Do we need feminism? I mean, really need it? What would we lose if we axed it from society? There’s a hashtag on twitter at the moment that reads #reasonsineedfeminism. Many of the posts associated with it are about the existence of misogyny, or the victimisation of girls, or the exploitation of girls and women across the world. It’s hard to argue with that. There is also this article by Steve Biddulph about feminism starting in the home (it is excellent and you should read it).
The problem with labels like ‘feminism’ is that it is immeasurably broad, and different people mean different things when they use it. Nevertheless, it is generally agreed that there have been three major ‘waves’ of feminism. First wave feminism occurred during the late 19th and early 20th Century and focused on promoting equal marriage, parenting and property rights for women. You probably know this wave best through the work of the Suffragettes who campaigned for women to be given the vote. In our own nation, South Australia was the first state to grant this in 1893. Second wave feminism focused on other issues of equality (e.g. ending discrimination). It viewed inequality as inherently political and the product of sexist power structures. Third wave feminism digs deeper, questioning the very nature of femininity itself, along with the gender roles that so often go along with it.
If we get that clear, I don’t know that many people who want to axe the fruit of feminism from society. They might disagree with third wave feminism, but no one really wants to go back to a time when women didn’t have the vote, and husbands had the right to rape their wives.
But I am a Christian. Doesn’t that mean that I don’t like feminists? Well, no. Actually I think I would describe myself as a feminist (so long as I got to provide some clarifications). I have, here. I don’t think the ‘feminist OR Christian’ is a fair dichotomy. I think it’s wrong.
If as Christians we are to have any chance of sharing the good news of Jesus with our world we must understand the extent to which feminism has influenced our friends. It is in the water we drink. The air we breathe. It is not enough to tell people who have grown up in this climate that they no longer need feminism because they have the gospel. It is lazy and doesn’t actually think about people. There are points of synergy between feminism and the gospel. This is the task set before us.
The gospel transforms broken relationships. The gospel brings life and hope and peace. These are all things that women who suffer violence and inequality need. The gospel gives me the vision of the future, and even though I know I cannot bring that perfection about, I can still work towards it. Because I believe things don’t need to be this bad. I believe God doesn’t want women and girls to be enslaved. I believe God is for them.
So. I stand up for women’s rights. I stand up against the sexual exploitation of girls. I stand up against the sexualisation of young girls. I fight against the objectification of women in the media. I can tell a woman that she doesn’t need to sell herself to find value. And I can do all these things as a Christian.
If I can do them all as a Christian, then why do I need feminism?
I need it because sexism, objectification, and exploitation still exist. I need feminism because it highlights the problem for me. It looks for places where abuses are occurring and brings them to my attention.