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Friday, May 14, 2010

What is a feminist?

As we prepare for the historic consecration of two (count 'em, TWO) women in the Diocese of Los Angeles this Saturday, the Episcopal Women's Caucus has been working on a major revision of its web site.

I'll be in LA, of course, representing The Caucus, and writing articles for Ruach (our quarterly magazine), The Monthly Caucus (our monthly email newsletter), the Caucus Face Book page, and this here blog.

As I was looking over the revisions, I noticed something on our web page that I hadn't noticed before. Here's the sentence:
The Episcopal Women’s Caucus, committed to advancing the role and status of women in the church, continues today as the feminist* voice in the Episcopal Church, theologically, spiritually, and politically.
At the bottom of the page, there is this note:
*A feminist is anyone who believes that God created males and females equally human.
I sighed. Deeply.

It would appear that I'm really having problems, these days, with things being reduced to the lowest common denominator.

Yes, of course, a feminist believes that when the Divine hand created humankind - "male and female God made them" - equality was in our DNA.

That's as good a starting point as any I can think of.

But, it's just a starting point.

Being a feminist is much, much more.

First of all, you don't have to be female to be a feminist. That's because feminism is a movement which identifies and names the political, cultural and economic realities of the oppression of women and seeks to change the dominant white male heterosexist paradigm as an acceptable social construct.

That's a whole lot of definition in one sentence, so let me break that down.

I say that feminism is a movement because it is an idea about equality, a philosophy about the human enterprise, that finds its highest value and meaning in action.

Feminists have worked hard to secure legal rights for women, including the right of women to enter into contract (remember that, historically, marriage is a contract between two men), as well as property and voting rights.

Feminists advocate and promote a woman's right to the self-determination of her own body, which include autonomy and reproductive rights.

Feminists have made significant gains but continue to struggle to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.

Feminists have advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave and equal pay, and against other forms of gender-specific discrimination against women.

Feminists understand the interlocking nature of oppression, and work with other men and women of color, LGBT people, and people of poverty so that the liberation and justice that are the foundational principles of this country can be enjoyed by all of God's children.

As one might imagine, working to subvert the dominant cultural paradigm can - and, in fact does - result in some fairly powerful push-back.

Certain conservative news commentators like to refer to women who engage in this particular work of justice as "femi-nazi".

Then again, in their view, if you engage in any sort of work of 'social justice' you're probably a socialist - or, at the very least, your credentials as a 'true American' are highly suspect.

I am a feminist because I am an American.

I don't know how one can say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and get to the part about "liberty and justice for all" and not be a feminist.

I am a feminist because I am a Christian.

I don't know how anyone could follow the teachings of Jesus and not be part of the movement to insure equality and liberation for all God's children.

Which, I suppose, brings us right back to that very simple definition of a feminist as one who believes that God created males and females equally human.

That's an undeniably good place to begin.

A feminist also believes that the historic consecration on Saturday in LA of two women to the episcopacy, one of them a lesbian, is a better place to begin.

I'm on my way to LA this morning - to witness the church begin a new chapter in the ongoing movement toward the liberation and equality which Jesus promised when we are obedient to and fully embrace the gospel.

I hope you'll join me in prayer and spirit.


Elaine C. said...

YES, I love it!

it's margaret said...

Travel safely. Because feminist is also a process and a journey.... ...not willing to take the same ol' road of interpretation and understanding to defeat the powers that be...

whiteycat said...

Looking forward with you to this HERstoric event!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen, dear Sister!

Muthah+ said...

Take me with you in your heart, Elizabeth and give Mary a hug for me.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Prayers for safety in your journey and while you are away from home.

I soar with you to LA in Spirit, for I shall never soar with you in a metal tube crammed full of people hurtling down the runway at 240 k/h. Oh, did I say that out loud. Sorry, I have a phobia of flying.

Cathy said...

Thank you for this rousing post, which I utterly agree with. I can only say "amen".