Sunday, June 12, 2011

Of Christians and Feminists

Dumb bastard like he is, 
he wants to touch ever'thing he likes. 
Just wants to feel it.

He ain't no cuckoo,” said George.
He's dumb as hell, but he ain't crazy.
An' I ain't so bright neither,
or I wouldn't be buckin' barley for my fifty and found.

"Now maybe George aint gonna let me tend no rabbits, 
if he fin's out you got killed."

--from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Suzanne has a post up today in which she defends and questions a label by which she's been labeled. She writes of herself "in the concrete world of the flesh" and laughs saying, it's "just funny" that the label "radical feminist" lobbed at her doesn't always fit the ways she lives and describes her own self day to day.  She gets us her readers also thinking of descriptions of "of women in the Bible - Lydia, ... Phoebe, Chloe, Junia and so on.... of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah,... Hannah... Bathsheba and Tamar."  Read her descriptions here.

And some years back, Julie Clawson blogged to say, "I am a feminist because I am a Christian."  She was making the point that feminism's history in the United States and in Great Britain has Christian ideals and how many foremothers of various waves of feminism were Christians.  Then Courtney Tarter blogged at the Council on "Biblical" "Manhood" and "Womanhood," to label Clawson a "a wife, mother, egalitarian and emerging church pastor" and to insist that "feminism will not achieve her goals."   Tarter further asserted, "Feminism is not necessary to overcome the lie of oppression."  And then she separated Clawson's "feminism" from their "Christianity" ostensibly shared; and Tarter kicked in her point:   "Feminism is not necessary to overcome the lie of oppression.  The [Christian] gospel is."  (You can read Clawson's and then Tarter's posts here and here.)

This month, I've been blogging against such labels.  Or, rather, I've wanted to say what Suzanne has said.  Real life, real experience, these don't always fit labels well.  Where my body is, who I am, trumps the abstraction of a label.  The abstraction gets so crazy that those who wear the labels for themselves often do much damage.  I have real life friends and blogger friends who wear the label "Christian," and they fight to defend "Christianity" as if this is something Jesus did, or would do.  As if Jesus were a Christian.  He wasn't.  I also have real life friends and blogger friends who wear the label "feminist," and they also fight to defend "feminism," as if the movement had more value than women and men and children.  It doesn't.

So there are these rallies to unify around the label, for example:  "to lightheartedly combat some of the vitriol coming out of the online Christian community by celebrating what we have in common and demonstrating that we can have a sense of humor when it comes to non-essential theological disagreements."  And there are these efforts to consider bridging the divides within the other label, for example:  "the academic-activist feminist divide... [may be partly overcome by] another interesting and overlooked connection between academic and 'popular' feminism."

When I read the Bible, and the sexism therein (and the bits that dogmatists use to maintain their sexism by often quoting and blogging and preaching from these bits), then it makes me appreciate even more what Susanne has said.  And I appreciate the book Shawna Atteberry has written emphasizing not the teachings in Christian Sunday Schools but the lived lives of real people in the Bible as the prism by which to read the dogmatism. And I'm glad for the "Christian-Jewish Conversation" that Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and the Rev. Mary C. Earle have had right here in the state where I live.  My own blogging this month so far some has tried also recognize the real life and thoughtful resistances of so many to the sexism of Adolf Hitler, as he labeled women, Jews, people of faith, and even "feminists."  As in John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men, there's much at stake.  But real life in our real bodies trumps labels.

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