I am a straight, white, Christian male; and I am a feminist. Let me elaborate.
Growing up as a homeschool family nestled in the heart of small town conservative Ohio, my mother and I were very close. We were surrounded by traditional ideals of family structure. For all intents and purposes, my family fit into the standard mold of the traditional family; my father was the main breadwinner, while my mother stayed at home with my brother and I, teaching us to read, write and raising us as godly young men. My mother was very passionate about raising us and loved my brother and I deeply. She taught us both to be loving and respectful and put a specific emphasis on respect for women.
During my high school years, my brother and I attended a local Christian school while my mother worked and completed her degree in education. She was the most capable and talented woman I knew, but she was frustrated by the lack of respect she received in her workplace. Every day, her ideas were disregarded and she was often told to “be a good woman and do as she was told.” My mom was a self-proclaimed “wild mustang,” and being told not to question, to be passive, or to conform was not something she did easily. I watched this eat at her and frustrate her during my early high school years. I remember my mother telling me that sometimes she wished she was a man so she could accomplish her dreams more easily.
When my mother told me this, I did not understand. Why was my mother not allowed the same respect and opportunities that my father received? Both of my parents are incredibly talented people with unique gifts, abilities, and assets to offer the world. However, my dad had a built in advantage over my mom: his gender, a concept that I have always found completely absurd.
As a Christian, the uneven playing field for men and women strikes me as even more foreign. In the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Galatia, he spends a significant amount of time discussing the equality of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. There were major disputes between the two groups about each of their positions in the faith, and Paul wrote to the church to end this debate once and for all. In Galatians 3:28 (NKJV) Paul writes; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul tells us that all are equal in the eyes of Jesus. He does not distinguish us as male or female, black or white; he sees us as one. The idea that Jesus views us all the same, loves us all the same, is pretty amazing to me. I feel like that speaks to the heart of the issue. We separate ourselves with arbitrary boundaries, but in Christ we are unified.
Why does feminism matter to me? Let’s be honest; I am a white, middle-class, Christian male who can do anything that I want to do if I really put my mind to it, right? I have opportunities in work, school, internships, and leadership that, from a statistical standpoint, a woman may not be able to receive. So, why should I care? I care because equality of opportunity means equality for everyone. Period.
Emma Watson spoke in 2014 to the United Nations about feminism, and in her speech, she touched on something that I think is very important for men to realize. “Gender equality is your issue, too… I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.” Her focus, as well as the focus of many feminists today, is that feminism is not only for women. Feminism benefits men as well. The result of equality between the two genders results in equality in its purest form. With this equality, we are able to find freedom. In a world where we are all equal, we can all be free from the anxiety and stress of fitting into our prescribed roles and instead focus on accomplishing our dreams.
I believe that every person has the right to equal opportunities. There will always be people with more money or more influence; but let’s strip that away for a moment. If we strip away those factors, and look at just a man and a woman; would they have equal opportunities in the society that we live in today? As long as the answer is no, then there is still work to be done.
Until there is equality in opportunity and equality in treatment, there will be a need for equality, and when there is a need for equality, there is a need for feminism.
My mother passed away from cancer in June 2011, right after accomplishing her lifelong dream of acquiring her teaching degree and becoming a teacher. I wish her gender would not have limited her in the workplace and I wish she could have experienced a world where she didn’t have to wish to be a man so she could accomplish her dreams. Nothing saddens me more than knowing that she was not alone in that sentiment. She did not get to live in an America where her gender was not an obstacle on the journey towards success. I hope my children never feel that their gender is a limiting factor. If I am ever so lucky to have a daughter one day, I hope her genitals never influence what she believes that she can accomplish, or what her goals ought to be, or the woman that she should strive to be.
I am a straight, white, Christian male; and I am a feminist.