Feminisms Fest (1) – I’m Not An Accidental Feminist

Participating in the FeminismsFest synchroblog this week (#femfest) feel free to get involved…

What Feminism Means To Me

Two girls in my year at school who got mad at God for not giving Mary any choice with the whole messiah thing were my first experience of people who called themselves feminists, I didn’t get them or like their position very much.

I didn’t believe in politics at that age and a female teacher was dismayed to think I had no sense of the struggle for my vote.

I was also privy to conversations between my mum and her friends about a woman who didn’t take her husbands name and ‘women like that’ making things unecessarily difficult and they weren’t surprised that the marriage didn’t last…

So I didn’t like feminists I knew, I didn’t know very much about it and I was witnessed women who were suspicious and rejected feminism as unhelpful and rebellious….

I remember encountering a woman called Ros shortly after I’d left home who proudly called herself a feminist, we were sitting round her kitchen table in the mountains with her daughters and she carefully and determinedly talked about patriarchy and the oppression of women.  I remember noticing that this was Saturday morning conversation, there was no apology, no anger or aggression, just an implicit respect for herself, her daughters and her contribution to the world and flowed very naturally from her faith as well as critiqued her church- it was a surprise (in that I’d never encountered it before) and deeply impressive.

I was always encouraged to do anything, I was taught to study, to work and achieve and this was role modelled by both parents.  They spoke about male headship in relation to the Bible but I witnessed a very mutual, equal and respectful relationship that didn’t prescribe any particular gender roles.  I was never told I couldn’t do anything because of body parts or a role by my parents.

Then I encountered conservative churches that didn’t believe in women in leadership around the same time that I first heard the word misogyny.  I remember sitting with a new friend after a philosophy lecture, shocked that a ‘hatred of women’ could be a well known, intellectualised and defined term and worldview that influenced things like theology.

 Up until now I had thought theology was all about love

I thought it was wrong that church was excluding women based on body parts and gender assumptions that certainly weren’t supported by my experience.  I saw many talented, holy and committed women overlooked in order that not so talented, immature and sometimes egotistical men could be given a leadership role and/or responsibility.

I commited to exploring the thinking, reasoning, theology and interpretation that supported such a discriminatory approach to church as well as participating fully in a church that didn’t limit women for the reason of being woman.

I love feminism, I’m so proud of it, honoured and humbled. 

In the same way that I respect the diversity of the Christian faith celebrating some parts and despairing of others I do the same for feminism. I am honoured by all that have gone before me to make it possible for me to vote, work, study, write, mother, politicise, travel etc – and I am inspired by those that have gone further to identify feminism as a tool by which we identify oppression.  Feminist thought has helped to critique, subvert and deconstruct much more than the oppression of women – by identifying the problem of treating women as non-persons it highlights the issue for other non-persons in the world.

This definition accentuates the fact that feminism is a radical concept…this definition alludes to the radical democratic power of all people.  It echoes the democratic motto ‘we the people’ and positions feminism within radical democratic discourses which argue for the rights of all people…It evokes memories of struggles for dignity, full citizenship, and decision making powers in society and religion…Theologically, feminism understands wo/men as people of G*d and indicts the death-dealing power of oppression as structural sin and life-destroying evil…Feminism is thus best understood as a theoretical perspective and historical movement for changing socio-cultural and communal religious structures of domination and exploitation. – Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza

I’m not an accidental feminist, a third wave feminist, an essentialist feminist, a Christian feminist or a biblical feminist.  I’m a feminist and I’ll take all that comes with that solitary word – because I’ll take the struggle, the shame, the wrestling, the politics, the pride and the triumph.  I’ve worked at and learnt feminism, ingested and inhaled it and I’ve been invested with vision for it by people as well as God.  Sometimes God has been people and sometimes people have been God – often God has been a woman.  Feminism sits right down in my bones, my blood, my soul and my heart – to me it holds enormous potential for understanding justice. (However, I loved this piece that contains a valid and provocative critique)
There are too many writers to mention who have inspired me but I think its really important to speak of the real life women who’ve made feminism real for me.  Catherine who taught me about the imperative we all have as ‘social guardians’,  Jane who taught me about the skill of management and connection as wholly herself in her own style, Oonagh who taught me about being articulate, intelligent and compassionate, Helen who taught me to value myself and take rest, Nel who taught me about speaking and analysis, Jo  who taught me about confidence, leadership, vision and preaching and another Jo who taught me about humour, strength and debate.  My mother taught me about independence, confidence and compassion  and my sisters teach me about individuality and intimacy all the time.
(c) Harriet Long 2012

(c) Harriet Long 2012

Tomorrow’s #femfest considers why feminism is important…


Filed under Gender

3 responses to “Feminisms Fest (1) – I’m Not An Accidental Feminist

  1. Ariel Price

    Awesome post. I love that you embrace all that comes with the term “feminist”—the good, the bad, the ugly. Like you, I was around complimentarians all the time, but even then, the message I often got was that everyone was equal. This is one of my problems with complementarianism—it just doesn’t seem consistent!

  2. I love your approach. Beautifully done. Thank you.

  3. Pingback: Feminisms Fest (3) Our Exploding Feminine Mystique | harrietlong

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