What Is Feminism?

Choosing a Definition

Nearly every few weeks, it seems, another female celebrity is either claiming feminism for herself or renouncing feminism as an unnecessary ideology for women today. If you simply surveyed the news regarding feminism, you would be left wondering what exactly feminism means and accomplishes for women.

Some would say that feminism is the notion that women are equal to men. Some refuse to identify with feminism because they don’t want to be perceived as hating men. Others say feminism is a women’s right to control her life, her body, and her future. And still others won’t align at all with feminism because they believe it can’t co-exist with the traditional understanding of what it means to be a woman.

So, what exactly is feminism?

In my book, The Accidental Feminist, I define feminism as the belief that “equality equals sameness.” If men and women are equal, then they must be the same in role, ability, and function. But what if you don’t hold to the belief that men and women should be (or are) the same? Are you off the hook as a feminist?

It’s hard to capture the impact feminism has had on us since, in many ways, feminism is so ingrained into our culture. Though we may see some celebrities denying feminism, the reality is that we’ve all been swept up into feminism’s wave in some way or another.

Though we may see some celebrities denying feminism, the reality is that we’ve all been swept up into feminism’s wave in some way or another.

A Brief History of Feminism

When first wave feminists came on the scene in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was primarily about voting rights, which would in turn give women the ability to protect their children from harsh factories, protect themselves from unfaithful husbands, and take advantage of more options than ever before. These were good and necessary changes. Imbedded within this wave, however, was the idea that God’s Word couldn’t be trusted. What’s more, the notion that men were the problem slowly began to take root in the hearts of women.

Fast forward a hundred years and we have passed through two more waves of feminism. We have seen women move from doting housewife to corporate executive. Women can own property, hold the same jobs as men, and attend college. Feminism’s influence, while laced with good results, is not only about equality for men and women. It’s about making women the same as men, and in many ways placing them above men. In fact, in Kay Hymowitz’s 2012 book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, she says that while the feminist movement has led to women outpacing and outperforming men, it has also made men lazy and immature. This has led to what writer Hanna Rosin calls "the end of men.”

Where do Christian women come in?

The Accidental Feminist

Courtney Reissig

Combining personal narrative, practical examples, and biblical teaching, this book pushes back against both feminism and 1950s stereotypes related to gender roles in an effort to help Christians recover God’s good design for women.

There are many godly men and women who identify as Christian feminists. They see the truth in God’s Word—that men and women are created equal—and believe feminism provides that way forward. But it’s my opinion that the seeds of unbelief with regard to the truth of God’s Word—seeds planted in the minds of first wave of feminists—are what led us to today. Instead of taking God at his Word, some first wave feminists denied that God could be trusted with regard to womanhood and instead forged their own paths. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a committee of other women wrote The Woman’s Bible, challenging the historic teaching that God calls wives to submit to their husbands. For Stanton, one of the great challenges to women’s equality was believing the Bible’s claims regarding women.

And that’s not really new is it? We have been asking whether God has really spoken since Eve believed the lie of Satan when he asked her, “Has God really said?”

Something We All Struggle With

The root of feminism—believing that I define myself—has plagued men and women since sin entered the world. We have been in a battle to find our identity and meaning in everything other than the God who created us to bear his image. Feminism fell right into that trap. We all, men and women alike, have been negatively affected by sin. Feminism seeks to make women autonomous, and in many ways place women above men. Patriarchy seeks to make men above women, thus removing the equality of the sexes that God constituted at creation. Both men and women are plagued with a rebellious desire to define themselves and control one another.

So while you may not consciously identify as a feminist, you still face the very same temptation to find your identity in yourself, rather than God. And even if you do define yourself as a feminist, I have news for you: feminism isn’t the only thing that affirms that men and women are equal, or that women are people, too. God’s Word has been doing that since he created men and women in his image in the Garden (Gen. 1:28).

The answer to what ails us in our “battle of the sexes” is not to join a cultural movement for equality, but to go back to the pages of Scripture and uncover what it means to truly bear the image of the One who created us.

That, my friends, is a better answer than feminism.

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