Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why I'm A Feminist

There are many different kinds of feminists, just as there are many different kinds of.... almost any label or category you can think of that people use to describe themselves and others.  Broadly speaking, being a feminist means that you believe women are equal with men and should have equal political, social, and economic rights.  Outside of that, a person will often find a wide range of thoughts and beliefs held by those who claim to be feminists, as well as a variety of reasons why a person would choose to claim the feminist label.  If a person tells you she or he is a feminist, their beliefs and ideology may or may not be in line with what you think of as a feminist.  It is good to ask questions and listen.

I have not always identified as a feminist, but I have always believe in equality.  Over the past few years I've learned a lot more about the role my faith plays in my beliefs on equality and justice and would say now that one reason I am a feminist is because I am a Christian.  Another reason I would say I am a feminist is because I am a woman who realizes that despite how far we have come on issues of gender equality, we still have a long way to go.  I am a feminist for many reasons, but one of the reasons I think is most important is because I have sons.

Only sons and no daughters.  Sons who will grow up to be men.

I see the attitudes of so many men who are considered leaders in political or religious or business circles who, through their words and actions, communicate that women do not deserve equality or a voice or fair treatment... and my blood boils.  I see how men and women are portrayed in the media in ways that degrade and objectify women... and my heart breaks.  There are times the odds seem insurmountable to reach a point where we are all treated fairly and equally regardless of gender.  I don't want my sons to think any of this is acceptable and I especially don't want for them to become part of the problem.

Of course, I also see men in political or religious or business circles who, through their words and actions, promote equality and fairness... and I am overjoyed.  I see men and women who fight against the degradation and objectification of women... and my heart soars.  I want my sons to know about these people and see that things can be different.  Being a feminist and being aware of these people so I can learn from them and help my sons learn from them is a big part of that.

A few months back I wrote a post riffing on Rachel Held Evans' writing about the cosmic lottery and the privilege my kids were born with simply because they are white American males.  I wrote that I wanted to raise them in such a way that they do not use any advantages this gives them to put themselves ahead of others.  I went back and read it again and I think the following is worth repeating in this discussion:
I want my boys to learn that any good things they may have in their lives don't make them better than anyone else.  I want them to see others as their brothers and sisters in this world... I am trying to figure out how to teach my boys to be able to step back from their own experience, to listen, to connect, to care, and to think.  And, when appropriate, I want them to help, to stand up, and to speak out. 
Sometimes I feel like my heart will break with the weight of thinking about these things.  I wonder if there will ever come a day when there aren't so many people looking at others who are different from them and trying to find ways to deny them dignity.  I wonder if pondering and being deliberate about these issues will make a difference.  I wonder if trying to instill a sense of humility and responsibility in my two little boys will ever matter at all.
I think that sums up why I am a feminist.  I am a feminist because, even if it is only my two little boys who are hearing me, I want to raise them to treat others fairly and equally.  I want them to see that their dad and I treat each other as equals and share equally the responsibility for earning money and taking care of our household because that is what we both want and agreed to before we got married.  I hope they remember that we arranged our work schedules so that one of us was always home with them, even though we both work full-time.  I pray the example we set for them and the things we teach them will help them become members of society who realize the importance of equality.

I want to raise my sons to know that although we are each put on this earth to serve others, we are never to treat others as though they were put here to serve us. We are never to objectify, degrade, oppress, or use others, because every person is made in the image of God, regardless of their genetic make-up or how different they may be from us.  I want to raise my sons to be the kind of men who treat others -- especially women -- the way they want to be treated.

And being a feminist is just one of the many ways I can teach them that.

Note: This post is part of a linkup on Feminism hosted by Kelly J. Youngblood at Renewing Your Mind.  Please check out the other posts and join in the conversation.

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