"If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." – Lila Watson

Posts tagged ‘religion’

How my experiences with feminism and the church are similar in the worst way

I grew up a Christian. When I was 11 years old, I decided to go into ministry, and I did. I worked with all ages and studied Religious Studies at a Baptist University, with a concentration in Christian Education and a minor in Youth Ministry. I was a queer person. Like other queer folk, I was going to change the Christian establishment from the inside out. I know queer ministers. At the time, I believed what they believed – in concepts like liberation theology, standing on the side of the oppressed, etc. I could brush off hate and say that bigoted Christians weren’t “real Christians”, because they aren’t biblically based. Eventually, however, the hatred and bigotry that was thrown my way, the awful things I experienced, the abuse in the name of “the love of God”, was too much for me. I left ministry, the church, and eventually lost most of my connection with the faith. That’s okay with me, today.

Sometime during my time at the Baptist school, I learned about feminism, and when I transferred to a public university and began studying social work, I dove right into it. It connected with me. The social justice overlap between my academic work and feminist activism was just what I needed to regain hope in humanity. I volunteer at an abortion clinic, but I also work for racial relations, queer rights, class and labor issues, immigration, etc. To me, that all made sense, especially since I jumped into Tumblr at the same time I jumped into feminism. It told me that this is what feminism is: working towards justice for all people and fighting against institutional structures of privilege and oppression. Eventually, I was told by enough older feminists that we are taking something away from them by making feminism about equality for all, not just about reproductive rights. I have seen so many feminists turn to cissexism, classism, and racism, even on my beloved Tumblr.

Like Christianity, I can say that those people aren’t “real feminists”, but at the end of the day, there is no feminist “Bible”, so there’s nothing that they could be straying from. Bigoted feminists represent feminism as much or more as those of us who are fighting for equality for all. I am fighting to not lose my connection with feminism, and maybe I am fighting for the wrong reasons – to not lose my social justice network. Part of me believes that claiming a network like feminism means that I have a larger community from which to work – the larger and more united our group, the more we will be heard, even if we don’t all agree. Something in me foolishly believes that the bigots will one day stop being bigots, especially if we keep educating them. At the end of the day, though, that education is a waste of energy and time that could be spent with progress.

I don’t want to focus on changing feminism from the inside out, I want to focus on social justice and leave the unchangeable bigots alone. I want my work to be about the work, about progress. What that means for me and my relationship for feminism I guess only time will tell.