The history of Christian Feminism is holy work done by women from diverse walks of life. Why then, does our modern day movement look so one dimensional? The problem is a lack of intersectional thinking.
If your Christian Feminism isn’t intersectional then it doesn’t look like Jesus and it isn’t for all women. So how do we become intersectional? And what does that word even mean? It starts by moving beyond putting privileged women behind the pulpit and, like the good news, it begins with Christ.
Before Reading: If the term White Privilege is new to you, here is a brief explanation titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.
What Does It Mean To Be Intersectional?
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a legal scholar, civil rights activist, and an African-American woman first introduced intersectional theory to the feminist movement. She defines it as the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities.
In order to see the totality of a person or an issue, we must put the linked parts together. The problems for women in the church don’t stop at sexism. They include racism, classism, and every other “ism” that make up the realities women face.
Maybe you’ve heard the word; maybe the concept is old news to you. Or maybe you’re more like me who first heard it as “politically correct nonsense” that didn’t have any meaning for my life. Most people associate intersectionality with the Feminist movement, but I would argue that Crenshaw’s work also reflects the truths of the gospel, which encompasses all perspectives.
Our Faith Is Already Intersectional
I’m not trying to sell you on a new buzzword to tag onto your faith like a trendy hashtag. Jesus already modeled how we should be viewing the world intersectionally. For him, it was never just a bleeding woman who tugged at his robes. Jesus, thanks to his fully human/fully divine qualities, was seeing her as every part of her whole. He knew her class status in the city, her age, her history, her very soul.
Jesus was and is intersectional. He sees us through the multifaceted lens of all-knowing love. It is this same lens through which we are told to see ourselves and others. Of course, it’s more difficult for us to see our fellow humans this way. Most ways in which we seek to imitate Christ are just that; difficult if not impossible. But the Christian approach to the world is designed to be holistic; loving the whole person for all that they are in the same way Christ first loved us.
How To Start
#1 Pass The Mic.
Listen up. You are not the voice for the voiceless. The saying implies that you have a voice while others do not. Every person has a voice, what some people lack is the amplification devices some others are given by privilege.
The number one thing that privileged, white, outspoken, Christian women can do is to pass the microphone. As the recently trending hashtag #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear shows, women face horrible discrimination in the church. But after the buzz died down over that, we saw the rise of the #ThingsOnlyBLACKChristianWomenHear, which highlighted the unique differences between the voices.
In speaking out about the abuse we have faced in the church, we can’t allow our voices to drown out the voices of those we have systemically abused ourselves. You can post a tweet storm over the latest John Piper article, sure. But your sisters in Christ have to worry about that as well as the wage gap, police brutality, misogynoir, and so much more. In lifting up our own pain, we must be careful we don’t cast a shadow over the pain of others. Amplify your sister’s voices, and whenever possible pass your mic.
#2 Be Apolitical
Some would argue that being a feminist is inherently political, and I agree. To be counted amongst the woke means staying active and interested in what goes on around you. I’m not advocating that we turn a blind eye on politics in order to live intersectionally. It’s not the activism we should ignore, but the imperialistic thinking. We will never be able to see issues fully if we insist on worshipping our nation over God.
Whether you identify as a liberal or a conservative, we should first be identifying as Christians. Allegiance to anything other than the cause of Christ can keep us from an intersectional approach to the issues we face.
#3 Have Awareness of Your Space
Whether you feel called to ministry, homemaking, the business world, or a combination of them all; it’s your responsibility to practice intersectionality in your sphere of influence. You’re never just a mom, just a pastor, or just an executive. In every group, there are marginalized members. Power dynamics invade every space where two or more are gathered.
In every space you occupy, there are those counted as the least. Take stock of the people you are impacting and look at them through heaven’s eyes, that is: intersectionally. You might look around at your spaces and realize some groups are completely not represented at all. Figure out why by analyzing the systemic issues in play around you. There are doors that you have the power to open if you look for them.
#4 Support Gender Mainstreaming
You may have heard the term “Gender Mainstreaming” tossed around. It’s the integration of a gender perspective into policymaking. More than just adding a woman to the leadership, gender mainstreaming calls us to add the perspective of women into each decision. If we apply this intersectionally to the church, then we should be mainstreaming the viewpoints of every member in their entirety.
We should be mainstreaming the viewpoints of every member in their entirety. Too many aspects of doing church community are built around exclusion. Read up on Gender Mainstreaming and look for ways you can implement the principle in your spheres of influence.
#5 Get Educated
If the preachers and leaders you learn from all look alike, then it’s time to expand. We like to argue that locking half the members out of leadership diminishes the church. But we must acknowledge the diverse parts that make up those halves that are doubly locked out. You already passed the microphone. Now is the perfect time to take a seat and listen.
Get to know the heroines of Christian Feminism. Women like Anna Julia Cooper and Sojourner Truth. Listen to viewpoints that vary from your own. Take a break from the narratives and teachings of white, Christian males. If you’re like me, those are the only voices that have ever taught you about Christ. Do you see how that creates a one-sided, male-owned viewing of God?
Make an effort to analyze the sources you’re consuming and diversify the voices as much as possible. Don’t expect the hard work of education to be done for you. Seek out new perspectives and challenge the theology that’s embedded within you.
I want each and every one of my sisters reading this to be affirmed. Whether you’re cisgender or transgender, straight or LGBTQ+, white or a woman of color there is a place for you. God has made all humans in the image of the divine. The only walls that exist are the walls we put up to keep each other out. But listen, they can be brought down. It’s up to all of us, especially those with privilege, to start doing the heavy lifting.