Saturday, March 22, 2014

Retaining Honour--Post 3

Sometimes people expect me to be some version of feminist because I'm a Mennonite lady who writes.  But I don't identify as feminist because:

2nd reason: I don’t have the energy for sustained outrage. 

I ran across a Christian feminist post a while back where the author listed a bunch of Christian blog posts that were disgustingly sexist.  Look at this!  Terrible! These people need to be held accountable for their words!!

I read a few of them, expecting a rant about keeping wimmin in their place via daily beatings.  There was nothing of the sort.  Finally I figured out that the writers had referred to women as “girls.”

I decided I don’t have the time or energy to be upset about this.  Maybe when every orphan has a home and Beijing’s air is breathable and the national debt is paid off, then we’ll talk about referring to women as girls.

3rd reason:  Feminists re-write history.

In my experience, this shows up most in literature courses and articles.   There’s this unquestioned “fact” that in the past all women were forced by an oppressive male-dominated culture into weak, passive, narrow roles.  And all women in the church have always been oppressed.  So the modern prefaces to all kinds of literature, from Little Women to The Easter Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, exclaim about how amazing it is that this early example of feminism and these strong female characters showed up way back then!  Back when women were all powerless and oppressed!

Never mind that this “fact” of past oppressed womanhood bears no resemblance at all to your own experiences, or people you knew, or your great-aunt who homesteaded a South Dakota farm with her husband and shot rattlesnakes in the root cellar with a six-shooter.

One last reason I don’t identify with feminists:  I think it’s a kindness to warn people not to swim in shark-infested water or to put raw meat in their backpacks on a hike through grizzly country.  A while back Emily Yoffe wrote an article on Slate telling college women that they shouldn’t get drunk at parties because it increased their chances of getting raped.  She was flooded with criticism from feminists for “victim-blaming.”  I realized that it's a free country and they can say whatever they want, but I simply don’t have a slot in my brain for that way of thinking.

But enough about feminism, since most of us aren’t that extreme.

Tomorrow: thoughts on identity.


  1. I agree with these posts, 100%. :-)

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  3. Am I missing something? What is the 1st reason?

  4. Lazonya--the first reason was on the previous post. (Feminists teach that gender is entirely a social construct.)

  5. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, college professor and historian, has written a wonderful book that shows the difference between what feminists preach and the reality of life in early America. It's called Good Wives:Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in North America 1650-1750. I was fascinated by her research and conclusions. She's a Christian and believes that husbands and wives have equal, but differing and complementary roles. It's a refreshing book on history.

  6. Another great look at the foundation of the feminist movement is "Woman and the Republic" by Helen Kendrick Johnson.

    I had never identified with feminism and reading Woman and the Republic solidified my instinct that a Christian cannot be a feminist.

  7. I am a conservative Christian. I am also a feminist, so it is with interest that I am reading this series. I appreciate your perspective. If I may add my own-

    I do not believe that a person's sex is a social construct, but that some things we think a person's sex implies are socially constructed. The "Women's Studies" wikipedia article quote is unsourced and I think many other feminists would disagree with it.

    I do not engage in sustained outrage when I can help it. My heart is imperfect, but I gradually conform further to the image of Christ and I have been blessed to never have sustained outrage in the context of feminism.

    I dislike the rewritten narrative of the 1950's, particularly when it is presented as "the way things always used to be." That largely-invented history is celebrated as "God's way" and it ignores the many ways women contributed in families, communities, and cultures throughout history. I celebrate my grandmothers and historical figures who were strong people. I love to appreciate them as round characters and not hyperfocus on the housewife aspects of their lives (which are sometimes entirely nonexistent). I believe made-up history happens on both liberal and conservative sides. I can't speak to the introductions added to classic books because I never read them, but from what you said, I would also find them annoying. I like to celebrate the positives without ignoring the negatives. There were strong women making a difference despite oppression. In many cases a bigger difference could be made if the oppression was absent, but that real-life women had zero power, or that they could not do interesting things or shoot rattlesnakes with guns.

    While I believe it is ok to warn others against risky choices, I also feel strongly that Christian culture has ignored a bigger opportunity. Programs exist where responsible men become role models/teachers to younger or less mature men, and talk about how real men respect others' rights including the right to refuse sexual activity. These programs have been studied and found to significantly reduce rape rates- and they follow the Biblical model of mature men teaching young men how to be men. But I see very little awareness, let alone support, of these programs. No attention to preventing young men from heading down a path that leads to becoming rapists. These programs are mercy and grace for the young men as well as women. As far as I can tell this lack of interest is, deep-down, because of a sincere belief that prevention on the female side is more effective. It is more helpful to tell women to avoid danger than to help men avoid becoming dangerous- and therefore enacting prevention measures is a task for women and rape becomes, on some level, their responsibility. What a loss this is for both men and women! When I see blogs reminding women to avoid risks, I am not inherently saddened by that advice. I am saddened by the massive disproportion of those posts compared to posts advocating ways to help men never become rapists. I was also saddened to the comparison of swimming with sharks- the main issue is that men are not sharks and they can learn the importance of consent. I felt sad for the missed opportunities to help men be better than they would otherwise be, and through that to better protect a larger number of women.

    Yes, "most of us aren't that extreme." I also hope to be more nuanced and more motivated by love and hope than anger or resentfulness. I hope to speak as Christ speaks and act as Christ acts. And for me, as far as I can tell at this time in my life, part of that is identifying as a feminist.

  8. @ariel- May I suggest you read The Woman's Bible? It was produced by the "founders" of feminism, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Introduction should suffice. But here is a quote from the commentary early in Genesis: "The first step in the elevation of woman to her true position, as an equal factor in human progress, is the cultivation of the religious sentiment in regard to her dignity and equality, the recognition by the rising generation of an ideal Heavenly Mother, to whom their prayers should be addressed, as well as to a Father."

    To be a Christian one must follow the Holy Scriptures as God gave them to us. That is what we identify with. Otherwise it is a meaningless label.

    To be a feminist, one must also identify with the message of feminism, which has been remarkably consistent since the beginning. Otherwise, it too is a meaningless label.

    They are truly incompatible.

  9. here is a link to The Woman's Bible online