Being Feminist and Christian

August always feels like a whirlwind. A tornado of birthdays greets me as I turn the calendar from July to August—my mother’s and father’s spaced a mere five days apart plus a good friend’s right in the middle—and then anniversaries—for my husband and I as well as my parents’ whose anniversary we share. In the space of about a week, August has the ability to knock me off my feet.

And if I have any inkling of getting up, I’m hit with the shocking realization that summer is essentially over and I’m suddenly scurrying around hoping to be ready for the first day of school. Which is why instead of writing syllabi, checking rosters, or working on Blackboard, I’m writing this.

You see, I woke up this morning knowing that my day will entail brainstorming and writing, planning and revising, planning some more. But in the midst of the pressure to get these things done, I feel tremendous gratefulness for those who made this work possible for me.

The last few years it seems the popular thing to do is to reject the label of feminist. Rock stars and writers, business leaders and a host of others have refused to align themselves with feminism, claiming, somehow that they are not feminists because they do not hate men (a prevalent misnomer), or they do not feel oppressed (a problem with awareness, perhaps?) and cannot figure out why feminists still think there is a problem (hmm, why are women still not paid on par with men?).

And yet, the very positions they hold either as popular media figures or CEOs or authors would not be possible without feminism.

Contemporary Christianity has been especially harsh on feminism, telling scores and scores of women that they must choose one or the other, but they certainly cannot be a Christian and a feminist. Of course such claims are historically invalid as many women in the late 1800s and early 1900s changed American society because of not in spite of their religious commitments. Intrepid women worked for the abolition of slaves, for better work conditions for factory workers, to alleviate poverty and prostitution, to secure a public voice for women by gaining the right to vote. For many, their commitments to changing society were based upon their faith.

In other words, many of the early feminists were feminists because they were Christians. As it turns out, taking seriously the idea that we are all made in the image of God means a radical thing: there can be no oppression, no second-class status, no subjugation of any group for any reason.

As someone whose work involves education and religion, I am enormously indebted to these feminist pioneers who made my livelihood possible. Without them I would not be educated; I would not have the ability to vote; I would not have the plethora of options I enjoy today.

So even as I lament the passing of another summer and I’m feeling more than a little overwhelmed by the mountain I face, the Fall semester looming over me so heavily I can hardly breathe, I remain thankful for the feminists before me who made my path possible.

And because of them I hold my head high when I say I am a feminist and a Christian.

Another school year: bring it!