Why I Don't Call Myself a Feminist
If you were to stop by my house lately, you'd be greeted by stacks of dishes, piles of unfolded laundry, and me sitting in front of my laptop, editing a book for Christian women that I've been working on for almost two years. It's my invitation for them to embrace their imagodei identity, to believe that we are made for more than the banality we often settle for, to believe that we cannot be reduced to being wives or mothers or published authors or PhDs.
This should make me a good candidate to join the burgeoning ranks of evangelicals who embrace the "feminist" label, who contend to be a feminist simply means that you believe that women are human beings.
Within the church, the "F-word" has been a point of tension for several decades. Conservatives want vocal condemnations of feminist ideology and exact explanations of what a woman should and should not do. Progressives want inclusive statements and decisive action against the male oppression they perceive lurking behind every darkened doorway. Both sides agree that being female in this world too often makes you a candidate for oppression and neglect in ways that being male does not.
Subject to domestic violence, sexual abuse, or something as routine as wage inequality, the girls and women who hold up half the sky are regularly treated as less than the image bearers they are. This, I believe, is why many of my sisters now identify as feminists. They're not necessarily identifying with the ideology of women like Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, but with the brokenness that feminism gives voice to.
But the seemingly simple nomenclature of feminism gets sticky: It's one thing to declare that "women are human" and deserve to be treated as such, and it's another thing entirely to agree on what it means to be human and what it means to be a woman. Self-described feminists can find it difficult to pursue solutions to the threats women face simply because they must first agree on what does and what does not constitute a threat to a woman's personhood.
Do you become human at conception or only after you're born? And what happens when a girl's right to be born conflicts with a woman's right to choose a son instead of a daughter? Once you are born, is your womanhood fixed or is it something you can reject? What should womanhood look like in practice? Does a woman's humanity enable her to fill any role a man does?
Our answers reveal more about our actual paradigms than whether or not we call ourselves feminists. It's these deeper questions that ultimately keep me from embracing the title. By definition, feminism doesn't have the language or categories to answer them; after all, as my sisters assure me, feminism simply means believing women are human—nothing more, nothing less.
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