While posing for a photo with some female friends at a recent professional event, a colleague announced how well-endowed we are. After my jaw dropped, one of his cronies scuttled over to assure us his friend didn’t mean anything bad by the comment—that he meant it as a compliment. Well, 1962 called. They want their ideology back. Because reducing a colleague down to body parts is the opposite of a compliment. Furthermore, a thought ought to remain inside the confines of one’s head, or else it ceases being a thought.
The next morning after a meeting, Mr. Pervy Mc Perv came up behind me, put his arm around my shoulder, and planted a wet kiss on my cheek. I know. So sweet, right? Nothing like having unwanted DNA on your person. And in Indian culture, it’s considered inappropriate to kiss people outside of family members. I reported his double yuckiness to our staff, all the while assuring them I don’t hate men, and am not a prude.
Why did I feel the need to give such disclaimers? Because I’m not an angry feminist out to humiliate and ruin men’s lives. Isn’t that what feminists do? In fact, I fear retaliation and humiliation for reporting him. We all know that prior to #metoo, this sort of thing had ended poorly for women.
The following week I heard a sermon where the preacher, during his message on gender roles, said the “F" word about thirty-seven times. (Not referring to the 4-letter variety.) Many Christians paint feminists as ungodly extremists whose two main life goals include killing unborn children and belittling men. And we wonder why the world thinks Christians have low IQ’s. Hint: maybe it’s all the stereotyping we do. After I cleaned up the vomit from the pew, something dawned on me. I’m a long-standing feminist. Crazy, because I always thought of feminism as a bad thing. (Probably because Christian men told me so for three decades. But these same men have claimed that girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, and that boys are made of puppy dog tails, and can be difficult to manage. As a seasoned pediatric health care provider, I disagree.) But the fact that I abhor beauty pageants should have clued me in to my feminist tendencies long ago. By the way, this feminist is pro-life. Did I just blow your mind or what?
The word feminist means one who believes that women should have the same political, social, and economic rights as men. Radical, right? So why do some Christians equate this “F" word with the “F" word? What’s wrong with men and women having equal value, equal say, and equal pay?
Still reading? Maybe wondering how it all happened? The full story will cure insomnia, so I’ll give you the Cliff Notes: I’m tired of men and women having a low view of women. Let me break it down. 1) I’m tired of people saying it’s normal and expected for men to objectify women. 2) I’m tired of people saying that a woman’s God-given purpose entails bearing and raising children. (If that were true then God has no purpose for my childless existence—I’m just taking up space. Yet I know I couldn’t do half the things I’ve done in ministry if I had children to raise.) Number 2 pervades too many churches, where people use (i.e. mishandle) Scripture in ways that oppress women. Not convinced? Consider how Scripture got misused to oppress slaves in America once upon a time.
In some churches, a woman who expects to be treated with equality, respect and dignity gets chastised as a rebellious woman in need of God’s discipline. I have a friend who divorced her abusive husband after he nearly killed her. She stayed married 62 long days before filing for divorce. In order to retain her membership, the church asked her to write an apology letter stating that she made a mistake, that she felt remorse, and that she would not get divorced again. The church also slapped her with a $150 fine. I feel certain Jesus would not want a woman to subject herself to a violent husband. Nor does Jesus need the money.
Maybe it’s time for the church to revisit its definition of feminism. Because when we call outspokenness that demands justice and equality a bad female trait, we hurt all women.