open letter time!

Dear GirlDefined:

Feminism is actually about everyone having the rights they need. Advocacy for women’s rights based on us being equal to men — your friend’s first definition is correct.

1) Feminists do not become our own God. We become our own people. Yes, we assert our ideals around womanhood, radical ones like… rights over our own bodies (as opposed to everyone BUT women having those rights). Determining when and with whom we have sex — hint, some of us are happily waiting for commitment/marriage because that’s how we’re built. Rejecting the notion that we are responsible for men’s thoughts about our bodies, because frankly men ought to take that responsibility.

Side note: Why does everyone accept that men are so visual, but that women don’t bat an eyelash at, say, shirtless Jason Momoa? We go for the visual, too. Trust me. Physical attraction is very much a part of most women’s decision around the kind of person with whom we’d like to be in a relationship. We may not get as snotty about it as some kinds of men — we may be generous in our ideals — but if you ask us, chances are we have ideals.

If we’ve thought beyond the Bible as our guide, it doesn’t mean we’ve taken godhood into our own hands. It may mean we understand the Bible in a different context than you do. For me, the Bible is very much a historical document, describing the standards of daily life and gender roles millennia in the past. You can’t have Jesus without accepting that standards changed even between the Old Testament and the New. Nope. And they went on to change some more after he died/ascended. Jesus didn’t tell Paul what to do. They never met. Paul told other people what to do in his letters, based on what was culturally right for the time.

2) Sexual liberation is praised — and that phrase cannot universally be interpreted as “go have sex or you’re out of the club”. I don’t. Have sex, I mean. I could. I suspect it would be very easy to get on some dating website and find a new man for every night of the week, if I weren’t choosy. Too bad for them: I’m not interested in empty sex. I am interested in commitment, in a relationship that will last lifelong. Put a ring on it. And this makes me no less a feminist than my friends who behave differently.

There are still feminists who are opposed to pornography. Now, however, there are feminists who make their own. Those feminists, making their own porn, they believe in the value of human bodies, too. They don’t happen to agree that extramarital sexuality devalues bodies. For that matter, neither do I. I may not participate as often as some — I don’t disapprove. I’m hearing a lot of blanket statements already, though (including, paraphrased, “if you don’t have our morals, you don’t have morals”) and I’m only 2:43 into this video.

3) Not all lives are valued, huh? Women are all for abortion? No. There are women who would personally never have an abortion but value the right of women to make that decision for themselves. They understand that for some women, birthing a baby is a disaster. There are also women whose feminism is intersectional, meaning that black lives matter, and convicts on death row matter, and they may not support military action. There are, in other words, very consistently pro-life feminists.

Also, I would love to see the anti-choice side of things fight for the women birthing all of these much-wanted babies. Ball, your court, do your thing.

4) Male leadership that despises us is despised. Look at the number of feminists who voted for Mr Obama. Now look at the number who voted for Mr Trump. Now look at those respective men’s attitudes toward women.

I personally love it when a man steps up in a way that doesn’t belittle women in the process. I love it when we’ve all had a chance to step up, and this man is the choice because he’s really the best person for the job, not because he’s a man. It would offend me if someone gave me a leadership role because I was a woman, unless being a woman put me in a unique position to lead.

Some of my favorite people are men. And some of those favorite men are leaders. And I have their backs all the way.

5) Women who tell other women they’re better than men: that’s a category of radical feminism I don’t even want to touch. Needless to say there’s dissent in the ranks on that opinion! My feminism takes humans as humans. Better than men? Sure, maybe at things that women with particular biology can do, like birthing children if you have a functional set of reproductive organs. Some bodies are larger and stronger than others — men’s and women’s alike.

“Down with patriarchy” does not mean “women are better”. It means “down with a system that puts men ahead of women by default”. It means “make us equal”.

I’d love to know who you asked, that said “Guys are stupid”, “Guys are dumb”, etcetera. I’d love to know if any of them were old enough to have outgrown that particular socialization. It is poisonous. We all have our strengths. Where you get off generalizing from one set of attitudes in, I’m guessing, one country in one socioeconomic class… well, you’re certainly no researchers.

6) You’re right. Homemaking isn’t valued. Feminists will agree with you. The skills involved in keeping house are not as easy as the propaganda of the mid-twentieth century made them sound. Here’s a view you may not have seen yet: homemakers ought to earn a basic wage. No, I don’t mean adults living at home (hello, that’s me). I mean the person doing the lion’s share of the housekeeping ought to qualify for an income and, if that person wants it, later on a subsidized chance to train for a trade or get a degree. If that person doesn’t already have those things. Alas. I’m an idealist raised by a European.

The way women were treated “back in the day”, that wasn’t valuing homemakers. That was taking for granted that one half of the world’s population would be content to labor, give sex, and bear children in trade for room and board. Nowadays at least there are choices, and a person can freely decide to enter a different workforce — that within the home. Never mind the nasty cultural context that went along with being a wife and mother. There were reasons women rebelled. Go. Read the literature of the day. Learn why they got angry.

7) Unique gender differences? I find it highly offensive that in order to be valued as much as a man, I would have to change who I am to suit a stereotypical masculinity. I also happen to fit into a mostly-stereotypical femininity… much of the time. Because I’m myself.

I am not going to change the aspects of myself that are atypical for a woman in order to suit someone’s demands around womanhood, either. I am, again, myself.

Please show me where you are feeling the push to be different than you were made. Please show me where God says it’s unnatural to do something if you are a woman — and I mean God himself, not a man corresponding with other early Christians. God.

8) “Are there women who have been victims of male sin? Absolutely.” Then stop right there and go deal with it. We do that. We deal with women who have been victims. Oh, but you’re about to qualify who gets to be a victim and who doesn’t, aren’t you…

“Are all women victims? Absolutely not.” I agree. Some of us are lucky in some ways and horrendously unlucky in others. Nobody has ever raped me. That doesn’t put me outside of some fun life experiences, in the “interesting times” sense.

But come to that, it isn’t right that a woman can’t go shirtless in public, though I also know a lot of women who’d object to losing the support of a good brassiere. If there are still hiring inequalities where you work, yes, that’s a way to victimize a woman: by denying her the chance to take care of her family. (Did you miss Proverbs 31? She’s actually doing things that would make her the co-breadwinner, and don’t tell me she acted on her husband’s peculiarly detailed instructions on how…) And indeed, why should husbands be the heads of families unless there are only husbands and no wives? What makes them inherently more capable of understanding a family’s needs? Again we face the collision of historical culture and present-day realities: women now have the skills, and are expected to have the skills, that allow us to take the leadership role. We can choose to relinquish this role, but the choice must be made freely in order to be a fair one. Welcome to 2017.

Apparently the biggest difference you can find between feminism and biblical womanhood is that feminists don’t use our strengths (only) to glorify God. Are you serious? That’s the biggest reason why feminists are awful? Because we don’t believe precisely as you do? Then why did you delve into anything else? Ultimately, you will never be convinced; you’re just throwing arguments out there for the sake of arguing. It’s a wonderful tactic to sway fencesitters, if that’s what you’re after. But wouldn’t you prefer that a woman comes to God with all her heart, for the sake of God, not culture? For something bigger than what a woman is or is not? Everything on this earth will pass away, no matter what you believe. Why fuss at women who don’t spend their time on this earth the same way you do? Because you think you’re going to rescue them from themselves?

We do not need rescuing by you. It will be God who saves, if saving is on the agenda. Maybe you need to focus on something you can actually control.

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