Its a scary word, isn't it?
For quite some time, I have been reluctant to accept the "feminist" label. The main reason is the problem of miscommunication and misunderstanding. For most, "feminist" conjures up images of angry, screaming women, bra-burning, abortion rights, Mary Daly, and goddess worship. Right or wrong, these images offend most people, especially the evangelical Christian community with whom I identify, serve, and fellowship.
But, according to the dictionary, the definition of feminist is: "Someone who supports the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, economic, and social equality to men." Although I am not an objective observer of my writing, I'm fairly certain that anyone who reads my blog knows that I fit this description. (At least, I hope I do.) For me, the Kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus Christ, means the liberation of women from oppression and their equal place in God's worldwide reign. If that makes me a feminist...well...so be it.
I know my more conservative friends are frightened by this label. Right now, you're thinking, "Emily, what are you saying?! You can't call yourself a feminist!" I know and appreciate this concern. But, here's the problem: Any label you choose for yourself is open to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Let's try a few.
Conservative. In religious circles, most who claim this label see it as a badge of honor, meaning, someone who seeks to "conserve" the vital beliefs of Christianity: the scripture, the nature of Christ, the Trinity, etc. For those outside conservative circles, however, conservative means hard-nosed, rigidly fundamentalist, and intolerant. Most who claim this "badge" know that this is an issue, but they choose to wear it anyway.
Calvinist. Most who call themselves Calvinists understand themselves, at the very least, to be in line with the so-called "five points" of Calvinism. They emphasize the sovereignty of God and the glory of God in providence. For those who are not Calvinists, however, Calvinist means someone who believes God is an egotistical control-freak who delights in receiving glory from human suffering. Most who claim to be Calvinists do so with pride, despite the possibility of such gross misunderstanding.
Southern Baptist. Most who claim this designation are proud of their heritage and their denomination's historic commitment to biblical sufficiency and the exclusivity of salvation in Christ alone. They are eager to speak of Southern Baptist mission endeavors and generous relief efforts in times of disaster. And yet, for those who are not Southern Baptist, for those who watch Southern Baptist "representatives" on TV, Southern Baptist means narrow-minded, anti-intellectual, Republican, and caucasian. Still, those who claim to be Southern Baptist, do so despite such stereotypes.
Southern Baptist. Calvinist. Conservative. How many are willing to claim these badges because of their deeply felt convictions, misunderstanding be damned? Do you see my point? Like it or not, misunderstanding or not, miscommunication or not, I am a feminist. I am a feminist in the classic, historic, and, I think, biblical sense of the word.
Several years ago I never would have "owned" this designation. Never. So, what has changed my mind? Many will relish the thought that it was my "liberal" education at Truett Seminary. "Aha!" they will say, "She went off to that moderate seminary and became a feminist! We told her this would happen!" I hate to disappoint you, but its just not true. Being educated at Truett did not make me a feminist.
As I reflect on my journey, I recognize that two factors have pushed me in this direction: (1) Serving with marginalized women in a very conservative Southern Baptist church; (2) Living in a largely misogynistic and patriarchal world. As I grapple with these experiences in light of the trajectory of the Bible, the decision is clear: I am a feminist.
I will close this little post by referring you to a recent story from world news. For those of you skeptical as to whether there remains a place for women's liberation, for those of you who think that I am exaggerating the plight of women worldwide, for those of you who think I'm nuts for claiming the label "feminist," read this story and think again.