I feel a strong stirring in my spirit and my bones to examine and speak out about gender inequality. But I often feel out of place in the conversations of inequality, being a white male. What am I allowed to say? What am I allowed to do? What do I stay away from? How can I reconcile what we, as a society, have done and continue to do to women? It is an uncomfortable dichotomy.
And then I read this article about a group of young women who participated in the “Who Needs Feminism” movement. They were berated for being outspoken about gender equality (only proving the whole point of the movement). It broke my heart as I read about these young women being blatantly abused and tormented.
They helped me realize that I need feminism. But why? Why do I feel my bones shake when I witness gender inequality? Is there a root to these thoughts and feelings? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that I have always been a feminist deep down (or pro-feminist or whatever word you choose to assign a male who is passionate about gender equality).
I believe some of it is because of the many women who have made a huge impact on my life. My kindergarten through 7th grade teachers were all women. I was literally only taught by women for the first half of my education. And then some after that. In fact, this can be said about most of us who have gone through the education system in the U.S. According to the Encyclopedia of the Nations, over the past 20 years, nearly 85% of all primary educators in the United States have been women. How can one not merit this? How are women perpetually less valued and less credited, yet we trust them to teach our children? (Shortly after writing this, I read this.)
Then I think of women like Ms. Everett, my sixth grade teacher. As far as I can remember, she was the first person in my life who treated me like a valued person with ideas and opinions that mattered. She listened. She talked to me, not like a rascally kid, but like a person with real thoughts, with interesting things to say. She made me feel intelligent. She made me want to challenge and know and think and process…all at 12 years old.
I also think of all the women I have grown up with or who have been in my life recently, whom I considered some of my best friends. Many have said that close friendships between men and women will always lead to romantic feelings or sexual tension. But NEWSFLASH, not everything is about sex! We are far more than just sexual beings. I think of Natalie and Sarah and Della and Tori and Bekah and Kelsey and Kayla and many more women who have spoken truth and love into my life and have taught me so much about how to live life fully with love and truth.
I think back to my days in youth group at church. I really admired the woman who was the “girls’ leader” for the student ministries. I liked her ideas and the way she spoke made sense to me. But the idea got planted in my head that it would be weird or inappropriate to meet one-on-one with a woman. It might make me “less masculine.” It was not her place to disciple me. That was confusing to me. But let’s be honest, I never really felt “man enough” to be there in the first place.
And then I think about all the women at my university who have seen me, spoken truth into my life, and taught me so much more than I could have anticipated. I think of Abigail and Sarah and Melanie and Martha and Kathy and Rachel.
I need feminism because of the role all of these women have played in helping shape the man that I am today. This is not, at all, to discount the men in my life who have helped shape me, but acknowledging the powerful women in our lives and history and society is another step towards gender equality.
And to me, it doesn’t make sense to treat valued people as “other.” Sometimes it can be hard to see inequalities if you are not looking for them. We get into habits and say things flippantly. But once you put on those misogynist-colored glasses, you can’t take them off. From macro-issues like unequal pay in the workplace and under-representation in congress and the church, to seemingly micro-issues like our everyday language. I am fed up with seeing the way media portrays women. I am fed up with hearing more about Hillary and Sarah and Condoleezza’s outfits, than their ideas and policies. I am fed up seeing young girls struggle with eating disorders and depression, because they are constantly told that their value lies in their bodies instead of their mind and soul and heart and work.
The word “feminism” has had a bad reputation. But just as we cannot throw out all Christians because of the Westboro Baptist Church, we cannot write off feminism because of certain radical groups that have hurt others.
The goal is a shift in culture. A shift in the way the general population thinks, speaks about, and treats women. It is has been scary to attach that word to myself, to my identity, especially coming from a conservative background. But the more I learn and see and grow and process, I am more anxious and excited to claim that title. And though it is a scary, awkward adventure, so susceptible to criticism and torment, no one deserves to be treated unequally and therefore it is worthy work. If we are not being criticized or challenged, then we are probably not doing something worthwhile. Working towards equality can be so exhausting and difficult, but if it were easy, we would have solved all of our problems long ago.
Though I’ve decided to focus in on sexism specifically here, this applies to all issues of inequality. We continue to move forward, but we still have a long way to go. As far as I’m concerned, if you are not even concerned about and acknowledging these issues, then you are perpetuating them. Apathy and ignorance are some of the biggest enemies of social change. Let’s think about the way we talk. The words we use. Let’s find our prejudices and heal them. Let’s be for humans.———————————————————————————————————–
This article was adapted from a recent post on Aaron’s blog.
YOUR TURN: What aspects of feminism do you see as consistent with the Gospel? If you support women’s equality, do you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
Read more on the intersections of feminism and Christianity here:How I Became A Christian Feminist
Why I Am Womanist & Feminist (and it has nothing to do with hating men)
Why I am a Feminist and an Egalitarian (And Why They Aren’t the Same Thing)
Graphic Credit: Who Needs Feminism is a campaign to raise awareness about the worldwide need for gender equality.