I was thinking about how we keep skirting around (ha ha, nice pun) the issue of Christianity and feminism. La Luba has been talking about Puritanism and Belledame has been mulling all over the internet about this attempt to suffer today for rewards tomorrow.
But I haven’t really sat down and tried to get at what’s going on in depth. And yet, I left the church in part for feminist reasons–part one was how the church treated my family, me included, but part two was wanting desperately to believe that there was nothing wrong with me, needing to believe that for my own sanity, and not getting that from the Church.
And yet, I know that women make perfectly fulfilling lives in the Church and that the Church has been responsible for a lot of social justice that directly benefits women.
So, I want to talk about the effects of Christianity on feminism, but I want to do it with a hundred caveats up front, about how Christianity doesn’t have to inherently fuck up women, how many women are great Christians and great feminists, etc.
But most importantly, I think that Christianity is a living, breathing movement, which changes and adapts to the needs of contemporary Christians (even if they think it doesn’t, but that’s a post for another day or perhaps another blogger). I genuinely don’t think the problem is Christianity itself.
I believe the problem comes when one attempts to take the skeleton of Christianity and drape one’s own movement over the bones, and bring that to life–that’s bound to be some Frankenstein’s monster kind of trouble.
So, I just want to be clear that I’m trying to make some distinction between Christianity as it’s practiced and Christianity as it’s commonly understood (even though, clearly, many folks conflate those two all the time, even me).
Because I do think that we feminists tend to practice feminism on a Christian framework. Just as the common understanding of Christianity is that everyone’s a sinner and that redemption is possible only through the outside intervention of some miraculous force, that no one deserves to be saved, no one can be sure for sure if they are saved, that one must put Christianity first in every facet of his life, and that one should, even if one can’t know if he’s saved (since no one is worthy of salvation), act like one deserves to be saved, we practice feminism the same way. Everyone is irredeemably tainted by the patriarchy. You might not feel like a sinner, excuse me, a person tainted by the Patriarchy, but, if we examine you closely enough, we will find instances of you falling short of what you should be doing, thus indicating your overall fallen nature. We should accept misery now, because all earthly pleasure is tainted with the possibility of enticing one to sin or enticing one to accept some patriarchal standard that hurts other women.
Because, oh yes, just like the common understanding of Christianity makes us each responsible for the salvation of the souls of our neighbors, we seem to believe that we feminists are each responsible for the feminism of our fellow women. Like a good exorcist, we must put the girl in the bed and stand around her and see if how she looks or what she does reveals some hidden evil lurking deep inside her.
Here’s the thing I have to say, which will probably result in me getting kicked out of feminism for good, but I’m going to say it anyway. Feminism does not need martyrs. We do not need a bunch of women who sacrifice their own happiness for the good of us all.
We, of course, need women, we need us to be willing to demand justice, to work for it, even if we might not live to see it implemented.
But that’s not the same thing as martyrdom. Working for justice is different than sacrificing one’s own happiness. The sooner we learn that, the better.
Because here’s the other thing–you can stop looking for the taint of the patriarchy on every little thing. Everything is tainted by the patriarchy. It is always already tainted by the patriarchy, long before any feminists get there to point it out. All the good shit is already tainted, but folks, even the stuff that sucks is tainted.
Pain, suffering, and self-sacrifice is not indicative of purity. THAT is a myth that results from us using the framework of Christianity for our movement. And that’s a myth that greatly benefits the current power structure.
It doesn’t make you a better person because you’re willing to suffer and give up all the shit you used to enjoy back before you became enlightened by feminism. Because it’s not just the stuff you enjoyed that’s tainted. Even the stuff you hate, that you do because it sucks and makes you feel righteous, is tainted.
Rather than continuing to rely on a framework that rewards suffering and conformity, and continuing to deny ourselves stuff that feels good, because it’s not good for us, we’ve really got to find a new framework.
A new way to engage with the world and engage with each other. One that can reclaim the things that give us pleasure, instead of clinging to the things that make us miserable.