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A woman without her man

I recently came across the following anecdote:

   An English professor asked his students to punctuate the following sentence: 
     “A woman without her man is nothing.”

     All of the males in the class wrote:
     “A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

     All of the females in the class wrote:
     “A woman:  without her, man is nothing.”

     The punchline:  Punctuation is powerful.

Beyond the punchline, it’s a rather thought-provoking sentence.  It summons up deep feelings from the age-old battle of the sexes, causing you to champion your own gender.  Men want to say, “Men are better!”  And women want to say, “Women are better!”  It made me wonder, what do I say?

I think I would say that the two ways of punctuating the statement must exist together.

I am a self-proclaimed Christian feminist.  The word feminist always strikes a discordant key.  Images of bra-burning, angry women rise to the surface. But I am a Christian feminist, not a bitter feminist with an axe to grind.  The difference is that I believe in equality.  It’s not that I believe women are better than men or that men are better than women.  I believe that both have equal value as image-bearers of the Creator God.  And we need each other.  Men need women.  Women need men.

When I hear about women being unjustly treated, I admit, I do get angry.  It is a very deep, visceral anger.  But when men are unjustly treated, I feel the same way.  To me, it’s not a mundane issue like the annoyance of getting a soggy newspaper every morning because it was rained on by my sprinklers.  Injustice makes me angry.  I think it’s because when someone gets cheated, it means that someone else has stomped on the intrinsic value God has given to his image-bearers.  It’s wrong.  And we are supposed to be angry about it.

What about you? Two things I’d like to put forth for discussion:

1.  Does injustice make you angry?  Do you feel more anger when it is for those who are in more inferior positions or equally and for all?

2.  Do you have a different definition of Christian feminist than mine?  Please share if you differentiate between Christian feminist vs. egalitarian vs. ___ ?

16 Comments

  1. Gem
    Comment #98002 posted January 26, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I have been reprimanded by friends recently for getting angry about injustice. This was upsetting for me. “It is a nice day, go outside and forget your worries”. I feel that anger is the appropriate response to injustice rather than apathy.
    I too call myself a feminist however I know people sometimes think this means I want women to rule men. For me it means giving all people the opportunity to pursue their individual goals free of stereotyping and gender roles. These days I’m more of an apostate after being told too many times that I don’t have the anatomy required to be a leader – never mind that I’m more educated, healthy, fit, accomplished and experienced than those who are saying these things to me.

  2. Jeanine S. Moss
    Comment #98004 posted January 26, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    A number of years ago, when I began to speak out about Biblical equality, I was labeled feminist by some who sought to negate my credibility. A few months later, in a different context, I heard the mini proverb — Once you label someone, you are able to negate them. And I realized that was exactly what was happening to me. I later came across the use of Biblical feminist (after the order of Paul and Jesus). That was disconcerting to my critics inasmuch as they thought both were on their side, especially Paul.

  3. Comment #98015 posted January 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Excellent thoughts and questions, MaryAnn. I haven’t had much mind space lately, but I’m trying to give this place some special priority.

    For myself I have chosen not to use the word feminist. When anyone tries to label me I head it off by claiming that I am fully and completely Christian only and fully and completely teach and honor all of the Bible. In fact, I love the Bible. I read the Bible daily and study it voraciously. When necessary I point out that the Bible is not anti-women and neither Jesus nor Paul were against women but both supported them fully. When possible I point out Scriptures that are obviously supporting the equal value of all people in Christ. I state as many positives as I can find at the moment trusting the Holy Spirit to guide me. In this way I believe I can head off all the attacks and steer the conversation toward respect. It is only from some small point of respect that real dialogue can happen.

  4. Amanda Beattie
    Comment #98030 posted January 28, 2013 at 12:23 am

    By the broadest, most widely-accepted definition of feminism (“The radical notion that women are people, too”), I don’t mind thinking of myself as somewhat of a feminist. But I choose not to publically identify as such, for two main reasons:

    1) The term is a bit of a stumbling block for lots of conservative Christians. I’d rather focus on communicating the concepts I believe, as opposed to having to spend lots of (probably futile) effort on the front end trying to convince everyone that feminism is not really inherently bitter and misandrist.

    2) Mainstream feminism–including the overwhelming majority of the big, well-respected names today–stands for one or two moral issues that I find to be utterly incompatible with the Bible. Some authors I’ve read go as far as saying that if you don’t agree with those tenets, you aren’t really a feminist. I don’t agree with those tenets.

    So where fellow Christians will be confused or offended, and secular feminists don’t think I qualify, I’m just as happy to leave the title well enough alone. I’d rather focus on being clear about what I believe, rather than which title I can append to it.

  5. Comment #98127 posted January 30, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    In answer to your 2 questions MaryAnn……..

    Yes, injustice makes me indignant (I find angry such a strong word) I mostly feel a mixture of sad/angry when people are treated unfairly. Whether it’s a ‘small’ matter of children in a playground or global injustice I find it incredibly upsetting that humans can treat each other in unfair ways. So often, I can’t see a way to ‘fix’ it and that is maybe the hardest part – living with injustice and trying to demonstrate fairness in how I live every day. Some people think it’s totally unrealistic and treat me like a misguided child who is too idealistic.

    For the second question re titles. Egalitarian in Australia means more than how we use it in a biblical sense. It is used more and more by the homosexual lobby and so we need to find a better word. Feminist also has some unwelcome connotations so we tend to not use that word.
    Titles to describe theological positions are always open to misunderstanding…..people have different ideas about what these titles mean (such as ‘evangelical’)

    I love talking about “Christians for Biblical Equality” because that’s what we are about but it is too clumsy to say I’m a biblical equalitarian (or something similar) No matter what the titles, some will misunderstand but I think it’s important to stress that we want to believe and follow God’s word and are not just following the culture of the day.

  6. Don
    Comment #98138 posted January 31, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I am willing to be called a feminist, but it takes so much explanation and causes so much negative reaction in some circles that I do not push it too much, rather I use the word egalitarian, but many are not familiar with that, so I just say I believe in equality as taught in the Bible.

  7. Comment #98139 posted January 31, 2013 at 10:55 am

    “so I just say I believe in equality as taught in the Bible.”

    I like that Don. :)

  8. JV
    Comment #98140 posted January 31, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I tell people I’m a feminist, just like Jesus was.

  9. Red
    Comment #98141 posted January 31, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I have quite a few feminist friends who are not Christians, and honestly, I have not found much difference between us in how we view women’s roles in the world. (Obviously any Christian and non-Christian pair of friends will have differences in how they view things, but that has more to do with Christ-following than with what gender theory they believe). I would say abortion is the biggest issue that we don’t agree on. Premarital sex is also something that we would disagree on, however, that’s more to do with being a Christian or not than being a feminist or not, in my experience. And many of the feminists I know would wholeheartedly support the choice I made to remain abstinent until marriage, as long as that was my decision that was reached out of my own personal religious convictions (as opposed to just accepting those convictions from my parents for no real reason…and as a Christian, I also wouldn’t suggest that someone just accept their parents’ beliefs without truly believing it themselves!)

    I have found the feminists that I know to be much more interested in the kinds of things we discuss here at CBE…how subtle cultural influences make us think poorly of women, or how men and women are pitted against each other in subtle ways, etc. Virtually none of my feminist friends believe women should rule over men, or are in any way better than men.

    Because of all this, it’s hard for me to NOT identify as a feminist. So much of what feminism is, I see in myself, and I see in the radical equality espoused in the Bible. I believe Biblical equality and feminism have a lot of overlap. Obviously it’s not complete overlap, but enough that I am comfortable with the feminist term.

    I completely understand why someone might not want to use that label around other Christians because of the bad rap feminism has gotten. I, too, considered this possibility. Finally, though, I came up against this question: If the church has shamed the word “feminism” in an attempt to silence the voice of gender equality, how long will it take for them to shame the word “egalitarian” or “Christian feminist” or any other term we might come up with? I don’t want to allow complementarians to twist the meanings of words in order to discredit their opponents, and if we abandon those words every time they do so, eventually they’ll back us into a corner. I hope that by calling myself a feminist, I can actually have more of a platform to address people’s questions and show them that it’s not only okay, but Biblically sound to challenge man-centric thinking.

    That’s my own opinion, though, and like I said, I strongly understand those who don’t feel comfortable using that word.

    As far as injustice, I hate it either way. I used to get SUPER annoyed with my other girl friends in high school…they would go through a bad breakup and then hate boys, believing that “all men are bad/stupid/rude/awful” and I would be the only one sitting there wanting to be friends with guys. I thought it was so dumb that we were being pitted against one another.

    I would also get mad when people suggested that men were the decision-makers (but uh, *cough*, women are the ones who subtly influence the stupid men to make the right decision, so it all comes out even). I used to see that as a situation where BOTH partners were looked on with a demeaning attitude.

    I can safely say that I am NOT on board with injustice of any kind.

  10. Caroline Sch. Cutler
    Comment #98142 posted January 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I like Nancy Hardesty’s definition of feminism “as a belief in and commitment to the basic equality of men and women, a commitment to woman’s and man’s freedom to choose their own destinies apart from gender-determined roles, social rules, or any of the social relationships in which they participate.” This is from her book Women Called to Witness: Evangelical Feminism in the Nineteenth Century (x-xi), which brings up an interesting point that feminism had its roots in Christianity—particularly evangelical Christianity of the 19th century. With that being the case, and because I believe the concept of feminism does speak to equality and justice, I can gladly embrace the term.

    I also appreciate your emphasis on women and men needing each other, MaryAnn. One of the things I’m passionate about is women and men working together for the kingdom of God.

  11. Rachel
    Comment #98145 posted January 31, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    When I was in high school, my closest friend was from a complementarian church, and during one of our discussions, she said, “But you’re a biblical feminist, right?” Years later, I still like that idea, but find that mainstream feminism does not speak for me, and many Christians understandably have negative associations with the word feminist. That’s why I use the word egalitarian in Christian circles. It means the same ideal of equality to me, but it doesn’t have the baggage or potential to confuse others. (I do use the word feminist when with Jewish or secular peers, as they generally use the label, but then have to clarify by saying I’m a pro-life feminist or first wave feminist.) And sometimes, I’ve simply linked to CBE on facebook.

  12. Comment #98179 posted February 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    In answer to your first question, Mary Ann–yes, injustice does makes me angry. When I was a boy, I was bullied at school, and so I hate all forms of bullying with a purple passion. But if we follow the lead of the OT prophets and Jesus Christ, we must do more than get angry–we must find ways, as God directs and empowers us, to both speak out against and resist injustice, whenever and wherever we can. Francis Schaeffer once said that while we Christians may not be able to do everything that needs to be done to right the wrongs in our world, we dare not do anything at all.

    As to the second question, I usually refer to myself as an Egalitarian or Biblical Egalitarian, since the circles I move in understand this to be the opposite position to Complementarianism. Although I am surprised to learn how “egalitarian” is being used by gay activists in Australia. I suppose that is an illustration of a problem Millard Erickson has pointed out in “Who’s Tampering With The Trinity?” Whenever we have this discussion over the terms we use to describe our position on the relationship either between people, or the Persons of the Trinity, we have to deal with the problem of “definative stipulation.”

    Definative stipulation often occurs in debates when one speaker defines his own position as in some way truer to, or in greater conformity with some widely accepted belief or social standard– while at the same time describing or charging his opponents’ position as in some way short of or being deviant from this widely accepted truth or standard, without ever addressing the question of whether or not this commonly held belief or standard itself is true or just. It is a tactic to establish a debater’s integrity and credibility while at the same time undermining that of the opponent.

    And as a result of this definative stipulation, whether we refer to ourselves as Christian feminists, Christian humanists, egalitarians etc.–some explanation and clarification is unavoidable, if we do not want our integrity and credibility to suffer. But this still can be an opportunity to clear the air and get people to avoid the smokescreens so that real issues of truth and justice can be faced and properly dealt with.

  13. Comment #98190 posted February 3, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I think I got my allusion or quote of Francis Schaeffer a bit wrong. He said that while we may not be able to right all the wrongs in the world, we dare not do nothing at all. The way I phrased the saying in my previous comment (#98179) gives the wrong impression. Francis Schaeffer taught that the mission of the Church was not only to proclaim redemption and reconcilation through Christ, but also to demonstrate it by working for justice and social reform whenever and wherever possible.

  14. Deborah
    Comment #99054 posted March 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I simply call myself a Christian first, a human being second, and a child of God third. Really, what more is there to it than that? If everyone could only realize in the Spirit and soul of a person, there is no gender, only an individual person.

    • Comment #99063 posted March 8, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      That is such a good description. I have copied it down for future use. The inner person is what goes on forever.

  15. Caroline Sch. Cutler
    Comment #99100 posted March 9, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Don’t we believe in the resurrection? If so, we need to recognize that we are embodied humanity — the embodied “Spirit and soul of a person,” if you like, is who we are. What then does this mean in terms of Gal 3:28? As Gordon Fee says, it means we need to take “Paul seriously with regard to ethnicity, status and gender no longer being relevant for constituting value and social identity in the new creation” (“Male and Female in the New Creation,” Discovering Biblical Equality, 179). I don’t think it means that who we are in our bodies — including male and female — is not relevant or important to our identity.

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