I despise gender stereotypes. Really. I don’t go out of my way to be contrary, despite what many people think. I actually don’t like sports, whether indulging in them or watching them. I hate sweating. No. Actually, I loathe sweating. I knit and I find it calming and fulfilling. I would much rather drive slowly and carefully (or like an ‘old lady’) than go barreling down any streets. Sometimes I skip down the streets while singing loudly and raucously along to show tunes from seminal Broadway classics. I will always love musical theatre. I am dramatic. I can be loud. I am emphatic and cry at the end of some truly touching dramas (like seriously). And I don’t think Korean dramas are a blight on this world. All my life, this summation of characteristics have often led people to call me a girl, or gay. People really don’t like anything that can’t fit into a neat tiny box in their heads. I used to be so angry because of this.
Growing up, my favorite characters in the books I read, were often girls or women. I am still a little in love with ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’s’ Scout, I am a bit attached to the titular characters of ‘Little Women’, Katy from ‘What Katy Did (Next)’ and Anne from Anne of Green Gables still hold special places in my heart, and Kambili from ‘Purple Hisbiscus’ hasn’t yet lost her novelty, to name a few. It wasn’t until much later that I began to grasp why. I had always felt a sort of kinship with them, because they defied the societal expectations imposed on them in some way or the other, with perhaps the exception of Kambili. (I still haven’t figured out what it is about Kambili that makes her so memorable). They were just girls but yet they were so much more.
Cue teenage hood and the entrance of YA novels and the almost obsessive theme of feminism. Pick up any modern day bestselling series for young adults and more times than not, they star a young girl/woman in a coming of age story, fighting against a tyrannical government, leader, or shadowy organization. It is a fad that has caught on. Take a look at the sheer number of fairytales that have been revisited to cast the previously helpless heroine in a new light of strength and empowerment. It’s all about the strength of womanhood and the ability of the girl-child to rise above the patriarchal institutions and restrictions that stand in her way. To tell you the truth, it’s become a little tiring. No. I don’t think women don’t deserve to be empowered. I used to think of myself as a feminist.
Hang on. This isn’t a rant against twenty-first century feminism. At least not in the way my friends do it.
Why can’t women be priests?
I am a child asking this question, loudly and innocently. The subjects of my interrogation stare blankly back at me. They are not Catholics, to begin with and they do not even think much of the celibate order of men consecrated to perform mass. To them we are called to procreate and marriage is the epitome of one’s earthly achievements preceded only by child bearing. Why should they want to when they can be pastors? That is the question their eyes ask back.
What is the difference between a social justice warrior and an activist?
I am almost legally an adult, strolling down the streets of New York. I am in a conversation with my friend who has just finished regaling me on his experience the previous summer staying at one of Trump’s Hotels. The way he tells it, there had been police men with barricades keeping loads of angry white women dubbed ‘social justice warriors’ away from the doors of the hotel. He had snuck around and into the clumps of women loudly protesting their feminist goals. He looks at me, his eyes lit with mischief before he gives me his answer; it’s the difference between a woman running around naked and hitting men in the balls simply because they are men, and a feminist. I laugh.
Can Christians be Feminists?
I do not actually ask this question but I lean forward awaiting an answer. I am in Church at Sunday School, just in from the outside cold, my coat still on. No. The answer leaves no room for argument. The Bible, the teacher argues, is against equality in the home. The man must be the head and the woman must submit. I am unsatisfied with this answer.
One of the modern day arguments of feminists is that women should not be solely responsible for domestic work in the home, and if they are they should be paid for it. I wonder where the origin of the idea of women as domestic workers came from? Is it culturally justified or religiously justified? Someone tells me to read Proverbs 31. He argues that it is the woman’s job in the house to cook and that a woman should know her way around the kitchen. He asks why when Abraham was visited, Sarah cooked? This does not convince me, and I reply that this was probably a cultural role from those times. Proverbs 31 yields interesting results. Verse 15 points out that the virtuous woman provides meat for her household, waking before everyone else to do so. But Verse 24 points out that she is also supposed to make fine linen. Obviously, this verse is not taken literally by the modern twenty first century Christian woman. No one actually ‘lays hand to the spindle’ anymore. I wonder then if verse 24 is taken to be a metaphor for hard work and shrewd business sense, why verse 15 is still looked at literally. It seems inconsistent.
Should a woman know how to cook? Everyone should know how to cook. It is just a matter of common sense that one should be able to nourish themself. Is it, however, the role of the woman to do the cooking? Divergent answers abound.
On issues of chastity…
A motif I have often come to be rampantly displayed amongst aforementioned YA feminist works borders on the issue of sexual purity. On the path to discovering whom they are as individuals, (always a prerequisite to kicking the bad guy’s posterior), the many many heroines that now populate such works often first discover who they are sexually. The argument is clear. Patriarchal institutions have long since permitted men to ‘sow their wild oats’ before settling down to marriages and family life. Hypocritically, women of good standing are expected to get married as virgins, unspoiled and unsullied. Where these men are expected to have sowed their wild oats is quite mind boggling, to be fair. In taking back the feminist power, it is now considered fair that our literary heroines be allowed to fall in love and give themselves up to sexual pleasure in discovery of whom they want to be. Readers, do not be deceived. Sexual exploration is not crucial to discovering whom you are. The Bible is quite clear on this issue. No one. I repeat no one, should be sowing or providing soil for wild oats.
Let’s skirt abortion….
Actually, we can’t. Does a woman reserve the right to choose whether or not she gets an abortion or not? The Bible says I have set before you life and death…choose life. Even the Bible provides us with a choice. Do I think abortion is good? No. But should I be able to force my beliefs on others? Should we as a society be dictating to anyone what they should do with their body even if it is for their eternal good? At what point do we begin to allow people decide for themselves after arming them with the relevant information, on whether they want to go to Heaven or Hell?
Who is a woman?
I think we quite have to return to the creation story and the root of womanhood to answer this. It yields little except the well known belief that woman means ‘out of man’. Many people have over the years tried to define what a man is and what a woman is. I have seen poems written about how women are made of sugar and honey and chocolate. Quite frankly, this is just poetic rubbish. A woman or a girl is a female human, with a vagina. Everything else tagged on is simply a reflection of gender stereotypes and cultural bias. Women were created to be helpers ‘meet for men’. One could almost argue they were created to be equal. What went wrong? After the fall God then made women subordinate to men, “he shall rule over thee”. After Jesus, ‘the second Adam’ came to write the wrongs of the first, this undertanding of the relationship between men and women still persists. And so now I wonder aloud, does HIS death and resurrection grant us freedom from the curse like pronouncements that came as a result of our fall from Grace?
I despise gender stereotypes. And everyday, feminists fights to defy the societal restrictions imposed on the female gender. Yet, I do not think of myself as a feminist. I believe that women everywhere as humans should be equal to the same opportunities and benefits that their male counterparts have as Jesus has paid a cost far too great for any member of the human race to be subject to subjugation. However, I also believe that out focus has to shift from what women as humans with vaginas are capable of, to the heights God allows us as humans to ascend to. Our focus should be on what our spirit and soul empowered by God can accomplish and not the frailer strivings against the boundaries that our mortals shells are subject to due to scocietal impositions. Ephemeral to eternal. You might be a woman or a girl, but you are more than that. If you believe, you are first and foremost a Child of God.
Should a Christian be a feminist?
Tell me what you think in the comments below.