FemFest: The road behind and the road ahead

It’s the third and final day of the Feminisms Fest.  Today I’m answering the question, “What did you take away from the discussion?”  Head on over to seeprestonblog.com to find out what other feminists are saying.

The last two days have been an incredible journey for me into the hearts and lives of other people who call themselves both feminists and Christians.  I learned four things from this discussion:

  1. There are so many Christian feminists–I had no idea!
  2. Everyone has a story to tell; they are both alike and different in important ways.
  3. Feminist spheres are still, sadly, overwhelmingly white, and among Christians, also largely straight and cisgender.
  4. We have a long, long way to go.

I’d like to speak to each of these.

First, I was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of feminist posts.  I can’t link them all here–there are too many.  You can check out the link above for other blogs on today’s topic, and you can check out my last two posts for the links to Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s posts.  My favorite blogger this week has been Emily Joy Allison.  I don’t have enough words for how much I’ve enjoyed her posts this week.  I was also encouraged by how many men participated.  Men, you have no idea how much that means–not only to have you as allies on this journey but to know my son has so many role models.

Second, I discovered that we come from so many different backgrounds, but we share some common threads.  It makes me sad that nearly all of us have experienced sexism in the church or among Christians.  Those of us who profess to follow Christ should be the first to stand up and declare the equity of all humans.  (It’s even biblical, if you want to go there.)  Despite that commonality, each of us has our own unique story.  We’ve all come to feminism(s) from different places and at different times and for different reasons.  We don’t all view feminism the same way or need it in the same way.  Instead of letting it divide us, this week I saw it heal and unite us.  I am in awe.

Third, I saw inadvertent lines drawn.  I have so much love for all the women and men who came to the table this week, so please do not take this as a lack of respect for the hard work being done here.  But the overwhelming majority of voices belong to white, straight, cisgender people.  That just absolutely breaks my heart.  I’ve said before that I do not want to be the token woman at a table of men, and I don’t want men to “budge up” for me so I can sit with them.  I can imagine that women who are not straight, white, or cis might have the same feelings about me/us.  I want a radical inclusion that values every voice, but right now, that isn’t happening in most areas of feminism.  Don’t think for even a moment that I have the attitude that it’s wrong for women of color or transwomen or lesbians to have their own space.  But can’t we also have a place somewhere that we can all meet and talk about intersectionality?  What about (and this is the ONLY time you will ever see me use this phrase) the men who are being actively hurt by patriarchy and misogyny?  I know already what it’s like to be me; I want to know what it’s like to be you–I want to understand where you feel heard and unheard, seen and unseen.  If feminism is only about seeking justice for women (especially white, straight, cis women), then I want no further part of it.  I don’t believe this is what feminism is, though, and I look forward to a future where no one is making room for anyone else because we’re all already at the table together.

Fourth, we have such a long, long way to go.  I wish people would stop thinking that it’s just the overt sexism we need to fight.  The right to vote, the fight over women’s healthcare, the role of women in the church and home, and the media images of the perfect woman are not the only issues.  There is so much subtle sexism everywhere.  I received a message from a relatively new acquaintance in which we had an exchange about the Disney movie Brave.  He asked what I thought, and I said I thought it was an interesting exploration of the complicated mother/daughter relationship.  He said that was good, but his primary concern was the rape apologia in the film.  Confused (I’ve seen the film twice and didn’t see it), I asked what he meant.  He replied,

I do not accept the excuses people are making for the boy diving into the maid’s cleavage. It was against her wishes. The boy is not an infant acting innocently. He is deliberately acting out a plan, deliberately crossing a line. From a Freudian perspective, part of what makes the scene “funny” is that we know in our heart of hearts that a woman’s body has been violated.

Well, damn.  My own eyes glossed over that scene (twice, I remind you!).  In other words, it seemed normal to me.  I was so busy looking for overtly sexist messages that I missed the subtle one.  The violation of people’s bodies should never, ever be played for laughs–even at the Oscars.  So until all forms of sexism end, we will still need people willing to push back and call it out.

What a week this has been.  I hope that those of us who participated can continue this conversation.  I hope that we can find safe spaces in which we can become listeners as well as speakers.  I hope that faith leads more people to take up the charge.

What is your vision for feminism as we move forward?


4 thoughts on “FemFest: The road behind and the road ahead

  1. “There are so many Christian feminists–I had no idea!” Haha I was surprised too. There were over a hundred posts!

    Also thanks for pointing out that those of us who participated were overwhelmingly white and straight. (I guess the fact that I hadn’t noticed shows my own privilege.)

    • I’m embarrassed to say that I probably wouldn’t have noticed either, if it weren’t for a recent discussion I had with some friends about some of the troubling aspects of feminism–particularly the invisibility of women of color and transwomen in many of these conversations. It’s definitely something I need to do more listening on.

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