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Feminism

Hi,

I have some problems or rather a split mind on issues. I just finished a Women and Society class in college and I really felt that "click" that so many women talk about. I was outraged at some things that I never considered or knew about. Finally I was able to place a "name" on the issues I always believed to be normal for me. Anyway, then we talked about religion and feminism, and I felt really targeted.

I am a Christian and have been raised as one since the day I was out of the womb. I know this aspect of me is a real problem when I label myself as a "feminist" and I don't want to sound like an oxymoron (Christian-feminist?), but I really connected to issues talked about in my Women and Society class. However, I understand that many things mentioned were going on in my personal life.

Lately, my boyfriend and I have become very physically intimate, and I can't help but feel guilty; like I am doing something wrong. My mom made me feel really bad and pretty much called me a slut because of a hickey she saw. I do not think they are bad, but she makes any pleasure (outside of marriage) seem like sin. Through my women studies class I have accepted that my sexuality is my sexuality, and I should enjoy it, but through my parents I have been taught that sexuality should not be part of my vocabulary. I can not openly talk to them about it, although I have had the urge to lately, but I do not know who to talk about these feelings to. My boyfriend and I talk about it, but we both agree that  it is our intimate time, and if we both love each other then why can't we enjoy each other like that? Nevertheless, I still feel guilty afterwards and like I am somehow betraying my parents and my faith?

Do you have any comments, suggestions, advice, anything?? I sometimes feel discouraged from thinking myself as a feminist because I can't be that if I am a Christian (especially after reading Manifesta I really felt like Christians were sometimes the ones going against what feminist have worked so hard to accomplish), but I really want to help women, and do something as a Third Wave feminist. Please help in any way.

Sincerely,

Torn between

 

Dear Torn Between,


I actually think that you are experiencing something that so many other feminists are going through -- which is figuring out how to balance your religion/faith with your feminism. Historically, feminism presented greater oppositions to organized religions, mostly because organized religion appeared to present an
inherent challenge to feminism in that most religions wouldn't allow
women an equal voice.

However, over time, feminists have realized that it doesn't do them any good to be in opposition to religion -- in part because there are different interpretations of each religion that emerged thus proving that there might be a dominant interpretation, but that doesn't mean that it is the most accurate or even the most accepted. The other reason this has changed is that so many feminists are religious and to not allow them to bring these two "faiths" together denies them a part of themselves -- thus this has meant that feminism has posed less of a challenge to religions
from the outside and instead feminists have individually challegend their own individual religions in order to widen their perspective. Of course, some feminists never stopped being religious and some religions -- namely Unitarian, Presbytarian, Judaism, etc... -- have always provided a space for feminists.

This is all to say that you should certainly not consider your feminism and your religion seperate from one another and you should work to bring them together. I am actually sorry we didn't address this more in Manifesta -- it is something that has come up repeatedly since the book was published -- clearly there was/is a need to address these issues more.

Specific to the situation with your boyfriend. I think this is an example of multiple interpretations of your religion. I'm certain there are others who have engaged in pre-marital sex and found this rewarding. I think that your parents perspective is perhaps one extreme and I'm pretty confident that you will find others who practice your same faith with a different interpretation. From your email you sound very responsible and it sounds like you have put tons of thought into it -- not just rushing into it or looking to justify something. Beyond talking to your boyfriend -- what about friends, another relative, someone else at your church. I hope that you can find the confirmation that you deserve.

Good luck and thanks again for writing,


—Amy

 

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