Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Christian Feminist

As I follow the blogs of women like Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Moon,  Dianna Anderson, and Danielle Vermeer, I can’t help but admire their desire to fight for gender equality within the church. I didn’t stay to fight that fight. I left. But because I see religion as something that will always be with us, or at least for the foreseeable future, I applaud efforts to make religion less patriarchal and more egalitarian.

And really, what I find especially impressive is their ability to take a deep breath and explain, for the millionth time, the problem with complementarian ideas. And they do this over and over and over again. Do you have any idea how hard it is to explain, again, something you think should be completely obvious – and something that is extremely important to you – to someone who just doesn’t get it no matter how many times you explain it? Hard. VERY HARD.

At some point I think I just got too angry to do it. Maybe I was just burned that badly, but when I hear someone arguing for complementarianism, I feel like I’m going to explode.

Men and women are equal, they just have different roles in life, and especially in the marital relationship.

Complementarianism is actually a sweet deal for women – they’re protected and provided for.

It’s not hierarchy - it’s loving, Christ-like, servant leadership. Who wouldn’t want that?

No. Just, no. Because I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I know what it means. I feel like I want to bubble over in rage because it’s all just code language. It’s an attempt to paper over the inequality of women by pretending it doesn’t exist while simultaneously endorsing it.

I grew up in a family that practiced complementarianism. The language makes it sound all pretty, but the language doesn’t mention the tears, the tension, the anger. The language doesn’t mention that complementarianism means forcing yourself into a one-size-fits-all role, and then hobbling along like you’re walking in shoes two sizes too small when it doesn’t fit. For, you know, the rest of your life.

As I watched my parents I saw complementarianism turn something that could have been an incredibly strong and perfectly equal partnership into something fraught with strife and pain, tension and tears. And then I saw that turned on me. The moment I was asked to submit completely because my male authority spoke with the voice of God, I fled. I ran, ran through the tears and the pain, and I didn’t look back.

At some point I just got too mad. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t listen to someone spout off those lines and then answer calmly, I just can’t. Instead, my gut rises inside me and I want to scream, and at the last moment I stop myself and turn away.

I’m tired of feeling like gender equality is something I need to prove. It shouldn’t be.

And as Rachel and Sarah and Dianna and Danielle lift the Bible and Christian theology and turn to refute the arguments of complementarians, I’m glad that’s something I don’t have to do. After all, I don’t believe the Bible is divinely inspired and I don’t believe there is a God or gods. This means that when someone quotes scripture at me or speaks of God-given gender roles, I don’t have to step onto their terrain to fight that battle. And honestly, that’s a damned good thing, because at the moment I don’t think I could. Instead I simply say no. No, I don’t have to believe your book, no, I don’t have to listen to the dictates of your god, and no, I don’t have to put up with your attempts to control my choices! Just, no.

I probably look like the exact stereotype of the “angry feminist,” but you know what? I am angry. And I think I have a right to be.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://louisebroadbentfiction.wordpress.com Louise Broadbent

    All feminists are angry. They wouldn’t be feminists if they weren’t. But that makes perfect sense to me. What doesn’t make sense are the people who aren’t angry – who see the way people continue to be treated in terms of gender stereotypes and are fine with that. Especially if they’re supposed to follow Christian teachings of loving thy neighbour. Pigeon-holing a person is not loving. Ordering a person and expecting them to obey because they happen to be a woman is not loving. But neither is forcing someone to take on a leadership role just because they happen to be a man.

    • Jason Dick

      Though to be fair, forcing somebody into a leadership role is a heck of a lot less onerous than forcing them into a subservient one.

      Personally, as a cis hetero white male these, “it’s bad for men too,” arguments fall a bit flat. Sure, there are a few men that are hurt by being forced into authoritative positions. But there are one heck of a lot of men that get off on it. Sure, there may be some disadvantages, but they seem to me to be completely overshadowed by the massive advantages that society provides for people like myself. To me, what really gets my blood boiling is simply unfairness. It is just not fair that women should always be forced into subservient positions. That women should be paid less. That women should be promoted less. That women should be expected to enjoy the company of any man that feigns a bit of interest.

      I don’t always have the perspective to recognize unfairness when it happens. But I do try.

      • http://louisebroadbentfiction.wordpress.com Louise Broadbent

        Oh I agree, it’s definitely less bad. I just think it’s important to remember that women aren’t the only victims (I hate that word) of gender inequality.

  • BabyRaptor

    My grandparents practiced complementarianism (spellcheck does not like that word) for a good chunk of their marriage, along with a lot of other extreme fundamental practices.

    That changed when my grandfather had an affair and they started talking divorce. My grandmother realized exactly how helpless she was, and how lost she would be if he left. She also realized that my grandfather would likely get custody of me, because she wouldn’t be able to support herself, muchless herself and a young teenager.

    They ended up deciding to work on things and, last I heard (I have no contact anymore, their wishes) were still together. But after that she started demanding a lot more 50/50 than before. And I saw all this firsthand, so I had a good picture of what doesn’t work.

  • machintelligence

    Just say no. I like that line, but remember, you are being impolite. Of course, to some people simply being an atheist is impolite. To quote Daniel Dennett ( I warned you I tend to do that)

    “There is no polite way to say ‘With all due respect, sir, have you considered the possibility that you have blighted your whole life with fantasy and are polluting the minds of defenseless children with dangerous nonsense.”‘

    Or perhaps a bit of Tim Minchin
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/hallq/files/2012/07/minchin.jpg

    • jemand

      well, to be fair, there also is no polite way to say “you’re an inferior being because of your genitals and you need to let a man rule you.”

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    Although you don’t it in this blog, you infer it – the more Fundamentalistic a family is with their faith the more they tend to run into danger as far has being healthy. I think it is because what we think the rolls of the husband and wife are are not always to be practiced. Yet, if a family abide solely but what a wife should be doing and the husband should be doing for roles, sometimes these roles do not come naturally and to try to make them fit leads to trouble. Some husbands love to cook while some wives hate to cook, as an example.

    I have extended family who are 7th Day Adventists. They live out of state but if I am with them and they go to church I will go with them just for the experience of it all and I get a kick out of the church but also get troubled by the family practice at times as well.

    I think the feminist movement, in the church, needs to be careful as well because the anger involved can and will overtake the women and lead them beyond what they hoped to accomplish within the church. The anger will go from a ‘righteous’ anger to an unbalanced anger in which their belief in God deteriorates to nothing as a result of anger , if that make any sense?

    JW

    • machintelligence

      The anger will go from a ‘righteous’ anger to an unbalanced anger in which their belief in God deteriorates to nothing as a result of anger , if that make any sense?

      And this is supposed to be a bad thing because?

      • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot.com JW

        A bad thing because anger can lead to irrationality if it isn’t balanced. How many people do you know who are angry and that anger has put them out of balance emotionally? That can lead to bad decision making because of being driven out of unbalanced anger.

        Make sense?

        JW

    • jemand

      There’s not enough anger in the world for the way people have been rendered powerless by a church and then victimized for it. Women, children, the poor, etc.

      Was your god’s tantrum in the marketplace about the abuses of the Pharisees “unbalanced” anger?

      If a woman, a feminist, did that today you’d call her unbalanced. In reality, it’s a mark of someone who just cares about the vulnerable more than most.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Oh yes, we ladies need to watch our lady-emotions lest they take us over and make us act like irrational hysterics!

      In religious patriarchy we see women and girls with a diminished sense of self, shame of female bodies and shame, if not outright non-acknowledgement, of female sexuality, choices taken away, abuse excused. In America at large we see women valued less in the workplace and disproportionately in poverty, domestic violence as a leading cause of injury and death in women, state control of women’s bodies and personal lives, and a grim statistic of nearly 20% of women who will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lives. Some have called me an “extremist.” I say shit’s pretty extreme. Some say I’m “too angry.” I’d say I’m just angry enough. And so is Libby and other feminists.

      • jemand

        Also “out of balance emotionally” is as a phrase, usually used as a weapon against women. True, I have seen anger that leads to what seems like a complete break from reason, kindness, everything, but do you know where that usually comes from? Privileged people who are having their attitudes of entitlement questioned…

        When used against feminists, it’s usually just another attack.

      • Clarence

        Petticoat Philosopher:
        Some just say you are full of shit.
        I’m not a Christian. But I’m not a stupid fundamentalist feminist either. It seems you and the blogmistress here have just replaced one religion with another.
        Pathetic.

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      I think there’s a big difference between being angry as a constant emotional state, which is truly exhausting, and being angry at unjust practices and beliefs, which is absolutely necessary for change to ever be effected.

      • Karen

        I’m angry. I’m not out of balance. Yet. But the fight for equality goes on and on and on… and I’m getting old watching it. Grrrrrr…

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        Oh, I don’t think anyone’s unbalanced for being angry about injustice, I just think that people tend to conflate the two and suggest that people who are angry have a psychological or personal problem, which is very delegitimizing.

      • http:.//thisbitchwontshutup.blogspot.com EEB

        I agree. There are times that I have to take a break from politics (and from my conservative family members) because I get too angry. It’s not healthy. My anger is appropriate and justified, but that doesn’t mean that marinating in it is the best thing for my mental health. I take facebook and blog vacations some times, just for a couple days so that I can recharge. Then I’m more effective when I come back.

  • Sarah-Sophia

    I’ve noticed that since becoming a feminist I’ve become more sensitive to subtle patriarchy, and when I point it out they think I’m overreacting; like when I point out that the tradition of a guy asking his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage is disrespectful to her, or that the “boys will be boys” belief is tied to rape culture, and especially if I were to say that extreme princess culture objectifies girls.

    • Maggy

      Being able to notice these issues in our society is the first step in the long process of creating change. Bringing them to the attention of others is a challenge because of the inevitable push back from people of all genders.

      The issue of asking a father for his daughter’s hand is mortifying to me. Yet, all of my siblings either asked future father-in-laws or had someone ask my father this question before they got married. I imagine that if I challenged this practice I would be told that it is a quaint tradition and there is no harm intended. But this symbolic act sends a powerful message. My sister-in-laws and sister never asked their future in-laws if it would be ok to marry their sons. They would have gotten some very funny looks if they did. And what if a father would have said, “No, I’m just not feeling it,” when the guys brought forward their intentions to propose. Would they have changed their decisions?

      Today’s Disney princess culture is somewhat of a sacred cow, too. The responses to anyone who brings forward concerns about the potential problematic nature of their movies will get fairly predictable responses:
      1. Their animated films are sweet children’s movies that can appeal to people of all ages.
      2. Anyone who things they could be sending negative messages about gender, sexuality, race, nationality, etc. is just looking too hard to find those kinds of things.
      Sadly, no one wants to see a treasured piece of their childhood sullied by someone’s critiques.

      • victoria

        You are so right about the Disney thing. We don’t support Disney in our home for a number of reasons (the problematic gender roles being one of the two biggest) and when people find this out they are more often than not really upset about it.

      • machintelligence

        @ victoria

        We don’t support Disney in our home for a number of reasons (the problematic gender roles being one of the two biggest) and when people find this out they are more often than not really upset about it.

        Why should they be upset? It is your decision to make. I knew a few fundamentalist parents that wouldn’t let their children read any of the Harry Potter books or see the movies because they were about witches. I thought it was rather silly to be so upset about fiction, but it was their call.
        Was the other problem the unthinking racism that occurs in so many early Disney films? I think that could be used a a teaching moment about how attitudes have changed.

      • victoria

        @machintelligence — I’m not a fan of that either, but my big problem is that I think it’s deeply immoral for companies to market directly to young children, and Disney is one of the worst offenders–probably the single worst offender, and Nickelodeon’s about the only company that comes close–there.

        I think people get upset because 1.) they think Disney is an integral aspect of a “normal” childhood in America and that you’re depriving your kids of an important experience if you don’t show them Disney movies/buy things with princesses on them/make a pilgrimage to Orlando at some point in the kids’ upbringing and/or 2.) they assume that if someone doesn’t patronize or just dislikes Disney that they are deeply judgmental of people that do (nope!).

    • Karen

      It almost seems like we’ve regressed from the ’70s when I was in high school/college. My husband never dreamed of asking my dad if he could marry me; we were adults. I went home and announced that I was engaged. Done.

      There was also never any question that our married relationship should be one of equals. Mind you, we each play to our own strengths in terms of keeping the household running, the money coming in, the elderly relatives cared for, and whatnot; but small decisions are left to the person most affected, and large decisions are made by compromise.

      Sometimes, when I talk to my peers, it seems like I’ve come through a time warp, and this stuff isn’t true for most people nowadays. Or maybe it was never true, and my experience is just different from most.

    • Christine

      None of the examples you mention are particularly subtle… My husband’s tolerance for most feminist issues is even lower than mine, and he mentioned to me when he proposed that, had he been able to conveniently talk to my parents on his own, he’d have asked for their blessing, but not their permission. (We’re both engineers, and come from a completely different background when it comes to how we look at societal issues and solutions. I took a women’s studies course specifically because I considered myself anti-feminist. We’re neither of us actually anti-feminist, but we’re both opposed to feminist theory a lot of the time, especially after what the writers I had to read for my course said about women in engineering.)

      He is also very much in favour of awareness of cultural norms that allow/encourage inappropriate behaviours, although as you can probably tell from my phrasing, that’s more of a general thing with him than a feminist one.

      Oh, and he’s with me in re-using all the “gendered” clothing we have for our little girl if we have a boy. He actually goes further than I do – he feels that it can all be reused, not just the unisex stuff that happens to be pink (well, probably not the dresses, but I’m not positive).

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        Out of pure curiosity, Christine, if you happen to read this, what did those writers say about women in engineering?

      • Christine

        It was a lot of little things that just really showed that they didn’t get it. One case study of a women in technology group was given. They had been given a survey, and from the results of this survey it was seen that the women felt isolated. Which is great, except that none of the questions asked about that. This had to come from the answers that stated “yes, I am often the only women or one of only a few in my class”. There was a fair bit of missing the fact that it’s not male/female that determines if you’ll have a hard time, but how macho you are. (A macho woman will have no trouble, a man who isn’t is more likely to do so). Things like that.

        Part of the problem was that this course was one of the few non-tech electives that could be taken towards an engineering degree (Gender and Technology), and so the instructor probably chose more engineering-based examples than he might have otherwise, because so many students were in engineering. But a lot of people in Science and Technology Studies don’t seem to see the fundamental differences in how the physical sciences and social sciences work, and draw false parallels between what they see and how their own fields work.

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        Ok, thanks for your response.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      And then you have people saying that you’re just ‘looking for things to be upset about’, not realising that you don’t HAVE to look because you’re only pointing out a tenth of what you see to begin with.

    • Aurora

      I feel the same way. I started reading Sociological Images a few years ago, and it made me notice a whole lot of things I’d never paid much attention to before (like how advertising tends to treat boys as adventurous and girls as…um…pretty), and now I see it EVERYWHERE. But I feel like if I mention it, people will just tell me I’m crazy or overreacting or that that’s just how it is, but it doesn’t mean anything.

      I was absolutely thrilled to hear one of my (male) psychology professors pointing those sorts of things out when we discussed gender in class. I even told him about the Target Women videos with Sarah Haskins and he said he found them fascinating and was going to use them in future classes. So at least SOMEONE cares. He’s the first person I’ve actually talked to in real life, as opposed to the internet, who thinks those things are important.

  • http://www.jendireiter.com Jendi

    This resonates with me so much right now. I believe in God and I love Jesus, but I’m getting so tired of having to prove that my experiences of God and life in general are “justified” according to someone else’s religious scriptures and doctrines. As I grow in understanding and overcoming the effects of my emotionally abusive upbringing (pretty much exactly like the movie “Tangled”), I feel triggered by the whole project of defending my views as “Biblical”. It’s like fighting for the right to have my own feelings, all over again. Still not sure what to do with this. It helps to read blogs like yours!

    • dj pomegranate

      I hear you. I’m so over the Christian lingo, the defense of something as “biblical” or not, the repetition of the same old, old, arguments again and again. The Christianity I grew up in has nothing else to say to me–I can’t have these conversations any more, I’m so tired of fighting and defending. Often I think that the only thing that keeps me holding on to the “Christian” part of being a Christian feminist is the knowledge/faith/belief that Jesus knows that I am doing my best and honestly trying to figure this out and that he promises that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. It is just one thread, but it is strong.

      • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

        Nice to meet other Christian feminists. I know how lonely that position can be — the straddling of often two polarizing worlds. In fact, it took me over a year of blogging to even find someone else who identified as a Christian and a feminist, mostly because their faith bolstered their commitment to justice and equality.

        Last week, I wrote a four-part series on how this debate between egalitarians and complementarians is getting us no where. We literally do not speak the same language, which is incredibly, incredibly frustrating (as Libby Anne mentioned above). For instance, complementarians have tried to assert that they believe in women’s rights, women in ministry, the personhood of women, etc. just as much as egalitarians do. That’s just not true.

        I and the other Christian feminists mentioned above, as well as plenty of others out there doing the laborious work of dismantling patriarchy brick by brick, are not giving up. As Leymah Gwobee, the Liberian peace activist and recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize said, “It is time for women to stop being politely angry.”

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    I’d quote this article as why I’m glad I’m not a Christian feminist *blogger*. lol As a Christian feminist, I’ll explain my views to people who are genuinely interested in understanding them, but I don’t have the kind of patience that these bloggers do. I’m confident in my beliefs. I don’t have to justify them to anyone else, and I have no problem telling a patriarchist, Christian or otherwise, that I’ve already heard, considered, and rejected their arguments and don’t want to listen to them for the thousandth time.

    • C

      Same here. As part of a liberal denomination of Christianity, I’m surrounded by other Christian feminists and am not put in the position of constantly having to defend egalitarianism, because everyone else agrees with me. I certainly couldn’t deal with having to explain it every day.
      This Sunday, our (male) minister preached on how it sucks how much flack our (female) minister gets for being female. He also said “As long as there is injustice in the world, there can’t be peace on earth.” Being angry because of injustice is a deeply rooted Christian practice, I think. I mean, Jesus and the money-changers.

  • jose

    This complementarianism sounds pretty much to me like the CEO telling the workers on strike that he’s just a worker too just like them. It’s a matter of power.

    • smrnda

      Excellent point. Leadership is *such a burden* is some of the biggest bullshit I’ve ever heard. If that’s true, why not let the subordinates run things for a while and take a break?

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    I thought I would post this here and get everyone’s reaction to what it says. I think it speaks to the feminist cause in regards to the church.
    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/08/it-honors-christ-and-is-biblical-for.html

    JW

  • http://bunnystuff.wordpress.com/ Jaimie

    What I don’t care for is people using the Bible to prove their point for everything. It’s so tiresome. Every time I see or here someone holding up the Bible and saying, “this is my authority!” I just inwardly cringe. Not that they are stupid, on the contrary, patriarchy enthusiasts are quite cunning. It’s no secret that you can find a Bible verse to justify all kinds of evil and there are a plethora that deal with oppression. It’s being able to manipulate the faith of (usually very good) women that they are so good at. Who would listen to these bozos otherwise?

  • Lily

    Be angry. It’s okay to be angry. I’m angry too. I’m angry because I have to explain that I’m a human being the same as a straight person or a man. I’m angry because people think they have a right to me because I am a biological woman. I’m angry at the way people are treated. It’s okay to be angry, when someone hurts you repeatedly, knowing they are hurting you and not caring? You should be angry. You’re under no obligation to look at someone punching you with a placid smile and say “oh, excuse me, stop hitting me, please”.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    I read Rachel Held Evans occasionally. I do have mixed feelings about her sometimes. (She definitely does the exoticizing/tokenizing Jews thing for one thing, although she probably doesn’t realize she’s doing it.) Some things she writes are just so brilliant and beautifully expressed. On the other hand, I thought she was waaaay too easy on the Chick Fil A bigots, for one thing. I read what she wrote about it and I was just thinking “No, no, no! This is a false equivalency!” The thing is, I know that she is attempting to address an evangelical audience, many of whom are not already on her side. She’s trying to get these people to listen to her and she has to think carefully about how she expresses herself so as not to alienate them. I’m guessing this means that she sometimes has to make concessions or obscure her own feelings in some ways. In the end, I deeply admire her for what she is doing. She is potentially doing a LOT of good and people like me getting frustrated with the way she frames things sometimes is certainly well worth that. I respect her for taking on this incredibly difficult work.

    But yeah…I’m sure glad that I don’t have to do it! Some of us have the stomach for that kind of thing, some of us don’t. I think there are important places for voices like yours and like hers in the conversation.

    And who cares about being the stereotype of an angry feminist? I don’t give a shit about that anymore. Calling me a stereotype is just a way to silence me, a way to try to shame me into shutting up so I don’t say more things that make people feel uncomfortable. But you know what? People NEED to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Because the reality is uncomfortable. I know I don’t feel comfortable, so I don’t see why I should be charged with maintaining everybody else’s comfort. Not my job.

  • Harri Karri

    I was brought up Catholic (not active since the age of 9) – so I have no experience with other denominations. I was wondering what your opinion of this blog is http://godswordtowomen.blogspot.com/
    I don’t believe it advocates complementarianism – they have built on the scholarship of Leonard Swidler and his book on Jesus and Feminism. Thoughts?

    • machintelligence

      I am curious why you are interested in the opinions of commenters on an atheist blog, but I am wiling to give you my two cents worth.
      The article was well written to appeal to a popular audience (hook them with an anecdote, then hit them over the head with data). The data presented support the conclusions.

      Conclusion
      I am convinced that marriage based on equal partnership is both the Biblical and common sense approach. It is the only approach that requires such Christian virtues as service and humility in both partners. It is the only approach that allows the nurturing and flowering of the gifts and abilities in both the man and the woman.

      For atheists, saying it is the common sense approach is sufficient. Those of us who have read the bible (which is most of us) realize that there are enough contradictory verses in it to justify almost any assertion. To say that it agrees with the author’s interpretation of scripture adds nothing from our perspective.

      • Christine

        It’s useful to get an atheist’s perspective, specifically *because* you don’t care about the Biblical perspective. Christians are well aware that bible texts can be found to support anything, especially if you take them out of context (including historical context, which a lot of fundamentalists seem to do). If the atheists agree that it’s common sense, then we know we’re less likely to be arguing that it’s only common sense that everyone should go to church on Sunday, or the like.

  • Karen

    This is slightly OT… or maybe not. I’m getting more and more enjoyment out of responding to “but the Bible SAYS that…” with “I don’t believe in your holy book.” This is NOT a good reflection on me, since one of my core values is to be kind to my fellow humans whenever possible. To be honest, I don’t find myself saying it often; I don’t go out of my way to pick fights with believers of any religion. But it feels so freeing when I say it.

    • http:.//thisbitchwontshutup.blogspot.com EEB

      I think it’s an important thing to say, though, especially when the discussion veers into politics, and isn’t necessarily unkind (I suppose it depends on how you say it). I think it’s good for people to realize that people don’t believe in the bible. People who are raised in the church and sheltered have a hard time understanding that not everyone agrees the bible is the authority on life. I’ve met people who know I’m an atheist but are still shocked that I don’t think the bible provides good guidence on how to live a moral, happy life.

  • Km

    Another good Christian feminist (sort of anyway) blog to add to your list.

    http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

    You all may be interested in another Christian feminist, Sarah Bessey: http://www.sarahbessey.com. Her forthcoming book relates exactly to these topics and is called Jesus Feminist: Life on the Other Side of our Church’s Gender Debates. Definitely looking forward to this one!

  • Rae

    One of the problems that I’ve directly encountered with the complementarian worldview is that it’s hard for childless women and practically impossible for long-term unmarried women to fit into: Basically, the “male” role of providing and protecting and having a job can be fulfilled by a man regardless of whether he’s married with 10 kids or single – albeit he’d only be providing for and protecting himself – but it seems like in order to fulfill their expectations for women, to be the one whose role doesn’t involve providing or protecting, you need to have someone who’ll provide for and protect you. If you don’t have anyone to do that, you’ve got to provide for and protect yourself, and therefore you inherently have to take on a “male” role as well in order to just survive in the world without being married.

    • smrnda

      Welcome to reality. I’ve been supporting myself since I was 17 and it’s more than 10 years since I had anyone in the role of ‘protector’ or ‘provider.’ This is probably why I see the complementarian roles as nonsense. It assumes that women will never be in the least self-sufficient.

      I guess to get around that, people who believe in it have to make sure women don’t become independent in the least. It’s pretty clear that many fundamentalists don’t think women should live independently, which is probably why there’s so much support for parent-guided courtship and early marriage.

      • Rae

        Yeah, I agree with that. Even in my fundamentalist upbringing, I always questioned the wisdom of young women going directly from their fathers’ houses to their husbands’, because of the obvious question (possibly brought up by the number of young men in that area who were in the military) of what happens if they rely on men for everything and the men die or something? You’re not going to be able to support yourself on a 20-hour-a-week job at a mall retail store.

  • http://sarahoverthemoon.com Sarah Moon

    You totally have the right to be angry. I’m glad you’re able to find a place outside of Christianity that you are happy with!

    Somedays, I don’t want to be a Christian feminist either. But I think some of us need to stay and fight for the women who can’t leave. Some of us need to stay and fight, too, because our hearts tell us to. Others, like you, need to leave and heal and fight from the outside. We need both fights and both are so important!

  • Saraquill

    I remember a girl in one of my classes in freshman year. She said she was against feminism for Biblical reasons. I did not buy this because the Bible can be used to explain a googol of view points. She also stated that she believed that men and women are “equal enough,” which I think is oxymoronic. The biggest question for me was why with such beliefs would go to a strongly feminist school in a famously liberal city.

    • Aurora

      I’ve heard so many people proudly claim they’re anti-feminism. I still don’t understand why they’re so proud of that. I saw a clip once, from a TV show I’ve never watched and sadly can’t remember what it was, where a teenage girl said something about how she wasn’t a feminist and her grandmother(?) stopped her and said, “Do you believe that men and women are equal and should have equal rights?” The girl answered, “Well, yes…” and the grandmother told her, “Then you are a feminist. That is the definition of feminism.

      I want to find that clip and put it EVERYWHERE.

  • Christine

    The issue of complementarianism is restricted to a sub-set of Christianity, as far as I know. Other denominations have different issues for feminists to get upset about. (How many female Catholic priests do you know? How many of them are recognised as such by other Catholic priests?)

    In fact, I had never heard of complentarianism until I started following links to theological blogs from evangelical friends. I actually have a question, that I was wondering if you would be able to answer: The RC church is clearly very hierarchical, and advocates different roles for men and women in the church. (Men and women religious, the monks, friars, nuns, etc aren’t pushed into different roles so much anymore, but women cannot be ordained as deacons, priests or bishops. They can be active in religious communities, or as lay theologians only). However, the Catholic pre-Cana (think of it as a substitute for pre-marital counseling, if you’re getting married in the church) explicitly makes participants evaluate who fill what roles around the house as individuals, not as men vs women. Is this complimentarianism? I’ve been confused by this ever since I first heard of the philosophy. I’m getting the impression that both sides of the debate would likely say “you’re on the other side, there are serious issues with that you believe.”

    • Steve

      The difference with the Catholic Church is that they don’t extend the church hierarchy to the home life.

      And no. Complementarianism is a nice word for patriarchy. Protestant fundies that practice it would never allow a man to stay at home for the children while the woman works. They wouldn’t even allow the man to parts of the household work.

      • Christine

        Thank you. I’m new to the term, and the definitions I’ve heard would always seem to leave room for the RCC on either side. (It is, for example, generally described as patriarchal.)

    • Noelle

      I didn’t learn the word complementarianism until I started playing at this blog commenting few years ago either. It’s a new term for an old way of being I mistakenly thought was dying out. Silly me. I learn new stuff on these Internets all the time. The first time I argued with a complementarian guy online I called his ideas adorable. The response was amusing and I highly encourage you try it out if presented with the opportunity. (this also produces interesting results when met with an atheist sexist dude). I’m afraid I would not make for a gracious blogger.

      My church-going experiences did not offer these strict gender roles, so ideas seemed very old-fashioned to GenX me. I wonder how many of your Xian lady bloggers encountered this particular brand of sexism prior to blogging and a world audience.

  • Niemand

    Complementarianism is actually a sweet deal for women – they’re protected and provided for.

    Precisely what the Taliban says of their “deal” for women.

  • smrnda

    When people caution women that being too angry will make them irrational and emotional, I tend to think that there’s a pretty big double standard at work, particularly within the Christian world. I mean, how many male Christian leaders, especially types like Mark Driscoll, are going to be told that their propensity for anger might make them too irrational to think or make decisions?

    Perhaps I’m biased though, in that rationality isn’t something I’m used to seeing among Christian leaders.

  • http:.//thisbitchwontshutup.blogspot.com EEB

    I’m tired of feeling like gender equality is something I need to prove. It shouldn’t be.

    Yes. And it drives me nuts that even though I escaped religion, I’m now having the same arguments over and over in the atheist community…except, in some ways, it’s worse, now, because at least Christian men are supposed to love and respect women.

  • http:.//thisbitchwontshutup.blogspot.com EEB

    I also want to add that when I was a Christian, my fight was for gay rights. By the time I was a late teen, my family had come out of the strict patriarchal church and my mom was a pastor. The church we attended, while conservative in some areas, believed that women were equal to men and that both were equally inspired and led by the Holy Spirit. Yes, of course there were pockets of sexism, and how much different churches believed in egalitarian relationships and roles in the church really varied by geographic region (on the coasts there were lots of women pastors and leaders, but it was made clear when I was studying to be a pastor at one of the denominational universities that we could expect a much different reaction in the south and parts of the midwest).

    After a few years of attending school in the closet, while trying to quietly advocate for gay equality, I finally had it. I had thought that I would just live and pastor as a single woman, until the church changed (and I believed the church would change…after all, they grew to accept women as pastors, which had even more biblical restrictions than homosexuality). But I couldn’t live that dishonestly any more. Shockingly, I was strongly supported by my local church. The district gave me a local minister’s lisence, the first step to becoming an ordained minister, even though they knew I was a lesbian. I was assigned a mentor to guide me through the years of study until I became ordained. He was one of the first people in the denomination to be ordained even though he was divorced, and he understood the fight it would take for the church to accept a lesbian minister. He really wanted the fight (I started to get the impression that it was less about me or my call and more about using me to change church policy) and encouraged me to take on the church. I was invited to numerous lunches and conferences, and it was exhausting constantly defending my humanity and my faith.

    I think if I hadn’t lost my faith (for entirely unrelated reasons–learning about science along with more education about the bible made belief impossible, not theological disagreements) I would have been willing to keep fighting. For a long time I was extremely religious and devoted to God, and I truly felt that I was being called to preach. Even though I hated the confrontation and it was so draining to argue the same things over and over and over (and to listen to people say some downright nasty, hateful things–”in love”, of course), I really believed in what I was doing. I wanted to see the church grow and improve, to get closer to what I believe God wanted for us, to reach other people who I felt needed the message of God’s love and forgiveness.

    Sometimes I feel guilty that I’ve left this fight. There isn’t really anyone else right now, that I know of, fighting like I was within the denomination. And since there are several people who know that I’m now an atheist, I’m afraid that I just confirmed what so many already believed: that gay people can’t be Christians or filled with the Holy Spirit. And even if I haven’t damaged the fight for equality within the church (which I think I might have), at the very least I’m not doing anything to help it. And that’s hard. There have been many times I’ve thought that I should have kept my doubts to myself, I should have just pretended and gone on. After all, I think the church does a lot of good and can help people, so why does it matter what I think is literally true? But that’s a terrible attitude, and wrong besides. I do believe that truth is important, and it’s terribly condescending to think that, oh, I can know and handle the truth, but other people need pretty lies to get through their lives. And ultimately, I have to be an open atheist for the same reason I was an open lesbian. But I still feel guilty, like I’ve abandoned the gay people who are still in the church and who now don’t have anyone fighting for them (or even showing them that it’s okay).

  • wanderer

    I have a very similar experience to Noelle. First time I heard of complementarianism I thought I must be talking to someone from Appalachia (no offense intended, if anyone here is from there). I didn’t believe it was real.
    I grew up with a woman pastor and a father who WANTED to be her right-hand support person and would have turned down an option to take her place.
    I still don’t really get very angry about this stuff USUALLY (on occasion it can piss me off). Because typically I feel that people who believe in patriarchy have made themselves irrelevant to the inexorable movement of Progress. They can only hide for so long before it becomes completely obvious they’re not part of real society anymore. Marginalizing themselves. I figure…hey, knock yourselves out kids. I’m happily ignoring you.

  • Rilian

    If it’s so great for women, and so terrible for men, why do women ever reject it, and why do men ever support it? Obviously something is wrong with the premise.

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