I personally identify as an Intersectional Feminist. I believe in equal rights for all (not just white, cis-gendered, heteronormative individuals), in the dismantling of the privileged patriarchy, and recognize that the fight for freedom and equality for women cannot be separated or properly understood without the consideration of the rights of all other marginalized groups. I understand that as a white, cis-gendered, heteronormative woman that I cannot ever personally experience the different kinds of oppression experienced by People of Color, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, or any other marginalized group. The only thing I can do is educate myself, check my privilege, and attempt in my own feeble way to try and fight back against the oppressive powers that be while never attempting to speak for any other group or individual. I can only speak for myself and speak to my own personal experiences.
Which now brings me the label “Jesus Feminist”. While I do understand why it was coined, I will be honest in saying that I find the term “Jesus Feminist” to be rather grating. I am both a Christian and a feminist, but I’m tired of the currently popular tone of apologetic Christian feminism. Based on the numerous articles I’ve read that would fall into this category I’m also disappointed in where the movement seems to be going. I disavow the notion that we somehow need the permission of conservative Evangelicals (especially) for our voices, for our existence as women, to be validated. I don’t need the Bible to tell me that I’m deserving of equality because I already know that I do. I don’t need any church, pastor, blogger, author, Pope, or even the words attributed to Jesus to give me permission to be heard and respected. Jesus is not necessary to justify my being treated as fully human. Jesus is not necessary to grant me my dignity and autonomy. I do not need Christianity’s permission to be a feminist. I do not need Christianity’s permission to be given my humanity. I do not need Christianity’s permission to exist.
I understand that there are some women who live within a conservative Evangelical world where unless the Bible can back a point of view it’s considered irrelevant. So I understand why some women do need the Bible to justify their feminism because they’re confronting an ideology that will consider nothing if it’s not Biblical (even loosely). But you know… those kinds of communities and institutions should be considered irrelevant and a waste of time. Why fight to be recognized by a group that blatantly disrespects you? Why all the back-bending to try and fit in some place that doesn’t want you there to begin with? Why fight to maintain a personal identity within a group that wants nothing but silent obedience? Why all the personal conflict and inner turmoil for a group that doesn’t even recognize your existence as valuable unless you’re producing children or cooking for a potluck? (I mean, how audacious to try and be more than your basic biology and cultural gender stereotypes.)
I recognize that the only way to bring about change in many circumstances is to fight for it. To me though, much of the popular “Jesus Feminism” articles, websites, tweets, etc. come across less like fighting for radical reform within conservative circles for equality and more like compromise & permission seeking so as not to seem too threatening to the establishment. After all, these are denominations and churches that build much of their identity around the premise of not changing. These are groups that pride themselves on not being a part of the “intellectual elite” and therefore reject evolution, The Big Bang Theory, climate change, and the majority of science in general. These are groups that relish in the attention they get from stubbornly clinging to the “morality” of the pre-Vietnam War era when no one dared come out of the closet, women rarely worked outside the home, and everyone knew their place and staid there. Men were men and all that nonsense. These groups are right at home inside the conservative Evangelical Christian world – they thrive there because that is a culture that reinforces & demands antiquated social expectations in order to attain group acceptance. It is a culture which only works if people check their brains at the door, don’t ask any hard or challenging questions, and generally don’t upset the status quo that dictates what’s permissible in order to maintain membership. That is not a culture which is open to or respectful of new ideas. It is a culture which actively seeks to create fear around those new ideas so as to keep them from infiltrating their established “in-group”. They’re just fine, thanks!
You may certainly try and make feminism more palatable to such groups and attempt to make it less “scary” by saying Jesus was a feminist too. (And he totally was, and the very early church was loads more egalitarian than some modern churches are today, and I fully appreciate the fact that authors like Sarah Bessey are pointing out this fact to the conservative populace.) However, I can’t help but notice though that all too often women in the Christian community feel the need to hobble and soften feminism before feeling comfortable presenting the term to others. This attempt to make oneself more “acceptable” is not unlike the everyday compromises women make consciously & unconsciously in order to pass through life as peacefully & unscathed as possible. “Don’t be too loud, too assertive, too quiet, too fat, too thin, too sexy, not sexy enough, smart, stupid”, and on and on. The approach that I’m most commonly seeing within the “Jesus Feminist” movement (though certainly not the only one) is one which makes the demands and desires of women smaller and less intrusive. This seems counterintuitive and antithetical to what the ultimate goals of feminism are.
I don’t need permission from groups like that to be a feminist. I don’t need the acceptance from groups like that for my point of view to be validated. I don’t need anyone’s religious ideology to grant me my worth and value as a human being. I certainly don’t need a narrow-minded misogynist’s twisted interpretation of scripture or opinion on the life of Jesus to tell me where my place in the world should be.
Essentially, I don’t see the point in trying to conform to the rigid & arbitrary expectations of a group in order to find acceptance within it when the goal was to change those rules in the first place. Reject that system and make your own. Find or make a community that recognizes and values your worth as a woman in all areas, not just in the kitchen or daycare. There are already so many Christian denominations and communities that fully accept the personhood and leadership of women with no qualifying buzzwords or labels necessary. Go there. When the other groups fail to evolve and grow with the rest of the world they will fade, wither, and die (as they should). No one needs to make excuses for conservative oppression and no one needs to try and contort their reasonable demands for equality in order to please them. Real change and real equality can only become the new reality when the old systems of degradation and oppression are utterly & totally done away with. Embrace your feminism and stop trying to apologize for it. Jesus can still come along too.
+ Katie +