Too often, I’ve heard feminism be given a bad rap and I have strayed away from the topic. I never took the time to figure out my feelings because of the fear that I would be known as a man hater or a crazy extremist, but as I read about some feminists in my Philosophy class, I became curious and realized that people have skewed away from the real meaning of feminism.
Feminism is simply defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men (Google search). Feminism has nothing to do with hating men or blaming men for the problem of inequality. Feminism has nothing to do with how “girly” or not “girly” you are. Feminism is the fight against gender inequality and sexism in all areas of life.
So the first question I asked myself was, is this principle Biblical?
Many times throughout the New Testament, you can find passages which explain the importance of both, men and women, needing to submit to one another. Now, we must understand that submitting does not imply that one is over the other, but it means a sense of showing respect and loving one another despite any differences. A common misunderstanding from these passages concerning gender dominance is that men should be over women, but on the contrary, the Bible focuses on unity and submitting to one another because of the freedom given by Jesus Christ.
If you take the time to study Paul and his letters, you learn that the order in which he writes is significant. Paul writes everything with purpose. Ephesians 5:21-32 is a popular passage in which the idea of male dominance is founded, but if you start reading, Paul starts off by saying, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Most readers skip this part and move on to the part which says “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife,” instead of focusing of the fact that this part of Paul’s letter is targeting Christian households. Of course, Paul is going to take the time to discuss the standards for both the wife and the husband, but he starts off by saying that each one should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Also, if you look at the few verses before Ephesians 5:21, the type of submission discussed during worship is “being filled with God’s Spirit,” so doesn’t it make sense that if both, the husband and wife, are being filled with the Spirit, that the marriage would be going towards God’s will?
Last semester, I took a Women in Ministry night class in which I learned about women’s roles in the church and in the family from a Biblical perspective, and one of the Scriptures we studied was this passage. If you continue reading, the man should be the head of his wife just like Christ is the head of the church. Looking from a modern perspective, the term head usually means in charge and having full control, but looking at the original Greek used in this passage, the word ‘head’ rarely meant leader, and even then, only sometimes meant ‘authority over.’ Head could also mean ‘source’ or ‘honored part.’ In his book Paul, Women and Wives, Keener says, “Nothing in this passage suggests wives’ subordination. The only indicator that could be taken to mean that is the statement that man is woman’s “head,” but “head” in those days was capable of a variety of meaning, and nothing in this text indicates that it means subordination.” I completely respect Craig Keener’s words and find them very reliable. (His bibliography for this particular book is 40 pages long. Let’s just say, he definitely does his research.)
Now, let’s take a step back and look at the standards for men and women of this era. The men were the one’s who were educated. Paul even describes that during church, the men and the women were separated during church services because the women would ask questions while the pastor was preaching. The women’s questions served as a distraction to those trying to listen, and this was around the time when a lot of new-comers were coming to the church. Paul requests that the women talk about the message while they are with their husbands at home and to try to keep quiet during the services. (1 Corinthians 14:26-39). During this time, the women were to rely on their husbands in order to be educated, so it makes sense that Paul would seen to give men more authority in the marriage relationship, but I believe that Paul still makes a clear point is saying that marriage is a partnership in which both the husband and wife should submit to one another.
Getting back on the topic of feminism, the next question I asked myself was, is the fight for feminism still relevant today?
Looking on the surface level, we see that women now have the right to vote in American, that women can hold high paying jobs, and have equal education opportunities, but when you take a look deeper into the issue, it is clear that there is still work to be done.
Why are women being forced into the slave trade? Why are women still considered the weaker sex? Why is it wrong for women to take charge of situations? Why are women considered to be bossy when they do take charge?
As I did research, I discovered how inspiring Emma Watson is. Emma is not only talented and smart, but she is fearless and genuine. She has innovated her way to being a leader of the U.N. Goodwill Women Ambassador.
While holding this position, she has been able to speak about the issue of equality and women’s rights. Emma has even created her own movement called the He for She Campaign in which she encourages men to join because she believes that men are discriminated against too, and without men in this fight for equality, there will be no change.
“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing set of ideals.” – Emma Watson
The following link is to a video from Today’s NBC News in which shows women against feminism and their reasons why. I couldn’t help but giggle at the fact that their reasons were either irrelevant or completely what feminism is all about. In fact, Shallene Woodley’s quote that said, “I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from power’ is never going to work out because you need balance,” is on the right track to a belief of feminism. Everyone should be equal, creating balance, not one person being the head.” I laughed out loud, because from what I understood from Shallene’s quote was that she seems to be a feminist but has the wrong idea about it. The whole video is super interesting, but I absolutely love the discussion in the middle of the video. It’s only a six minute video, so I encourage you to check it out.
Feminism does not mean that women should be superior. It doesn’t mean that you can or cannot be feminine. It doesn’t determine what you wear or whether you decide to pursue a career or have the desire to be a stay at home mom. Feminism is solely based on equality between humankind.
Reasons Why I am a Feminist:
- I am a believer in equality.
- I believe that there needs to be more women appointed into office. Did you know that China has more women in office than America does? At least they got something right. What the government does affects the whole nation, and when the population is over half women, you would think that their opinions should matter.
- I want to be known as a strong woman. I am tired of the word “girl” being an insult and insinuates being weak.
- I am a fighter against women being secularized through culture’s media.
- I am a believer in marriage being a partnership, not one person being at the head.
- I believe that the Bible promotes unity and equality.
- My self worth does not come from how pretty I am. It comes from my worth in Christ.
Third, I asked myself how I could change the world’s way of thinking.
I encourage you to dive deep into the traditions when reading Scripture and to have an equality mindset. Also, try to remember to use the term humankind instead of mankind. Stand up or at least to try to understand the true meaning of feminism. I encourage you to focus on becoming stronger as a women compared to welcoming the world’s promotion of outward beauty and weak attributing. Let’s be women who are conquering the stereotypes and become who God wants us to be.
There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus.
Sources: Paul, Women and Wives by Craig S. Keener; Images from BuzzFeed; Notes from SAU Women Seminar; Notes from SAU Women in Ministry course