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 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
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.