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Writer’s Note: I use “sex” and “gender” interchangeably, as I am not well-versed in the dynamics of their evolving definitions to understand where one may be more appropriate than the other.
In the first week of my American History class, my teacher asked if any one of us believed in equal pay for men and women. We were all one in our affirmation. In turn she said, “Then you are all feminists.” At the time, I thought her statement oversimplified feminism and was a clever device to catch us in a box with many compartments she had to ignore to make her point. I still believe this. Feminism is a complicated issue. It is a spectrum, an umbrella covering many individualized beliefs.
Feminism is necessary because men can and historically have been brutish. We have abused God’s endowment of greater physical strength to satisfy the human thirst for pride and power. The Bible records Lamech, the great-great-great-great grandson of Adam, as the first to take “for himself two wives” (Gen. 4:19) and boasts to them of having “‘killed a man’” (v. 23). Solomon had nearly a thousand wives and concubines. It is human nature to be selfish, yet in gaining more he devalues the worth of what he already possesses. What is the value of a woman when she must compete for her husband’s attention?
This lies close to the heart of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Her issue is that men, in order to gratify their pride, have taught women to be delicate, doting and beautiful; women have been conditioned to believe their sole purpose is to wait upon their husbands and to be as reverent, admiring children. It is better for them to be stupid and emotional than intellectual and moral. However, Wollstonecraft argues the irrationality and unkindness of such held beliefs. If women have a soul as men do, do they not stand equally before the throne of God? Do they not have the same responsibilities as men do? Then of course it is a great injustice to fetishize women—for beauty fades and the fire of youthful love cools, and then what is a woman to do in her old age but watch her husband run after another?
I take issue with the various sexual and sexist slurs used of women: the b-word, c-word, s-word, w-word. I take issue with women who use these words against one another to belittle them without realizing that women as a whole, as half of God’s prized creation, are lowered as a result; I take issue with men who treat women as objects, ideals, fetishes and sprinkle these words liberally in their speech.
I do believe that feminism must include equal rights and equal pay. However, what secular feminism, and secularism in general, fails to answer is by what measure are all human beings—man and woman—entitled to the same human experience. Is humanity the ultimate standard? What qualifies something as human? Reason? Reason is subjective and thus unreliable. Physiology? Natural law and ethics? The advantage of the Christian worldview is that there is a fixed, unalterable object—God—in relation to which humanity exists. I do not consider a person’s gender before I consider his or her worth. Human value is, as God, fixed. Women should never be idealized, objectified or fetishized. They are as frail and corrupt human beings as men.