Feminism Reflects Christ Better Than Does Fundamentalism

I grew up Fundamentalist, and in my circle, feminists were bashed as man-haring rebels against God’s Divine Order. However, over the past couple of years, I have read feminist blogs and interacted with feminists on said blogs and on Twitter. As a result of all this, I have concluded that the teachings of Jesus are better reflected in feminism than they are in Fundamentalism. Let me explain how.

Let’s start with a popular definition of feminism: the radical idea that women are people too. We find this idea reflected in the Bible, back to Genesis: “God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.”(Gen. 1:27), and “There is neither Jew nor Greek, their is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female — for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal. 3:28)

This belief in women’s being human motivates feminists to insist on autonomy, boumdaries, and consent in human interactions, and that corercion should be avoided. This consent must be informed, and is considered invalid if obtained by deception. Well, this is integrity par excellence, and integrity is a value everywhere in Scripture. Also, it is written, “Love your neighbor as yourself”(Lev. 19:18). This respecting other people’s boundaries and acknowledging their autonomy is a integral part of showing concern for others, allowing us to have what Martin Buber describes as an I-thou relationship(approaching them as people) rather than an I-it one(approaching them as objects). Also, Erich Fromm mentions that a healthy self-love and others-love are interrelated. Setting our own boundaries is an expression of that healthy self-love. 

By contrast, autonomy, boundaries, and consent are sorely lacking in Fundamentalist circles. Despite the scriptural injunction, “But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness — or distorting the Word of God”(2 Cor. 4:2a), Fundamentalists are infamous for their lack of honesty and alternative facts, calling it all “The Truth[TM]”. They apply Philippians 2:4-11 to the populace, but the leaders act more in line with the boast attributed to Lucifer in Is. 14:13-14

They love Eph. 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord”, using it to justify misogyny. However, some ancient Greek manuscripts do not include the word translated “submit”, in which the verse reads, “Wives, to your husbands as to the Lord.” This means the verse is a continuation of v. 21, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”(emphasis mine). Also, in Greek, the word for “submit” has a meaning of its being voluntary, which requires consent. Fundamentalists tends to not get consent, and prefer coercion. They sometimes reference Eph. 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her”; however, this often is used as a means of promoting paternalism.

Christian feminists are not opposed to submission per se, but only opposed to it when it is one way, and/or the burden is placed solely on women. As we saw from the quote in Eph. 5:21, this is a biblical criticism. This is in agreement with what Jesus Himself says, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and are called ‘benefactors’. Not so with you; instead, the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.”(Luke 22:25-26). But demanding that their followers submit to them and that wives submit to their husbands, these leaders are “lording it over” them. Also, treating people in a paternalistic way, justifying control because it’s for “their own good”, is NOT an example of being a servant; it is still “lording it over” them. 

Another way in which feminism reflects the character of Christ can be seen by comparing the depictions of Babylon and the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation. First, it is written about Babylon, “The blood of the saints and prophets was found in her, along with the blood of all those who had been killed in the earth”(Rev. 18:24). Next, onto what it says about the New Jerusalem, “The kings of the earth will bring their grandeur to it”(Rev. 21:24b). Throughout Revelation “the kings of the earth” refers to humanity in rebellion against God, and the passage indicates their redemption, rather than their destruction.

Fundamentalism damages even its own. There are countless spiritual abuse survivor blogs out there, with this list being just a few, and many people raised Fundamentalist go through religious trauma. There is widespread silence on abuse in Fundamentalism, and encouragement of women to stay in abusive marriages. 

Feminism is opposed to abuse. This is reflective of the heart of Christ because the Bible depicts God as hearing the cry of the oppressed. Feminists teach that your pain matters, and that oppressing others is wrong. This is why they support autonomy, boundaries, and consent, since abusers tend to ignore these things. Feminism concerns itself with ending the oppression of women. However, I, though a cisman(a biological male identifying as male), have benefited from these ideas. The church I grew up in did not teach boundaries and consent; so upon reading feminists online, I realized I could set boundaries for myself! Pick-up artists tend to be extremely unpopular in feminist circles, due to their being notorious for not respecting women’s boundaries or accepting “No”. However, in her book Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser, Clarisse Thorn mentions a PUA who actually benefited from feminist ideals and used them for himself. Also, feminists insist that the boundaries of even jerks and abusers need to be respected, and that one can only do what is needed to protect oneself and others. This is a good example of Christ’s command to love one’s enemies. 

So, while Fundamentalists decry feminists, and accuse the latter of destroying God’s order of things, and even of being an Illuminati plot to destroy the family, when you look at the Bible it seems that the spirit of the law is better reflected in feminism than in Fundamentalism.

Being a Feminist: Between Clichés and Truths (by Sarah Andres; translation mine)

This post is a translation of a post on Sarah Andres’s blog. The word “post” links to the original. Now, for the words of Sarah Andres:

For many, “feminist” is an insult. A cuss word. A synonym for a bossy, domineering woman [French, dominatrice, “dominatrix” is an alternative translation]. Castrator. For this article dedicated to my[Sarah’s] life facing sexism, I’m making a compilation of remarks I receive when I say I’m a feminist. These come from those close to me as well as from strangers. They’re recurrent, and full of clichés to deconstruct.

“You’re a feminist? Well, you must be a lesbian, seeing that you don’t like men.”

That was said to me one day by a man I bumped into at a soirée. It was said without spitefulness, without aggressiveness, it was nearly a constant. You’re a feminist THEREFORE you don’t like men. Eh, no, my dear fellow. Whether or not I’m a lesbian (because we beat our mucous membranes) it’s not men that I dislike, but patriarchy. True, not all men are bidet scrapings. But even if not all men threaten women, all women are threatened by men. Sexism, like every other oppression, is institutional and systematic. It sets up a system, and that is really the problem.

Being a feminist is wanting equality. A man isn’t worth more than a woman, and vice versa. It’s not men that feminists dislike, it’s sexism. Is that really so hard to understand?

“Concretely, I don’t understand how one can be a feminist today! You women now have the right to vote like men, thus there is nothing else to demand.”

There again, this type of reflection often pops up in my face when I talk about feminism. The fight for gender equality doesn’t just stop at voting rights, abortion, contraception, etc., though they’re essential, as these rights are endlessly put in danger. On my blog[that is, Sarah Andres’s blog; link above under her name, site in French], you’ll find a plethora of articles on my daily life facing sexism.

“And what does your boyfriend think of this? I mean, it can’t be easy having a feminist for a girlfriend.”

You’ll notice the heterocentrism of the question. No, sorry, the affirmation. Note that at the time of writing these lines, I have never had a romantic relationship. Nothing to do with my feminism, but if you want to know more about it, here you go:

The line underneath says, “Feminism isn’t only reserved to women.”

“As long as you don’t show your breasts in public like Femen, it doesn’t bother me.”

In other words, looking at boobs in HD on porn sites and stark-naked women in advertisements doesn’t bother you. But should a woman parade by, airing her breasts, while making a political statement, that’s an issue. Basically, a pair of boobs should serve to breastfeed her kid, sell a vacuum cleaner, help you polish your broomstick, but it’s dirty if that becomes political. I can see we don’t live on the same planet.

Anyway, you aren’t credible; you can’t even agree with each other!”

It’s true that, when we look at the political parties, the multitude of social movements that exist or have existed, or even all the religions, all have the same political and social vision and ideological viewpoint in their thinking such that all agree amd are never divided. Bah, no. There are good women for bickering. Now, anyway.

“A feminist, that’s someone hysterical, sexually frustrated, hairy, ugly, frustrated, and with no sense of humor whatsoever.”

Well, I subscribe…

 A Male’s Gratitude to Feminism

CONTENT NOTE: This is an “PG-13” rated post and talks about sex, rape, and misogyny.

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of rape, misogyny, and spiritual abuse

READER DISCRETION ADVISED

This post was inspired by the following tweet from a follower under #SpiritualAbuseIs: Check out @iSierraNichole’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/iSierraNichole/status/832015035153186816?s=09
This is what was taught at the church in which I was raised: the pastor often blamed wives for their husbands’ unfaithfulness, saying the husbands cheated because the wives wouldn’t have sex with them, saying, “If you don’t do your homework, someone else will.”

This was actually preached frequently. The verse used to support this is 1 Cor. 7:5, “Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

The teaching was, in sex, couples should be Creative, Interesting, and Available (abbreviated CIA). In theory, it applied to both men and women, but 99.9% of the time it was preached against the women. One of the comments was, “Ladies, how hard is it to spread your legs and smile?”

The pastor also once made a remark that people should move, rather than just lying there. I have since read online that lack of movement in sex is often a response to rape. (More on this below.)

We guys were fed a generous helping of misogynistic propaganda. We were told things like, “The system is biased towards women, against men. Society and most of the church are this way, but I, and there are very few others, have the guts to tell you the Truth[TM]”, and, “All a woman has to do is to bang her head a few times in order to bleed, call the cops, and the husband is powerless, because they’ll believe her”; also, “She can hit you, but if you hit back, you’ll get in trouble.” We were also told that after six months most women “close the garage door”, meaning sex would be rare. In fact, when I expressed a desire to go overseas, and was not released, I was told, “God is only trying to protect you, for 80% of women out there won’t do you right. They’ll turn you down for sex and you’ll be tempted to cheat with her girlfriend.”

On one occasion, when I expressed doubts about my faith after being confronted on lust, I was told this was my last chance, for God was getting bricks with which to knock me upside the head.  I was told that if I were to backside, I would either go insane(the pastor said, “You need me more if you’re smart”), get a venereal disease from being a womanizer, or end up in an unhappy, sexless marriage. But, I was told that if I went with God(TM), I could have a wonderful marriage, and all I would need to do would be to tell my wife to put on her teddies for sex. 

Even at the time it wasn’t appealing; it seemed crude, disgusting, and was a turn-off. Now for a confession: back in those days, had I gotten married, I would have begged until I got it. This is why I am thankful for all the feminists I encountered on Twitter and on blogs (especially the Love, Joy, Feminism commentariat, who patiently have answered my questions, even when I’m exasperating at not getting it!). I now know that what I would have done is wrong, and I’m grateful to have been enlightened before I even started dating, let alone got married. Even though the church presented themselves as experts on marriage and family, I feel I’ve learned more in the nearly two years of being on social media and interacting with feminists than my entire time at the church! I think, thanks to them, I can be a better boyfriend and husband than I would be otherwise. Also, it is due to what I read on these blogs that I recognize that the remark that people shouldn’t just lie there immobile was making light of marital rape, something that would never have occurred to me otherwise. (In my days of ignorance I also made some comments that make me cringe nowadays.)

Like St. Paul said in 1 Tim. 1:13, “I acted in ignorance”; well, since I’m a virgin, technically not “acted”, but the point remains. The problem with my begging is that it does not allow for a “no”, and a “yes” is meaningless if “no” won’t be taken for an answer. But, growing up, we weren’t taught boundaries, we always had to be ready if the church needed something, and not listening to the pastor, as God’s Delegated Authority(TM), was as not listening to God. This does not allow a healthy culture that honors boundaries and consent to form. Feminists say, “Men, you need to respect women’s boundaries and consent, for women are people too.”, which implies being human means the right to set boundaries. Also, since we were taught that since the Bible says, “You were bought with a price”(1 Cor. 6:19-20), the idea of bodily autonomy would have been anathema. (Interestingly, they didn’t mention “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.”, 1 Cor. 7:23, NRSV.) Thus, I am grateful also to feminists in letting me know that I can set my own boundaries.

However, since I heard that some women have a higher libido than their husbands, I considered that possibility frequently, and often interpreted the CIA teaching in that light. Maybe with being a virgin who never dated and who is uninformed on sex, it’s too early to say it, but, even taking into consideration the fact that my autonomy and consent matter, I still want to be available to my wife when I get married, mainly to make her happy and to express gratitude for picking me out of 7 billion people.

I will end with this: though I did it in ignorance, to the feminists out there reading this post and all women, I am sorry for my role in perpetuating the system. Though I was brainwashed, and didn’t know, I am still sorry. I am glad  have been enlightened and have a chance to change direction. (From a religious viewpoint, I think this is what repentance is. In Judaism, part of repentance[teshuvah in Hebrew] is recognizing the damage caused. Sadly, in the matrix I grew up in, the damage was erased; the shadow on the cave wall was interpreted differently.)

No, Whistling At Me Isn’t A Compliment(by Sarah Andres, translation mine)

This is a post from the blog La Mal-Baisée by Sarah Andres. You can view the original here.Now, here’s the post:

As a woman I regularly suffer what they call “street harassment”. Whistles, insults, touch-ups…men treating women as objects are numerous. And they crack down at every street corner.

At the age of 12, I was wearing a B-bra, measuring 1m50, and my new stretch marks on my hips and thighs testified to recent physical and hormonal development. I was taking my first steps in puberty, learning this ” new me” and learning what I like, things that weren’t simple for my part. But, above all, I had to confront exterior looks. Therefore, at age 12, in this manner, I lived my first experience of street harassment. I didn’t know the term, and I ignored that it acts as a real phenomenon in society.

It was springtime and hot. Arriving at a pedestrian crossing at the exit to my neighborhood, I stop. A van passes in front of me. Inside: 3 or 4 men open the window and honk the horn.

Go on, dearie! Give us a blowjob!

[literally, “suck us!”]

Eh, you’re too good, you know!

When I returned home I told my sister, older by six years, of this experience; she responded to me, “You have to get used to it. It’s to be expected. Boys will be boys”. [Literally, ” That’s guys.”] If this “first time” naturally shocked me, being totally unprepared to receive such advances given so openly, I ended up adapting and integrating it as a rule. Around 14 or 15, I even thought that a stranger’s whistle in the street to be a compliment. I had integrated it into my education. I considered it a norm. “It’s to be expected. Boys will be boys.[literally, that’s guys.] As a woman I’m supposed to please them.” I’ve come a long way.

What Is Street Harassment?
It was brought to the attention of the media through the release of the documentary Femmes de la Rue[literally, Women of the Street](2012), produced by Sofie Peeters from Brussels, and acts according to the collective Stop Harcelement de Rue [literally, Stop Street Harassment; link in French]: “(…)behaviors addressed to people in public and semi-public places, to accost them, verbally or not, sending them intimidating, insistent, disrespectful, humiliating, threatening, or insulting messages due to their sex, gender, or sexual orientation.”

ALL CONCERNED

It really makes being in the street a pain in the butt when you’re a woman (note that doesn’t only affect women, as the sidebar above specifies), and has nothing to lose with being pretty, ugly, fat, skinny, or hairy. And when you wear a rolled-over pullover or miniskirt, there’s often the guy at the descent to the metro who comes to ask for your number, and bawls you out when you make the choice to ignore him. Anyway, a recent study proved that 100% of women using public transport are victims of sexist harassment [link in French].

In public spaces, men invest more public space than women, who only cross it. The reason isn’t hard to understand. The other day, I was visiting a large French agglomeration. It was 4 P. M. and I was at the metro exit. I opened the city map to try to get my bearings. I was barely standing there 2 minutes when 3 guys come to accost me:

“Eh, dearie, have you lost your way? Because in exchange for a blowjob we can help you find it” [literally, “because if you suck, we can help you recover it!”]

Not feeling like responding, I prefer to get myself out of there. A minute later, another guy, different from the others, comes towards me: ” Eh, miss, whatcha looking for? If you want, I can accompany you home. We could get to know each other. ” What did I do? I pulled out my smartphone and started my GPS. Too bad for the old school positioning. Too much of a pain in the butt, too wearying, too insecure.

HAVEN’T YOU LOOKED FOR IT A LITTLE?

In France, being a woman in a public place consists of developing multiple strategies for your daily life. It’s concentrating all your energy on vigilance in going about. It’s changing sidewalks when you hear a man walking behind you. It’s reflecting on your outfit every morning: “Today, I’m taking the metro. I’m going to limit risks: no skirt.” It’s spending time finding verbal replies to potential aggressions. It’s having a tightened stomach and therefore closing your trap when it arrives. It’s lowering your head and speeding up your steps upon the approach of a group of men. It’s this everyday, and it’s wearying.

Even a few years ago, I felt responsible: “Shoot! Maybe if I hadn’t worn shorts so short?” But no more. I’m responsible for nothing. Absolutely no woman is. We dress as we like, we go where we want, alone or together, according to our fancy. Justifying a phenomenon of harassment, shot against a woman, due to her outfit or her behavior, is to make her responsible for the aggression, to the benefit of the one really responsible.

Likewise, many people are confused as to the difference between harassment and flirting. I often hear that whistling at a woman on the street “is a compliment”. To make things more clear:

image

(Chart by Paye Ta Shnek )
Translation of table:
Expressing politely, in an an adapted context, one’s desire to know a person or see them again, and respecting their eventual refusal.(flirt)
Whistling at a person anywhere: Parliament, on the street, at work, or in transport.(harassment)
Commenting on a person’s appearance or outfit who didn’t ask or whom you don’t know.(harassment)
Insisting after a refusal or lack of a response.(harassment)
Taking a person’s refusal for timidity.(harassment)
Following or imposing your presence on a person who hasn’t responded or expresses a refusal to exchange.(harassment)
Sending sexual texts to a person who hasn’t consented to that game.(harassment)
Using your position to obtain favors.(harassment)
Threatening a person to accept your advances.(harassment)
Touching/pinching butts/breasts outside of a mutually consenting encounter.(aggression)
Hugging/kissing[the French word embrasser means both] a person by surprise or against their will.(aggression)
Placing a woman against a wall by surprise or against her will outside a mutual and consenting encounter.(aggression)

And for those still not convinced: am I supposed to have something to square with the opinion a stranger holds about my physical appearance?

Having force, you could turn a bit paranoid anyway:

” Eh, miss!”
“WHAT??!!”
“Well, nothing. Do you have the time, please?”

Very recently, the creation of non-mixed compartments on public transport in Germany has revived the polemic. The idea is to create cars specifically reserved for women, in order to fight the phenomenon of harassment. Well, yes, there’s nothing like the Middle Ages of course! Anyway, speaking of flashbacks, we could just simply require women to stay home and only go out in the presence of a man. Radical but effective, no? In fact, the “little” problem with this German law(already in force in other countries) is that it’s (again) women who must bear responsibility for the harassment of which they are victims. It’s always on them to adapt, not on their aggressors.

To finish, just a little advice: for flirting, there are spaces and contexts specifically made for this. You’re in a pub in the evening and someone catches your eye: you decide to approach them. If this person consents to the flirt, then there’s no problem. But personally, asking for my number when I’m leaving for work or have to go to class…No! Just, no. It’s neither the time nor the place. Do you really think that I’ll hand out my number to a stranger crossing the street?

My Journey to Egalitarianism

Note: This is the story of a cisgendered, straight male who grew up in a complementarian environment moving towards egalitarianism; the impact of comp teaching is harder for women.
Now for the part of my story involving gender roles. Though the term wasn’t used, my church adhered to complementarianism, which teaches that men and women are equal on status but have different roles, the leading roles going to men and the supporting ones to women. Our church wasn’t opposed to women preaching, for we were pastored by a husband and wife team(and the wife became the senior pastor after her husband died) and Joyce Meyers was played in church. However there were many sermons on husbands’ being the head of the house and the wives’ need to submit, something that was strongly pushed and lack of submission by wives was strongly preached against. Husbands were to be providers and 1950’s gender roles were upheld as ideal, but there was some leeway for wives to work. I heard sermons that it’s best that young women work close to the church and/or family, rather than in the world, as a means of protection. This existed for the young men as well, but seemed to be stressed more for the young women.

I was a teenager when I began to move away from comp teaching. At that time I felt treated like I had no brains, and was told that submission meant I had to accept that treatment. As you could guess, I hated that treatment. I vowed to never treat anyone like that, and after I got married, that I wouldn’t go along with the throw-my-weight-around approach.(Yes, I had expressed misogynistic views before this.)

When at 18 I started questioning my upbringing. The only way I was able to explain it was using Plato’s Cave Allegory(which is my profile pic). I decided I wanted more than the four walls of my insular church. Thus, I decided I wanted a wife from outside my bubble, which meant there would be no male headship and no submission. I decided I just wanted to be able to have my life and not be forced into a cookie-cutter mold; thus I wanted someone who would agree that we would let each other have their lives. But I also wanted someone for whom these interests overlapped.

The next stop was my reading Richard Foster’s book In Celebration of Discipline. Due to the subordinate status of women in Greco-Roman society by even addressing women in the first place, Foster explained, Paul was empowering women, giving them agency. He also pointed out that the command to husbands to “love their wives” isn’t that much different from the command to submission, for obedience to that command required a lot of submission on the husband’s part. Foster pointed out the sting of the teaching fell on the husbands.

Years later I read an excerpt from Liza Mindy’s The Richer Sex(later the whole book). In this book Mundy mentions women becoming the primary breadwinners and even outearning their significant others. (Overall there is still a pay gap, with women behind.) I and my friends had been made by our church to work at a job long hours making next to nothing. There were times I requested from church leadership to find another job, but was denied. We were told that women were into it for the money, that they wouldn’t want poor guys. However we were also told men were supposed to be the providers, because “if any provide not for his own, and specifically for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). Actually that verse means people shouldn’t dump their elderly relatives onto the church, but is commonly used to promote traditional gender roles.

Anyway, when I realized there are women willing to accept as significant others men with less education and/or who make less money, I welcomed it. I was in my late-20’s at the time, and this meant I actually had a chance of not being an old bachelor. I came to see traditional roles as favoring the rich over the poor. This plus other things caused me to question the stereotype of feminists as man-haters. I came to see women’s lib as necessary for the liberation of all humanity; the view that I can’t be all I can be until you can be all you can be. It was at this time I became pro-feminist.

Later I found Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist in Barnes and Noble, which I bought. I read a few other books and followed feminists on Twitter after I got an account (and some followed me back). I found articles on egalitarianism(the view that men and women are equal both in status and role) and came to embrace this label. While I do have questions about certain issues, there is no question that women deserve basic respect that comes from being human, the right to not be restricted by their role but to pursue their dreams,security; in short, human rights!

This is the story of how I became egalitarian and came to identify as pro-feminist; in a later podcast, I’m going to present a case for egalitarianism/feminism.