Yes, I’m a Feminist. Why Aren’t You a Feminist Too?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jay https://www.flickr.com/photos/jryde/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jay https://www.flickr.com/photos/jryde/

I’ve received a few jibes lately from Catholics, claiming that I must be a feminist. These comments are usually full to the brim with what are either implications or direct claims that I can’t possibly be a good Catholic, since I am … you know … the culture wars f word.

Truth told, I am a feminist. I’ve written about it, and, indeed, made whole speeches about it in many public forums. I don’t hide it. I’m proud of it.

In fact, I have a question for those of you who think being a feminist is such a terrible thing:

In a world with widespread and endemic rape,

In a world with female genital mutiliation,

In a world where women constantly suffer degrading name-calling,

In a world where many men consider it their right to beat and batter women,

In a world where baby girls, both before and after they are born, are routinely murdered, simply because they are baby girls,

In a world where the President of the United States calls women pigs and dogs, hints at incest, puts his own wife in a porn photo shoot (which pretty much answers the question, Does he love her? with a big fat “no.”) and is a serial sexual predator who sexually assaults women and brags about it in what he calls “locker room talk,”

In that world, why aren’t you a feminist too? 

I wrote about this last week for the National Catholic Register.

Here is what I said:

Pope Francis recently made a few remarks about women in which he tried to describe the phenomena that I observed over and again when I was a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

He talked about women’s ability to bring “harmony” to the world. That isn’t how I describe it, but I think we are talking about the same thing.

The House District that I represented for 18 years had a large number of illegal immigrants. I refereed the arguments between them and the Anglos of my district on a daily basis. I was the one both sides called to settle disputes, help them with their problems, and often, just to listen to their gripes.

They taught me a lot of things, these magnificently good constituents of mine. They are wonderful, wonderful people, all of them. The hardest thing about leaving public office was worrying about who would take care of them when I was not there to do it.

One thing they taught me in a clear-cut way was the civilizing power of the female.

It is inaccurate to refer to the human race as “he,” or as “man.” Because the human race is not male.

The human race is also not female. It would be just as inaccurate to refer to all humanity as “her,” or “woman.”

The human race is not “man,” and it is not “woman.” The human race is men and women, male and female, together.

Take us apart, and we die. Literally. We go back to the half-humanity uselessness that is man or woman without the other.

I saw this in real-time among the illegal immigrants in my house district. Young men would wend their way across the border to find work. They were young, really just boys, and they were in a strange world with strange customs and a language they didn’t speak. They would rent a house and hole up together;  even 15 young men sleeping on floors and existing to work.

 They went out and stood on the corners or went to the right employment agencies and were hired as day laborers by the local businesses. There was no lack of work from businesses who wanted to pay slave wages. Then they came back, with money in their pockets and nothing much to do.It is to their credit that these young men didn’t usually do anything really violent. But they were trouble. All kinds of trouble. Because a group of men without women cannot function. They descend rapidly to the lowest form of their sex. If they hadn’t been believing and sincere Christians, it would have been much more difficult for me to manage the problems they caused, and they might have done much worse things.

Over time, they were joined by women, and as soon as that happened, everything changed. Men, without women, are a mess. They are dangerous, including dangerous to themselves. Their thinking runs along nutty lines of violence and swagger. They are destructive.

Women, without men hiss and spit and turn in circles.

But when you put them together, it’s almost like a science experiment when you combine hydrogen and oxygen to get water. Put men and women together and you get life. You get men who use their strength, aggression, and physical courage to protect, provide and build. You get women who use their incredible moral strength, intuition and insight to nurture and sustain.

Together, men and women are the creative force that has built all the good we call culture, society and civilization. Take them apart, and you get ultimate and uncaring destructiveness.

That is why we need both men and women in our government. (Read the rest here.)

 

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I Am a Woman, a Feminist, a Christian.

Fellow Patheosi, Tony Jones, who blogs at Theoblogy, published one of those slap-in-the-face posts last week that really get people humming.

Tony called for a schism in Christendom, or at least in Christianity.

He wants to part company with those Christian communions who don’t allow women to “preach and hold positions of ecclesial authority, support complimentarity, or that do not affirm women as leaders, speakers, teachers.”

Since that sounds like he’s describing my Church, the Catholic Church, I was interested. Since Tony was speaking about something that I feel to the core of my being, which is the equality of women as full human beings, I was very interested.

I am a woman, a feminist, a Christian.

I am a woman who has spent a good bit of my life working for women’s rights. I am a woman who has made some serious mistakes in pursuing women’s rights; mistakes that I would not be able to live with without the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

I am also a woman who encountered Christ in what I can only describe as a knock-you-down-in-the-middle-of-the-road conversion experience that left no doubt in my mind that God is real and that He loves us with an ecstatic love that is beyond our comprehension. But I don’t want to write about that conversion today. I want to write about what came after.

Conversions of the type I experienced are not long on explanatory material. People like Leah Libresco and T. S. Elliot, who reason their way to God, probably walk into Christianity with a more formed understanding of what they’re doing that I did. All I knew was that God is real and that He loves me and is with me every moment.

The rest of it was a learning experience that took years and is still on-going.

I walked into my encounter with Christ like a prize fighter with his arms down, and it knocked me flat. When I got back up, a hand reached out to help me, and I began a journey of discovery and inquiry.

I entered the world of faith with a lot of baggage from my life before faith. Odd as this may sound, it was not the things I had done which ultimately proved most difficult to deal with, but things that had been done to me. It was a long, slow walk from the woman I was when God filled me with His love, and the woman I have become and am becoming because of that love.

What does all this have to do with Tony’s call for schism among the faithful? What does it mean and how does it apply to the question of his assertion that those who believe in women’s rights should no longer associate with those who do not? What, in fact, does his assertion that the definitions he uses actually separate those who believe in women’s rights from those who do not?

Do the things he lists say anything at all about women’s rights? Or, are they window dressing that dances around the real issues of violence and suffering that are far too often woman’s lot in this life? And finally, what does my conversion experience have to say about that set of delimiters?

Just this.

I understand where Tony is coming from. I do not know what life experiences have led him to this passionate espousal of women’s human dignity and full equality before God. But I would venture that they are not any more profound and powerful than the life experiences that led me into a prolonged and ultimately failed anti-God period in my own life.

I didn’t just espouse leaving those who did not accept the full equality of women behind. I did it.

I did it in a way far more thorough and absolute than any of the atheists who fill their blogs with endless chatter about faith and Christianity even begin to approach. I cut off my contact with that other world with a cut as final as amputation.

And I meant it.

I meant it all the way through.

When I ran headlong into the living God that day, I was unprepared, did not imagine, and could not comprehend the power of the love and joy that Being poured into me. I was home and I knew it.

I also knew that this God I had met and Who was now walking with me every step of my every day, had very little to do with the god I’d heard about in sermons when I was a teen ager. He had nothing at all to do with the denouncing, loveless god I’d been taught to think was God.

That little g, woman-hating god I had been shown as a teen was more like a shade of the devil than a glimpse of the real God I encountered at my conversion. I had met the real God and He was love.

But the baggage remained.

I spent years, thinking and praying through all the contradictions between the real God and the god of the pulpit. My eventual conversion to the Catholic Church intensified these questions.

I remember, not too long after my conversion, that I asked Him if He hated women. It seemed to me, based on what I had seen and known, a fair question. It still does.

I don’t always or even often get direct answers to my prayers. But I got one then. I don’t want to describe it in a blog, since it was a heart to heart experience of breadth and power, but I’ve known ever since that anyone who preaches and teaches violence and harm to women is not of God.

It is as simple as that, and I would guess that a similar insight may very well be what is driving Tony Jones to make his call for separating from those churches that don’t live up to his understanding of how women should be treated. I will never fault anyone who evinces a genuine concern for the welfare of womankind.

I will, however, offer a bit of advice. That advice is to slow down and go back to the God of love Who made us all and use Him for a reference.

This is advice I should take myself. I can get pretty riled up over issues and come across far harder and more inflexible than I actually am. I’ve been thinking about that after reading Pope Francis’ Evangellii Gaudium. It’s a convicting document. I say that in the best sense possible.

So, my advice to Tony and all the other Tonys reading this, is the same advice I’m trying to give myself: Slow down and go back to the God of love. You know the one. Go back to the God Who made women in His Image and Who loves us with a love that, if you’ve ever experienced it, you have no words to describe.

Go back to Him and realize that He’s leading each of us Who tries to follow Him by the hand, each at our own pace, like precious little children. He is gently guiding us toward a time when we will be able to do more than just accept that love that defies description. He is leading us to an understanding and a conversion so deep and so real that we can pass that love on to one another.

I am not going to argue with Tony about the things that trouble him. I will, however, point out that the answer to our differences is not schism. It is love.

Go back to God, Tony. Ask Him if He hates these other Christians who you find so confoundingly unkind to the female half of the humanity He created.

The answer will change you from top to bottom.

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Feminist, as in I am a Feminist. Feminist. Fem. i. Nist. (And I Blog at Patheos.)

 

There.

I did it.

I said feminist.

Before I came to Patheos, I had a brief flirtation with that other biggie in the religious blogosphere. I actually debated with my silly self as to which was the best way to go.

Then today, I learned that, if I had decided to go to that other place, a large number of the posts I’ve written here at Patheos might very well have been round filed. Of course, I don’t know that they would have been round-filed. I’m just guessing, based on this article.

The reason for this possible round-filing of my deathless prose would, if I am making the right connections here, be that I use the word “feminist.”

I not only use it in connection with a socio/political movement that goes by that name, I use it in connection with myself.

As in, I am a feminist.

I am you know.

A feminist, that is.

The way that women are battered, beaten, raped, tortured, bought, sold and murdered around the globe outrages me. I am a feminist, and I will remain a feminist until our casual acceptance of this mass brutality ends. In fact, my question to every Christian reading this is Why aren’t you a feminist, too?

Do you really think that this sickening degradation and brutality directed toward the life-bearers, the mothers, of humanity comes for anywhere besides the deepest pit of hell?

Every time I say I am a feminist I am saying it for those women whose bodies lie in the dump, the lake, the woods and the shallow grave. I am saying it for the baby girls who are aborted for no reason other than that they are baby girls. I say it for the battered wives and the raped girls who feel shame when it’s the rapist who should be ashamed.

I am a feminist; a pro life, catechism following, Jesus loving unreconstructed feminist who will not give one inch on issues of human rights for my half of the human race.

There.

I said it.

In print.

On Patheos.

Where I can say anything I want.

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