I am Hannah Schaefer, and I might be a feminist

Feminism: n. the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men. 1

 

In one week, women of any race in America earn an average of 80.9% of what men in their same race earn.

Black women earn 68.1% of what white men earn, white women earn 80.8%, and hispanic women earn 59.3%. 2

1 in 4 women in America have experienced domestic violence, and 3 women are murdered for every 1 man murdered daily by their partner.3

 

I used to think to be a feminist you had to have a soapbox, climb on it regularly and belittle men to make ourselves feel important and needed. Feminism was “I can do anything a man can do”, female lumberjacks who walked like men and chewed tobacco and tried to be like men.

Isn’t that defeating the purpose of celebrating women, by trying to act more like men?

 

We_Can_Do_It!

 

Angry feminists buzz cut their hair and walk around naked with picket signs, and that sort of feminism I have no interest in.

But as I did more research about feminism, I found a brand new world of gentle feminists, who brand what they believe and wear it proudly, but also with respect. This world doesn’t seek to make men smaller, but seeks to be able to be a woman in her fullest self and make a space for women in our culture.

The more I read, the more I began to see a world where we could celebrate and enjoy women as we are, without pressure to become more like men because we aren’t good enough or strong enough as we are. A world where men and women have their different strengths and weaknesses, but share equal importance in our country, government, workforce, families, and world. And I like this world.

To be frank, I am amazed by how few men and women in my life claim to be feminists. Isn’t it the role of the Church to befriend and care for the lesser-than, the minorities? Why, as women, are so many of my people proud to say they aren’t feminists? Why would you be proud that you don’t defend those who are walking your own path?

Maybe you don’t feel as though the struggle over women’s rights is your battle to fight. That’s fair – we can’t fight every battle. But if you are a woman, these are your people. You are a woman. This affects you. Gender discrimination takes place in every country, every town, and affects every relationship. America is no exception. As British author Caitlin Moran said so well,

I realised that it’s technically impossible for a woman to argue against feminism. Without feminism, you wouldn’t be allowed to have a debate on women’s place in society. You’d be too busy giving birth on the kitchen floor – biting down on a wooden spoon, so as not to disturb the men’s card game … The more women argue loudly, against feminism, the more they both prove it exists and that they enjoy its hard-won privileges.”

And if you are a man…think about the women in your life. Your mother, sisters, friends, lovers. These women are smart and brave and kind, and see the world through a perspective that men do not share. These perspectives can be invaluable in your life, in your workplace, in your church, even in your government. For the sake of those you love, encourage her to stretch to her potential. A woman in her full glory is truly a sight to see. A woman with something to say is a force to be reckoned with. What do you, as a man, have to lose? What is there to be afraid of?

According to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan and Governor-General until his death in 1948, “No nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.”

We need each other. Men need women. Women need men. Humanity is entwined, and the webs are inseparable. Rather than tearing each other apart, let’s support and hold tight to those who need us most.

I am a woman, and I believe in women. I believe in our gentleness and strength and passion and determination and compassion, and I believe that we are invaluable to the world.

I also believe in men. I believe in their gentleness and strength and passion and determination and compassion, and I believe that they are invaluable to the world.

I am Hannah Schaefer, and I am a feminist.

 

(For some more gentle voices on the topic of feminism, check out this Jesus Feminist and the Good Women Project.)

 

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2 thoughts on “I am Hannah Schaefer, and I might be a feminist

  1. I think the problem lies in the connotations attached with the word “feminist” just the same as there are connotations attached with the word “Christian.” When someone identifies themselves as anything other than a Christ follower, they attach themselves to all the trappings that go along with that. Feminism goes hand in hand with post-modernism, which isn’t surprising. Challenge pre-conceived notions. Argue about what has stood for generation after generation. You can beat the system.

    Do I believe women should earn less than men? No, absolutely not. Do I believe women of other races should earn less than everyone else? No, absolutely not. So does that make me a feminist? To believe that women shouldn’t be earning less than men? If I fight for women to earn just as much as men doing the same job, does that put me in the feminism camp?

    No, absolutely not. It makes me a proponent of equality. Yet, I can’t hide behind being a proponent of equality? If I’m a proponent of equality, shouldn’t I be a proponent of ALL equality? Marriage, abortion, gay rights, taxes…it’s a slippery slope.

    In the end, because everything is changing and there is no constant, I have to look at Scripture, which I believe to be the only constant. And you are right on Hannah “do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.” Provided we as believers do justice in the name of God, taking care of the widows and orphans, and don’t hide ourselves under the banner of anything with an “-ism” at the end of it, then we are absolutely on the right path. I’d be careful about marching with any other banner.

    • Thanks Matt. I agree that there are definitely connotations associated with the term “feminist”. However, my hope in this essay was to reexamine the original meaning of the term before the stereotype became associated with it. According to the denotative definition, I would consider myself a feminist. However, I do not consider myself a post-modernist. I don’t think being a feminist means I have to also conform to beliefs that don’t fit under the definition. I don’t think the core values of equality that define feminism disagree with anything in the Bible. In fact, the way Jesus treated women challenged many social and gender norms during his time.

      I don’t, and won’t walk around announcing myself as a feminist. You will probably never see me at a protest or getting a mohawk. However, my intention here is to challenge the stereotypes we hold when we think of the word “feminist”, since it’s actually very different from that.

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