“I’m Christian, but I am a feminist.” This is a statement made in Buzzfeed’s cringeworthy video, “I’m Christian, but I’m not…” (Journalist Mollie Hemingway can explain why it’s cringeworthy here). Anyways, you don’t have to be a literature student to read that statement and realize it’s implications. Being Christian – a follower of Christ – and a feminist – one who believes in equality of the sexes – can be surprising.
Probably because of the Bible, which features verses like these:
1 Corinthians 11:3
“the head of the woman is man”
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord”
“urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind and to be subject to their husbands”
Yeah, it looks bad. It looks sexist.
Before I go further, let me define sexism. Sexism is “prejudice or discrimination on the basis of sex.” This includes being anti-women. A basic picture of being anti-women is saying that a woman has more propensity to mess up because of their sex, thus encouraging them to rely on someone else (such as, I don’t know, their husband).
Naturally, there has been plenty of resistance to calling the Bible sexist, from footnotes for those specific verses to a comic that argues the Bible is not anti-women. Ultimately, no one wants to believe that you can’t follow the Bible and also advocate equality of the sexes. Me included.
But I wanted to research even deeper. That’s why when my friend, Katie, (who’s started her own blog here) introduced me to Feminist Theology, I dug right in. And now, after doing so, I will forever itch in my skin whenever somebody calls the Bible sexist.
One of the things I never realized when reading the book of Genesis is that sexism is a consequence of sin. In Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve after the Fall, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This happens in the context of God listing the punishments for Eve having eaten the forbidden apple. The footnote in my Bible says, “Her sexual attraction to the man and his headship over her will become intimate aspects of her life in which she will experience trouble and anguish rather than unalloyed joy and blessing.” This is “not a license for male supremacy, but rather it is condemnation of that very pattern. Subjugation and supremacy are perversions of creation.’*
Christians should believe that men and women are equal, especially that they are equal in their sinfulness, in their brokenness, in their need for God. We are all sinners, victims of the First Sin (the Fall) and its consequences.
It makes me think of a poetry performance by Preston Perry and Jackie Hill Perry called the Fall. They act as Adam and Eve and say to each other in unison, “We are both sin wrapped in flesh, broken creations, stained-glass windows with no shine, no sun, no light, we are both dark, broken, imperfect, lost… we are fallen.”
*Phyllis Trible, ‘Eve and Adam: Genesis 2-3 Reread,’ in Womenspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, ed. by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), pg. 80
Photo Credit: Garrett Brown