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Feminism Through God’s Lens

The feminist movement presents the fight for equality and dignity for women as God intended, but modern society’s twist on feminism has created problems of its own and distorted the mutual responsibilities between men and women that the Lord initially intended.

Photo and graphic by Stacy Rohan

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The feminist movement is historically successful in expanding women’s rights and opportunities, but modern popular feminism has also widened the gap between men and women in its pursuit, defeating the true purpose of equality as God intended.

The movement is meant to represent the advocacy of women’s rights on equality of the sexes, yet it’s become a topic of argumentation and misconception because the way in which some have chosen to practice has taken the movement’s most basic motives out of context, and into unnecessary extremes.

Feminism itself is not an evil word; the concept of fighting for women’s rights and empowerment should not be seen as offensive, but the ways in which modern society commonly distorts the meaning of the word has simultaneously worsened gender equality while trying to obtain it.    

Writer, lecturer, magazine founder, political activist and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem famously defined a feminist as “anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” According to Wendy Alsup, author of an article, “God’s Feminist Ideals,” published in Christianity Today magazine, if feminism in its purest form is the quest for justice and equal rights for women, then God was in fact the first feminist.

God created both man and woman in His image, and He granted equal dignity upon them both.

“By a woman’s mere existence, God has bestowed on her dignity and privileges that transcend race, economic status and physical ability,” Alsup wrote in the 2017 article.

This does not mean, however, that every act of feminism is in line with Christian values.

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union led the 1920 movement that granted women the right to vote, and they did so in seeking to apply Biblical principles of social justice to larger society, but according to Alsup’s article, “as the century wore on, there came a fork in the road in which orthodox Christianity seemed to go in one direction, and second-wave feminism [which began in the early ’60s and focused on topics like abortion rights and equal pay] in another.”

The article stresses the importance of noting the differences in a secular, modern Western view of feminism and the justice for women that Scripture models. Although numerous differences exist, Alsup focuses on one that she finds most prevalent: the concept of independence.

“Instead of a social justice that gives woman complete independence from man, God wrote a story that advocates social justice in interdependent relationships between men and women,” Alsup said. “God lifts up women but not in a way that frees woman from dependence on man or man from dependence on woman.”

Alsup further explained the issue in saying, “The Bible’s instructions to men and women work in covenants of mutual responsibility — not in barriers between them.”

Members of modern society often either lose sight of this or are unaware. Our world will be better off once we come to grips with this idea of codependency and understand the detailed truths, like that a man opening a door for a woman is not a sign of belittling, but chivalry, and that while women do in fact deserve rights and empowerment, men don’t deserve to be cornered or shamed in the process.

“Championing ‘women’s issues’ is not the same as championing women,” Jonathan Merritt said in an article posted on Religion News Service.

Feminists often focus on resolving political issues, and although these are essential, they exclude the subject of personal development.

In the article, “How Feminists have Failed Christian Women,” Merritt said his heart is “to invest in the personal development of a generation of women to help them grow in areas that have been too often overlooked.”

Today’s society has a broken perception of beauty. The Lord is clear in saying inner beauty is what humankind is to focus on, but Merritt is correct in saying “too often we fail to live by that.” We fail to remember that outward beauty is fleeting.

Political pursuits involving women’s rights and equality are crucial, but “we must learn how to honor and elevate the deeper beauties — of wisdom and character and service. The beauty of wrinkles and imperfections and authenticity. Physical beauty can and should be appreciated, but it is just the icing on the outside of our lives,” Merritt said.

The ways in which feminism, or any movement, is practiced greatly influences the effectiveness of the movement’s objectives. There’s always a line that some will cross.

When addressing the subject of feminism as whole, two distinct categories must be considered: feminism is simply defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Radical feminism, however, is a perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts; radical feminists view society as fundamentally a patriarchy in which men dominate and oppress women.

In an article posted on The Washington Post, author Cathy Young described the man-hating label of feminism as either a smear or a misunderstanding, and much of the feminist rhetoric today does cross the line from attacks on sexism into attacks on men, with a strong focus on personal behavior. She rightfully said male-bashing only sours many men — and quite a few women — on feminism.

“Our fractured culture is badly in need of healing — from the gender wars as well as other divisions,” Young said. “To be a part of this healing, feminism must include men, not just as supportive allies but as partners, with an equal voice and equal humanity.”

The feminist movement is an important progression toward equality as it was originally designed. It’s a movement that, if exercised correctly, aligns with the intentions of God Himself. But, the various directions that many modern feminists take have skewed its meaning, attempting to dominate the male species, rather than exist alongside it.

Whether male or female, we ought to consider the basis of feminism and pursue it in its purest form, as an act to grant respect upon both genders without minimizing or attempting to eliminate either one. God created man and woman to lean on and complete one another.

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Stacy Rohan

Stacy Rohan

Stacy Rohan is Lead Editor for MBU Timeline. Majoring in journalism with a psychology minor, Stacy holds many goals for her future; Publishing a novel and becoming Lead Editor for a professional news outlet are at the top of her list.

@mbutimeline

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