Christianity and Feminism

APRIL KOH
TD ’14
Executive Director

I am a Christian.

I am a Yale student.

I am a woman.

Three identities that are not too hard to piece together, especially when you don’t think too much about it. A smart Christian girl. You see those everywhere. No surprise.

But press the issue a little harder. Look a little closer, and you’ll see that those identities don’t really blend all so well–

I wake up on a Sunday morning and feel a bit guilty for that brief slip in my thinking — “Do I have time to go to Mass today?” — because of the academic work that’s never-ending and on the forefront of my mind. I suppress those distractions–which are rooted in my personal ambitions–and go to Mass, where I hear the priest talk about the “glory” of Mary’s virginity and to be honest my mind wanders a bit to that paper due next week and the article I have to write for the Herald. I step out and enter a cafe where I open Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist oeuvre — The Second Sex. Reading her angry feminist words, I am moved; but I feel guilty about being moved by her words, because her anger and logic is married to her antagonism towards Christianity. And I think back to the Women’s Leadership Conference I attended just a few weeks ago, where I listened to women talk about why we still can’t have it all and felt a solidarity that nearly drew an “Amen” from my lips.

As Yale students, we have proven to be excellent and are expected to be excellent. Yale students are intelligent and are given the resources to fully realize their potentials. It is a sin in the Ivy-League mentality to accept mediocrity. The expectation for women to be on par with men is explicit and aggressively supported; Yale’s progressive platform includes and does not question the platform of feminists. As a woman at Yale, I am–unwittingly and somewhat automatically–a feminist.

But in the Christian community, “feminism” is rarely mentioned. Political correctness makes Christians go rather dumb on the subject of female agency, but the unspoken consensus on feminism–at least in conservative Christian circles–is that it is bad and somehow rooted in sexual liberalism and sin. I find that I cannot declare openly in Christian circles that I am a feminist. And because I cannot mix Christianity and feminism, I feel I am not fully a Yalie, fully a Christian, and fully a woman, even though I am, in fact, fully all of those things.

But I don’t think that a “feminist Christian” is an oxymoron. Yes, there are some feminists who are antagonistic towards Christianity, and there are some Christians who are antagonistic towards feminists. There needs to be more conversation between the two communities to clear up the misunderstandings that make Christianity and feminism seem incompatible. Many of my Christian girlfriends are apathetic towards feminism without realizing that it was the force of the feminist movement that paved the way for them to study at Yale. As a Christian woman at Yale, I believe in feminism, and I believe in Christianity, and I am tired of appearing like a living contradiction. We as Christians need to talk more about feminism.

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2 thoughts on “Christianity and Feminism

  1. Shelly Kim says:

    this has been on my mind as well after reading parts of The Second Sex for class a few weeks ago! i still can’t shake off my frustration with the fact that no matter how much i think about it or what conclusions i draw, i will still, at the end of the day, feel like i “can’t have it all”.

  2. duckiethefish says:

    I attend a small, presbyterian university in Eastern Washington, and I just presented a paper on Mansfield Park at a conference on campus today. One of my closest friend;s first remarks after hearing it was that it was “a little too feminist” with a somewhat disapproving tone in her voice. That comment really hurt, and especially made me feel like less of a Christian when compared to her. It’s comforting to find someone else who’s struggling with the feminism-Christian piece.

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