Can I Be A Christian and Be A Feminist?

This weekend an interesting discussion has sprung up between some of the people I met at #CNMAC11 a few weeks back.

Feminism:  October 2, 2008

The first post I saw on the subject was when Vicky Beeching wrote the post Christian Feminism is Not An Oxymoron she ended the post by asking a set of questions, I had started replying in a comment but it was getting so long that I decided a post/link back might be better:

  • What comes to your mind when you hear the term Feminist?
  • Do you feel Christian Feminism is a possibility or not?
  • Do you want women to be treated, protected, paid and valued equally? Do you think this is happening enough in today’s society and Church?
  • It seems that debates on issues of gender get very heated. Women are often portrayed as overly emotional and ‘ranty’. How can we avoid these kind of stereotypes and actually discuss things healthily?

So, what comes to your mind when you hear the term “Feminist”…….

While I was doing my degree at university I went back to college to do another AS Level as mine were a bit thin on the ground and I ended up doing Sociology. You do three major modules as part of AS Sociology so I did Theories (looking at about 5 or 6 different ideas), Families and Childhood (so sociology of families, how kids are affected by divorce etc. – BTW Matthew comes in ever so handy when you can’t remember your studies about marriage divorce lol) and then Feminism. So most of the things that come to mind are often the bits I studied then so things like the slightly mad ideas that Radical Feminists have (just read anything by Andrea Dworkin and you begin to question your sanity – or maybe that was just me). I think the whole bra burning thing does come to mind as well.

As was being discussed on Twitter the other night, it automatically has negative connotations because of the way the term as been distorted. To be a feminist the idea that most people come up with is a lady who is angry 99% of the time (the 1% being when they are asleep or something like that) and hates men and wants to see them crash and burn all the time. They probably thing of ladies who are classed as Feminists in the media such as Germaine Greer

It was commented on Twitter by various people about “Can Men be Feminist?” If we go with the basic definition of Feminism that Vicky used as part of her blog:
“Feminism: a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic, social rights and equal opportunities for women.”
Then why can’t men be feminists? I found a list via a certain online Encylcopadia a list of notable feminists – there were people like Carol Ann Duffy, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sylvia Plath and Simone De Beauvoir who are all people who’d expect to appear on the list but on that surprised me was Alan Alda (he played Hawkeye in MASH and one of the Presidential Candidates in the last season of The West Wing). He campaigned in the 70s and 80s for equal rights for women.

Now when I was a teenager I wanted to believe that I was a feminist and I was going to change the world – I think I had my head screwed on back to front because actually I had a skewed opinion of how to be a femimist.

If I am working towards women being equal to men then I am already a Feminist. I want to be considered equal to my colleagues and people out there who I meet so does that make me a Feminist (and not a bra burning crazy lady!).

So how can I be a Christian and be a Feminist? Well I’m not entirely sure but I think I get the gist – I need to go read some more about it. If you’re like me and you hear the Easter story every year you’ll know that it was a group of ladies that got to see Jesus’s empty tomb first and it’s’ Mary that sees Jesus at the tomb. When Adam and Eve are created, You could say that God gives Eve equal responsibility for the garden and the animals and things like that.

So where does this picture get so messed up. Well some of it is the social climate at the time the bible was being written, women were to be mothers and take care of their families that was probably the way it went. So for women to be involved in Jesus’s mission and for a woman to be the first person to see Jesus following his resurrection you could say that Jesus was a feminist – he treated women with respect and as equals.

Next up: Do you feel Christian Feminism is a possibility or not? I think if it’s about being equals and being treated with respect then yes I think it is possible to be a Christian and a Feminist. On the other hand if it’s the whole angry bra burning version of Feminism I don’t think that’s right.

Do you want women to be treated, protected, paid and valued equally? Do you think this is happening enough in today’s society and Church?

I think that women should be valued, paid, protected and treated equally to their male “versions” why should I be paid less because I’m a woman? You often hear about how women who are heading for partnership in law firms or other high flying companies like that who then because they get pregnant and have kids then get moved to the “Mummy Track” instead of heading for partnership etc. Then you get into the whole discussion about working Mums vs SAHM – I had a working Mum from the age of about 13 and I turned out a rounded individual – or at least I think I did lol. I think I rebelled a bit along the way but teenagers are meant to rebel a little right? I hope to be a SAHM when the time comes for me to have a child but for now I’m going to be the best Foster Mum to Our Sidekick that I can be so I’ll sit down with him and go over his homework with him if he needs it and encourage him to be the best human he can be! Where possible I want to be there in the front and centre cheering him on at a sport event or a school performance. (I’m going to my first Parents Evening next week and I have a stupid number of questions to ask lol)

Although I think Elders should mainly be a male category I don’t see why ladies shouldn’t be allowed to speak up the front of church. I’ve spoken at three different churches – one was at a youth event, the next was at my parents church and the third was at my friend’s church during the Easter Sunday service. I spoke at the Youth event about Tattoos and Piercings – which as someone who likes them both within reason was kinda interesting to do. When it came to my parents church my talk was mainly based on my testimony and how I came to being where I am now – this was kinda good as it was my home church before I was a teen and moved to a different church. The Easter Sunday service was hard and I was bricking it. CJ was in the front row and so was right in my eye line. I could also see my Mum and that was hard. I posted my notes about my talk for this one. (I’ll have another talk at Christmas which I’m excited about for now!)

It seems that debates on issues of gender get very heated. Women are often portrayed as overly emotional and ‘ranty’. How can we avoid these kind of stereotypes and actually discuss things healthily?

Stay calm if you can. I know that I struggled with dealing with my emotions at my current job. I had been unemployed for about 6 months then had a job for 4 months only to be encouraged to leave, so when I got to my current role I was desperate to do what I could to keep my job etc. When I had a disciplinary issue and my Manager and her manager had to have words I was devastated and really struggled to hold on to my emotions. I know that some days I still have issues but I’d like to think that I am calmer and a more chilled individual and that if I have an issue I try to go to my manager to chat it over before it comes something more and that has to be taken to that disciplinary procedure again.

More handy links about the topic:

Vicky Beeching’s Christian Feminism is Not An Oxymoron
Anna Blanch’s I Don’t Call Myself a Feminist But….

And the boys…..(because Boy’s can be feminists too just look at Alan Alda – as mentioned above)

Well James gets a double link – The Masculine Feminine Balance and Divine Destiny – Thoughts and Reflections on the Role of Women.

If there are more links I should include please tell me 🙂


  1. Ian Braisby says:

    Enjoyed reading your post Hannah! Not sure why anyone would think there should be a contradiction between being Christian and being feminist in the first place however. Any movement that is about achieving equality and personal fulfilment would seem to be totally in line with many Christian teachings as far as I can see. Although I’m not really in a position to comment, in terms of job equality the church should reflect the society and community it serves – so equality of opportunity for both sexes. Never understood any furore over female ordination (but then I grew up in a non-conformist environment where it was commonplace way before the C of E adopted it).

    • Hannie says:

      Hi Ian, thanks for your comment – I think because so many people automatically jump to a certain view of who/what a feminist is when you put Christian and Feminist in the same sentence it can seem like an oxymoron of sorts. When you go back to the dictionary definition and start from there it’s possible for it to make sense.

      So many people get their pants in a twist over female ordination because “we’ve always done it *that* way” also because of the way the Bible is looked at on female leadership etc. I meant to ask the Pastor of our church what he thought about it but he was busy sorting something else at the time so I didn’t get to ask him – might send him a bunch of links and be like “Read these – what do you think?”

  2. Lily says:

    This is a very good post.

    This discussion has been going on for decades. Coming from the generation that saw the bra burnings and the Feminazi’s my feeling is that we need a new word. Feminism has such a negative connotation to it. One book that might interest you is Dr. Craig Keener’s book, “Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul”. You can find it here, just know it is a scholarly work and not a simple read, but it is very good:

    One of my pet peeves with feminism is really rather silly in light of my other pet peeves with modern, secular feminism. It has led us to clunky language. For example, if I had put the term laymen in a paper for one of my classes I would have been counted down. I attend a Christian, conservative seminary but I am supposed to use inclusive language. So “layman” becomes “lay-people.” Instead of simply alternating between masculine and feminine pronouns I have to use “he/she” or “he or she” and the various alternatives. When used repeatedly throughout an article it becomes very clunky and distracting. This is only one way I believe that modern, secular feminism has hurt us and this is extremely mild.

    Modern, secular feminism has emasculated our men and masculinized our girls. It has led us to believe that we are “less than” if we want to be SAHM. It has caused us to question our place as humans in society. I do not believe that modern, secular feminism has opened any REAL doors for women.

    On the other hand, I believe that Christian feminism has. It has shined the spotlight on the issues of rape and incest, of human trafficking, of inequality in general and anti-feminine attitudes specifically.

    I know that modern, secular feminists like Gloria Steinem (on our side of the pond) take credit for the changes. They did make it more public, but I don’t believe they are the reason for the positive changes. Camille Paglia, a leading neo-feminist, and most certainly not a Christian is not a fan of Steinem or many of the modern-feminists, yet she is definitely a feminist.

    OK I’ll stop now before I turn this into my own blog post (it may all ready be post length….sorry).

    • God Loves Women says:

      I read your comment with interest. Please could you explain how modern secular feminists have emasculated men and masculinised our girls?

      This is not my experience of secualr feminism at all. It has been secular feminists who shined the light on rape and incest, of human trafficking, of inequality in general long before Christians ever got involved. Almost all the women’s refuges run in this country were started and are run by extremely passionate secular feminists who are doing Jesus’ work of healing the broken, housing the homeless, caring for the “widows and orphans” while many Christians are too busy condemning divorce to engage with the abuse that is so often behind the need for divorce.

      I apologise if I’m coming over a bit ranty, but I feel we should be celebrating and honouring all who do Jesus’ work, even if they don’t yet know it is Him they’re working for. Blessings to you! 🙂

  3. God Loves Women says:

    So for my comment, thank you for writing this blog, I think getting the conversation about women and feminism on the agenda as much as possible can only be a good thing.

    As someone who works in a field where there are lots of secular feminists I would have to say that I my experience has never been of angry bra burning women. It has been an opportunity to meet with some of the most loving, wonderful people I’ve ever met. One woman I know who is in her 50’s and has been a feminist pratically her whole life, is more heart broken with the broken and loving with the unloved than most Christians I know. Most of the feminists I know are not man haters, they are married and value and love their husbands massively. I think we ahev to be careful thinking that because we’ve made a commitment to follow Jesus, we don’t assume God doesn’t use those who haven’t.

    Could you explain your reasoning behind male only eldership? I would have to say that you are talking about the corporate world and saying men and women should be equal and have equal pay. If women can take full place in leadership in secular positions, why not in Church?

    Thanks for your post!

    • Hannie says:

      “bra burning feminists” – when Vicky asked what you thought of when the term “feminist” was used that was part of the stereotype that came to mind. I used to do Sociology (as I mentioned in the post) and so the stereotypes seemed to be the ones that we’d look at so Dworkin and other radical feminists were quite far up the list.

      I’m not saying at all that all secular feminists are bra burning angry ladies at all. I’m sure there are plenty examples of lovely ladies, if you use the actual definition do feminism being about equal rights then there are plenty of ladies working for equal rights WITHOUT being angry. with the actual definition

      Could you explain your reasoning behind male only eldership?

      I think it’s mainly that it’s all I’ve known. The three churches that I’ve attended so far in my life (of 25 years) have all had all male leadership. The church I’m currently at have deacons and as long as you’re over 18 and you’ve been a member for a year I think you can stand for deaconate and it’s not men only or ladies only.

      I might ask the Pastor at church. I’ll drop him an email and see if there is a particular reason that it seems to go that way. I’m for women in leadership but I think it’s just been the way I’ve been brought up. 🙂

      Hopefully that answers lol.

  4. James Prescott says:

    Thanks for linking two of my blog posts – this is an excellent post too, and a good commentary on the ongoing discussion that’s going on. If being a feminist means being someone who pursues equality, I would say I am a feminist (and have been called one by several women). I think the label is less important than the value of equality though. I think that’s what Jesus is most interested in and the thing we should be discussing the most – and we need better interpretations of those old verses in scripture (as I tried to do in my initial post on the subject). Thanks again for this post, and for linking mine as well. 🙂

    • Hannie says:

      Hi James, You’re more than welcome for the links. It’s still kind of funny to hear a guy say “I’m a Feminist” we somehow ended up on the topic of the writer Carol Ann Duffy this evening at Connect Group after we finished our bible study bit. One of the boys called her a “angry feminist lesbian” which I’m not sure how much is true but it was interesting how in that one sentence he’d gone pretty much straight for a stereotype (I then pointed out that not all feminists are angry and/or lesbians at which point he backed down lol).

      Either way we need to get back to the start where possible.

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