A few weeks ago, when it was my turn to post a blog piece, I wrote on Feminist Theology and how Christians can be feminists by fighting sexism as a sinful tendency (find it here). I was dancing on rainbows when readers commented with their thoughts and their challenges to the idea. (Please, please, please keep doing that.)
But I wondered why Christians get uncomfortable with the feminist movement. What’s wrong with advocating equality of the sexes?
In my research of feminism, I keep coming up with articles and social media discussions about the movement to reclaim the female body, particularly through fighting against female objectification in media and in our own human relationships. From Cosslett and Baxter’s feminist book ‘the Vagenda’ which “asks real women everywhere to demand a media that reflects who we actually are,” to Chicago’s SlutWalk that challenges persisting misogynistic attitudes in rape culture – campaigns which argue that a person’s body is not an object are a big part of feminist discourses. Feminists argue that women’s bodies – well, nobody’s bodies, really – belong to anyone else. No human should have the right to say what to do with someone else’s body.
I personally stand by this and I would like to think many Christians would as well. We should resent human objectification and oppression. It is sin. As I’ve written before, quoting feminist theologian Phyllis Trible, “Subjugation and supremacy are perversions of creation.”
However, I think the thing that hinders Christians is the alternative mindset: if our bodies don’t belong to someone else, then they are our own. In Emma Watson’s speech for the “HeForShe” campaign, the actress said, “I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body.”
Yes, our bodies don’t belong to someone else. But do they belong to us?
This is where Christian values don’t easily align with this particular feminist discourse. The Bible teaches that our bodies don’t belong to us. 1 Corinthians 6:19, for example, says, “You are not your own.”
If you don’t believe in a God, it makes sense for your body to belong to no one else but yourself, in which case, you are in charge of the decisions that you make about your body. But if you are Christian, you understand why this is not so simple. Our bodies are created by God, for God. They are a gift. They are meant to glorify God which means using “your body in ways that will show that God is more satisfying, more precious, more to be desired, more glorious than anything the body craves.”*
And how the body craves! I heard a pastor once say, “There are three things that cause us to sin: the Devil, the world, and our own flesh.”
Putting God’s desires above our bodily, or fleshly, desires is one of the many struggles that Christians face, especially because we have the free will to not do it.
Christians can agree with the feminists who believe that we have a right to make decisions about our own bodies. But how should we respond to that right? Or more importantly, who are we accountable to when we make those decisions?
For me, I’ve been raised to believe that I’m accountable to God. I’m accountable for what I do with the body that He gave me. And I’m not always happy about that. Most times, I’d rather just do what I want to do.
Last Saturday, my body craved some red wine. So I drained half a bottle and fell into a wine coma on my sofa. I woke up two hours later, stumbled to the bus stop, and got to work 30 minutes late. To some people, this might not sound so scandalous. But for me, I pride myself on being punctual and professional. Afterwards as I walked home, gorging on McDonald’s fries in an effort to dull the pain in my head, I thought to myself, “I am such an idiot.”
I don’t want to be a slave to my bodily desires. I don’t want to be in charge because I’m a fallible human being like everyone else. But it’s okay. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “I will not be mastered by anything.” Not only am I not mastered by other people, I’m not mastered by myself.
For me, feminism is freedom from other people. Christianity is freedom from ourselves.
Feature Photo Credit: Seol Song
Photo taken at art installation: Teamlab, Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – A Whole Year, Dark, 2015, interactive digital installation, endless. Saatchi Gallery, London.
Inline photo credit: Ellie Howell