This post is part of the March Synchroblog, “All About Eve”. This month’s theme was chosen because March is Women’s History month, International Women’s Day is March 8. and women’s rights have been all over the news recently. The links to the participating blogs and their posts will be listed at the end of this post as they become available.
One of the first things that popped into my head when I thought about this month’s sychroblog theme is the way the word “feminism” has been twisted to represent something bad. Feminism is about (1) women and men being morally, politically, socially and economically equal; and (2) changing patriarchal structures, institutions and perspectives that place women in a position below men. In order to be a feminist one only has to believe in the idea of justice for all people and activism to ensure it. In my opinion, bell hooks is right, Feminism is for EVERYBODY, and yet, feminists are often portrayed as women who are angry, hate men, hate the christian faith and want to rule over men. If you don’t believe me, just start reading articles and posts regarding feminism and/or equal rights for women and you will run across comments like this one that I read this week:
“The feminist movement is the same thing it’s always been. A communist hate movement designed to destroy the family, the christian faith and transfer all the wealth and power of individual men to the state with women garnishing privileges above men for their efforts.”
It’s not even unusual to be with a bunch of women (no men in earshot) who will begin a statement with “I’m not trying to be a feminist, but…” when talking about something as basic as the dignity of women. And that really bothers me because I would go so far as to say that feminism isn’t only about the dignity of women but it is about the dignity of all people! Feminism is about men too! It’s also about men getting to be librarians, dancers, nurses and any other occupation that was traditionally thought to be for females only.
Feminism is not about bashing men or going without makeup. The movement is good! Women and men should be proud to be associated with it! If feminism reaches its goals the world will be a better place. I like how bell hooks describes a world in which feminism has achieved its goals:
“Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction. Imagine living in a world where we can all be who we are, a world of peace and possibility.”
The greatest accomplishment of those against the feminist movement is that they have turned feminism into an insult and something to be avoided while convincing many women and men that the very people who are their allies are their enemies.
Even those who are sensible enough to not believe the propaganda tend to forget we don’t live in a world where females and males are morally, socially, politically and economically equal. Many who are sympathetic and understanding about the feminist movement don’t seem to be aware of how much work is left to do when it comes to changing patriarchal structures, systems and perspectives that place women below men.
Look into any field or industry and you will find women under represented, under paid and under valued. Medicine, engineering, marketing, politics, sports, religion, finance etc – women are mostly absent and when they are present they are typically paid less and valued less. Men are making most of the decisions in the world – even when it comes to issues that mainly impact women. And most of us tend to accept this status quo without much thought or resistance!
For the most part, people in the U.S. have been brought up to believe that men and women are wholly equal. But, no matter how equal we “feel”, women are still the lesser paid, lesser represented, and lesser valued part of the global economic, political and social juggernaut.
Take sports for instance. Do you ever wonder why there isn’t a women’s pro baseball league? Have you ever noticed that the women’s sports leagues that do exist seem to matter to far fewer people? Have you ever been in a sports bar and noticed that most, if not all, the tvs are tuned into men playing sports?
Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not a big “sports” person – the sports industry is just one obvious example. However, I am a big “justice for all” person and yet I even tend to overlook how much work there is to do.
Someone said: “The problem is not that I see sexism everywhere – the problem is that you don’t.”
The point is simple – we do not live in a world where women are fully equal with men. We should, but we don’t. Patriarchy may be more overt, but it is still at work and it works to keep women down. Men and women who care about this injustice need to push back.
I think this is an important subject that needs to be talked about so here are some questions to get some conversation started (either here or elsewhere):
Tell me if you or someone you know has had a flawed image of what it means to be a feminist. Have you avoided the label? Have you ever been misunderstood because you claimed the label?
Tell me how you think we can “push back” against patriarchal structures, systems and perspectives. Are there organizations that we can support? Are there any everyday practical things we can do? Are there things we are doing that unknowingly prop up patriarchal systems?
Tell me where you’ve seen sexism. Was it something that had gone unnoticed and then became evident? Do others ever think you are paranoid or too sensitive when you complain about sexism? Have you ever confronted sexism head on? What impact has sexism had on you?
Check out these other synchroblog posts:
Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
K W Leslie – Undoing the subordination of women
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
Christine Sine – It All Begins with Love
Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor
Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Fascinating post, Liz; thank you for sharing.
For years I didn’t consider myself a feminist (and still don’t, really) but it wasn’t because I thought feminists were commie-loving guy-haters. It was because I saw how feminism tried to define what a good woman was, and I’ve been on the receiving end of that too much (though from inside the church, people telling me I wasn’t a good Christian if I believed X and Y). See the current war on women talk – when I hear that, I can’t help hearing the suggestion that a woman who is maybe insulted to be told contraception is a preventative measure, is a traitor to her gender.
The solution, I think, is awareness and empathy. As someone born in the 80’s, I think I am blind to all feminism has done for me – too much so most of the time! Doesn’t mean I’m not right beside you in the trenches facing down injustice – which is *never* okay, but that should go without saying.
Good post, Liz! The most sexist place with which we are personally acquainted is some churches, supposedly based on Scripture – a faulty and totally out of context understanding in our opinion. We would love to see all women suddenly refuse to have anything to do with all of those churches until women are afforded full equality.
The crazy stuff that people get away with in the name of religion! Of course, we think that is what attracts many people to religion – the place where you can oppress and control others and God supposedly supports your bad behavior.
Pingback: Letting Junia Fly: Releasing the Called | Wendy McCaig
To respond to a couple of your queries:
Flawed image of feminism: Our pastor commented to my husband that his daughter is “no feminist.” I cringed when I heard this because I know she enjoys and takes for granted many of the benefits that were hard won by the feminist movement. I’m not sure what he means by “no feminist” but I assume he has an idea that feminists are man-haters with no values.
Sexist behavior: I recently had the amazing privilege of hearing Gloria Steinem speak. When my husband commented about it to a local businessman, he informed us that he ran the sound for the event and that he was prepared to shut it down “in case she said anything wrong.” As if he, as a male, had a right to determine what she could say.
It hurts to think how far we still have to go in order for women to receive the respect, dignity, and rights we deserve.
Cherie – thanks for sharing.
You are probably right – your pastor obviously thinks that “feminist” means something bad.
And WOW !!! I can’t believe that the man said that he was prepared to censor Gloria Steinem’s speech!!
There is soooooooooo much more work to do!
It is sad how “feminism” has been turned by some into a bad word or an insult.
I think, of course, that women should be able to be whatever and whoever they want. If a woman wants to physically compete with men, fine, go for it! But if a woman wants to dress up and wear makeup and perfume, that should be fine too.
What concerns me is how some women (and men) attack other women for not fitting their definition of “feminism.”
Yeah – I don’t like that either and wouldn’t consider that to be because someone is a feminist. I see that as a terrible trait that most humans have and that it is usually connected to their belief system – whatever that may be. However, when I have known a woman to say such a thing I have tried to engage her in a conversation that would reveal the flaw in her logic. I have to admit that a time or two such a woman has shown me how what I was doing (nothing to do with wearing makeup or perfume or being a stay at home mom) was propping up a system that supported sexism and oppressed women. I still don’t think that is a reason to “attack” another woman for not fitting a particular definition of feminism but I do think there are things that people can do that inadvertently oppress women.
thanks for this, liz! i really think you nailed it, so many pretend it doesn’t exist. it’s “not that bad”. and they have no idea how prevalent it really is, the insidious threads of it that damage and limit and demean. it’s funny that we said the same thing in a different way. it’s for all people, not just women. i so appreciate your voice and passion for change.
Kathy – it is sad and I am so guilty of just accepting how things are and I don’t want to do that anymore and you have been someone who has encouraged me to be more aware and conscious of the sexism that exists. Not by whining about it but by the way you go out of your way to see through the eyes of people who are oppressed and marginalized. You have helped (are helping) me become (still becoming) a person who cares about the dignity of others.
Great post Liz! For me, as a complementarian, “sexism” wasn’t evident until I began to have close friendships with women besides my wife. I wish I could say it was something different but it was actually friendships with other women that opened my eyes to deeply rooted sexism in the church–and as you say, everywhere. Thank you for your voice.
Dan – I think that is a great way for people to recognize prejudice and oppression in any form – to have a meaningful relationship with those who are the oppressed. I think it is because there are some things that we can never see with just our eyes or hear with just our ears – some things require that we look and listen with our hearts, and when we form meaningful relationships our hearts are looking and listening.
“Take sports for instance. Do you ever wonder why there isn’t a women’s pro baseball league?”
Because men are about 50% stronger than women on average and can run faster, hit harder, and play harder. This is due to differences in testosterone levels. People mostly watch sports for the stars, the heroes, and there aren’t as many heroes in womens sports because the intensity is much lower. This isn’t gonna change.
The practical offshot of that is that the only way they can get people to care about the individual female players is to sexualize them.
wow – you prove my point in more ways than I could have imagined
To thesecond: I have to be honest, I am actually laughing a little at your commment. one, we don’t NEED a pro baseball team(that was Liz’s example). we already have elite softball teams and players and oh yea, a GOLD medal in this sport! 🙂
two, I’ve been kicking men’s asses up and down the basketball court since I was a small child! I’m still looking for that 50% stronger male(some I would give 10, maybe 20%). I can guarantee you that the intensity is just as high in women’s sports. Also, go ahead and read my post on Pat Summitt…things ARE changing and they will continue to!
Tammy – I too have to chuckle at the argument that men are physically stronger than women as that generalization doesn’t hold up. I know women who are stronger than most men and are better at most any sport than most men.
thesecond’s comment made me laugh … I guess the 50% stronger rule is why my 18 yo daughter crushes on any sheet of ice that she plays on. She’s always beating boys her age and men old enough to be her father.