Saturday, February 15, 2014

Feminism in Christianity Different Types of Feminism Throughout Culture Part 2

Psalm 146:7 “who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free”

In my last post on Feminism, I stated how Plenty of Christians and churches held anti-feminists views, declaring feminism as a whole as an attack on the godly way of life, including marriage, family etc and basically anti-male.  I also claimed to an extent the more radical forms of feminism that came about during the second wave women’s movement justified some of these arguments, but the origins of feminism was always about gaining more fair rights to women that were denied to them in the male-dominated society.  The trouble today is because of the more extremists radical feminist philosophies spewed during the past decades, many today are skeptical about feminism as a whole and many woman, including the ones who support women’s equality in society are reluctant to declare themselves feminists.  Today society only relates feminism to the radical 1970s bra-burning feminists who rejected male chivalry and the traditional roles of housewives.  

I mentioned before, that I myself have separated myself from being considered a feminist because of these stereotypical ideal of what modern feminism is about.  However, after doing more research on the history of feminism throughout the culture, I found that feminism isn’t pigeonholed as many believe.  In fact I discovered there have been different types or branches of feminist philosophies that have been declared over the decades and even centuries that I would like to take the time to describe giving a better understand of feminism as a whole.  First, there was classical feminism better known as first wave feminism that occurred between the 18th and 19th century.  Around this time were two different branches, egalitarian feminism and conservative feminism.  Egalitarian feminism was more progressive type that supported women’s independence rather than be pigeonholed as wives, mothers and homemakers and viewed men and women essentially the same in nature in which deserving of the same rights under the law.  

Egalitarian feminism had its roots from the writings of 18th century British philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote the famous book “A Vindication of the Rights of Women”.  Ms. Wollstonecraft was a free-thinker who believed women are not inferior to men should be treated equally morally and politically.  She advocated equal education for women as the key believing women’s inferiority in status was due to the lack of education.  Then there was conservative feminism, which was a more traditional and family-centered- ideology.  This type of feminism actually embraced women’s roles as wives, others, homemakers, caregivers and nurturers. It also promoted more rights for women beyond these roles by arguing that women could use their unique gifts and abilities in society for good in charity works and political affairs.  As Ms. Wollstonecraft was the root of egalitarian feminism, conservative feminism received its roots from Hannah More, an 18th century British religious writer, philanthropist and political activist and abolitionist.  Just like Ms. Wollstonecraft, Ms. More supported women have more opportunities in education.  However, she acknowledged the gender differences between the sexes.  In, fact she believed women should use their unique natural abilities beyond the household and to contribute to society especially in charity work.  During the time period, many looked upon egalitarian feminism with suspicion and skepticism while conservative feminism was more praised and embraced by many women.  

While Feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan influence the second wave feminism, other branches of feminism emerged.  There was difference feminism which was originally coined by feminist and psychologist Carol Gilligan.  This type of feminism promotes the equal status yet essential natural differences between the sexes that extend beyond biological and physiological. Ms. Gilligan promoted the view that men and women have different moral reasoning ethnically with men being more concerned with justice and rules and women more concerned with caring and relationships. Ms. Gilligan believed both these traits were equally valuable which verified in her 1982 book “A Different Voice”.  However, others like Nel Noddings who published the book “Caring” believed that the female traits were morally superior.  A similar branch is known as cultural feminism.  Like difference feminism, it affirms and embraces the differences between the sexes. This ideology also attempts to place value on the female traits that were once undervalued.  Although this term was coined in the 1970s, many claimed that 19th century journalist and feminist Margaret Fuller contributed to cultural feminism. Even women’s suffragist Jane Addams(daughter of Illinois state senator John H. Addams) supported some the cultural feminist ideologies.  Other beliefs are that traditional women’s roles as the caretaker, domestic and child care worker in the home should be considered equally valuable in society.  Former scholar and author Christina Hoff Sommers who published books “Who Stole Feminism?” and “The War Against Boys” defined two forms of feminism, equity feminism and gender feminism.  

Equity feminism is basically about advocating equal rights and protection under the law that also consists of fair employment, salaries, education etc.  However, gender feminism is more focused on eliminating gender roles and stereotypes and viewing women as victims of the male dominated society.  Ms. Sommers considers herself an equity feminist and criticizes gender feminism as she herself supports acknowledging gender differences between males and females. Other forms feminist branches are liberal feminism, an individualistic form of feminist theory that supports women having individual rights under the a law and including workplace, education, abortion rights etc  focus on the similarities between the sexes while downplay the differences.  Socialist feminism, which focuses on the oppression of women in the patriarchal society in both the public life and private life of the home as it seeks ways to end it. Separatist feminism is a more radical controversial form of idealogy that advocates women to separate from male-defined and male-dominated institutions, relationships, roles and activities as many believe that men cannot make a positive contribution to the women’s movement.  In this feminist branch there are heterosexual separatists that advocate for celibacy either for periods of time for personal growth or a permanent way of living. 

The lesbian separatists reject any form of heterosexuality altogether.  The separatists also advocate women-only communities and many may hold a misandristic stance.  Finally other branches include black feminism, also known as womanism deals with the racial and gender oppression of black women who felt excluded from the women’s movement and the black liberation movement and a more conservative feminist organization “Feminists For Life in America” that has an anti-abortion and pro-life stance.  Although, the Christian community has a history of attacking the secular feminism as enemy to the Christian faith, in the past, Christians have been involved with feminism.  Some of the early women suffragists were devoted Christians.  Plenty of them were members of the “Women’s Christian Temperance Union”, an organi-zation that was formed in the late 19th century that was concerned with social reforms that included the prohibition of alcohol, prostitution, labor, sanitation, public health and international peace. It also dealt with evangelicalism, missionary work and sup-ported women’s suffrage.  This organization still exists today. 

Around the second wave feminism, a Christian branch of feminism known as Christian feminism emerged. This had a feminist theology that dealt with gender equality morally, spiritually and in leadership.  It also held views on ordination of women, equality in marriage, reproductive rights, and the Holy Ghost was replaced with Sophia/Wisdom, a female side of God.  Katharine Bushnell, a 19th century bible scholar, doctor, author, missionary and social activist best known for her 1921 book “God’s Word To Women” also held some feminist theology.  The late Catherine Clark Kroeger, considered an evangelical feminist and author to the book “I suffer Not a Woman” was the founder the world wide organization Christians For Biblical Equality.  In the mid-1990s, the late Pope John Paul II called for an alternative brand of brand of the women’s movement known as the New Feminism.  This feminist branch was a form of difference feminism, with a more conservative stance.  It embraces the gender differences between the sexes, is family-oriented and supported women’s roles as child-bearers, wives, mothers and homemakers similar to the earlier conservative feminism of the 18th century.  

Just like the old feminism it promotes equality for women under the law and worth and value free from discrimination, violence and exploitation. Also believes women can contribute to society whether a stay-at home mom, working mom, single career woman.  Unlike the old feminism, it is promotes a pro-life, is against contraceptives and in-vitro-fertilization and doesn’t advocate women’s ordination.  Although many members of the new feminist movement are catholic, it also has includes non-catholics alike.  I’ve listened and detailed the many feminist branches within the feminist movement throughout the centuries and decades and believe it can give many people, especially a better understanding what feminism as whole was about with their different and unique perspectives each branch holds the good and the bad rather than judge and condemn it altogether bases on a the typical stereotypes.  

It also should be known that Jesus Christ was considered the first liberator of women, some may even consider the very first feminist.  In Jesus times, women were considered inferior under the law, in worth and basically property of men.  They weren’t even allowed to testify in court trials, go out in public and talk to strangers.  Jesus rejected the patriarchal male- dominated society of that time and treated women as equal status to men.  He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well and taught women the gospel including the sisters Martha and Mary at their home.  Jesus also had women as disciples who along with the male disciples followed him in his ministry.  Regarding feminism, I the only feminist philosophy I support is holding men and women as equal status under the law, equal worth value and regard in personhood.  At the same time, affirming some of the gender differences with their unique strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities.  

As Christians we should follow Christ’s example that includes acknowledging equality of men and women as the work together in the gospel, rejecting all chauvinistic attitudes to live biblically in honoring god, our lord in savior.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Feminism in Christianity History of Feminism Part 1

Isaiah 1:17 “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause”.

I wanted to take the time to discuss and analyze the ideology of feminism especially in the Christian society because this term is often viewed negatively among Christians as whole.  Often times, I've read anti-feminist arguments in Christian sermons, articles, blogs and other websites, where feminism is blamed and condemned for destroying the society from the nuclear family unit, marriages, loose attitudes and gender lines being blurred.  Feminism, for many Christians, is looked upon as an evil threat to Christianity altogether.  

I myself am not a feminist any more than I’m a traditionalist and have acknowledged the hindrance that the extreme radical feminism caused in the past several decades.  However, I don’t share the anti-feminist attitudes that many Christians share.  In fact, some of the ideals of feminism I agree with, while others I don’t.  I also recognize the positive effects on society due to the feminist movement which is why I feel compelled to defend it when others quickly condemn feminism altogether.  Even in the secular society, many tend to separate themselves from feminism, mainly because of what the stereotypes of what modern feminism represents and use it as a scapegoat to blame on many of society’s problems.  Mainly when people think of feminism, they convey the stereotype of the over zealous anti-male, anti-marriage, that doesn't see a real difference between the two sexes other than biological, views any traditional gender roles as sexist and demeaning.  Maybe to understand feminism better, we should understand its origins and how historically it impacted society.  

Historically, feminism was an ideology that supported equal status for women regarding political, economical, social and individual rights in an era when women were denied these rights and treated like second-class citizens.  The first feminist movement began in 19th century, regarded as the first-wave feminism or better known as the women’s suffrage which existed in all the continents in many countries. This movement began to ensure women have the basic rights to vote, own and control her property, earnings and inheritance, the right to hold public office and a few other legal rights to protect them under the law.  Around this time period, women could not only vote, but if she married her husband would inherit her property and money even if these things were inherited to her.  Many times, education was also denied to women as some universities were closed off to women as they were expected to get married young anyway.  Divorce laws favored men(in contrast to today’s society) as woman couldn't divorce a man on grounds of adultery alone, she had to prove abandonment while it was opposite for men and child custody was more likely to be awarded to the man.  In the U.S., numerous women’s organizations were formed and there were famous suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Julia Ward Howe, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns who all help pave the way for women to have more equal status in society.  

By the late 19th century women in all the states gained right to have control of her own property, inheritance and money.  Some states even gave women the right to vote until the 19th Amendment in 1920 that gained women in all the states voting rights.  Education also improved for some women as women’s organizations were formed to support women to pursue certain fields that were denied to her.  Some women even became politicians including being elected in congress.  Between the first and second world wars, women were involved in the military and war efforts as women’s military corps were formed and plenty served overseas.  The 1960s brought about the second wave feminism popularly known as the women’s movement.  This movement of women’s rights was expanded included equal employment, salaries, education, more legal rights and for more opportunities that closed off to them.  Women were breaking barriers and entering into male-dominated fields that were once denied to them that included the workforce, politics, sports, military etc.  They also fought for more protection under the law that included domestic violence, sexual harassment, marital rape and even the right to have bank account or a credit card without their husbands’ permission.  

Women were also changing roles in the family life as well.  More women with families were encouraged to enter the workforce or further their education in order to expand their roles beyond that of housewives.  Plus, changing old marriage model that had the husband being the dominant role and the wife being a subordinate into a marriage of equal partnership was also encouraged.  The women’s movement continued throughout 1970s as women gained more rights, freedom and independence than before and allowed to contribute more to society and be in charge of their own lives.  They also broke down rigid gender stereotypes and other chauvinist misconceptions that once prevailed.  Helen Reddy sang the empowering song “I am Woman” in 1972.  In 1973 Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs at Tennis match in Houston, paving the way for more female athletes.  These were all good, well meaning necessary changes indeed.  However, despite its many positive aspects, there were also downsides as well that caused more damage than good.  

Somewhere in the middle of the women’s movement was a more radical and militant type of feminism.  This type of feminism held extremist philosophies which could be misandristic, anti-marriage, anti-family and viewed traditional roles such as housewives as oppressive, chivalrous gestures and any form of male protection as sexists and a threat to women’s independence.  Feminist Betty Friedan published her famous book “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963 which helped sparked the second wave feminist movement.  Other more radical feminists included Valerie Solonas published the 1967 book “Scum Manifesto”.  Gloria Steinem quoted that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.  Other radical feminist attitudes were that gender was a social construct and there were no real differences between the sexes except for different male and female anatomy.  Roles like men being gentlemen and women being ladies were suddenly considered restrictive, outdated and unnecessary.  More women starting to use the freedom of sexual equality to engage in negative behavior once dominated by men, including promiscuity, binge drinking, very physically aggressive and loutish behavior etc.  During the 1980s and 1990s, attitudes followed that women had to be more like men to be equal especially in the workforce, being “one of the boys” was the goal.  Plus women bought into the myth that they can have it all and do it all, since men seemed able to.  In the aftermath, so much more confusion and chaos occurred.  

Men began to feel threatened by feminism and view it as attack upon them and society, sometimes justifiable so, as men were rebuffed for the simplest chivalrous gestures as opening a door for a lady, and treated as the enemy by the more radical man-hating feminists. In today’s society, the aftermath continues to cause effect as gender lines have blurred, some men no longer no what their roles are or feel society as feminized them. Women began to realize that they can’t do it all, at least not at all at once.  Both genders began to complain about the other women are frustrated with the lack of gallantry and gentlemen behavior of men, and men complain of the lack of appreciation of such gestures and ladylike behavior of women.  Feminism and equality has been distorted, misinterpreted and misused to justify lazy, ungallant and other unsuitable behavior or other ignorant logic in both of the sexes. It has also been used to ignore some natural and logical distinct gender differences that include physical strength and certain other capabilities.  

Today many people are squeamish about the word feminism because of what it usually conjures up usually the ideals of the radical feminist zealots of the second wave feminist movement.  For Christians and seculars, alike view feminism as dirty word, a harmful ideology that is attack on men or a once better way of life and to blame for many of the problems of today.  It’s understandable that both genders are frustrated with the problems of today that were created in the aftermath of radical feminism of the second wave movement.  However, I don’t believe viewing feminism as a whole as evil, an attack on society and a scapegoat for all of today’s problems are the answer nor is going back completely the traditional way of life.  Let’s not forget plenty of the traditional ideals of the by gone era, had many disadvantage as well especially for women and feminism at that time as necessary to combat these disadvantages.  Maybe, today there should be balance of respecting equality that includes the workforce, education and basically constitutional rights for all citizens.  Yet still revive and embrace some of the good traditional morals and ideals of the past that are beneficial for both the sexes.  

Understanding that equal doesn't mean identical and respecting some gender distinctions that may include different strengths and weaknesses.  More for Christians there should be godly and biblical principals that should be the first and foremost priority and over the feminist agenda.  Hopefully, for Christians this can be accomplished.  I will discuss more about feminist ideologies in another post.