Feminism is excluding people. Feminism is being told. Feminism is not listening. Feminism is (unintentionally I'd like to think) taking on a few other 'isms' and 'antis' that means it will never be a truly liberating movement until it drops them. I'm talking about classism, racism, anti-trans, anti-sex worker.
This has been written about eloquently, with righteous anger before which is why I am not going to address the issues head on today. I want feminism to be like this and I know we aren't going to get there without listening and I always fear that giving you my analysis of the issue would come across as this.
So yeah, there is a huge group of people feminism is excluding*. Another group feminism often dismisses that I feel more confident discussing are feminists of faith. A while ago a feminist group I'm involved in was discussing for the billionth time where we can have our meetings. A room in our city's parish church was suggested.
What gets broadcast from this world is often unflattering to the Christian faith and I am being polite.
Oh hi current events. Look I realise this 'can we think about being nice to Christian Feminists' idea comes hot on the heels of Cardinal Keith O' Brien of the Catholic church has admitted “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal”. Of losing the vote for appointing women bishops. Of your friend's anecdote of going to a Catholic school where the sex ed involved handing around a tatty bear as a metaphor for virginity (I went to Catholic school and we never had that lesson – I am therefore unsure of how widespread this informative PSHE lesson is). 40 Days for Prayer. Care Confidential. What gets broadcast time from this world is often unflattering for the Christian faith and I am being polite here.
BUT recently an online gathering was hosted of feminist thought which combined with an examination of faith called #Femfest. This is sincerely something that, whatever your faith or brand of atheism (you know, Dawkins atheism, I Fucking Love Science atheism etc) you should take a peek at. This is a group that is often being failed from both sides, by their church and other feminists. It's a diverse group that includes sex workers, BME, mothers, single women, men and if I'd put 'Christian' in front of those words I wonder how many of you would have sighed: 'eurgh'.
What came out of Femfest was a great critique of both movements. Shaney Irene wrote about how feminism matters because “the truth is feminism is having conversations the church is not”, addressing the failings to make church a true safe space. “This conversation is important to me, because I fear that if I identify as a feminist, then many will immediately discount anything I have to say.” I fear that it works both ways.
Hannah Mudge wrote in the Guardian touching upon the many valid reasons feminists might have turned against Christianity: “It would be ridiculous to ignore some of the things the church has put women through over the years – whether we're talking about viewing women as the reason everything went downhill in the first place, or modern-day movements that eschew birth control and teach that women should never attend university or work outside the home.” Surely these are also reasons to explore and accept the feminist of faith's contribution rather than question or accuse them of being brainwashed, they are kicking against and identify as two things in spite of rather than because of.
If you identify as a feminist and want the future of feminism to be intersectional then you need to start listening and stop dismissing. This includes me. We are freezing people out, shutting down conversation and devaluing feminism with this action.
*Quick disclaimer I am not for one minute saying that by having feminist exclusion in common that these are the same thing.