Christian & feminist: not mutually exclusive

Issues of Christian feminism have been on my mind over the last several days. A friend of mine posted a blog entry recently regarding an article in our local newspaper about an academic program in homemaking being offered at Southwestern Baptist theological seminary. She included the following quote: Coursework will include seven hours of nutrition and meal preparation, seven hours of textile design and “clothing construction,” three hours of general homemaking, three hours on “the value of a child” and three hours on the “biblical model for the home and family”… Women also study children’s spiritual, physical and emotional development.

There were several comments on her blog entry, one of which noted that this particular program is open only to women, and the issue really got me thinking about the realities and challenges of this type of college-level course of study in today’s post-feminist world.

I consider myself a Christian feminist. These two words together may cause some evangelical Christian women I know to bristle, but it has never been a difficult issue for me. I’ve considered myself a feminist ever since I thought I knew what the word meant, thanks in part to my mother and the lively conversations we have had over the years concerning reproductive choice, women in the workplace, and women’s rights. I understand that many traditional elements of feminism don’t necessarily jive with what God tells us about the roles he has designed for both men and women, but that doesn’t mean to me that the notion of feminism or the fundamentals of feminist thought should be abandoned by Christian women. I think that Christian women can, and should, negotiate the definitions of feminism and find our own niche where we can address the issues that are important to us — issues that I think are very “feminist.”

First, the issue of the program in homemaking at Southwestern Baptist. How awesome that a seminary would recognize homemaking as a career path, worthy of inclusion in the curriculum and all the work that goes into defining course content, objectives, and outcomes. I think that this type of recognition is important and negates the notion that homemaking is a leisurely, uncomplicated undertaking prompting the thought, “Oh, she’s so lucky! All she has to do is stay at home with her kids all day while her husband goes to work!” People thinking that have clearly never seen the packed schedules, overflowing day planners, multiple to-do lists, cluttered homeschool classrooms, and piles of laundry and dishes belonging to some of the blessed homemakers I know.

I will never forget when my aunt referred to herself as a “household manager” instead of a homemaker or housewife. Amen! If one can major in business management in college, then I am all for a major in household management. Let’s just recognize that both men and women should be able to enroll in this type of program as I believe that God desires both genders to be caregivers and to do this job well.

Second, the issue of the definitions of feminism. I heard a great interview with Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and wife of congressman Sherrod Brown, on yesterday’s edition of Fresh Air on National Public Radio. Schultz discussed the challenges of campaigning, becoming a “Senator’s wife,” and situations in which she found herself that challenged her feminist nature. One issue in particular was being told at a gathering of Senator’s wives how they could order “Senate china” if they wanted. She was shocked that the women would be having this discussion in light of the critical issues related to war, terrorism, domestic poverty, and crime that their husbands would be tackling in their new jobs. Schultz went on to comment about the fact that today’s young women are hesitant to call themselves feminists because of the commonly accepted idea that being a feminist means neglecting home and family for career. Schultz believes, and I agree, that nothing could be further from the truth. Feminism is, and always has been, about choices and being able to make those choices.

Christian women should have a vital interest in securing choices about very important issues: affordable housing, the condition of schools and quality of teachers, securing reliable daycare, ensuring health insurance coverage for their children, continuity of family medical care from physicians in HMOs, protecting our children from predators and pornography on the Internet, etc. I would argue that these issues and many others are both Christian and feminist.

I think that ideally we would discuss and be in prayer with our husbands about these issues, mutually supporting each other as we strive to better live both in this world and in God’s image. You never know, you might find your husband calling himself a Christian feminist. Stranger things have been known to happen.


6 thoughts on “Christian & feminist: not mutually exclusive

  1. I so support you on this, Meg. I have considered myself to be a Christian feminist for years, but have been hesitant to “say so” in my body of believers probably because they do not understand its true meaning. You have articulate a beautiful definition for me. Thank you. Honored to be your sister, Claudia

  2. I so support you on this, Meg. I have considered myself to be a Christian feminist for years, but have been hesitant to “say so” in my body of believers probably because they do not understand its true meaning. You have articulated a beautiful definition for me. Thank you. Honored to be your sister, Claudia

  3. I’m also a Christian Feminist. Happy to be able to ‘connect’ with other Christian Feminists out there! Jesus must have been a Feminist The basic fundamental principle or “philosophy” of Feminism is equality of men and women. I think whoever agrees with that is a Feminist. Some groups of Feminists/Feminist thought (and individual Feminists) take this principle and apply it in ways most Christians strongly disagree with, but others apply Feminism entirely consistently with the fundamentals of Christianity. Feminism is like Christianity in many ways. The word “Feminism” has a similar stigma to the word “Christianity” merely because people use the example of some bad Christian/Feminist people, ideas, or groups to infer that Feminism or Christianity as a whole is bad.

    Society is “secular” today, so most Feminists (reflecting society) are probably non-Christian. Some are Christian. Feminism makes no claim about religion. It is fully consistent with Christianity. It can also survive separate from Christianity. Christianity will tend to influence the views and goals of Christian Feminists a lot, I think.

    I’ve called myself a Feminist since I knew what the word meant (thanks to ‘positive’ portrayals of Feminism and it’s definition from my high school teachers). It feels lonely being a Feminist at all, but perhaps particularly being a Christian Feminist. My brothers and dad think I’m crazy to be a Feminist (they think society is gender equal today). My mum calls herself a Feminist. My brothers/dad feel threatened by Feminism and they “see” inequality/androcentrism less easily because they are less affected by it than women. They say “big deal” when I complain that the bibles in our house use male-oriented language and make women invisible.

    [sorry for the long comment! I don’t do short easily. I really appreciate this blog].

  4. Your essay is very refreshing. I consider myself a feminist (man) as well. Unfortunately, I have had a lot of trouble throughout my adult christian life relating to other “christian” men because they generally look upon women as needing to be subservient and more unfortunately I run into so many “christian” women who believe that subservience is part of being a “good christian” woman. Our secular society seems to really reinforces that too. Suffice it to say, I don’t date a lot. An old theology friend I had years ago said that “men and women didn’t really love each other, they rewarded each other for playing roles properly”. I think that with the advent of Jesus meant that the original egalitarian relationship of men and women should be restored as well. Alas, we are still a long way from that. I also think that we have been long time victims of grotesque mistranslations of the apostle Paul’s writings. (see the book What Paul Really Said About Women – John Temple Barstow).

    Well that’s all I had to say.

    Keep on thinking free!


    • Thanks so much for your comment Gary. I agree that it is very difficult for Christian women to discern God’s intentions for their feminity and relationships with men. Thank you for the recommendation of the book by Barstow — I will definitely check that out!

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