Outside my campus door, I have on display the above quote noting the meaning of feminism, as it reads: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” The term feminism in and of itself can be somewhat of a contentious term and ideology. Often times, individuals equate it to radicalism…which it can be, as can terms such as nationalism be used in a dangerous fashion to denote the concept of jingoism. But with feminism, its danger is found in its threat towards traditional institutions. Feminism challenges the basic construct of hegemony in that many institutions are and have been controlled by men. However, women via equal educational and political opportunities have torn down many of the walls constructed by the notion of male hegemony — at least in the western world. This is not the case in other parts of the world in which various religious faiths have been used to justify male supremacy.
I have always been taught that the great thing about liberalism is this: it believes it is wrong to reject individuals access to institutions that will inherently work against their natural rights; some might see proposition 8 this way; it might be the right of all individuals to universal health care; or, the right to an education regardless of socioeconomic status; how about the rights of women to afford child care? Feminism as ideology represents most of the women in my life; I like to think about the laborious hours my mother put herself through just to guarantee that my brother and I had the basics to cope with the challenges of day-to-day living. Furthermore, her plight is one of historical proportions in that she is not only a woman facing the challenges of male hegemony, but a black female from a lower socioeconomic base living in the deep South. She lived in Alabama during the 1960s… Not that all things have changed much since then. Thus, elements such as class, gender, race, and power have a very different meaning to her than say — me. Though my race brings about a particular challenge to other types of dominant institutions in society, my gender offers far more doors. This is an unfortunate reality that many of us are unwilling to discuss; it is simple to talk of progressive women as being feminazis or aggressive animals. But, the day-to-day challenges of women are far too extensive for men, including myself, to comprehend; I teach about feminism in my courses, but I cannot wholly understand its meaning. In Gloria Steinem’s If Men Could menstruate, she offers a unique analogy into the world of women. She ridicules sexism and the silly assumptions men make about the plight of women.
According to Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology,
…traditional Christian theology shapes Christ as the model for a redeemed humanity…one that we have lost through sin and recover through redemption. But Christ as symbol is problematic for feminist theology. The Christological symbols have been used to enforce male dominance, and even if we go back behind masculinist Christology to the praxis of the historical Jesus of the synoptic Gospels, it is questionable whether there is a single model of redeemed humanity fully revealed in the past.
In reading this work for a seminar course I took in graduate school, I understood this point to say that Jesus had both masculine and feminine characteristics, but it has been man who took only the masculine to define the culture of humanity. Though the characteristics of Jesus as it relates to masculinity and femininity is another blog post, one cannot argue that Christians are asked to respect both gender traits defined by the basic notion of the rib of Adam; it is at this point that male hegemony tends to set a course of new rules. Hence, women are to be the care takers of masculinity. They are to cook, clean, please, and behave in a fashionable effort deemed okay by men. I find myself combating this thought among some of the young male students I teach; if their mother is a homemaker and their father treats her as second class…I have found that young men in my courses behave this way. Male students treat my female colleagues differently than they do male teachers; I suspect this is true in other arenas too. The challenge of course is deconstructing this attitude by reminding students that feminism is a Christian virtue; Christ shared both gender characteristics. This is not a bad thing; if teaching male students to be Christ like is the value of teaching at a Christian institution, it is important that Christian educators model this in how they approach the topic of gender history. I am not innocent of what I am writing; it was my mother that asked me to rethink the rap music I used to listen to. Like much of the popular culture music today, it is demeaning to females.