Can gender, faith and feminism work together?
As a feminist, I’m also deeply religious. I’m not alone in this, but some people out there may find it surprising – and they might even find it difficult to handle!
Can faith and feminism work together? Cath Elliott, writing for The Guardian, considers ‘religious’ and ‘feminist’ to be mutually exclusive. She writes:
“Christianity is and always has been antithetical to women’s freedom and equality, but it’s certainly not alone in this. Whether it’s one of the world’s major faiths or an off-the-wall cult, religion means one thing and one thing only for those women unfortunate enough to get caught up in it: oppression. It’s the patriarchy made manifest, male-dominated, set up by men to protect and perpetuate their power.”
To me – and many other fabulous feminists I know – faith and feminism are NOT polar opposites.
Feminists come from a variety of different backgrounds, which includes feminists of different faiths. Surely none of us would want to judge a feminist of faith as, somehow, not a proper feminist.
My personal journey from 3 year old church-goer to transgender feminist of faith
Hi, I’m Jessie. I’m genderqueer, a feminist and believe in God. I’m me.
I found spirituality at a young age, going to church from the age of 3 (not on my own, obviously). As a teenager I learned organised religion was most definitely not for me, but I still held onto the belief that there is something greater than humanity out there. As I grew older I developed my own Christo-pagan belief system. No-one said I liked to keep things simple! Despite this I grew quite disillusioned, especially since I define myself as a pansexual genderqueer person (and I’d seen far too much homophobia amongst traditional Christianity).
At the age of 21, after having thought at first that I was just a guy who liked to wear women’s clothes, I accepted my transgender identity. After a year of exploring my identity, I found intersectional feminism and began to really start seeing how women are routinely oppressed and objectified by men. This movement became very important to me and I’m still developing my understanding of it to this day.
The more I explored feminism, the more my relationship with faith systems changed. I began to see organised religion as infested with patriarchal thinking. It took me a long time to see how there’s a big difference between organised religion and faith…
Do women like ‘alternative’ spiritual practice because it’s seen as more gender-equal?
Why is it a commonly-held belief that religion and feminism have to be separate ideologies, anyway? In a 2011 article for The Guardian, Kirsten Aune, a lecturer/researcher in Sociology, puts forward the argument that feminism challenges Christianity’s traditional association of femininity with service to family and church. In conclusion, she speculates that many spiritual practices (like meditation, zen and a growing interest in paganism) in the 21st century have become more appealing to women because they’re more commonly presented as gender-equal than traditional religions. There is also a problem with many traditional Christian approaches in terms of homophobia.
Vicky Beeching, Christian rock star: ‘I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am’
Christian rock singer Vicky Beeching – whose lyrics are known to many, especially in the very religious parts of the U.S. – came out as gay in interviews a couple of years ago. It had huge repercussions for her career. She revealed what she’d been through in a 2014 interview with Patrick Strudwick for The Independent:
“It is heart-breaking. The Church’s teaching was the reason that I lived in so much shame and isolation and pain for all those years. But rather than abandon it and say it’s broken, I want to be part of the change.”
Vicky Beeching’s struggle is helping many young feminists see faith in a whole new light, and could help other young believers align their feminism with their connection to some form of spirituality.
Combining this alignment with greater variety in personal approaches to God, some believers are developing an empowering consideration of God’s female energy, helping to challenge the notion that God is exclusively male.
Tradition is having less of an impact on religion as we get further into the 21st century and is slowly becoming a more welcoming environment for women. It’s becoming easier and easier to view religion and spirituality through a feminist spectrum. We do not and need not all think exactly the same way, even if we share the same ideology. We are, after all, individuals.
My name is Jessie. I am pansexual. I am genderqueer. I am a feminist and I also believe in God. None of these things are mutually exclusive. They are all part of what makes me me.
Did you like this?
Try Anjulie Pickett’s tips on being your own guide when it comes to faith (the tips are not specific to any one faith).