WHAT’S WITH THE F-WORD?
“Jesus made a feminist out of me… Feminism is complicated and it varies for each person, much like Christianity. It’s not necessary to subscribe to all the diverse—and contrary— opinions within feminism to call oneself a feminist.”
Sarah Bessey, author of ‘Jesus Feminist’
Google defines feminism as “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Or, to put it simply, feminism is a movement for female equality. It is undeniably an important topic, especially with the growing concern over women’s rights around the world, sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual assault (as with the #metoo movement), religious discrimination of women and other similarly-related problems.
But what about feminism and its relation to Christianity? Can a person claim to be a Christian and a feminist?
In the local scene and among Christian folks, feminism is often seen as a lot of aggression, resentment, even competition against men. This particular F-word carries a lot of baggage, particularly among the evangelicals. Images that conjured up in most people range from man-haters to extreme lesbians. It’s often seen as a worldly concept and its agenda when brought into the church, will break down families and real manhood. But are these descriptions and its associated stereotypes is true to what feminism stands for, or is it a fearmongering misinformation?
“Christian feminists can celebrate any sort of feminism that brings more justice and human flourishing to the world, no matter who is bringing it, since we recognize the hand of God in all that is good.”
John G. Stackhouse Jr.
The newer readings have since claimed patriarchy that is littering all over the pages of the Scriptures is not God’s dream for humanity. In fact, when read carefully, one would detect the feminist elements in the way Jesus (and the apostles) treated and talked about women. In Christ, and because of Christ, both men AND women are invited to participate in the Kingdom of God through redemptive movement- towards equality, equity and freedom. Feminism is just one way to participate in this movement to advance and restore this image of equality.
In this episode, Safespace speaks with Dr Sharon Bong on feminism- what is and what it’s not, dispel some of the associated myths, the ‘Asian’ version of feminism, and also, through our special guest host Dr Alwyn Lau’s presence and input, discuss how men can/should be part of this movement.
Dr Sharon Bong
Dr Sharon A Bong is the Associate Professor in Gender Studies at the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University, Malaysia. She teaches variety of modules related to gender studies offered at the School of Arts and Social Sciences. Some of the modules she teaches include Contemporary Feminist Theory, Gender, Sexualities and Religions in Southeast Asia. Her research interests include feminist standpoint epistemologies, and women’s human rights and sexualities in religions. Sharon holds a PhD in Religious Studies from University of Lancaster, UK. Her key publications include ‘The Tension Between Women’s Rights and Religions: The Case of Malaysia’ (book published by the Edwin Mellen Press in 2006) and “Not ‘For the Sake of Peace’: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred Body” (Article published in Asian Christian Review in 2009).