I couldn’t tell you when I first realized I was a feminist, but I do know that it was at some point late in high school, or early in college. The realization came slowly. A small crack in my perception of the world eventually split wide open to reveal a world where women were valued less than men in almost every way. As someone who is not okay with injustice, this was not okay with me. Seeing that women earn less than men for the same work; that we are barred from many occupations because of our sex; that we are harrassed, attacked, and often killed for gender-related reasons; that we disproportionately suffer in violent conflicts; etc, means that there is injustice in the world that I need to help fix.

Sometime after making this realization, I came across feminism. My first understanding of feminism was that it was an ideology of gender equality. That is how most feminists I’m familiar with would define it, and that is how it is defined in the dictionary. It made perfect sense tome, and I latched onto it as the hope I had for a more just future. It wasn’t until much, much later that I was exposed to the feminism that others were familiar with: the bra-burning, man-hating, lesbianism that called for women to rule the earth and its inhabitants. I had no problem sticking with the label because of that blissful period of time in which I accepted feminism without understanding the negative connotation that came along with it.

There is a two-pronged PR battle that feminists fight. One is against the people who think all feminists hate marriage, children, and men, as well as women who choose to have those things in their life. The other is against the “I’m not feminist but ___(fill in the  blank with things that feminists support)”. There seem to be more people in the second category, since feminism seems to be an unpopular movement, yet I haven’t met many people who think women shouldn’t be allowed to vote or choose their spouse. I find this disconnect fascinating, and I would love to do a formal study on it one day. For now, however, I will turn to poetry.

I didn’t write this poem, but it expresses my feelings on the issue much more poignantly and succinctly than I could, especially given the frequency with which my religion clashes with feminism (for no good reason, I might add). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and that maybe it motivates you to consider feminism as the majority of feminists define it, and not by the actions of a few extremists.

 

Why Am I a Feminist?

Juanita Wright Potter

 

Why am I a feminist?

Because I am a woman

and because I enjoy being a woman

as a result of the hard work of feminists before me

Feminists of the past enabled me

to get a good education

to vote

to have a voice in the assembly halls of my community

my state, my nation

to be able to work and earn my living

to no longer be considered as property

to know women who are scientists and artists

lawyers and doctors, diplomats and professors.

My grandmothers couldn’t.

 

Why am I a feminist?

Because I join hands and work with women and men today who

dream of the day when women will be able

to be paid equal pay for equal work

to be included in the Constitution of the United States

(not just Amendment XIX)

to be given an equal voice in our churches, our schools,

and our homes

to no longer be expected to do all the serving

and only the serving

to be allowed to follow God’s call

even when that call is to speak, to teach, to lead.

 

Why am I a feminist?

Because I join with women and men of the past, of today, and of

the future who dream of the day when all people will be able

to live lives free from poverty

free from violence

free from hatred

free from despair and fear

to know what it is like to live

with peace and compassion

instead of war and domination

with love and joy

instead of anger and dismay.

 

I have a full, happy life.

But the majority of people in the world do not.

I am a Christian feminist because I want to keep passing on

the rich, bountiful gifts that have been given to me

by God and by those who have faithfully lived out the

Good News.

 

I am a Christian feminist because the organized church

has carelessly thrust women

into soul-bending, spirit-crushing, ungodly mold

that makes it nigh impossible

to dream the dreams and see the visions

that God has for us all.

 

I dream and work for the day

when saying I’m a Christian

will say it all.

 

But until then,

I am a Christian feminist.

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