A few weeks ago a friend casually referred to me as a feminist. I was a little surprised, but mostly pleased. I had not previously thought of myself as a feminist, but I liked that she identified me as one. There was a time I would have protested. No more.
In the many conservative contexts I encountered as I grew up, feminists were demonized. When I think of that characterization of feminists, the main word that comes to mind is “screechy.” Feminists were very very (gasp) liberal and often bitter women who thought men were inferior. Feminists believed that the planet would be better without the male half of the species.
However, as I have been reading and encountering Christians who are willing to question assumptions and tradition, I’ve come to recognize a different meaning for feminism. A feminist is someone who believes women have value, the same intrinsic value as all human beings. Am I a feminist, then? Absolutely. Do I also believe women are still treated as though they do not have the same value? Absolutely.
Probably part of the reason why I had not thought of myself as a feminist is because I had not begun to realize just how many ways the male-driven cultural norms play out, particularly in religious settings. I had not recognized the need for feminism. My forays into that area focused mostly on the pressure (and dangerous over-encouragement) placed on young people to get married (see “Our Idolatry of Marriage“) and the idea that it is more worthy for a woman to get married and have children than to do anything else (see “Excuse Me? An Education for Rock-Beats-Paper Ideology“). Those are topics I have experienced and done a lot of thinking about. But, there are other implications of our cultural and religious female-subjugating norms that I am just beginning to recognize.
Because this is a dawning realization for me, I am mostly going to defer to people who have had more experience and thinking about these other implications. Hopefully this list, however incomplete, will start you thinking, too, and give you some resources to go deeper than I am able to do here. Let’s start with this assumption, so pointedly expressed in this tweet:
Assuming we all agree on that point (and I most certainly hope we do), here are some issues I’ve become more aware of in these past several months:
- Women being paid less than men (for the same job). I can’t believe people still try to justify this. But apparently they do. It’s so ridiculous it’s almost funny. So, we’ll look at this particular issue humorously. Keep in mind the following clips are both from late night shows for adult audiences, so you can decide whether or not you’re comfortable with watching them.
- Traditionalist author Phyllis Schafly recently stated that it’s important for men to make more than women, because they won’t be able to find a husband if they make as much (or more) than a man. Colbert addressed this with his trademark witty satire:
- In Marry Smart, Susan Patton tells female college students to focus their time in college finding a man while they’re surrounded by that great genetic pool. Here’s The Daily Show’s summary and reaction:
- Women being told to dress according to a man’s issues. The essence of this: Men can’t control themselves, so women have to cover themselves up. Another way of saying it: If men do something wrong, it’s a woman’s fault for tempting them.
- Micah Murray’s satire is disturbingly on point here (so much so that people shared his post because they agreed with what he meant ironically): What I Wish Women Knew About Men. Here’s a flavor: “Please, remember how dangerous your body is to us men. Please, don’t expect us to see you as fellow human beings with thoughts and feelings and value and dignity.”
- Emily Maynard regularly asks rule-makers to “get out of her closet,” already! Here’s one of her key pieces, describing the freedom she has found in refusing to take responsibility for others’ sins: Modesty, Lust, & My Responsibility. Emily writes, “Please, make good choices for yourself, whatever those are! Live in the culture God put you in, but live there in complete freedom that Christ’s resurrection glory, not your hemline or your judgment of her hemline, makes you holy.”
- Women punished for a man’s wrongdoing.
- I Will Not Be Silent Anymore: Teresa K. Pecinovsky, guest posting for Rachel Held Evans, explains the personal relevance the recent #YesAllWomen hashtag holds for her, having been inappropriately approached by a male religious leader (who never met any consequences).
- I Married a Sex Offender: Maureen Garcia describes the pain she encountered at the hands of her church when her husband was charged as a sex offender (for Converge Magazine).
I am barely brushing the surface of how horrific the implications of these societal norms are. While some may seem less severe than others, all of these issues are important in their own right. But whether it’s a woman’s value being tied to whether she decides to marry, a woman’s pay and career having less opportunity, a woman’s choice of clothing being judged because she is female, or a woman’s word being trusted less than a male’s, all of these attitudes devalue women and ultimately feed into demeaning and abusive acts.
You may have recognized my title. I borrowed it from Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who (“A person’s a person, no matter how small”). If you’re wondering whether anything I’ve shared above is important for you to care about, let me end with another quote from Dr. Suess (The Lorax):
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”