Ask a [Christian] Feminist

I’m skipping ahead to the most recent post in the “Ask a” series Rachel Held Evans is hosting. Here is the post:

Wow. Wow. Wow. I wish I knew this young woman personally. She is incredible! This post is going to stir a LOT of controversy on the host blog. If you don’t read any other “Ask a” post, please take the time to read this one. 

Here are a few thoughts that stood out to me:
When I was a TA at Baylor, one of the papers the students had to write was defining an abstract term. As an exercise, I wrote the word “feminist” on the board and asked them to throw out the first few words that popped into their head when they thought of when they heard “feminist.” The first four responses were
“angry, lesbian, bra-burning, outdated.” And this was a group composed of mostly 18-year-old women. So, there are a lot of stereotypes to fight when one decides to claim the name of “feminist,” and I understand the hesitancy to claim such a title, especially if you don’t share typical ideologies that many feminists share.”
The definition of feminism I was taught by my conservative Baptist preachers and teachers ties in with what those young women thought – crazy, bitter bitches. There are some who might fit that description, but they are not the majority.

There’s a great quote from Joss Whedon wherein an interviewer asks him, ‘Why do you feel the need to write such strong female characters?’ and Whedon responds, ‘Because you’re still asking me that question.’”
Strong female characters are becoming almost commonplace, but are still not the norm. Strong black, asian, LGBT, etc characters also need to be promoted. The movie “The Help” really stands out in my mind as doing a great service to all women, particularly women of color, for showing the great strength that they possess.

I believe it is possible to be a feminist and pro-life, as long as that pro-life ethic does not come with rhetoric that shames, ignores, or vilifies women for the choices that they may make about a legal procedure. Don’t use your pro-life stance to treat women like morons. Don’t use it to shame women for their sexual choices, because, honestly, you don’t know what led to those choices. Instead, use your pro-life stance to attempt to make a difference in the lives of the women surrounding you by supporting them, by letting them know that you will be there for them if they do have an unwanted pregnancy (and then actually being there for them!), and by working to lower the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies in the first place – which means better sexual health education in schools, funding for birth control measures and education about using that birth control, promoting research into methods of safe male birth control, and creating an environment where the women in your life can come to you to discuss safe sexual choices.”
If you are pro-life, may the above paragraph describe you.

The entire final section of the post is phenomenal, so I will post it here and highlight the areas that really stood out to me.

Oh, for the love of all that is good in the world, I would love it if preachers didn’t equate “woman” with “wife,” and would stop defining us in relationship to the men in our lives. I’m 26, I’ve never been married, and have only had one relationship. But the vast majority of sermons dealing on women, or women’s conferences focused on female spirituality, deal with women as wives and mothers. That leaves us single women out in the cold.
I’d like to see more social justice issues covered: we need to be having conversations about modern day slavery and sex trafficking. We need to be talking about how single mothers are disproportionately more likely to be below the poverty line. We need to be talking about how we can work to remove barriers to education for women around the world. And, for goodness’ sake, we need to have a conversation about female sexuality that doesn’t shame women for having a sex drive!
On that note, I know there was another question about the purity movement/premarital sex within the church, so I’d like to take a small tangent (if I may), and offer a couple of feminist recommendations for the conversation on premarital sex within the church.
We all know that our “don’t do it” conversations are failing. 80% of people who self-identify as evangelical have engaged in premarital sex. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy is highest in areas that have abstinence only education. I’ve had conversation after conversation after conversation with women who struggled with their sexuality even after getting married – even though the marital bed was sanctioned and holy and they were with a good man, many women I know struggled with wanting sex, struggled with not feeling dirty for wanting it, struggled with being able to have a healthy sexuality within marriage. Many Christian women I know are seeking counseling to remedy sexual dysfunction within their marriages – dysfunction that relates back to an oppressive culture that refuses to acknowledge female sexuality and which blames women for perversions of male sexuality.
We need to have a better conversation about this topic. We need to affirm that women are sexual beings with drives that match or are sometimes higher than men (and that these sex drives vary from person to person and some people may have no sex drive at all). We need to make people responsible for their own sexual decisions (that means not telling women that they need to dress modestly so men don’t “stumble”). We need to reconstitute the conversation on premarital sex so that we’re not setting up a false dichotomy – most of the conversations center around objecting to a “hook-up” culture of anonymous one night stand, which is, by and large, not the experience of those who have engaged in premarital sex. And we need to stop the double standard that says “boys will be boys” but “girls are sluts,” which is commonly propagated by the church. And we need to stop thinking that if a woman chooses to have sex before marriage that she has somehow completely and totally damaged her worth as a human being, while men get a free pass and a shrug.
In short, we need to have better, more expansive conversations about sexuality within the church that are not extending from shame-based patriarchal narratives about sex and instead seek to affirm healthy sexuality and healthy sexual drives in both men and women.

May all women and men have the opportunity to be who they want to be, be in control of their sexuality, and be free to make their own happy. 


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