Accidental Feminist

This post is my contribution to the first day of the Feminism Fest, a conversation on feminism, specifically Christian Feminism and what in the world that means. At the bottom of this post are the links and prompts to read more about this, or maybe even enter into the conversation yourself.

I call myself an accidental Baptist, I suppose you could call me an accidental feminist too.

I was raised in a home where abortion was occasionally a part of the dinner conversation. This was not because my parents were crazy and trying to scare me and my two sisters into abstinence, actually my parents were (and are) pretty awesome, and I was raised in one of the most sex positive christian homes you could find. My dad was a defense attorney and one of his client groups was the right-to-lifers. My dad defended the people who picketed abortion clinics. His work came up at dinner. I was very proud of him for this. I still am.

With three daughters and no sons, my house started yelling GIRL POWER long before Ginger Spice front-lined a group that included David Beckham’s future wife. You see, my mom made sure we were all in Girl Scouts. Maybe that stuff you have heard about GS USA having a feminist agenda isn’t totally false, if I trace my feminism to it’s girlhood roots, Girl Scouts is where those roots are planted. (Hopefully, this make you buy more cookies, not less.) My mom thought scouting was important because she wanted to make sure we all had leadership opportunities and saw those opportunities as more accessible if boys weren’t there. She wanted us to find our own voices, explore what we were good at, not be told no. Juliet Low is, to this day, my favorite feminist icon.

When my third grade teacher had “concerns” that I was “very outspoken,” my mom told me it was a good thing. When I got in trouble at school for demanding a chance to play with the football like the boys, I didn’t get in trouble at home. When I inserted myself in conversations to tell people girls could do anything boys could do, I was not chastised. My mom sang the praises of title nine. Yet, the word feminist was never used. For my family that word meant accepting of abortions, or as I learned it: being baby-killers.

I went to college not because I was passionate about wanting to teach English at the high school level, but because I wanted to continue competing on a speech team. (Yes, competitive speech is a real thing. Yes, I got my varsity letter and minimal college scholarship money in it. No, I am not making this up. Yes, I am a giant nerd. Still.) There I found people who were exploring huge ideas, talking about theoretical frameworks, trying to tell a better story, craft a better argument. These were the smartest people I had ever met, and the majority of them were women.

Imagine my shock when I learned that most of the women I looked up to bore the label “feminist.” I was even more shocked to find out, that while vehemently pro-choice, they were also seeking to lower the abortion rate. I wanted fewer abortions too. Could there be middle ground with baby-killers?

Abortion wasn’t the only thing these women cared about. They were concerned about the way women were represented in the media as well as how the women on the team were representing themselves. They wanted to discuss the disparity of women in underdeveloped countries. They cared about the rape statistics on campus and the statistics on single mothers living below the poverty line. These women encouraged me to speak boldly and clearly. They taught me to research a topic and ask better questions. They literally coached me in finding my own voice.

Meanwhile, I was attending the largest christian organization on campus. They gave me a faith community and taught me how to study the Bible. They prayed for me and my new friends on the speech team. They loved me the best way they knew how. But at the same time these feminists I had met were teaching me to speak up, the Christian organization was telling me to pipe down. Let the men take their natural place as leaders. Wait until the boy asks to “define the relationship.” Don’t speak up too loud or too often. It wasn’t my place.

When I expressed my concern that lust was consistently represented as a man’s sin and I knew for a fact I wasn’t the only woman struggling with it and this representation was causing undue shame, the leadership laughed and asked me, “What do you want us to do, have a woman stand up and announce that she struggles with lust too?” My very serious yes was met with a few long blinks. Apparently, female lust was not something that was discussed.

Is it any surprise, at the end of my freshman year when I went on a summer mission trip with this group, that I ended up sobbing on the front porch, sure that I was not cut out to be a woman of God? I was met in that moment and given the stories of Deborah, and Sarah and told that God created me beautifully and wonderfully. This left me comforted, but also confused. I was never quite sure when it was safe to speak up.

It was always safe to say what I was thinking with my speech team. And many of the things I had heard about feminists proved false. When I got engaged at twenty and married at twenty-one my coach was supportive, even offered to host a shower for me. She knew it was what I wanted. She supported me making my own decisions for myself. These ladies didn’t hate men, they hated misogyny. And it turned out, so did I. Reading the Bible in the way the Christian group taught me revealed that God hated misogyny too.

In its simplest form I have heard feminism described as the crazy idea that women are people too. Every single time Jesus meets a woman in the story in the Bible, he affirms her personhood, despite the fact that her culture describes her as property. Jesus was a feminist too.

I didn’t come to feminism in any purposeful way. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was a feminist. When I looked at my God, my Bible, myself, I realized I already was.

Prompts and links:

  • {Day 1} Feminism and Me: On Tuesday, February 26, link up at J.R. Goudeau’s blog, loveiswhatyoudo.com, and write about these questions: What is your experience with feminism? What’s a story or a memory or a person that you associate with that word? Why does it have negative or positive connotations for you? How do you define the term, either academically or personally? What writers have you read whose definitions you want to bring out? Or, if you don’t have a definition, what are some big questions you have?
  • {Day 2} Why It Matters: On Wednesday, February 27, link up at Danielle Vermeer’s blog, fromtwotoone.com, and write about these questions: What is at stake in this discussion? Why is feminism important to you? Are you thinking about your children or your sisters or the people that have come before you? Or, why do you not like the term? What are you concerned we’re not focusing on or we’re losing sight of when we talk about feminism? Why do you feel passionately about this topic?
  • {Day 3} What You Learned: On Thursday, February 28, link up at Preston Yancey’s blog, seeprestonblog.om, and write about these questions: What surprised you this week? What did you take away from the discussion? What blog posts did you find particularly helpful? What questions do you still have?
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12 thoughts on “Accidental Feminist

  1. I LOVE reading your story!

    And you have no idea just how cool and amazing I think you are for doing competitive speech.

    I fumbled through my English speech exam with bright red cheeks and only got a third of the way through my ‘pro-abortion’ points before running out of time. “But I’m not pro!” I bleated…

    Love this.

  2. Abby I love the way you struggle in your posts with ideas that seem opposed to each other and resolve the struggle concisely and simply or sometimes just leave it lay for the reader to chew on. I’ve been reading Mark Twain and he does similar things with words and ideas. The Baby Killer phrase was used at home that is what happens in an abortion and it is of course intentional. I don’t regret using the term. I did not use the term when interacting with abortionists, clinic escorts or people who had pro-choice views as it was counter productive and my pro-life defendants and I were trying to demonstrate love.. I know some pro-life feminists including Dr. Bovik..

    • I am grateful you used to the term baby-killer. It made it clear to me what abortion was, and I am sure your motivation was love. I was merely trying to say that I was surprised my feminist friends and I had so much in common, even on the subject of abortion. Of course Dr. Bovik is a feminist. I should have guessed.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. Such good stuff here. I especially loved this line: “These women didn’t hate men. They hated misogyny.” THIS is what I wish groups like the Christian group you were involved in would understand: that by dividing men and women, they are participating in the world’s system, not Christ’s.

  4. Pingback: Naming it Matters | Accidental Devotional

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