God Wants Us to Be Equal: Why Gender Matters in Feminism
Coley, Francesca Mallory, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table
I have struggled over writing this paper. What hasn't been said about this topic already? There are numerous historical studies on the rise of feminism and the response of Christianity to that rise. Same with feminism and Islam. Right now, I am staring at a stack of books that address both: Susan Hill Lindely's You have Stept out of Your Place, " Mary Malone's Women and Christianity, Irshad Manji's The Trouble with Islam Today, Saba Mahmood's Politics of Piety, and others as well. What will my voice add to this area? What new insight do I have in this area? Then, it came to me: write what I know, the #1 strategy for any writer. And, what I know is this: so much has been written about this topic historically and contemporarily, but feminism has lost its core: feminism is a gender issue, gender does matter, and by examining the history of feminism, its battles with the religious and scientific communities of the 19th and 20th centuries, we can see where academic feminists of today, the bourgeoisie of scholarship, went awry and have made feminism a four letter word.
I have taught feminism for years, on the undergraduate and graduate level, within a variety of courses, as a political, socio-economic movement and as an analytical tool, and have seen how students react to the very term, feminism. Feminism can make male students feel threatened. After all, who wants to be seen as the descendents of those who denied women their rights? For male students, learning of feminism can be uncomfortable even if they firmly believe in women's rights. And, men aren't the only ones uncomfortable. So, too are many women, who fear that feminism is man-hating, controlled by a group of radical fem-nazis who want to rise up and abolish the patriarchy in favor of a woman controlled society. But, why is this? Where did feminism go wrong, for the foundations of feminism, the grandmothers of feminism, if you will, strongly urged women to take a stand on their own as women, to have voices that demand equality under the law, to have the right to go to school, have a job that pays the same and has the same status as a man, and to take pride in being a wife, mother or neither too. It went wrong when feminists of the 70s started to deny their gender, believing that androgyny was the key to equality, and it continued through 80s and 90s when gender became the very problem that many feminists wanted to eradicate. If they could just get society to stop thinking in terms of gender, then women would truly be equal. If they could just get women to stop thinking of themselves in regards to gender, then women would be truly equal. But, that isn't the problem: the very idea that woman can become completely separate from her gender and want to do so is the problem. If feminism is going to work globally, nationally and regionally, gender has to be a part of the equation. The feminists of the past didn't separate their gender from themselves. Instead, as women, as wives and mothers, and as single women, they took on the patriarchy and demanded, pleaded for and eventually, achieved something remarkable, a society, in some parts of the world, where women have remarkable freedoms and opportunities. To explore this subject in some depth, this paper will be focus on four interconnected points: a brief history of feminism and its ties and conflicts with 19th century Christianity, the use of gender science as a factor in subordinating women in 19th, 20th and even 21st centuries, the wrongness of erasing women's gender to achieve equality as the goal of post-modern feminism globally, and the turmoil between Islam and feminism with the rise of Islamic extremism.
If we look at the history of feminism, we see women, as women, fighting for the cause of women's rights, whether they are tackling political, religious or societal prejudices about women and six women, out of the many, stand out in regards to their stance on feminism and the power of their persuasive voices: Amelia Lanyer, Mary Wollstonecraft, Frances Wright, Margaret Fuller, Sarah Grimke and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. …