Fuller Feminist?

17 Oct

I used to think I was a feminist. Back in high school, when I was full of opinions (kay, maybe still am) and the world was black and white and I just knew how things were. But now I know I wasn’t a feminist back then–I was a man-hater. Okay, fellas, before you stop reading, please understand that I was a man-hater…I’m not anymore. It was a distinct yet debilitating part of my identity, and when I finally decided I didn’t want to go around wounded and limping anymore, Jesus healed me and set me free. Four years later, I still can’t get over the wonder of how he rescued me from a life of bitterness and hatred.

So now, when someone calls me a feminist, I wince and recall the times I thought that men were the root of all evil. But this quarter I’ve been mulling over feminist issues a lot, I think, for two reasons. One is a short explanation in my Old Testament course syllabus about why we use gender inclusive language at Fuller. Dr. John Goldingay explains:

The Fuller student body and faculty agreed some years ago that we would all use “gender-inclusive” language.  That means we don’t say “man” when we mean “humanity,” or say “men” when we mean “people.”… The background is that the church has long behaved as if women were not really fully people, and we need to make clear in our thinking and way of speaking that women are just as much part of the image of God as men are. So I expect you to write that way in your homework and papers.

It was sobering to me to read that, and although it wasn’t anything new it hit me in a new way, and I have been considering the ways that women have been treated as though they weren’t fully people, and the ways that kind of treatment still happens.

Naturally, then, the topic I’m choosing to research for my 10-page paper in Systematic Theology 2 is feminist Christology, which means the unique way that feminists see Jesus Christ–his person, his mission, etc.

So I’ve been seeing things in this light a little more lately–becoming aware of a few of the assumptions we all live by in our daily lives, and also the way women have responded to them. Last night at dinner with my dad and my sister, Dad was telling us that when friends ask why he doesn’t have grandkids yet, he explains that all three of his daughters are in grad school–they’re not sitting around, he says. I pointed out that it seems as though we need a good excuse–grad school, in this case–to justify neglecting our determined role as babymakers. What if we were sitting around? Then must we have babies to have value?

Things like that.

And then, driving home, that old Destiny’s Child song “Independent Women” came on the radio. You remember it: “The shoes on my feet (I bought ’em)/the clothes I’m wearing (I bought ’em)/the rock I’m rockin’ (I bought it)/cause I depend on me.”  This is going to sound weird, maybe, but as I listened to that song I felt overwhelmed with sadness. I thought of all these women who have been oppressed, rejected, abused, abandoned, devalued. I thought of how each one at some point decides that if she doesn’t protect, provide, and care for herself, no one will.

So, in a way, I have my feminist hat on this quarter–but I don’t want that to be as scary as it sounds (especially to you men). It’s not about a battle of the sexes, it’s about…well, I don’t really know. One of my professors keeps saying that we have to determine what the questions are before we start looking for the answers. All I know is that something’s stirring. I’ll keep you posted.

**Bonus question: what kind of assumptions can you find in the image/caption below?

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3 Responses to “Fuller Feminist?”

  1. brentonstrine October 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    I am not well versed in feminism, though if you define it as someone in favor of the treatment of women as people, I consider myself one.

    The image macro at the end of your post strikes me as indicating that a feminist is actually defined as a woman who wants to be a man. And I am further struck by the implication that being a man means being strong, smart and independent, even when things are difficult. As a man, I can tell you that is not what being a man means. Not all men are strong, smart, or independent. I resent the idea that if I need help, I am not a man, or if I am weak, I am not a man. And I further resent the idea that the only way that a woman can be treated as a person is if she becomes a man. I would hope that a woman can be a feminist by asserting the value of who she is as an individual, rather than by modifying her individuality to fit some sort of stereotype of manhood or to avoid some stereotype of femininity.

    Maybe I’m misreading this: maybe strength, intelligence, and independence really are some of the core values of feminism. But I hope not, for the sake of the weak, stupid (sorry!) or dependent women that I know who I nonetheless are children of God and incredibly valuable to me. …and for my own sake, because I like thinking of myself as a feminist, even though I do not personally always hold up to those standards very well (or at all).

    Like

    • netanya October 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

      Thanks for your engagement, Brenton. I, too, like to think that a feminist is one who endorses treating women like people. However, that’s just not what the word means in our culture. Instead, it is loaded with history, stereotypes, numerous schools and tangents of thought, and misguided vendettas. In my post, I demonstrate that I had a misunderstanding of the word back in high school, when I thought it meant being a man-hater. Lots of people still believe this, hence my apprehension at being labeled as a feminist. And yes…you picked up on a lot from the picture I posted…I think one of the most obvious assumptions I noticed was that crying is a feminine trait and a trait that does not coexist with being strong, smart, or independent.

      Like

      • brentonstrine October 22, 2010 at 10:35 am #

        I think my impression of feminism used to be, as you say, a battle of the sexes. Then someone defined it to me as a person who works for women to be treated rightly, and I thought, “I can get in line with that!”

        But maybe that’s a bit simplistic. I don’t know the whole history or cultural associations, and I don’t know how much that plays into what feminism is. Or does any of it really even matter? Can’t it be enough to determine your goals and go with that, regardless of the labels or the misguided vendettas?

        Like

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