The Richer Thread
My Love and Faith are intertwined
not as a knot
but one combined;
For He is Love and love protects
my cloak, my comforter
His strong threads drawn through weave and weft
a richly patterned life
Through life, the one strong threaded cord
the silver breath
that holds and stores;
His perfect light that staves the dark
the many coloured threads
And present! On now – see beyond
the endless cloth we’re
His Grace, by spirit, constant grows
and guides each soul
’till safely home;
See how the cloth is grown, and grows:
my Lord, Dear Lord –
I am near to home!
All this week the most amazing conversations have been happening via #FaithFeminisms – a coming together of the growing number of womens voices who by seeking to change the feminist conversation in Christianity are, as Dianna Anderson says, engaging in a radical act of reclamation. These conversations are both affirming of faith and grasping the blood and bone issues of privilege, of the Cross, of life in all its fullness. Being part of that conversation, in however small a way, and connecting with other women for whom both faith and feminism is fundamental to our lives, is enriching and uplifting.
In another part of the internet a parallel conversation has been happening – women who do not feel connected to feminism, who do not want to be a part of it, who even feel that feminism is not necessary, have been having a conversation around #womenagainstfeminism. And I want us to listen to them. I want us to have faith enough, love enough, courage enough and grace enough, to hear them and to hear why they think and believe as they do. I want to make sure that we are hearing and cherishing all our sisters.
Now, when White, Western Christianity and Feminism have had such a problematic history in our relationships and conversations with black women, women of colour, LGBTIQ women – when our privilege is now starting to become a part of our reflection as a movement and individually – I would not seek to suggest that reaching out to our sisters who do not share our feminism and faith should be prioritised. But some of the reasons why those women are speaking out in that way contain warnings for us: messages it would behove us well not to ignore. And I know this because I was once a woman who was against feminism.
In my youth, it didn’t occur to me not to be a feminist. I just was and it was not up for debate. But that changed over time: I began to question what feminism (in my white western context) wanted or believed. I saw that its overt concern with glass ceilings in the boardroom and whether or not plastic surgery was feminist was buying in to the very system which had oppressed us; worse, it apparently ignored the oppression still suffered by too many women who weren’t white, western, middle class and able bodied. Or it pitied them, and offered charity instead.
And in the choices I had made feminists I knew looked down their noses at me for being a women at home looking after her children (and believe me they made their disdain obvious).
Feminism no longer spoke to me. It seemed to be disappearing up its own backside, or at least into its own fluffy navel. The women referred to as the feminist leaders at the time (that is, the women in the media with the platforms and the book deals) seemed disconnected with the reality of my life, and the lives of women around me. Women in poverty, disabled women, and my Muslim sisters who might as well not have existed. And whilst I knew that at grass roots level the story may well have been different, the day to day reality was: feminism didn’t seem to care about that.
Women who reject feminism do so for complex and myriad reasons: they do not do so because they are stupid or silly. We may say ‘but rape culture’ – we may say ‘but women of colour’ – we may say ‘but still not valued’. And all of those things are true.
But it is their responsibility to better educate themselves? Or is it our responsibility to better speak what we believe? Are there times when what we say actually excludes other women? Do we have faith, and love, and courage enough to respect the choices of our sisters, many of whom will never accept feminism and faith?