Labels are scary. When I'm blogging on tumblr, where many of my followers seem to be feminists, I have been reluctant to talk much about Christianity. I worry they might equate my Christianity with a certain set of politics and decide I'm not the right kind of feminist.
I have a tag on this blog that I've used a couple times: "feminism - maybe". In my "real" off-line life I have sometimes been reluctant to call myself a feminist because many people I know equate feminism with a "secular agenda."
There are more substantial problems with both labels too. No, I don't agree with everything ever advocated in the name of feminism. I can sympathize with those who find the feminist label problematic because they feel the movement has not embraced them as women of color, trans-women, etc. Yes, I'm concerned about racism, poverty, sexual abuse, and rape of both sexes (and all genders). Sometimes I think I should just go with the label humanist.
And yet I'm afraid not to identify as feminist.
I'm afraid because misogyny, patriarchy and rape culture are insidiously hidden in the way many people speak.
I'm afraid because this isn't just a woman's issue; patriarchy and rape culture hurt men too, so feminism is humanism.
I'm afraid because in a culture of pervading marginalization, if I don't speak my convictions loud and proud, my silence may be seen as endorsing the norms.
As I've said in my previous post, if there's one thing my feminism challenges, it's my Christian faith. Sometimes my faith challenges my feminism. However, I'm also afraid not to declare myself a Christian feminist.
I'm a Christian feminist because I've sat through sermons where it was declared that if a woman's ankles are showing she is naked.
I'm a Christian feminist because a man whose religion seems to be about preventing the spread of women's ordination has sat in my parents' house and said, "You lie," to his wife. He publicly spoke those hurtful words merely because she disagreed with him on what time she'd been ready for church that morning.
I'm a Christian feminist because when a prominent youth leader in my denomination raped a young woman, some people considered her the devil's instrument to bring "a man of God" down.
I'm a Christian feminist because I think more women in leadership would mean that situations like the one above would be handled with more compassion and understanding for the survivor, less commiseration for the member of the boy's club.
Yet, somehow, in all this "I'm afraid", my feminism is about seeking perfect love that casts out fear. (1 John 4: 18)
Feminism is about casting out the fear every woman feels walking alone at night. Who are we kidding? It's a fear every woman feels walking alone. Period.
Feminism is about casting out the fear every rape survivor feels in telling her story, because she knows "What were you wearing?" and "Have you had sex with him before?" will be asked.
Feminism is about ending the fear every woman has that an unplanned child will shut her door to education or hang a scarlet letter around her neck.
Feminism is about casting out the fear of hearing expressions of surprise, disapproval or hatred directed at women in more typically male-dominated careers, disciplines or activities.
Feminism is about how I just reworded the above sentence from "masculine careers" to "male-dominated", because we start telling girls and boys how their minds should work so early in life.
Feminism is about making these fears obsolete because women are treated as full humans.
In closing, let me return to the question of labels. I choose to consider myself a Christian, despite having dozens of questions and being appalled by countless "Christians" who have besmirched the name. I embrace the label because it connects me with a community of people across time, continents, race, and gender, who have loved the same Person. The name connects us in our questions; even if they aren't answerable now, we're committed to seeking answers, seeking love.
The same is true for me as a feminist. Yes, I still have unanswered questions about feminism, some of which I'll talk about in tomorrow's post. However, embracing the label grafts me to the movement, the passion, the search, the conversations. I am invested in this ideal and in its everyday, gritty practicalities. Like my faith, feminism gives me hope while I bleed for a suffering world. Yes, some days it makes me afraid. Ultimately, though, it gives me a vision of love casting out the fear and torment faced by women around the world.
What about you? What gives you vision and hope? What labels do you embrace or reject?