By any reasonable definition, I suppose I’m a sort of feminist.
You can tell just from the way I say it how reluctant I am to accept the label. You probably mean something positive by it, but it’s always had weird and mostly uncomfortable associations for me.
For a start, I’m a man. I’m pretty secure in my masculinity and don’t often feel the need to engage in all that juvenile machismo nonsense, but even for me, accepting the label of “feminist” has always felt like a non-starter. The very word seems exclusionary, with me and the rest of my gender outside by design. I’m not saying it shouldn’t necessarily be that way; goodness knows there’s been enough exclusion of women in history to justify it, and frankly, what else are you going to call a movement encouraging women to be the strong, capable people they ought to be?
But as a man, the perception is that it isn’t about me or for me. That makes me reluctant to accept the label.
Secondly, the associations I have for the word aren’t helpful. The word brings to mind floods of emasculating scorn from angry women who actively seek out opportunities to take offence. As much a stereotype as that whole “submissive little woman” crap, I know, but it’s what’s in my head. I didn’t put it there on purpose.
Even as I write this, my expectation is that this is going to get taken as an attack on women. I don’t mean for it to be one; if anything it’s me trying to come to terms with a label that technically fits but that I don’t like.
I believe women can and should be strong and capable, and judged for what’s inside rather than whether the packaging is attractive, just like I believe men ought to be. I believe in equal treatment regardless of which kind of reproductive organs you’ve got. That’s the core of feminism as I understand it, but most of me wants to reject the label. In my head, my attitude towards women is just part of me being a real man the way I understand the Scriptures to teach, not something special that needs a special label. Especially not a label I find uncomfortable. Being a man and saying you’re a feminist feels like being a chicken and working at KFC.
There need not and should not be any conflict between the ideas of strong womanhood and strong manhood. I don’t find the idea of strong women somehow threatening to my manhood – why should I? Look at who I married. The fact that I could gain and keep the affections of such a wonderful and powerful woman reflects well on me as a man.
In contrast, it seems like my experience of “feminism” is just the same old dominance games but with women on top. Rejection of things I hold sacred (like marriage), offendedness at polite gestures, double standards, belittling of masculinity, female sexuality as a means to power. I’ve seen all of these first-hand. I want no part of it, thanks.
I reject the idea that male-female relationships are intrinsically connected to the idea of dominance. In the beginning it was not so.
After Adam was made, God brought all the animals to him and Adam named them. But, as the Bible says, there was found “no suitable helper” for him. The idea here is not of a diminutive “Santa’s Little Helper”, but the powerful Ezer Kenegdo. One more powerful who stands alongside to help. It’s also used to describe God’s role with His people. No “little woman” here. God’s original design for the female of the species is that she is at least as powerful as the male.
When God unveils His masterpiece before Adam, there is immediate recognition (and the first poetry in the world): “This is my equal and partner!” Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.
The whole domination idiocy doesn’t come in until the Fall. “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you”. One of the primary ways sin makes its presence felt is in the realm of human relationships. Without God centring and focusing everything, the need for relationships often grows into a crushing burden even as the relationships themselves turn sour. Alienation and dominance. It’s directed at Eve, but it’s not like men don’t also feel the effects of it, any more than women are insulated from the other curse, directed at the ground and producing failure and frustration.
As far as I can see, patriarchalism is a result of the Fall, not a design feature of the original creation of humanity.
Yes, we’re on this side of the Fall. But we’re also on this side of Calvary. In Christ, we are no more bound to replicate the same fallen patriarchal pattern than we are bound to keep on sinning. The fact that it often seems to be followers of Christ who are on the leading edge of the patriarchal rebellion against God’s original design for human male-female relationships is bizarre and tragic to me.
So yeah, I’m probably a feminist by most people’s definition. But for me, the practical outworking of what’s called feminism just looks like being a man the way God intended.