#FaithFeminisms is born out of a desire to move the conversation beyond declaring and defending our identities as feminists of faith. Claiming the feminist identity is important and often difficult, but we recognize that it is only the first step toward becoming active participants in the work of liberation for all. We are through defending ourselves; we commit ourselves to the business of getting feminist work done, and we call others to join us. Tired of conversations that constantly re-center the privileged experience, we have established #FaithFeminisms to offer a more in-depth conversation that intentionally centers the voices of marginalized people and does not waste time trying to validate our worth to those who would co-opt our stories in order to bolster their reputations as “allies” while simultaneously perpetuating Empire business.
We are here to speak truth to power. We are here to press forward into discomfort and disruption, knowing that systems must be broken in order to effect change, knowing that peacemaking does not mean being peaceful. We are here to affirm, center, and stand in solidarity with those who have been marginalized and oppressed. We are here to bear the fruits of our faith and our feminism, in our work and our witness, as we press on toward the goal of Kingdom justice.
Here’s a look back at this week on #FaithFeminisms:
In an effort to broaden conversations about diverse feminisms’ dialogue with theology and faith, we are responding to God’s call to be called out, that is, ekklesia – the Church, the Body, and those gathered together who are literally the “called out” ones. In response to God’s Spirit we are calling ourselves out, we are putting a call out, and we are calling the Church deeper into resurrecting faith.
One professor would ignorantly make comments about women not having to pay attention in class because he was “talking to the men who would be ordained.” Sexism became a consistent presence. Sexism appeared to be inspired, inerrant, and authoritative and had become the hermeneutic through which my professors and classmates read the Bible.
Good thing God never gives up on those whom God calls. Good thing I am a tenacious, outspoken woman. Good thing I discovered feminism.
Feminism saved my faith, reminding me that God was on the move and the call I felt as a five-year-old was growing stronger and stronger.
As a person who is privileged in many ways, I have wrestled with the desire to identify myself as an ally, to carry a placard proclaiming my solidarity to oppressed people. This desire never comes from a place of humble focus on the oppressed person and their needs and wants, but from my own arrogance: “You can totally trust me!” say my motives. “Not all [white/straight/cis/etc. people] are like that! I’m one of the good ones!” Labeling myself an ally serves only to recenter my own identity, experiences, and feelings in a movement that is not and should not be about me.
My feminism began the moment I learned the Bible was not shaming me. If the Divine was not ashamed of me, I need not be shamed either. These women [of the Bible] pointed the way toward a womanhood that was not dependent on male acceptance of who I am or what I want. In them I found courage to choose my own way, to defy social convention, to resist oppression, to.be.myself.
Before I knew it, I was maturing. My feminism was finding the intersection of race. It was exploring my own privileges while acknowledging the oppressions. It was expanding to include all women, all races, all classes, all forms of social injustice. It was expanding to seek equality, wholeness, rightness- shalom. It’s still expanding as I walk with friends down intersections unknown to me.
I had been asleep, maybe dead for awhile, until I began to speak about God – to speak about faith and church, my family, and about racism and sexism. I spoke about my life, and I didn’t need to qualify it or explain it, defend it or have someone else affirm it. And speaking brought logos-life to my bones, and the resurrection somehow meant more when I saw that God was not man or a white man but someone who shared in my humanity right down to the core of my struggles. God became possibility, the ground of all being, חסד (the Hebrew word hesed – “steadfast love,” “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty”), continuous and constant presence, Wisdom and grace, giver of life, flesh-and-blood passion and love, and beyond-words.
Old habits die hard; listening to the voices of other feminists opens my eyes to the pitfalls of my privileged background, the ones that tempt me to do any and all of the following :
- to shy away from naming the powers and principalities at work, and ignore the systemic sins that perpetuate the oppression of God’s image-bearers.
- to think myself clean of these systemic oppressions – racism, sexism, ableism, classism – simply because they are covert and easily disguised within my own communities.
- to think myself a safe person and ally, when my behavior has not earned the trust of marginalized people.
- to think that labeling my feminism with the words “Jesus” or “Christian” absolves me of participating in what feminism actually is, educating myself on its central principles and its history.
The insularity and homogeneity that white evangelicalism instilled in me threatens the authenticity of my Christian feminism. By listening to diverse voices and accepting the lived experiences of others, they help me name the darkness.
It’s not good enough for men to espouse justice for women merely as a philosophical or even theological exercise. I went to a ministry event once, a mini-conference hosted by a well-known “missional” network, and was told by the pastors leading the event that they hoped for more women to take on leadership roles in their organization, that they were so happy I was there. They were practically gushing with enthusiasm. But then I discovered they were both head pastors in a denomination that doesn’t even ordain women. How are they to be believed? You can’t denounce the system and continue to benefit from it if you want to be taken seriously by women as a male feminist.[…] Do male feminists want to be taken seriously by women, or just other men, as players of some intellectual game, as paragons of enlightenment? Do men with enough liberal arts education to call themselves “feminists” really think they have anything to learn from women? What about men with an MDiv, too? As Austin–who posted yesterday–remarked today, maybe what male feminists really want is “our love without our leadership.”
At the time, I hadn’t really thought about it. I was probably in the grey, unsure of where my loyalties were supposed to lie. I mean, I knew I loved God, and I knew I wanted to honor that in my life. But I also knew that my discovery of feminism was what enabled me to find the resolve to leave an abusive home and strike out on a life free of violence and nightmares. Feminism was my guiding light and beacon. Feminism told me I was worth being treated well and kindly, that I did not need to submit to torture and mental torment from someone else, that being male and in power was not a god-given right or role, and that I was allowed to reject those teachings and embrace a healthy life for myself. I held on to those ideals in the dark, when I was at my lowest, to remind me that I was doing the right thing in leaving abuse and not going back.
[P]lenty of Christians profess to believe in gender equality right alongside female submission and a hierarchy of roles in church and home. But more inclusive theologies and progressive politics aren’t a reliable indicator of functional equality either. If they were, certain denominations and communities would be that great Promised Land where none were limited by gender, skin color, ethnicity, status, sexuality, or any other difference, but we’re not there yet by a long shot. We’re not post-racial or post-feminist, yet we’re so eager for progress (and distance from those sorts of people) that we’re ever tempted to claim victories prematurely. Belief in equality of worth slowly morphs into the misconception that structural equality has already been functionally achieved. Mission Accomplished. We did it! ….
If a noble concept such as “equality” can be so consistently twisted to include or overlook subordination, propped up hierarchies, and a host of harmful and exclusionary practices and beliefs, perhaps it’s time to change the conversation.
Reform is not enough. We refuse to be tricked into believing that inherently violent systems can be made friendlier. Women of color feminism is not simply about being “nicer” to an individual and it is about more than making prisons or the police seem “nicer”. We believe that choosing to leave these systems entirely intact while bandaging wounds is not grasping the problem at its roots, but instead continuously pruning the branches of a structure growing more violent and more powerful. Our pruning helping to maintain and justify a violent structures by making them seem reformed. The problem with the left calling out the right is it allows them to name their sin loudly and declare “this is what racism or sexism looks like and we’re not like that.” It allows them to participate in the same systems of oppression without any self-examination and to benefit from structures that are themselves harmful. It is a more insidious form of oppression and racism. Niceness has done more harm than good. Niceness is a tool of the colonizer. Niceness (civility) was born with the creation of liberal democracy, in which only those considered citizens were allowed to communicate their ideas nicely. Instead we need abolishment. Oscar Wilde once said the worst thing a charity can do is to alleviate the pangs of oppression, thus perpetuating the systems causing them. A slave owner who was really “nice” to his slaves was still a slaveholder. There’s a way in which our demeanor or knowledge do not line up with our actions or excuse our complicity in violence.
But wait, there’s more.
Our purpose for #FaithFeminisms is not about setting ourselves up as paragons of justice and feminism, nor about putting forth “our way” as the way of Right, but about putting the voices of women to the loudspeaker and letting the sound wash over and change us all. We are all learning and growing together, and we invite you to learn and grow alongside us.
In addition to the ten blog posts linked above, two dozen thirty-second videos of people discussing their #FaithFeminisms experiences have been curated on our #30sol page in cooperation with the podcast Thirty Seconds or Less. We had so many submissions that we couldn’t fit them all into this week, so watch for more videos to be added over the next week.
Furthermore, over a hundred posts have been added to the link-up. There’s some incredible and powerful writing there, and we encourage you to use the list to get to know new-to-you feminist voices and perspectives.
We also invite you to join the Killjoy Prophets’ proposed week of “collective action to shed light on the Marissa Alexander case as a continuation of #FaithFeminisms”:
Marissa Alexander is a Black woman of faith who is facing up to 60 years in prison as punishment for surviving. She was a victim of domestic violence and sent a warning shot into the ceiling in fear for her life. The cops arrested her and she has been in the criminal justice system for three years now, which is an extension of the violence she experienced at home.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting involved. We hope to see Christians mobilize for Marissa’s freedom and move our faith into action. Let’s keep the momentum going.
The #FaithFeminisms conversation doesn’t end here, just as it didn’t begin here. #FaithFeminisms week wasn’t simply a pep rally; we must continue to spur each other on toward a more excellent way. As the Killjoy Prophets pointed out in their post, the process of liberation is one of continual transformation; death and rebirth. It is the business of the Kingdom to overturn hierarchies and struggle against powers and principalities; but we also must admit that for many of us our feminism has been informed by and complicit with those very powers and principalities. May we have the humility to burn it all down and trust in the Gospel of all-things-made-new.