(This is a response to Kristen Clark’s blog post “7 Reasons I’m Not A Feminist.” Feel free to read that post before this one — or not. Whatever ya feel.)
Before we start this, let’s just take a moment to define “feminism.”
Feminism (n.): the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes
Okay cool. Let’s get started.
Today, I read a post by Kristen Clark that was published on her blog “GirlDefined” titled, “7 Reasons I’m Not A Feminist.” Despite its post title not following AP Style standards, I decided to read it anyways; I have always been curious as to why women chose to define themselves as “not-feminists.”
Admittedly I have had the phrase, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equality,” come out of my mouth. However, that was when I was in middle school when I didn’t really understand anything.
I’m twenty now, and luckily I’ve grown up a little since then. I am a feminist because I believe in equality. I also believe that I am saved by grace through faith (and that this is not my own doing, but it is the gift of God).
But, from what I’ve read from Clark, those two statements can’t coexist.
According to Clark, “Feminism is an entire belief system and worldview built by women in an attempt to redefine womanhood.” Let’s go back to the definition we started with, shall we? Nowhere in Clark’s definition does she mention “equality,” and nowhere in the actual definition of feminism is “redefining womanhood” found.
I truly think that the problems with this blog post could be solved with a simple google search to the “Feminism” wikipedia page, but that would be a missed opportunity to write a blog post about feminism. So, here we go: seven-ish arguments in defense of feminism.
- You DO NOT become your own god.
First, Clark defines feminism as a “religion” and claims that women “become their own gods.” Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements — not a religion. Therefore, the argument presented here is invalid. Once again, feminism is not about “redefining womanhood,” it is about achieving political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. As a feminist, I do not pray to myself or ask myself for forgiveness; I do not idolize myself because of my feminist beliefs. Like religion, feminism is about something bigger than one’s self; it is not about treating ourselves or other feminist women like our saviors. We look up to and are inspired by famous feminists, but we do not treat them like God (Christianity), or Allāh (Islam), or any other religious deity.
- Sexual promiscuity is NOT praised
The main problem I had with this argument is this sentence: “Sadly, stripping for the public, posing naked, and swimming topless are no longer considered ‘objectifying’ but ‘liberating’.” I took this as, “It is better to objectify women than allow them to feel liberated.”
I’m sorry, what?
I encourage EVERYONE to watch this video by Hannah Witton titled “Do I Look Like A Slut?”. To use Witton’s Words, “How can you tell how much sex a woman has from the way that she dresses?” To take that even further, how can you tell how promiscuous a woman is based on her actions? Is a woman (or man) who is posing naked for an art class considered promiscuous? Finally, is sexual promiscuity even a viable societal standard?! Or is it just a social construct that allows women to shame other women for engaging in sexual activity with more than one person? Sexual promiscuity, when viewed negatively, is essentially an excuse to slut shame. And slut shaming, to use one of the tweets in Witton’s video, is shaming someone for not conforming to your ideas of female sexuality.
Feminism is about choices, and those choices should not affect you (or your personal relationship with religion). If your religion believes that you should only have one sexual partner your entire life, your choice to follow that belief should not affect those who do not share that same religious belief, and vice versa.
- Not All Lives Are Valued
Remember when I said seven-ish? This is that -ish. My argument for this claim is that feminists believe in reproductive rights for women; however, I understand the moral and religious dilemma behind abortion.
I am ELCA Lutheran, and here is the ELCA’s official response on abortion and unintended pregnancies. Too lazy and didn’t read? Here are the key points taken directly from the pdf:
- Our pastoral response must be a gracious affirmation of the value of women’s lives and assistance in dealing with ongoing implications of their decisions for their own well-being and their relationships.
- In our attempts to influence the shaping of public policy, we should not disregard the rights of others, but work faithfully through the public processes by which justice is sought for all.
- We recognize the need for contraceptives to be available, for voluntary sterilization to be considered, and for research and development of new forms of contraception.
- The position of this church is that, in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, where pregnancy results from rape or incest, or where the embryo or fetus has lethal abnormalities incompatible with life, abortion prior to viability should not be prohibited by law or by lack of public funding of abortions for low income women. On the other hand, this church supports legislation that prohibits abortions that are performed after the fetus is determined to be viable, except when the mother’s life is threatened or when lethal abnormalities indicate the prospective newborn will die very soon.
The ELCA statement on abortion is a compelling argument that I agree with; however, I understand that not everyone is ELCA Lutheran, or Christian, or religious at all, and their understanding may differ from mine.
Regardless of your views on abortion, check out this video from ASAPScience that explains what actually happens when you have an abortion.
- Male leadership is NOT despised
Once again, feminism is about equality, not female dominance over men. Radical feminism is “a perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts.”
Male supremacy is different than male leadership. Male supremacy is the belief that men are superior to all other genders, while male leadership is literally the state of being a leader occupied by a male.
Both feminists and radical feminists are fine with male leaders; however, we are not okay with the idea that men are superior to women. Example: my high school principal verses my elementary school principal. My high school principal is a man, and my elementary school principal is a woman. They are both leaders, and as a feminist I am fine with both of them being leaders in the educational community. However, I would NOT be okay with my high school principal believing that he is superior to my elementary school principal based on the fact that he is a man. (In simpler terms: “I’m better than you because I’m a dude.”)
- Feminism IS NOT the reason homemaking is not valued
I am 100% on board for making homemaking great again; however, historically homemaking has been the woman’s job, and only the woman’s. Going back to choice, feminists believe that it should be the individual’s choice, rather than an expectation, to become a stay-at-home mother. If you want to be a housewife, absolutely do it! Homemaking is an incredibly admirable job, and unfortunately not enough people appreciate it enough. Likewise, feminists also believe that men should not have the expectation to enter the workforce. Stay-at-home fathers are just as important as stay-at-home mothers, and each gender offers important experiences for children growing up.
- Unique gender differences are NOT ignored
Why do you think we call it “the feminist movement”? If gender differences were ignored, we would not have the same issue (but we would still have an issue). Feminism’s intent is not to erase the differences between genders but rather to move past the idea that one’s gender establishes superiority over another. Ignoring gender differences is similar to saying, “I don’t see color.” People of color embrace their race, ethnicity, and culture the same way people embrace their sexuality and gender identification.
- The victim mentality
Before we move on, being a victim does NOT mean that you are weak and pitiful. This is one of the most common misconceptions of the word. If I get in a car wreck that is not my fault and I am physically and mentally fine, I am still the victim of the car wreck. I am still going to argue for my case in court. I am still going to point out that they are the person at fault.
Just wanted to get that out of the way.
Feminists may say that they are “victims of the patriarchy”; however, the next statement that follows should be, “What are we going to do about it?” Slacktivism is a thing that exists, and I am not going to sit here and deny it; however, the feminist movement (like all social movements) encourages people to go out and do something about it. If we were all sitting here acting like victims, nothing would ever get done.
Clearly that is not the case. Women can vote, hold public office, own property, receive education, practice homemaking, have equal rights within marriage, practice religion, enter business contracts, and more thanks to the feminist movement. (At least, in western society. But that’s a whole other blog post.)
And there you have it. Seven reasons why I AM a feminist.
Kristen Clark, by choosing “God’s version” of womanhood, you are practicing feminism. You now have the privilege to chose rather than being told that you must. You can thank to thousands of women who have come before you.
I am a feminist because feminism encourages all genders to be smart, wise, strong, industrious, and brave. I do not worry about my faith because being a feminist encourages me to act Christ-like; to teach, to lead, to pray, to forgive, to inspire, to love, to walk (or march), to make disciples, to tell, to listen, to counsel, and to help.
(Thanks to my great friends who took the time to proofread this!)
What are your thoughts on feminism, especially during this post-election season? I would love to hear your feedback.
Thank you for taking the time to read this!