Neither word, Christian or feminist, completely identifies me, and, when paired together, they potentially generate an even more inaccurate picture of who I am. I don’t want others to decide who and what I am before getting to know me, so I often choose not to label myself as either.
However, my understanding and practice of both are an integral part of the person I am and who I want to be.
Generally, feminism focuses on different aspects of equality for women. There have been three waves of feminism.
The first focused on political and legal equality, ending with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which guaranteed a woman’s right to vote.
Second-wave feminism was most concerned with challenging and changing cultural perceptions and treatment of women. During the 1960s-1980s, a multitude of cultural, legal and professional issues were raised and debated.
The lines then blurred, and we entered third-wave feminism, which is individual-focused. Each person, male or female, interprets and applies the concepts of equality and freedom to his or her own experience.
As a teen and young adult in the 1970s and ’80s, I did not feel comfortable adopting the label “feminist.” Rightly or wrongly, I perceived that choosing to be a feminist meant that I rejected the more traditional choices of marriage and motherhood.
The way I lived my life, however, was consistent with the feminist ideals of freedom, equality and choice. I chose what I wanted (to be a wife and stay-at-home, homeschooling mom), but always respected other women’s rights to choose differently. I lived my life intentionally and taught or influenced those around me to do the same.
As my daughter Meg, a Troy graduate, began exploring and discussing feminism, I was encouraged to re-examine my own understanding of it. I agreed wholeheartedly that men and women are of equal value. I agreed that women should be heard, not dismissed. I agreed that society often dismissed, ignored or intentionally misunderstood or misrepresented women and the female perspective. I agreed that marginalizing anyone devalues everyone in that society. I agreed with so many of the feminist topics Meg discussed ,even though I had chosen to reject the label of feminist, partly because of that widespread societal misrepresentation. As she became more conscious and confident about her opinions, I’ve been inspired to refresh mine.
The biblical teachings of Christianity, which are even more important to me, actually formed my opinions and perceptions regarding feminism. Those teachings of choice, freedom, equality, justice, sin and righteousness, compassion, changed and empowered lives, breaking the yokes of oppression and more formed my understanding of life, myself and my spirituality. I then applied those perceptions to my opinions and actions.
In my mind, the precepts of Christianity and those of feminism are parallel and compatible.
According to the Bible, all have sinned, but all are called to accept forgiveness and new life through Jesus; all are equal in God’s sight.
Feminism claims men and women are of equal worth and deserve equal opportunities and treatment.
God hates injustice, condemning inequality and oppression of every kind. He calls those who claim to follow him to fight injustice, break every yoke of oppression, care for the hurting and pour themselves out for the needy.
Feminists are outspoken about the ways in which women are oppressed and devalued, both individually and by societal norms.
The message of the Bible is available to everyone. All have the opportunity to be loved and welcomed by God. God actively seeks out, restores and empowers those who choose to follow him.
Feminism speaks a message of empowerment that focuses on women, but includes all people. Feminists are speaking out about how men are also oppressed by current rigid societal expectations.
The primary message of the Bible is one of freedom from bondage, restoration of relationships and empowerment to live rightly.
The primary message of feminism is that each person has the right and should have the power and access to choose the life he or she desires, free from oppression.
Being a feminist is an outgrowth of my choice to be a Christian.
Stephanie Shackelford is a senior graphic design major from Troy. She is running a personal blog discussion on Christian feminism.