On the question: Can you be a person of faith and a feminist?

Wow. There is a post over at www.feministing.com, a third-wave feminist blog which I tend to really like (although the style is not always exactly my style), titled Can you love God and feminism? I was a little shocked by the title, but thought that perhaps it was simply meant to be provocative.

Um, I think it was actually serious. And even if it wasn’t meant to be serious, many readers are taking it that way. The post is about a very conservative brand of Christianity that is very sexist, and then somehow asks, from that, if feminism and loving God are somehow incommensurable. I think the author of the post does not really think this, but also has not thought out (well-enough) the implications of her framing. It leaves open the door for the worst framings of Christians and feminists… Christians who must somehow be incapable of valuing equality and the full humanity of all people, or feminists who are somehow incapable of connecting with or unwilling or uninterested in the divine. I feel like to ask, “Can you love God and love feminism?” is like asking, “Can you love men and be a feminist?” Or “Are all feminists feminazis?” It is just a bad way to frame the question that doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the issues or people involved.

As someone whose job and studies as a doctoral student and, you know, like my entire life calling, is, in many ways, at the intersection of feminism and faith, reading many of the comments was like a huge punch in the stomach. I suppose it is good. A good reality check. A good time to reach out to people. A good encouragement to post more about this on my own blog.

I encourage those of you who are are feminists of faith to include your voices in the comments over at the post on feministing. You have to register once in order to comment, but it only takes a second. There are so many posters on there who have clearly been convinced by more conservative parts of religion, particularly Christianity, that the patriarchal versions of Christianity are somehow all there is of it. There are likewise rather naive framings of Paul and Jesus and the bible as all totally feminist friendly. Oh, is there outreach work to be done. What surprises me so much is so many self-identified feminist posters who are so dismissive of the experiences of people who are feminists and people of faith. Like just totally excluding them as valid, dismissing them as “duped” or tricked or just wrong. How very unfeminist.

One question that someone posted that perhaps readers here could help with is: Does anyone have suggestions on where to get your feminist Christian fix? I’ve been trying to find some sort of blog or magazine or anything, and I know there’s a lot of academic work out there, but is there anything a bit more…I don’t know, enjoyable to consume?

Sadly (I need to remedy this) I am much more familiar with the academic work, and not more popular stuff. Anyone have any ideas?

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12 Responses to On the question: Can you be a person of faith and a feminist?

  1. jonolan says:

    The Christians’ God forbids infanticide. Since the modern Feminist – as exemplified by feministing – is staunchly pro-Infanticide, they have to hate and defy the word of that God and deride His followers.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    For anyone that wonders, I tend to leave up even comments that I very much disagree with or think to be a bit strange just because I think it shows the wide range of interesting thoughts on such topics….

    So, Jonolan, while we are clearly not on the same page in germs of Christianity or feminism or abortion, I’ll leave your comment up even though it is presumptuous and problematic, I think, to call abortion infanticide.

  3. Pro-infanticide?

    Um.

    Anyway, I think there are some pretty big blind spots within the feministing community, and theology/religion is one of those areas where people seem to have one experience with religion and think that it is the totality of all experience. In the past, I’ve responded, but I’m not sure I have the energy today.

    I’m curious if there is anything easily consumable in feminist theology….I can’t think of anything.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    The commenter pointed out Lilith which is a liberal feminist Jewish magazine. There must be something like that for Christian feminist theology…. I hope…. ? I might email a few listserves to see what people come up with.

  5. jonolan says:

    Elizabeth,

    I call a spade a spade and don’t shy from firm speech and manner. I’m sorry if that offends you. If life begins at conception, then abortion IS infanticide which must be the worst form of murder.

    Do you deny – even after their responses to Gov. Palin – that the Feminists ala Feministing and their sort have essentially defined themselves and their movement by the sole criteria of abortionists’ rights?

    In the light of that, doesn’t it make sense that the feminists hate Christianity and the Christians’ God since both denounce abortion?

  6. Please post what you find. I’m quite curious. Theology seems only to be theology if it’s hard to understand, and impractical. Recently I was researching nipple worship (this is what you do when you breastfeed an infant, I’m afraid), and found the same essay in Chopp/Devaney’s Feminist Theologies that I had read in seminary. I was like, “How is it possible that the only mention in all of theology of nipple/mammary worship is in the one essay I’ve already read?”

  7. jonolan says:

    Was that Seeking and Sucking from Horizons in Feminist Theology? If so, yes it is the only reference I know of within a nominally Christian structure.

  8. Beth B. says:

    Thanks for this heads-up, Elizabeth. I have read the post and a good chunk of the comments, and a lot of it is just exhausting.

    As a Christian pastor-to-be and staunch feminist, I have often had that combination questioned. There are just so many people out there who believe that all Christians have the anti-feminist perspective of the organization who put out the video. In all honesty, whenever I see a group labeled “Christian” I hesitate and wonder whether the group’s beliefs will jibe with my own. Too often, I’m right that they don’t.

    I feel called to strengthen the relationship between faith and feminism, and even to evangelize that indeed, one CAN be Christian and feminist. And here was my response to someone who questioned my insistence on proclaiming my identity as both:http://sunlight-and-shadows.blogspot.com/2008/05/feminist-pastor-top-ten.html.

    Oh, and as an aside…I’m pro-choice, but I’m not pro-abortion. There’s a difference.

  9. Diggitt says:

    Hi Elizabeth — I just found this posting and the comments. This past spring I took an Early Xtian Writings course at Meadville, taught by Tom Haverly, and one of our required texts was Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s The Power of the Word.

    Although we must be about the same age, ESF and I came thru the women’s movement on singularly different pages. I have always found the extreme kind of language she espouses almost unreadable — so much so that in the end, I can’t get to the ideas because the language gets in the way. This is ironic because she’s deep into deconstructing the ur-texts. She starts out with lots of neologisms, because the old words don’t work, and every page is full of difficult sentences, because the old rules of language are also (I guess) part of the patriarchy.

    I am not sure there’s any dialogue possible with someone who can no longer use the same language you do. I can’t even learn that feminist-talk because I am stuck our here wanting to communicate with the most people rather than with a small group of true believers.

    So that winds up being a first problem with 2009 feminism. I feel like the word feminism was hijacked 40 years ago by the extreme separatists, leaving those of us who want to advance the cause of women in the real world stuck without people who (I feel obscurely) should be allies but are fighting a different battle, probably including me as an enemy.

  10. Diggitt says:

    Hi Elizabeth — I just found this posting and the comments. This past spring I took an Early Xtian Writings course at Meadville, taught by Tom Haverly, and one of our required texts was Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s The Power of the Word.

    Although we must be about the same age, ESF and I came thru the women’s movement on singularly different pages. I have always found the extreme kind of language she espouses almost unreadable — so much so that in the end, I can’t get to the ideas because the language gets in the way. This is ironic because she’s deep into deconstructing the ur-texts. She starts out with lots of neologisms, because the old words don’t work, and every page is full of difficult sentences, because the old rules of language are also (I guess) part of the patriarchy.

    I am not sure there’s any dialogue possible with someone who can no longer use the same language you do. I can’t even learn that feminist-talk because I am stuck out here wanting to communicate with the most people, rather than with a small group of true believers.

    So that winds up being a first problem with 2009 feminism. I feel like the word feminism was hijacked 40 years ago by extreme separatists, leaving those of us who want to advance the cause of real women in the real world stuck with people who (I feel obscurely) should be allies but are fighting a different battle, probably including me as an enemy.

  11. hermes says:

    this is a great discussion. i think Jesus could be characterized as a feminist, and most liberal denominations of Christianity harbor feminists, even if they are not explicitly feminist as organizations.

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