This past Easter my family and I decided to take a trip up to our grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania. Crunching to find any available time to actually pack for this trip, I ended up throwing the remainder of my “clean” laundry into my suitcase. Unfortunately, this meant that I had an extremely limited number of options for what to wear to church service on Easter Sunday: my purple t-shirt swag that reads “Fearless. Flawless. Feminist” or… a crop top that I wore out the weekend prior. Feeling the burning judgment of my Lord and Savior searing into my crop top … I decided to wear the feminist t-shirt.
However, while I felt less criticized by the big guy in the sky, members of the congregation had some shade of their own. I can honestly say I’ve never had as many old white men staring at me with shock painted across their faces as I did that morning. It was awkward to say the absolute least. Sitting down with my family, I looked over to my younger cousin who burst out into laughs. “You’re literally insane” she GUSHED. And while the logic and rhetoric of a thirteen-year-old girl usually gets to my core, I had to disagree with her. I wasn’t “literally insane” for letting the congregation know that I was both a feminist and a Christian. Unfortunately that doesn’t stop many others from believing otherwise.
In fact, as of late I’ve become increasingly aware of the differences that divide Christianity and Feminism. One is built on a primarily patriarchal basis, another seeks to end such inequality derived from the patriarchy. However, an intersection between these varying belief systems does exist and its time we start paying more attention to it.
Religion, no matter what you believe in, can always have room for personal interpretation. For instance, I identify with a religion that tells women to “ Submit to your own husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22), painting the role of women as supporting cast members for men. Which, ya know, isn’t really how I roll. And yet I still love my God. Intersectionality is never simple. It comes with its contradictions and (several) bumps in the road. It sometimes makes me feel like I’m only giving part of myself to each identity. Like I’m somehow “cheating the system” by picking and choosing what I want to believe in from each. And maybe this is true. Perhaps I can only ever fully identify with one system of beliefs at a time.
However, I think there’s more to this intersection than we’ve been led to believe. Contrary to popular belief, Christianity and feminism are not oil and water. In fact, for years in the U.S, the church has primarily been a women’s only institution. Female representation in the church can I get a “heck” yeah??? Furthermore, a woman’s family and racial/ethnic traditions often link to their religious beliefs meaning, “Religion can be just as inseparable as race or class when considering sources of women’s oppression or empowerment”
The intersection of Feminism and Christianity does exist and its members are strong in number. However, there is virtually no discourse or research to help us understand the complexities of this intersection (not to mention the intersections of Feminism and other religious affiliations). This lack of research is not only discouraging to members like myself, but it perpetuates an overall stigma that we have to choose one or the other: Religion or Feminism?
I encourage you not to buy into this stigma. Intersectionality is not the mindless combination of one or more identities, it is a lens that gives us the ability to examine how different beliefs can work with and enhance each other. Feminism and Christianity have made me into the human that I am today. They both encourage me to love, be loved, and love myself. They give me perspective in tough situations. They guide my choices. I simply would not be the same without them-both of them.
So I was being judged in church on Easter Sunday. But honestly, I felt pretty satisfied with myself. I decided this: I’m not going to play a game of exchange when it comes to my deepest values and beliefs. Both qualities of Feminism and Christianity feel fundamentally just and good to me. They’ve made me who I am and that’s an intersection I can take pride in.