Recently I called out folks who crap on Feminism by explaining exactly what it means to me and why it still matters. I went into the reality of what it brought to my life and how, as a philosophy, it helped me move from a place of oppression to a place of (at least more) self-determination.
I felt like it was important to share what it meant to me, because, as I noted in my previous blog, it was the stories of other women that opened the heavily locked door for me. I wanted my story to be a part of that, while expressing some growing frustrations.
Still, calling other people out is messy business. It forces you to, in a way, call yourself out as well.
In trying to understand the people I was challenging I asked myself, is there a comparable group, movement or identity that I found as problematic as some people find Feminism?
Oh, very yes.
Admittedly, I grew up in an evangelical home that, while being biblical literalists, also did the whole cherry-picking thing. I was raised in the second worst version of Christianity (only the Phelps really have us beat.)
Still I asked myself, how do I approach people to whom these beliefs are important? Do I treat I feel superior and smug? (Sometimes.) Am I angry? (Often.) Am I dismissive? (Pretty much.)
There are clearly differences between Christianity and Feminism. Christianity, though there are a million interpretations and hundreds of versions, has only one, final source material. It’s the bible or nothing. And it’s a deeply, deeply problematic source material full of equal parts love and condemnation, packed with impossible rules and open to wildly divergent doctrines.
Feminism is a growing idea. It’s not done yet. It’s open to debate that calls on any and all sources, including voices just now developing. There is no big book of Feminism. This is part of what makes it an easy target, actually. We don’t have rules for what being a Feminist means. We are individuals who are part of a movement, not adherents following the same teacher.
Still, despite the considerable differences, it’s the closest comparative I could find.
At Christmas, I posted this graphic:
In a way, it was my knee-jerk response to the overwhelming amount of religiosity that takes over from pretty much October onward (though Hallmark started in August and I almost wept.) Still, it was a knee-jerk response. It wasn’t a well thought out conversation as to why the original images were getting tiresome or what focusing on one mis-timed ritual really says about us. It was dismissive. And it was equally as dismissive to homo-hating, woman-oppressing, evolution-denying, over-the-toppers as it was to the folks who have rainbow stickers right on their church announcement boards.
I think of a friend whose wife is a minister, something my church would never have allowed. A man who loves both theology and science fiction. A man raised by missionaries who question colonialism. An American who married a Canadian! I mean, this dude is complex. Can I be dismissive of the hooting, howling bigots and not be dismissive of him?
And this is where the comparison to Feminism serves it’s best purpose. Christianity, like, Feminism, is a big name. It’s a box. A cereal box, if you follow. And in that box are many different flavours of marshmallows and some of those carboard-y things that you eat first so the milk will turn purple and you can just eat marshmallows at the end…
Now I’m just hungry.
Okay. It’s like a box. And not everything in the box is the same. By judging everything in the box by the same standard, you’re ignoring the fact that, frankly, the only thing that really ties these things together is the box. It can be hard to judge people/feminists/christians/cereal pieces on a case by case basis, because there are so freaking many of them and that would take way too much time. And a box full of something can do more damage if dropped on your foot than each individual piece can.
Still, we need the box. Feminists need to work as a group to create change. We would not have our voting rights if women had not worked together to demand it. We would not have women’s shelters if groups of women had not come together to build them (I recently got to meet a woman who helped found one of Toronto’s first – amazing human being!) There are times when groups need to pull together to force change. I don’t think we’re out of that time yet. So what does this all mean?
Well, I wish I had a simple wrap up. I feel like there should be a great one-liner that will make all the preceding work, but it’s never that simple, is it?
Here goes: I’m still asking people to back up off Feminism and really listen to women and study the statistics and acknowledge us. Don’t dismiss us based on what one woman said or did. To use specific examples to promote disenfranchising a whole group of humans is not helpful.
As for me, I’ve not stopped growing. I will never (again) be religious, I suspect. I will never view my experiences in Christianity fondly. However, I will try to separate out the compassionate from the hateful and the sincere and good from the, well, also hateful. Seriously dudes. Less hate.
Oh wait! There’s totally a great one liner to end this all. One of the many translations of the bible includes this gem, and I fully support at least these two lines of the book (though I’ve taken the liberty of replacing ‘brother’ with ‘friend’.)
“How can you say to your friend, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the plank is in your own eye? First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your friend’s eye.”
See? Christianity. Not all bad.