packer.

    Christians For Biblical Equality have a an excellent website with articles to download, resources and recommendations for books. Here is the link.   http://www.cbeinternational.org/

  • Very cautious commenting on feminist discussions, but I think this deserves a response.

    My approach to feminism as a man is always going to be second-hand. I see something or hear something about women’s experience, and I think, “I read something about this in a book”. Totally different from being able to respond from my own experience. In my head, I think of myself as a pro-feminist instead – trying to be on the same side as the feminists, but not claiming to speak from their point of view.

    But… honestly, that’s not always helpful. If I’m talking to someone who genuinely thinks “feminism” is bad, I just claim the label and try to encourage them to think about it differently. How I define myself depends on who I’m talking to. 

  • radical disciple

    oooh, please read Phyllis Trible – ‘God and the rhetoric of sexuality’ and ‘texts of terror’, she’s a brilliant rhetorical critic in the feminist tradition. i like Rosemary Radford Reuther too and Elizabeth Shussler Fiorenza, as well as Elaine Storkey.

    the thing to remember is that feminist theology is not monolithic – it’s theologies.  and the minute we stop critiquing the things we read, then we become very unthinking and critical of a whole mode and method of thought without recognising the great things it might bring.  no-one will say stuff we entirely agree with.

    sorry, i LOVE feminist theology, so i’d love you to enjoy it too :D

  • Thanks for this Wendy, I’ve enjoyed tihngs by Stackhouse before.

  • For what it’s worth I’d recommend Finally Feminist too :)

  • radical disciple

    as i said above vicky, Phyllis Trible is a must must must read for feminist Christians – ‘God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality’ is mind blowing and world changing and ‘Texts of Terror’ will make you very careful about how you read texts in the bible with women involved.

    so good.

    Others, Rosemary Radford Reuther, Elisabeth Shussler Fiorenza

    The next ones are good to read to understand something of how women become pushed out of the Christian faith….

    a post christian to read is Daphne Hampson – if you’re not easily spooked, she has a very compelling case as to why you ‘cannot’ be a christian and a feminist because of the scandal of Jesus being a male human, but I disagree with her as you can imagine.  Still, she’s interesting to read, and comes out of being a woman going through the CofE struggle with women’s ordination. ‘Theology and Feminism’ is the seminal one.

    or post christian again is Mary Daly – but she is very extreme, so not for the fainthearted.

  • QueenJana

    I think the lack of education might be key there – women of that time were probably in no position to be given the sort of responsibility to teach and lead, not inherently because they were women but because they had had no education themselves. (I think that has something to do with Paul’s words about women teaching in 1 Tim as well.) Also, I think Paul’s comment about becoming everything to everyone in order to win a few is important too – if people are going to reject the message because a woman is preaching it, then you could argue that it’s better for a man to preach it and not create an unnecessary barrier. Yeah it sucks for the women, but the spread of the gospel is the bigger picture. Jesus did challenge his culture, and he did directly challenge the sexism of the culture in many ways. But things don’t change overnight, and I think throughout it all he kept his eyes on his larger mission. Equality of the sexes is a huge issue, but it’s nowhere near as big as salvation. Jesus started the ball rolling on equality and lots of other things, but he didn’t get hung up on them when they would conflict with his primary mission. He had bigger fish to fry.

  • Yes, for me, separatism is not something I feel we should work towards. Many women have felt compelled to separatism due to treatment they have received at the hands of men and we need to understand this. But my understanding of creation is about men and women working together and completing each other, not having nothing to do with each other :)

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  • Pam Smith

    Re ‘Christian feminist’ – I guess for me the feminism came before the Christianity. Logically I suppose I became a ‘Christian feminist’ at the same time as I became a ‘Christian everything else’. But I would not want to be put into a subset of feminism that was just for Christians if such a thing exists.Also, I don’t think I’ve read enough feminist theology to be comfortable with claiming to be a ‘Christian feminist’ – I’d equate that with a certain theological position that – from a lack of knowledge – I’m not sure I share.

  • Makes total sense…thanks for sharing that. Labels can be so helpful and unhelpful simultaneously can’t they!?

    Will definitely add that book to my list :-)

  • I don’t know if any of what follows is helpful but…..

    A couple of books – which assume some (but not so much as
    to put you off) theological knowledge :

    Alvin F Kime (ed) Speaking
    the Christian God: The Holy Trinity and the Challenge of Feminism (Grand
    Rapids: Eerdmans 1992)

    Susan Frank Parsons (ed) The Cambridge Companion to Feminist Theology (CUP2002)

     

    Both are collections of essays so contain a variety of points of view (although all are sympathetic): the Cambridge Companion
    includes essays by female theologians like Nicola Slee and Janet Martin Soskice

    I’m currently trying to think of things that are written in a helpful style but which don’t assume any in depth knowledge of Christian Doctrine or the Bible – if I can think of some I’ll post them as well.
     

    If I were doing an overview of the Biblical material I would
    want to draw attention to:

    -        
    Genesis 1:26-28: both Male and Female are in God’s
    image

    -        
    Genesis 2:18-25: emphasis is on sameness /
    interdependence not difference

    -        
    Genesis 3:1-20 Both Adam and Eve are held responsible,
    antagonism between sexes results in male domination (which the OT law then
    seeks to moderate:.

     

    In Christ, Galatians 3:26-29 points to the fact there is
    neither male nor female; Acts 2:17-18 Spirit is on both men and women. In early
    church women clearly had roles of influence, whatever occasional restrictions
    there may have been.

    Clearly any consideration of Scripture needs to take account of 1 Corinthians 11:3, 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:11-15 as well.

  • Beth

    I hope you don’t mind if I reply to your convo. I don’t use blogs very much socially and the etiquette is new to me so if I am breaching any major conventions please let me know. @Tim Hutchings, I found an interesting talk by ‘Harry Potter’ actress Fiona Shaw not long back. In it she talks about the physicality of acting and near the end she talks about taking on a male role in a Shakespeare play, how the audience reacted to that, and what she learned from it. She addresses the same problem you’ve talked about. Daniel Craig dressed as a woman in the video above bought it to mind. I don’t want to cover Vicky’s blog in link text but if you search for “BBC acting workshop Fiona Shaw” it should come up. Lately I’ve been asking myself questions about my gender role and identity as I am in such a unique set of circumstances currently, I’ve had a real sense of disconnect and wondered if it’s changed the way I see myself as a woman or the way others see me. @ Drgeorgemorley, perhaps the way to orientate myself through this problem is to talk about it. I’m grateful Vicky is willing to write articles on these subjects and let me join in. I’m sure I’d never post in this way on a blog written from a male p.o.v. As much as men are lovely, hearing a female perspective on these issues is a revelation to me and much needed.

  • SteveParsons

    I think it’s very important than women take their rightful place as being equal with men. I think there is a change afoot that’s happening more and more in the church and women are (hopefully) finding it easier to use their gifts, lead others and teach the scriptures. Change might be slower than some would hope for.

    However, I also think its very important that in their desire to be treated equally, women still celebrate the differences between the sexes. We are equal – but we are not the same. God created us with clear differences and that’s part of the genius of God. Feminists who try and erase that difference aren’t, in my opinion, helping the conversation move forward.

  • Beechy

    Cheers for this VIcky…Here in lies one problem I think;  As soon as you define a movement, cause, ideal (call it what you want) as gender specific you end up with a conflict.  Its just the way its going to end up.  The masculists out there (see wikipedia for info) get just as passionate and feel just as justified for a long list of reasons. I feel challenged to pursue a Kingdom response to gender that sees men and women uniting together, under the authority of Jesus in a way never seen before.  
    My hope and prayer is that we model a new way of being human together that is so radical, transformational and counter cultural that a new term is needed to describe it!  We need to lead the way in demonstrating what it means in Gal 3:28 etc.  Radically celebrating our differences, pursuing with passion what it is to be who we were made to be, and chucking aside the baggage of the past.  Talking to the youth I work with, they don’t often get why us guys are debating this stuff…. I think they are looking for something different.  In my heart of hearts, I feel thats what the Holy Spirit wants… how we get there is the tricky bit!  I hope we do for the sake of my daughters for one thing!

    Shalom!

  • another great book to read is ‘The Delusion of Gender’ by Cordelia Fine.

    not Christian, but an amazing and frustrating and helpful insight into the essential difference debate.  it will blow your mind though :)

  • Hardybex

    I wanted to add this – its not really about feminism, But it is about women and Gods heart and maybe some of us could help. http://www.stellasvoice.org

  • Jteal5794

    I have zero interest in putting the word ‘feminism’ in the same breath, in any way, as Christ.  Put bluntly, it is a severe diminishment of His work, and Purpose, to tie him to pop-culture social justice of any kind.  Do I believe that men are better than women?  Of course not.  Completely different, with different roles, identities, and God-nature?  Absolutely.  When Paul said “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free” he did not say that what makes men, men and women, women was to be eradicated.  To coin a Paul-esque phrase…God forbid.  You believe that christianity is male-dominated.  I say no, religion is male dominated…but the males don’t TEACH masculinely, at all.  The religion of christianity-which is in no way the same thing as the REALITY of Christ-has become largely effeminate, and most of the descriptors and monikers describing Christ these days reflect that shift.  It’s not a helpful shift, universally speaking.  The Lion of Judah is not a kitty cat.  He loves us, and I love my wife.  But God help anyone who tries to do her harm, because they will have to deal with-NOT a kind, gentle, meek and mild milquetoast husband, but a dangerous, brutal, fighter who will absolutely not relent, not find a compromise, not give an inch of ground to anything that seeks to do her harm.  I deeply respect women.  But you guys are different…and you’re supposed to be.

  • Graham Pointer

    I see what you’re saying that people might reject a message because of who was preaching it. I expect Jews of the time would reject a message if, say, someone like a tax collector (e.g. Matthew the apostle) were preaching it, given that tax collectors were despised. What was one of the main Pharisee criticisms of Jesus? That He ate with tax collectors. To appoint a tax collector as an apostle would be a more radical step. More radical than appointing a woman as an apostle?

    It could be possible that women were not chosen as apostles due to a lack of education. However, in Acts 4:13, Peter and John are described as “uneducated” or “unschooled” depending on translation. It would be very odd for Jesus- after praying this through with His Father- were to decide not to appoint any women as they were uneducated and then proceed to appoint a few uneducated men as apostles.

    Education could be the reason for 1 Timothy, but at no point in the epistle does Paul give this as a reason. And if it were, it would make more sense to ban uneducated people from teaching. Paul does give a reason for not allowing women to teach or exercise authority in the Church- namely that Adam was created first and then Eve. Paul is clear that the prohibition comes from the way God created the world, not from cultural or educational issues. .

  • Anna Drew

    I totally describe myself as a Christian feminist, but I care about equal rights for everyone, not just women. But the problem is that, largely speaking (though not exclusively) it is still women who are being disadvantaged in both church and society. 

    In response to Jteal – I don’t think that feminism sums up the work or goals of Christ, but I think it is a legitimate response by his disciples to the vision he set before us. It’s not the total of my expression of faith or identity, but ut is an 

    I know my husband loves me and would defend me at the drop of a hat, but he doesn’t pretend that I’m some wilting flower that needs him to stand behind me a a ‘brutal fighter’ (sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t). he knows I can stand up for myself. That’s what it means to ‘deeply respect women’, I think. Men and women are not the same, but neither gender should be diminished or stereotyped because of those differences. 

  • having come here from the Sophia Network piece highlighting this blog I also followed links to some of their other stuff including an amazing interview with Mandy Marshall Tearfund’s gender advisor which just shows how much work Christians have to do in promoting reconciliation and respect of women in some developing world countries http://blog.sophianetwork.org.uk/2008/08/interview-with-mandy-marshall-tearfund.html worth reading if you want to be convinced of the value of paying attention to this issue.

  • Sally Nash

    Thank you for posting this, Vicky.  I am an evangelical charismatic Christian who would also say I am a feminist because of the experiences I had as a young adult and subsequently both inside and outside of the church.  Ironically as typing this I am also watching Made in Dagenham which is a film about courageous women who stood up for what they believed in sometimes at great personal cost. I think we do need to revisit notions of both masculinity and femininity and that stereotyping is difficult for all.  Thanks for promoting Sophia too.If noone else has mentioned it an excellent book is White Woman’s Christ and Black Woman’s Jesus by Jacquelyn Grant which   explores differences between feminist and womanist theology and argues that you need to take ethnicity and class into the equation also.

  • I think you’re right.. some of the 12 were also uneducated, so it seems a real stretch, plus, as you point out, Paul grounds his view theologically not culturally.

    Having said that, I’m very hesitant to draw conclusions from the fact that Jesus on appointed men – while I think it assumes male leadership (as was the norm, whether you think the NT argues for complimentarianism or not) I think it’s probably a faulty hermeneutical approach to extemporate doctrine from such a narrative.

  •  the Lion of Judah may not be a kitty cat, but i think you’ll find that he *is* a Lamb..

    as for women being pronounced different, i suppose it depends what you mean, but most evidence is towards culturally conditioned sexism being the majority of what makes us ‘different’ – so i see your ‘deep respect’ and i raise you ‘deep equality’ ….please.

  • Jteal5794

    Anna, do you believe Christ, as the bridegroom, wants you to say ‘nah, Jesus, thanks, but I got this’?  If so, we have a problem.  If not, your ideology betrays you.  Marriage is meant to be a microcosm of Christ and his Church.  American Feminism, much like American Christianity, is not something that should be peddled around the world, nor tied to the reality of Christ.  Rights, and all that, is not why Christ came.  We were promised, not a life of equality and ‘rights’, but of being persecuted, of ‘having trouble’, of taking up our cross.  Men and women are created in the image of God, but in distinctly different ways, and each bears distinctly different core attributes of God.   The stupid old feminist idea of ‘anything you can do I can do better’ is not helpful, and not true.  In any case, I maintain, and always will, that this is not helpful, and has nothing to do with Christ’s true work.  It is being extrapolated and filtered through an American lens.  Religion in America is inarguably effeminate and soft, and men who haven’t been softened by it are bristled by it.  You’re equal under Christ-not sure why you want more.  It’s not about your husband thinking you’re a wilting flower-it’s about you allowing him to be what God created him to be FOR you.  There’s a big difference.  In any case, this is kind of like the idea of ‘give a kid a hammer, and the whole world becomes a nail’.  This whole approach is terribly subjective.  If you are talking about rescuing women in other parts of the world, that’s one thing, and I would join you in that.  But if you’re talking about ANY American women in general, well, nope.  Have no use for it.  Women have the male population by the short and curlies in this country, and I’m tired enough of it as it is.

  • Hi Kneewax.  Similar to ruthwells’ post, I think the word ‘feminism’ can still be used and I don’ t think it is broken.  There are some negative connotations, but by that reasoning, there would be some strong arguments for not using the word ‘Christian’ or ‘evangelical.’  Maybe the most important bit is to keep discussing and reflecting on why the word does have negative connotations.

  • Bethanyjoy

    Firstly, thank you for using the word ‘hermeneutical’ in your post; it is my absolute favourite yet one rarely sees it used! :)

    In response to this discussion, I would agree that education as the deciding line does seem to be a stretch.
    My opinion is more towards culture being the key definitive. Whilst I agree with Graham Pointer that Jesus probably would have appointed women as part of the 12 if He had wanted to, I think that He might also have considered how difficult it might be for them living that lifestyle. Since Jesus lived up to every letter of the law, they would have had to do likewise: they were not allowed to speak in public; they had to remove themselves from society when they had their period. In my mind, it would be easier for them to live out Jesus’s calling on their lives outside of the 12.

  • I think every theology needs to come with a qualifying prefix. We all have a standpoint from which we view the scriptures and it’s better to be honest about that rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, or that we can do ‘pure’ theology.

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  • Whatthisgirllearns

    Thank you for this post! It’s very thoughtful and interesting. You are correct that feminine qualities or feminism often brings up only negative images instead of the more positive ones. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  • as vicky mentioned, jesus counted women among his disciples, and the apostle paul names a woman, junia, as being outstanding among the apostles.

  • i am a christian and a feminist–and so is my husband.  as for avoiding emotionalism in dialogue, that is largely a charge lobbed at women to dismiss and silence their experience and point of view.  i don’t think women need to tone down their critique or passion so much as men should be willing to listen to the other half of humanity.

  • You are preaching christianism or feminism? There was a movement called “liberation theory” they tried to mix marxism and christianism to justify marxists guerrillas, there is also a “church” for homosexuals…both of them say the Bible supports their position…but what about the Apostol Paul ? so they try to underestimate his authority, even though the Bible is full of aguments aganist their positions, not just the Apostol. A woman preaching at St Paul´s cathedral would be a strange thing…The real problem are the effects…they promise paradise but…sounds sweet, nice words :liberation..freedom…the devil is an experienced marketer and publicist..

    These groups are looking for social acceptance ( and control) by trying to “get into de Bible” they don´t want to convert to the Bible, they want the Bible to change according to their theories…they want to change the Bible to fit into their antichristian doctrines..if the Bible says something is wrong there is nothing to discuss about it, but it also gives you the way to change; the problem is they don´t want to change, so they try to change the Bible.

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  • Amanda B.

    I think the truth is that the ad is *not* okay, and it’s allowed on-air because people aren’t making an outcry about it. From my experience learning about “feminism 101”, etc., the reason feminists don’t make an outcry about those kinds of things is because their focus is on fighting to remove the negative portrayals and stereotypes of women–which are still incredibly common and get a whole lot of airtime with depressingly little outcry.

    I think people *should* be writing letters, opinion pieces, etc., about that kind of thing. But it’s just not necessarily a battle that feminists have the time/resources to fight on behalf of men. But I think most would welcome it if men rose up and said, “Hey, guess what? This is not okay either,” so long as feminism was not implicitly blamed for the problem. The feminists I know despise gender stereotyping/disrespect in all its forms.

  • Amanda B.

    I sympathize with many tenets of feminism. I think it raises some very important issues that must be addressed, and I am all for equality between men and women. There are three main reasons I still do not personally identify as a feminist myself, though:

    1) With only one exception, every feminist group I have come across is vehemently pro-choice. While I think we can still be instructed by that in that we, the Church, need to do much, much better at caring for women who are pregnant and don’t want to be, I do not think killing unborn babies is justifiable. I have seen a number of feminists view this as a make-or-break issue of feminism, and if they’re right, then I’m not a feminist.

    2) With very few exceptions, every feminist group I have come across is energetically pro-gay, bi-, trans-, etc. I cannot support these practices with a clean conscience and cannot stand with mainline feminism on these issues. Again, I think we can still be instructed by this in that we, the Church, must find a more compassionate way to speak about our convictions on these issues, and we must offer real help and hope to people who are confused about their gender (saying, “just stop liking boys” isn’t help), but I don’t believe the Bible allows for Christians to endorse this kind of sexual behavior within the Body.

    3) The word “feminist” is a loaded word to so many conservative Christians that I am plenty happy not to wield it. Granted, much of the reason it is reviled is because of misinformation and stereotyping. I would like to fix that–as a movement, feminists don’t hate men, think women are superior, lack a sense of humor, or pick fights just for the fun of it. But even so, it’s very difficult to get through to people, “Yes, I agree with a lot of feminist thinking, but I promise I am actually pro-life and uphold the sanctity of marriage…” I am more comfortable with the term “egalitarian”, in part because the average person doesn’t have a preconceived idea of what that entails, and I don’t have to fight past a lot of bad stereotypes before they will hear me.

    Minus the issues of abortion and homosexuality, I think Christian feminism is *theoretically* possible. But because those are real problems–big ones–and because people have so many misconceptions about what feminism is, I doubt that it is *practically* possible under that name. That’s why I’m so hesitant to assume the label, even though I agree with so much feminist theory. I think our society is still very broken in how it treats women, and to varying degrees and manifestations, that is also reflected in our churches.

    As per the “emotional/ranty” question–I think of course we want to avoid becoming ranty, but I’d say it is impossible to approach this unemotionally. It’s personal. There’s no way to make it impersonal. Feminist discussions aren’t just about ideas, but about my *life*. Of course I’m emotionally invested in it. If the global church was to suddenly start seriously questioning the fitness of men for ministry, I imagine a lot of men would get pretty emotional about it, too. For healthy, constructive discussions, all we can do is to pray lots, embrace the Sermon on the Mount, try to prefer one another, and sincerely try to hear one another even as we seek the will of God on the matter. None of us knows everything, and I doubt there is anyone from whom we can truly learn nothing.

  • Pjharris7869

    There are certainly many serious problems that men confront in contemporary Western society. Let us take a look at them:

    1) men have a lower life expectancy than women,
    2) men are more llikely to be the victims of serious physical assault and be murdered than women.
    3) infant boys are more likely to be punished physically by their mothers than infant girls. Yes, the vile matriarchy of one’s childhood. If you are male, do you remember that? I do.
    4) men are employed in vastly greater numbers than women in dangerous occupations and suffer much higher levels of occupational death and disabling. Yes, the feminist conference happens in the warm hotel which has been built by a mainly male workforce taking risks on scaffolding and in cranes!
    5) men historically have been the prime victims of genocidal killings. Yes, my dear Christians, take a look at your Old Testament.
    6) men are more likely to be homeless.
    7) war ensures that many young men are pressurised into being killed and killing other young men.

    I could go on, but I do believe you see my point. So, if you are going to claim that feminism is a godly concept, then you need also to accept that God, if s/he/it exists, loves men too. Indeed, you Christians even believe that God became a man, so God cannot dislike men all that much, can s/he/it? And if you say that feminists, who claim to be concerned about equality, cannot also show concern about aspects of life where men suffer appalling disadvantage, then why expect men to care about your woes as a woman.

    Peter

  • Pjharris7869

    Why do you say, ‘Go Boudicca’? What has a pre-Christian idolater-as she is on your biblical terms-got to do with Christian feminism?

  • Pjharris7869

    Why do you say James Prescott needs to ‘be a bit cautious about airing it in this arena’? On what grounds?

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  • Playing the game LA Noire really made me like the term feminist! Things were really horrible back then and so I can see why it took a few more aggressive feminists to change society as quickly as they have managed to. They did a really good Job and I think its great to continue in their direction.

  • Benjamin Horvat

    “What do I take from the text? Rather than what do I bring.” Is a very interesting statement and I appreciate you bringing it up.  Embodying the text is what God calls for (obviously) more than just critiquing the Scriptures.  When the Scriptures are not suffered  to remain the subject of academic discourse alone, but given their rightful place of authority, Biblical interpretation gains a stride of greater accuracy.  This greater accuracy is only gained when the posture of Scripture student is one of submission, rather than arrogance, since the God of the human (male) writers of the Scriptures is smarter than all of us.  This disposition helps us human beings arrive at with-God-in-view conclusions rather than those skewed by our myopia. 
         

  • David

    It’s truly wonderful to see how the glorious Gospel of Christ has elevated women to a wonderful and precious position in any marriage or society where Jesus has become precious (1Pet 2:7a).  As you mentioned Vicky when we look in the gospels we see the precious and vital part the sisters had with the Lord “which ministered unto him of their substance”. They found in the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ that wonderful truth “in Christ there is neither male nor female, bond nor free..”(Gal 3:28). The glory of the Lord can be experienced and expressed in any sister as much as the next guy! The key is not whether male or female but how much do we “know him”. In Philipians 3:7-11 the beloved apostle Paul expresses the deepest desire of his heart, for which he suffered the loss of all things and counted them but dung, even the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”! This is where the power of resurrection life is found.

    I’m learning that in fellowship there can be different circumstances we find ourselves in where we can feel squashed or hindered but in these situations we need to remain subject to one another as the scriptures teach us, and pray! Peter says in the context of fellowship and being subject and the difficulties that can arise “casting all your care upon him for he cares for you” (1Pet2:7); knowing this first, that nothing can prevent us from what the Lord is doing in us or calling us to, if we seek him. But sometimes the things we are most sensitive about are the things we have not yet opened to the Lord. When Paul met Christ on the Damascus road he asked two pointed questions “Who are you, Lord?” and “What shall I do, Lord?”(Acts 22:7-10). Some of our sisters have so much to gain if instead of fighting for position or power they would set their hearts on this same thing, what is pleasing to the Lord.

    In the church it is clear from scripture that while there is absolute spiritual equality (there not being male nor female), there are certain offices, ministries and giftings that are not given to women. This is related to the Lord’s order not a spiritual inequality. If there is no order in a house strife and confusion abound! The foolish woman in proverbs plucks down her own house (Pr 14:1). I believe this is where feminism leads. Campaigning for our perceived rights is not the way that the Lord has shown us. In every distress he looked to his heavenly Father for deliverance. At the cross he prayed, Father not my will but thine be done. May we come into that more and more, thy (glorious) will be done, Lord in my marriage, in my home, in your church that in all things God would be glorified through Jesus Christ. Jer 31:3

    Grow in grace and in the knowledge or our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to him be glory in the church both now and for ever, Amen.
    Sincerely, David

  • Nope

    God doesn’t exist.

  • I guess I’m coming in late to the conversation.
    I was very encouraged to read your post. I have had many of the same experiences that have been described, in the article and the comments. Being a Christian Feminist myself, my move towards embracing feminism is almost wholly informed by my faith in God and Jesus Christ, because he WAS a radical feminist. Faith has also informed my decision to become pro-choice, pro gay marriage, pro euthanasia.
    Also, I believe – have always believed – that feminism was never about being against men, as being pro-woman, and therefore pro-humanity. The best hope for going forward is to become really pro-woman, if our humanity is ever to be saved.
    It’s very heartening to find a community of people who are willing to engage in civil discourse, and who feel free to fully express both their faith and convictions about women, women’s roles, and the basic God given worth of women.

  • Peter

    You said

    “Granted, there were no women in the 12 disciples, but to me that is
    related to the culture of that era and the lack of education available
    to women, rather than doctrine”

    What lack of education are you talking about?
    none of the 12 disciples had any education, they were fishermen, common working men with no education.

    Since you are a christian feminist, what do you think about the story of Adam and Eve?
    The serpent deceived Eve and Eve deceived Adam and not the other way around.

  • John

    If you are a christian feminist read this

    1Timothy 2:12-13

  • John

    1 Timothy 2: 11-15

    11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
    15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

  • Vicki F

    Hello – I also prefer the term ‘egalitarian’. However, I would like to see the term ‘feminist’ better understood, in fact, rehabilitated and re-defined – both as an academic exercise and as a kind of ‘calling-card’ to engage with women who feel the Church has let them down or betrayed them (good job, VickyBeeching!) Jesus challenged the entrenched male privileges of his time and the poor old apostle Paul has been totally misunderstood. (And I say that as an evangelical who believes in the authority of Scripture.)

    I do also have a concern that men should not be hated or belittled. Some of this hatred and rejection stems from women having been victimized by men. That’s why women and the Church need men like you, James, to speak up. I like your expression ‘celebrate the differences’. Going back to the subtleties of terminology, I object that the Complementarians have stolen that great word ‘complementarity’. I think there is a place for it in Christian egalitarianism – because we are not advocating ‘androgyny’ (saying men and women are identical – boring!) any more than Christian feminism is saying that, actually, women are superior and all men are just pigs…

    I think the effect of feminism on male identity is a valid area for reflection & I’m personally v. interested in it : being made to feel uncomfortable and having to reassess one’s attitudes isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if men feel overly rejected, there may be a backlash that reasserts masculinity in an aggressive way. Jesus was bold enough to clear the Temple, controversial enough to chat to a woman by a well, tender enough to cuddle a little child, secure enough to compare himself to a mother hen.

    (PS As a chocoholic, I though the ad was about not sharing your chocolate!!!Very unchristian!)

  • Nancy Werking Poling

    Until recently I’ve hesitated to call myself a Christian feminist, for the reasons you suggest. But at book fairs and other sales venues, I’ve found the statement that most quickly defines my work and draws women to pay attention is to say, “Hi, I’m a Christian feminist. In this book of stories I’ve taken a lot of liberties with scripture.” Even Southern Baptist women (as long as their husbands aren’t standing nearby) express interest and support for my ideas. So I’m thinking maybe women aren’t as put off as we’ve been led to believe.

    Nancy Werking Poling
    By the way my book is EVE COME FIRST AND JONAH BEEN A WOMAN (Wipf & Stock, 2010).

  • busbee

    fem·i·nism
    /ˈfeməˌnizəm/

    Noun
    The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

    To my knowledge, Jesus didn’t preach a message of “equality.” We as men and women have very different, but equally important roles in life and the world at large. “Equality,” in the way it’s been used for the last 40-50 years in this context, cheapens this message.

  • Cindy

    Have you investigated “Complimentarianism?” Very biblically sound. As with any movement, whether Feminism or Complimentarianism, it is paramount not to elevate our own thoughts/desires/ideas above what an inductive study of scripture teaches.

    I saw you at a youth camp in Nacogdoces, Texas a few years ago. So glad to have found you on Twitter through Sorted Magazine retweet on your work against pornography. Will continue to pray for you and success in the battle against abuse.

  • beta57

    On the grounds he clearly stated.

    In the crapshoot of life, it’s fair enough to point out that you’ve rolled a couple of fours in your big run of elevens, that “privilege” can be as intersectional as oppression. But it’s not OK to dwell on those and claim that they somehow mean we need to pay more attention to your problems than others.

    There is a serious problem with people in positions of relative social power noticing that their life isn’t a constant bed of roses, and then ignoring the real concerns of women and people of colour and gays and trans* people. Rather than learning about how systems of oppression and power contribute to the ways in which we all get screwed over, it turns into a resentful whine about how other people get a “rights movement,” won’t someone please think of the white cis straight men.

  • beta57

    It’s spelled “apostle.”

    Ultimately, I find your position very sad. Someone who believes that the Bible has to be “converted” to Marxism either doesn’t understand the Bible very well or doesn’t understand Marx.

    If The Bible, considered as a work of literature, has an overarching theme, it is Social Justice. You cannot move in the Old Testament without falling over another injunction to look after “the poor, the widow, and the alien.” While the Bible is not outright against owning wealth per se, it is a thousand miles away from the cultural norms of western capitalism and much closer to Marx than it is to Friedman. Property may not be theft, but biblically *excess* is absolutely and unequivocally regarded as theft. If you harvest to the edges of your field – i.e. if you maximise the profits of your holdings – you are a thief, both from God and from the needy who that grain belongs to. And that’s just one example from hundreds and hundreds.

    Be very wary of assuming that the people who taught you that The Bible supports the structures we have in place to preserve the principalities and powers of our society are telling you the truth and that it’s those feminists and socialists who are the “radicals”.

    I challenge you to do a proper tally of how many injunctions there are in the Bible against homosexuality vs how many injunctions there are against hoarding money and not using it to help others. You might find that these things you consider to be super-Biblical, like the “strangeness” of a woman preaching in St Paul’s or a gay couple getting married in a church, are not nearly so strange when considered scripturally as the fact that so many Christians do not rebel against predatory markets and poor mothers having to go to food banks.

  • Tymen

    The bible tells ” Submit to your husband as to the Lord ” so i doubt he’s feminist since that would mean you are equal to the Lord which is blasphemy on its own

  • roxi

    All these types of passages were the words of preachers like Paul, NOT Jesus! And the Old Testament came BEFORE Jesus! Jesus himself demonstrated, numerous times, that he equally regarded women. I will go by the words of Jesus everytime before the Old Testament writers, or Peter and Paul.

  • Pete

    A trite sounding article. So predictable. By mashing together feminism and Christianity, you fail to explain either.

    Jesus was not a feminist. He was not an anything-ist. He transcended all our political movements and man made categories. He was the most loving selfless person ever to walk on this earth. Badges and bumper stickers to claim him for you cause don’t do him justice. Squabbles about gender wars are beneath him.

    But if you want to know about feminism, it’s roots are very much found in Marxism and it is probably been one of the most destructive movements against the nuclear family the world have ever seen. If you want to read the words of somebody who really understands feminism and is a Christian and fights for children’s rights and men’s rights as she fights for women’r rights please look up Erin Pizzey on Amazon and youtube.

  • Jimmy Russells

    Women still aren’t allowed to be pastors though.

    u mad

  • John hedlenssonn

    Jesus was definetly NOT a feminist. Not even going to bother reading this tripe with an such an early and un accurate premise

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  • NeonZetgeistTheFirst

    Hey, it just seems to me that if, supposing women in the past had equal rights and had been allowed to do the ‘traditionally male’ jobs, those stats would have been very different. And also, in the WW1, 2 and any other major war, when the majority of men were out fighting, guess who had to do their jobs? take up their place in the industries?
    Women just didn’t used to be allowed to fight in wars. But now that they are, well, who’s to say they aren’t patriotic/ Check out countries like Vietnam, Israel, India, etc.

  • TheOogsterday

    I think you are looking to feminism to be what the Bible describes as a Godly woman, but the roles do not line up. Perhaps you want redefinition, but maybe doing away with the idea of feminism is more beneficial. Feminism from the beginning is and always has been about trying to attain dominance over men in what is considered to be a male dominated world. No matter how much you want it to be something of greater cause you will always fight the genuine stereotype of the liberal feminist; one who sees men as the root of evil in society, and where the Bible only supports men in their oppression of women. The worst part about that stereotype is that it is not the minority, it is at the center of the movement. Though your intentions may be good, this is not a worthwhile pursuit. A Godly woman does not need another term (that is heavy laden with angry stereotypes and a history of hatred for the very faith you are trying to claim) in order to justify her decision to be strong minded and a woman of conviction.

    Lastly, feminism on the whole has been ever so much more damaging to the role of men than it has been beneficial to the role of women. It pits men and women against each other and seeks to undermine the beautiful roles that God has created us to play. Through feminism there is a constant power struggle. Through God there is value in all roles. Feminism says that any woman that doesn’t take the role of leader is a failure. The Bible says that to each is given gifts and abilities, some noble and some not, but all are valuable. Feminism as it is and always will be is firmly in opposition to what Scripture says – even if you wish and try to change it with all of your might.

  • Not My Name

    Really? Jesus’ teachings were reinterpreted after Christianity became the state religion of Rome. Romans were misogynists and this lent to the future Christian practice of shunning women–this was NOT taught by Jesus.

  • Not My Name

    The bible you have now was censored by the Romans/Constantine. Unfortunately, you are NOT getting the raw material. Please understand that.

    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” —Galatians, 3:28

  • Prophet George W Bush PBUH

    So Jesus is ok with you sucking your baby into a sink eh?

  • Truef Naphtali

    Hi. Jesus was definetly NOT a feminist. You can take a look here to see why : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVWZ_CDS2Nc

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  • Rachel Cribari

    Vicky,
    Thank you for the post! I love what you’ve written and have firm beliefs in the same area. When the female secretary at my non-denominational church told me she was a Feminist two years ago, I became instantly confused and curious about what I believed to be an oxymoron. Now I am a college student doing a research paper on feminism and have found Scripture to be a firm back up of equal rights.

    I believe Feminism will only become truly effective when
    embracing the differences of the male and female gender whole, and individual,
    as proved in the Bible Scripture of yesterday, the American familial health
    today, and the generation of tomorrow. This train of thought is commonly called “Feminism of Difference” which believes that both genders were created equally in worth and potential, but the differences between the genders are not to be changed and equalized, but instead used and emphasized in their individual ways so that they can be used more beneficially than trying to mask those differences in the name of gender equality. If you had to align with a side of feminism do you think you’d find yourself in Feminism of Difference?

  • Vince Gotti

    Jesus was probably Jesus and to label him as a “feminist” is foolish to say the least. Feminism is just about over. Jesus just beginning.

  • josh

    I agree with you whole heartedly, and can also add, that i believe that it is the men, that she be “masculine” by standing up for the rights of women, not the women fighting for themselves. That being said however, i once had a (very pro woman) friend go to a feminist rally in Victoria BC, and was sternly asked to leave because “no men could be there” and that does anything but paint the impression of equality among genders. I think you summed it up quite nicely James.

  • j

    Why does it always seem that the only people who don’t have to be cautious about what they “air in an arena” are the ones who’s belief or opinion the topic is about? Everyone has equal right to air their opinions. Why is it always okay for one group to be able to call another out, but when someone disagrees or has a differing opinion it is “hate speech” or “wrong” we are all working this out and have the right to discuss or raise issues. every time i hear someone get angry about their cause or shut someone down, or get harsh or try to silence them for their opinion, I question if it is the cause they are fighting for or deem important….or their own opinion and pride.

  • Isabella

    1) Men’s lower life expectancy is a scientific phenomenon that takes place across nearly every single culture in the planet. That’s science, so your leap to link that as a crime against men is hilarious.
    2) That statistic is completely inaccurate and I invite you to educate yourself via the American Psychological Association which upholds that women are more commonly the victims of physical violence. Also, need i remind you that 9 out of 10 rape victims are female??
    3) Once again, where are you getting your information? I see no citations or references. If what you’re saying is true, please present the relevant point that female children are 9x more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse by adults.
    4) MEN ARE EMPLOYED IN GREATER NUMBERS THAN FEMALES. PERIOD. YOUR SEX RULES THE EMPLOYMENT FIELD. I agree with you, women should have equal roles in those dangerous jobs. Where you will disagree with me, women should have equal employment opportunities to receive those jobs.
    5) Those genocidal killings you referred to, especially in a biblical context, the people being killed were soldiers. Now, lets use our logic and knowledge of culture throughout all of human history to assume, they were men.
    6) Says who? Once again, referencing the American Psychological Association, the majority of homeless people have some sort of mental sickness (which makes sense considering mental illness prohibits them from working or functioning normally within society) Are you saying men are more likely to be mentally disabled and therefore homeless? That seems incorrect. I’d have to find supporting articles but in all my studies it seemed homelessness is tragic problem plaguing men and women alike.
    7) For the majority of human history women have been forbidden from having combat roles, so how the hell would they be involved? Even America today, which is the self-proclaimed leader of the free-world doesn’t allow women to be on the front lines. I think willing women should be allowed to fight same as men. I also believe women should be drafted in military drafts just as men are. Because I believe in equality. I believe in feminism.

    Have a really great day, thanks for sharing your thoughts Peter.
    Isabella.

  • Guss Fierro

    Please don’t use the Name of the Lord Jesus on your stupid Feminism God set rules Between men and women if you follow the commandments of Jesus then respect the rules of God.

  • Guss Fierro

    Everyone is a Christian in America even the pets… but a true Christian follows the word of God. In the book of Genesis he told Adam and Eve their roles in life.. why not respecting God??

  • Helz

    yes, women asking for the right to vote, protection from rape, and equality in the workplace is way too aggressive and goes way too far.

  • Helz

    Thank you Tim.

  • Helz

    thank you.

  • Helz

    There is no shame in supporting equality. ;)

  • Helz

    There were women disciples, women disciples were the ones who Jesus first appeared to as resurrected.

  • None of those are too aggressive nor go too far. I’m fully supportive of all those causes. All are worthy and hugely important causes – it’s simply the methods people use to advocate for them which can be too aggressive and go to far. We need to distinguish between the cause and the method.

  • Mike

    Christ was not a feminist, you lying, degenerate apostate.

  • Benjamin Horvat

    Christ was not a man that would attack a woman like you just did, Mr, or perhaps the comment was aimed at Mr Prescott. Regardless…

    In the respect that Christ honored women promoted women loved women and worked with women, perhaps he would fit the description of a feminist better than you’d fit the description of a Christian. I’m not sure but I’m just saying its a possibility…

    Benjamin

  • mspeabooks

    “During Jesus’ ministry, He ignored numerous Old Testament edicts which specified inequality. He demonstrated this by teaching female students. He accepted women in his inner circle. Mary (called Magdalene), Joanna the wife of Chuza, (Herod’s steward) Susanna, and many others, supported Him. He appeared first to a woman after His Resurrection. He talked to foreign women. Jesus changed the male-favored doctrine of divorce: He said both could be found guilty of adultery.”

    Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “The World’s Favorite Bible Verses.” MS Peabooks, 2013. iBooks. https://itun.es/us/8lbRJ.n

  • (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

    I just did a 2 second google search on Bible quotes about women. Women with short hair, women who wear pants, women who wear flashy clothing, makeup, & jewelry, women who don’t cover their hair, women who have unmarried sex, women who have children out of wedlock, women who do not obey their husbands & fathers are all to be punished, & a woman who chooses not to bear children should become a nun & live a chaste life.

    It’s just as retarded for a woman to be christian as it is retarded for a woman to be muslim.