Feminisms Fest: I need feminism because there is no love without justice.

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When I heard that Preston Yancey, Danielle Vermeer, and  J.R. Goudeau were hosting a three-day blog link-up discussing feminism, my first thought was “Damn this timing.” See, I was planning on dedicating these very three days to finishing the literature review for my senior research project.

So, yesterday I was too busy to contribute because I was staring at a blank Microsoft Word document thinking “Fuck it, I’m going to go watch Fullmetal Alchemist.”

Tomorrow, I’ll probably be too busy to contribute because I have stayed up all night writing my literature review to make up for the time I spent writing today (and watching anime yesterday).

But today? Today, I’ll be doing my part. Wasn’t planning on it, but I couldn’t stay away.

You see, my project is on how rape and sexual assault are handled in four different Christian dating books (spoiler alert: not very well), and so I’ve been researching cultural attitudes toward rape and rape victims.

As I studied and the facts popped out at me…

“25% and 35% of respondents (both male and female) agree with the majority of these rape myths”*

“…Although individuals are not likely to directly blame a female rape victim, 53% of college students agreed that her actions led to her assault.”*

“In a study conducted at a Christian liberal arts college, men higher in religiosity…compared to less religious men were more likely to believe that women who are promiscuous or who dress in a provocative manner deserve to be raped.”*

“Qualitative analyses demonstrated that clergy take into account the woman’s resistance, provocative behavior, decision making, marital role, and unusual behavior when assigning responsibility for rape. The results indicated that most clergy blame the victim and adhere to rape myths.”**

…I realized that all of these quotes are why we need feminism. Why I need feminism.

A common stereotype about feminists is that we hate men. Feminism causes that hatred, according to these stereotypes. And I’d like to admit something.

I used to hate men.

…before I became a feminist.

And why not?, I think to myself as I research for my project and read about the rape that occurs and the public attitude toward it. Why not hate men?

The world is not just. And, according to bell hooks, “without justice there can be no love.” 

Before I became a feminist, before I began to demand justice, in my politics, in my churches, and in my relationships, I could not love men. And the men in my life who were upholding patriarchal traditions–often without even knowing it–could not really love me.

Now, I must add that I don’t think one has to identify as a feminist in order to love or be loved. I’m simply telling my own story.

But I agree with hooks that there can be no love without justice. Where unfairness, inequality, abuse, disrespect, victim-blaming, and rape exist, there is no love.

And feminism is one movement that fights for justice for women. 

So why feminism? 

Love. That’s why. 

I wrote in my last post that a man at a Christian college that I went to believed that relationships between men and women–romantic relationships, friendships, parent-child relationships, etc.–were broken. He believed that they were broken because of women not adhering to gender roles.

I agree with this man on one thing. Relationships between men and women are broken.

But they’ve been broken for a long time. Longer than second-wave feminism. Longer than suffrage. They’ve been broken for centuries and it’s not because of gender roles.

It’s because of injustice.

I want to love men because I want to live in a loving world. I want to love my fiance, yes. But also my brother, my father, my uncles, my cousins, and my coworkers and friends.

But I cannot do this when I fear them. I cannot do this when they exercise power over me or when they disrespect me. I cannot do this when they ignore their privilege and continually hurt me–whether intentionally or on accident–because of it. I cannot do this when they believe and perpetuate rape myths. I cannot do this when they are rapists or abusers themselves.

So I need feminism. Because I need justice, and without justice there can be no love. 

* Edwards, Katie, Jessica Turchik, Christina M. Dardis, Nicole Reynolds, and Christine A. Gidycz. “Rape Myths: History, Individual and Institutional-Level Presence, and Implications for Change.” Sex Roles 65.11 (2011)
**Sheldon, James P., and Sandra Parent. “Clergy’s Attitudes and Attributions of Blame Toward Female Rape Victims.” Violence Against Women 8.233 (2002)
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  • I was wonder when you were going to join the FemFest.

  • yay! We need to learn from BOTH sides of the spectrum:)

    Btw, if you need assault survivors, lemme know… (I haven’t put it out there on the web yet but I’ve entered my story in essay contests/for magazines etc)…

  • natalietrust

    Sarah, I am so glad you participated in femfest!! This is powerful and it is so full of hope for a better way.

  • Thanks so much for joining #FemFest, Sarah! So grateful for your voice for justice and equality.

  • very cool – thanks for your thoughts, and good luck on your senior project!

  • Thanks for sharing this, Sarah. I need it too. And I’m grateful for people like you who speak up and remind us of just how important this work is.

  • cissybradyrogers

    “I cannot love…when I fear..”

    That pretty much sums it up neurologically. Fear shuts down our capacity for free choice. As long as we live in fear of the physical power of others to dominate us, how can we really love?

  • You know, I never thought of it this way, but I hated men too before I became a feminist. Because I thought they were sex-craving, domineering jerks, and when I left that bubble, I discover a world of great men!

  • Good stuff, Sarah! I wonder if your story about being an angry pre-feminist is part of where that stereotype comes from, because I’m in the process of a very similar experience. I agree with you about broken relationships, too, and I think it’s interesting that the Bible depicts that injustice as being a result of sin, something that you don’t hear preached very often in patriarchal churches. In Genesis 5, God establishes the dominion of men over women not as the natural order of things but as a result of sin. It’s not how things were always meant to be; it’s part of the brokenness of a fallen world.

  • M.

    This was a lovely post, one that resonated with me. I finishing up my degree on a Christian campus, and so much of this rang familiar bells for me.

    That said, I also find myself desperately curious as to which version of FMA you’re watching, and also resisting the urge to encourage you to read the manga too! (This of course, may be because last night I also put off my own senior paper lit review in favor of similar nerdery, but details, details.)

  • Love it. Thanks, Sarah!

  • I love the way you wrote this; however, I absolutely disagree. Feminism and all it advocates is not what allows someone to love others. Only Christ’s love can change a person’s heart to do that: http://speckledperspective.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/why-you-dont-need-feminism/