I’m a feminist.
I feel like I should back this up by showing you the embers of my burnt out over – the – shoulder – boulder – holders but that is both an outdated idea and very impractical. The thought of burning my bras and effectively turning into a hermit is frightening. For everyone.
But yes, I am still a feminist. And I’m pretty sure most people are too. They’ve just not realised it.
For me, it was a slow dawning of realisation and then suddenly I was there. A full-blown feminist who was ok with being a feminist. I think I was a closet feminist for a long time. I agreed that women were equal and deserved to be treated so but I was a bit scared by the label of feminist. The way feminists were depicted as shouty, ranty, fairly unkempt women (because feminists don’t believe in washing) put me off getting my membership card and a sticker for our car.
So, I stayed in the closet.
I would’ve quite happily stayed in the closet if my husband hadn’t decided to listen to God and become a vicar (seriously, people, listening to God can have mighty consequences. Be careful!). In the unlikely setting of the Hogwarts School of Vicaring, my inner feminist and outer persona were merged. It is difficult to describe how this happened but a large part of it was due to the time I spent in the bar. You see, it was there that I met and conversed with women who, like Elis, were following their call. But unlike Elis (him being a human of the penis variety) they studied and lived alongside people who actually didn’t think their call was valid. Who didn’t believe that women could be called to the same form of leadership as men.
These women were gracious and brave. Eloquent and kind. Firm yet soft. They were and are inspirational. They were the minority. And I loved them. I sat at their feet and listened. I marvelled at how brightly they shone and lamented that all the women had to be beyond the norm yet distinctly average men had no such expectations upon them. They were neon. No hint of bland beige.
The piece of injustice I was witnessing on a daily basis, the conversations we were having, the Bible I was reading, the God I was worshipping all pointed to a greater injustice. Coming out of the closet was easy, I had to answer simple questions. Do you believe women have the same rights as men? Are women equal to men? These questions are yes or no. There is no complementarian way around it. ‘Yes, but…’ is not applicable.
Now, I will never out debate you, I will never recount more statistics than you or bowl you over with quoting Amnesty International studies, I will never be able to locate the perfect Bible verse without googling it because that isn’t how my brain or heart works. But I know, when I examine my heart, I cannot deny that women are equal to men. In all ways. That belief permeates every part of my existence.
The encouraging thing for me are the growing number of men who ‘fess up to being a feminist. At the vicar factory, there were so many more men who stood by their sisters and affirmed that calling than those who openly or silently did not. Men are awesome. Which is why I think they are equal to women. Women are awesome too. I want men to have the same rights as women. For men to be able to cry and it not be seen as a weakness. For women to take charge of a situation and not be called ‘bossy’. For men to find pleasure in homemaking and not to be seen as being ‘under the thumb’ or a ‘pansy’. For women to be strong and athletic without being called ‘butch’. These are a few of the numerous hopes I have for my brothers and sisters.
In this new era of feminism, we need our brothers to be more vocal, more visible in their feminism. No matter what we hope the world to look like, it is still dominated by men. Until men are willing to share power, to be led by women, to acknowledge the rights they have not had to fight for are also the rights that women are fighting so ardently for, only then will we see the equality we long for. It really does start small, a drop in the ocean. Start in your own homes, workplaces and places of worship. Start by looking at your mothers, your sisters, your wives, your daughters, your friends and ask yourself: Do I believe they are equal to their male counterparts? If yes, then tell them. Affirm them. Choose them first. Put them in your leadership team. Book them to lead your training/conference. Buy their books. Champion them. Your feminism will bring equality.
If you answered no, then think about why that is. How are they unequal? Examine your heart, open up dialogue with your feminist friends. Put yourself in our shoes, take a moment to imagine how the world looks through our eyes. The messages we are sent by the world. Women do not have to imagine looking at the world through a male lens, we have done that our whole lives.
I hope that soon enough we will no longer need to refer to women’s rights. Our references will only be to human rights. The rights for all. Regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. Perhaps even the label of feminist will be unnecessary as we allow equality to become the norm.
Friends, come join me outside the closet. There’s room for everyone. See you on the other side!