The range of definitions of feminism are broad. First wave (1800s) and second wave feminism (1960s) both promoted women as oppressed by men and overlooked for their full human, though unique, status. Third wave feminism responded to the second wave by deconstructing the feminine into postmodern cultural construction.
They each have their own merits and research. And it would be a shame to overlook the pre-first wave feminism brewed among the Quakers that secularist history fails to recognize. God forbid, followers of Jesus may again get something right.
What is most unfortunate is how this word "feminism" has been dragged, drugged, shunned, celebrated with rage, and used to an excuse to push a woman's weight around. In working to humanize women, many have used it to dehumanize everyone else.
Sexism is degrading genders other than your own. Racism is degrading ethnicities other than your own. If I said I was a 'masculinist,' I would likely be labeled a 'chauvinist.'
If we follow those same lines, a 'feminist' means someone who degrades genders other than the feminine. The victim becomes obvious. And this is why I believe many who believe women are fully human shy away from using the word "feminist." We automatically connote, just by how words are used, that a feminist is an elitist even if others have stretched the word and it's various studies in different ways.
Some feminists are elitists. I hate entitlement rhetoric, the clanging voices that claim discriminiation because they are female (when those listening may be saying, no, it's because they are clanging).
For me, a feminist is one who thinks women are fully human and should be promoted as such. They have a mind, will, and emotions, just as the classicists described the faculties of the human soul. Because of this, they are capable, according to their qualities and character, of doing anything a mind, will, and emotion can do. If that means, scrubbing floors or running White Houses, then there's nothing philosophically (logically) out of bounds.
I think men are fully human too. And I dislike the idea that men should step aside and allow women to run the show. That's out of balance, dehumanizing. And that's how women have felt for a long time.
Where I see women abused, trampled, demeaned, mocked, I want to stand in the gap. This is feminist behavior.
Where theology makes dogmatic statements against women being fully human (often couched in terms of what women should and shouldn't do) from spurious interpretations of the Scripture, I want to stand in the gap. This is feminist behavior.
When women are boxed into categories that do not fit all women, I want to stand in the gap. Plenty of women feel like outsiders because they don't wear pink, refuse to demean themselves with ostentatious flirting, and hate heels. It is feminist to ask for sanity in the discussion and allow each woman to flourish as she was made.
Many men think they stand in the gap for women, yet fail to take that stand when they deprive women of human functions by calling them "male functions" without qualification. We would do well to rethink Paul and his view of a healthy marriage and leadership in the church. Can we bear the logical contradiction? Should we claim either the Scripture is illogical or that we are unallowed to renew our minds? This is the tension that stretches me in engaging my community and the Scripture with honesty and compassion and every human faculty God endowed me to use in this pursuit.
Instead of worrying about labels, I think we need to refresh this one. Both in the church and out of it, women need to be lifted up, not torn down, by men. This includes the way we joke, the expectations we have of each other, the roles we assign as 'masculine' and 'feminine,' and the way we cut down other men with feminine language. Most recognize the moral taboo of using the "N" word. Maybe we need to recheck our desensitivity when using "girly" or "sissy" or "womanly" when referring to men who may not like Ultimate Fighting and may prefer, like older forms of masculinity, poetry to blood.
Yet, I'm also a masculinist. I don't like to see men put into boxes that don't fit them. Just as much damage is done to men in this area as is being done to women. We need to stand in the gap and let the Messiah be the model that defines us all. We need to promote a healthy masculinity without slapping on end-of-argument adjectives, like "Biblical." That's like just another way of saying, "I'm right and you can't read." When our arguing gets to that point, we should pause and wonder if we've been engaging in an ungodly monologue.
I find it typical, yet odd, how many people, when they hear that women should be given full equal status to men, not just in the workplace, but everywhere else (including our own consciousness), assume this is degrading to men. Or, on the other hand, they think it's degrading to those women who have suffered under the hand of masculinity and have lived to tell about it? Were their scars in vain? Let's not hold onto a false martydom (sometimes called 'tradition') in the name of enslaving future people.
I believe neither women should be above men nor men above women. We must stop the reactionary tendency to make one gender better than another. And in that, maybe we need a new word, an idea that even those 'in the know' have failed to promote as a natural way forward. Perhaps we need a concept that allows for men and women to stand shoulder to shoulder, each bringing their various gifts.
Eden painted a picture of it, a picture the Messiah redeemed. And once again, the Scripture could be the cultural torch-bearer in the unfolding of this century. The 21st century may be touted the "century for women." But we can do better than to wait for the 22nd century to figure out that was a bad idea. We'd be better off jumping beyond the cutting edge and claim the 21st century for both genders working together. That's our future hope; a creedo to start in our homes and communities and let it trickle into the world.
But we need a word for it....