What is a feminist?

Despite the Oxford English Dictionary definition of feminist as an “advocate of women’s rights on the ground of political social and economic equality to men” most people still prefer to think of feminist as an angry, middle-aged women with a cat obsession.

It really gets on my nerves that many of my friends refuse to identify with the word because of a silly misconception of its meaning as something along the lines of “miserable man-hater”. But that isn’t the definition. Some of my friends, even if they accept that feminists don’t hate men, wouldn’t want to call themselves feminists because “the perception of the word has changed”.

This is one of the most bizarre cop-outs I have come across and yet many people have said this to me.

One of my pet hates is when people use the word ‘ironic’ wrong, but just because other people don’t understand the word does mean I’m going to change my, the proper, definition. The people who actually understand what ‘irony’ is might even be in the minority, but that doesn’t mean we change the word, you start by educating people as to the real meaning. This is what we should be doing with feminism, not pandering to those who are uneducated in its definition.

What’s more, there aren’t other words to describe these advocates of women’s rights, so the word is actually useful.

Why is this even important?

Feminism is all over the media at the moment; it’s been dragged back into the limelight by writers like Caitlin Moran and Campaigns like the Everyday Sexism Project and its vital that the church takes an interest on issues that affect roughly 50% of the world population!

To anyone who thinks women have already achieved equality:

-1 in 5[1] women in the UK are victims of sexual abuse.

-There is so much shame surrounding rape that many still go unreported[2] and those who do report it can face imprisonment for wasting police time if their case is unsuccessful.

-Whilst illegal and uncommon in much of the world roughly 120-140 boys born for every 100 girls in some parts of India and China, which suggests that sex-selective abortion is taking place[3].

-UNICEF estimates that 66% of trafficking victims are women[4].

-The pay gap between men and women is actually rising[5] and, while women represent roughly 40% of the world’s workforce, women hold roughly 1% of the world’s wealth[6].

-Women are still underrepresented[7] in businesses, with women making up under 23% of the UK’s politicians[8] and only 5.2% of the fortune 500 CEO roles[9], despite evidence to suggest that businesses work better when the board is made up of men and women.

Even if you are lucky enough to have experienced complete social, political and economic equality in your life, this is not the case for everyone, and calling yourself a feminist is one way to show solidarity with those less fortunate that you.

What has this got to do with God?

At this point you may be wondering ‘what on earth this has to do with God, you can’t just post a load of feminist stuff on a Christian website and not mention Jesus’.

You are totally right. Christianity has a history of standing up for the underdog and I want to encourage that in our attitude to feminism. I don’t want to see the church miss out on this amazing opportunity to show people what God is actually like. He didn’t create one gender better than the other, and he wants us to show his love and care to others.

How are you so sure Gods in on your feminist movement?

When I see women being kidnapped for going to school, I think we’ve got to speak up because Jesus would be furious. Look at how Martha sat and learnt was at Jesus feet, in a place of highest honour. Jesus saw Mary as equal to the men around him, to be respected, encouraged and educated in Gods word (Luke 10:39).

And check out Deborah, chosen by God as a prophet and judge of the people and to lead an army into battle (Judges 5). Gods’ attitude to the political equality of women is revolutionary.

And obviously, these are just a couple of the kick-ass women in the bible. So, if you’re a Christian and you honestly don’t think you’re a feminist then you need a talk with God about his perspective on women, because I doubt it matches up with yours. When I put my God-glasses on and start trying to see people how God sees them, he sees people as individuals all different from one another, but all human and all deserving of love and respect and all with huge potential; not limited by sex.

So what can we actually do about this?

Well when Jesus knew something was wrong he’d call it out, he got angry at things that hurt people’s relationship with God. Seeing Christians disengaged with this huge societal ill will hurt people’s relationship with God.

As Christians, we’re called to show Gods Kingdom here on earth, I would be very surprised is there is a gender based pay gap in heaven. Whenever you sit and let someone cat-call a woman on the street, or you laugh at a ‘are you in your period’ joke, you’re implicitly telling someone that God doesn’t care is you objectify, embarrass or scare women someone for fun.

More importantly, Christianity needs to be in on the big issues. We need to be pushing gender equality because if Gods people don’t then who else can be expected to?

(Photo: Mark Sebastian | Flickr)


[1] http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/mythsampfacts2.php

[2] http://ww.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/unreported-rapes-the-silent-shame-7561636.html

[3] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-lost-girls-illegal-abortion-widely-used-by-some-uk-ethnic-groups-to-avoid-daughters-has-reduced-female-population-by-between-1500-and-4700-9059790.html

[4] http://freedom4innocence.org/human-trafficking-statistics/

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/10513636/Gender-pay-gap-widens-with-women-earning-an-average-of-5000-less-reports-ONS.html

[6] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/19/women-make-only-1-percent-wealth_n_969439.html

[7] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/business-must-keep-up-the-momentum-to-reach-25-women-on-boards-target-cable

[8] http://www.ukpolitical.info/female-members-of-parliament.htm

[9] http://fortune.com/2013/05/09/women-ceos-in-the-fortune-500/