What feminism is, and is not

Given the descriptions of feminism penned by the likes of Douglas Wilson and the Baylys, I think it’s time to discuss what feminism is, and what it is not. Before I do, I’d like to publicly ask Wilson and the Baylys which feminist theorists they’ve studied to arrive at their particular perspectives on such a massive subject. Have you read Simone de Beauvoir? Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble? What about bell hooks’ writings on intersectionality? I mentioned Gayatri Spivak in one of my previous posts, she also has some interesting things to say about postcolonial feminism. Do you know what womanism is, Mr. Wilson? Any of the Baylys? Do you understand why it branched off from mainstream feminism? Do you know the difference between radical feminism and sex-positive feminism? Do you know why feminists make a distinction between gender and biological sex? 

I ask only because your writings reflect a clear ignorance about what feminism is, and what it is not. 

Feminism is not code for “female supremacy.” Feminists can be straight, and feminists can be queer. But a philosophy based on the idea of gender equality does not have room for the demonization of one gender to elevate another. You don’t seem to understand that, I’m afraid.
Feminism is not intended to denigrate stay at home mothers. Instead, feminism advocates the presence of a choice: that women deserve the ability to choose whether or not their skills and talents are bested suited to the home, and that a woman who chooses to work receives respect equal to a woman who has chosen to stay at home. 
Feminism is not about false rape claims, or whatever else it is you’ve heard from the men’s rights movement. Instead, feminism is about the right of survivors to be heard, and respected; to tell their stories free of shame and stigma. And this includes male survivors, too. 
Feminism is not about hate. Feminists, as we’ve already covered, do not hate men. Feminists don’t hate stay at home mothers. Real feminists (and here I depart from many of my friends in the movement) don’t hate religion either, because to do so invalidates the choices of religious women. 

Feminism is, however, most certainly about choice. Choice is inextricably linked to independent agency. Women possess the capacity to determine their appropriate roles for themselves. For some women, this means they choose to be religious. It may even mean that they choose to be conservative and religious. And that choice is as valid as mine, to choose to be agnostic, as long as neither of us attempt to force the other to adapt to our way of life. But feminists acknowledge that we do not make these choices in a void, and therefore, our choices merit critical examination. I cannot say that I have seen the same tendency reflected on your websites: there is merely a refusal to accept criticism from anyone you deem to be “out of fellowship.” That’s a convenient excuse, and a cowardly one. It allows you to ignore the very reasons that blogs like Rachel Held Evans’ have become so popular with women. It’s because that women (including me, before I left the church) far too often experience decades of attacks on their gender identity at the hands of those who claim to serve the church. If you actually read the comments on that blog, you’d read story after story of abuse, of complementarianism taken to its furthest extremes. You’ll read why women have become alienated from the church, and why so many of us have chosen to take shelter outside it. 

But it certainly is easier to mock, and to ignore. It’s easier to brand someone a heretic than actually listen to anything they might have to say. It’s truly pathetic to watch, and it is a testament to the fallibility of the worldview you’ve so carefully constructed to insulate yourselves from the world. At least do some research. In fact, here’s a challenge: Douglas Wilson and the Bayly family have stated that they refuse to interact with Christians like Rachel Held Evans because she’s perverting the gospel. They express less concern over interacting with regular “pagans.” So let’s read some pagan books, gentlemen. Let’s try actually reading some feminist theory. Then you may attempt to convince us you actually know anything at all about feminism, and what it is and is not, and why so many of us have flocked to it when we were failed by doctrines like yours. 


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