So in light of what I was writing yesterday, I want to continue by asking which one is more “politically correct”: being Christian or being feminist. By the standard definition, feminism (and all that other anti-oppression stuff, but feminism is convenient in that it has a recognizable and frequently used concrete noun-form for individuals who believe in it) is the epitome of political correctness, and Christianity is full of all that stuff that offends people.
Disclaimer: the people at my church are most emphatically not the cliché of American right-wing Christianity, and probably wouldn’t be able to watch CNN, let alone FoxNews, if you paid them. And yet every so often I’ll hear something that sounds an awful lot like the sort of “victim complex” mentality that drives the “War on Christmas” fervour. These are genuine people, they’re loving people and they spend an awful lot of their time and energy ministering to the poor, both globally and locally.
One of them just casually mentioned a few weeks ago that it’s tough these days being Christian, in that people react to the declaration of one’s Christianity or some associated, potentially unpopular, political opinions with some level of disgust. I hate to call out this conversation like this, because this person in particular is someone completely genuine and whose love for the world drives his every action. Also someone with whom I can disagree politically without getting particularly upset. And I know he means it–he means that he wishes for a world in which he could declare his love for Christ and the church and everyone would share it, and everyone would by extension share in joy and peace and all those shiny happy abstract nouns that go around at this time of year, only with actual meaning attached instead of bows and sparkles.
But I call bullshit. And I call bullshit because I declare myself both a Christian and a feminist, and I’m well aware of which one causes the worse reactions in everyday interactions. I’ve been contemplating actually going about and documenting verbatim what people say when I use each of those terms to describe myself, or otherwise make it clear that I belong to each of those groups (eg. by mentioning that I go to church every Sunday). The basic principle, however, is that in the vast majority of cases in which I’ve simply stated that I’m Christian, people have not batted an eye. Sometimes I’ve done something like invite someone to church for whatever reason, and they’ve politely declined and said that Christianity isn’t really their thing; on a few occasions, people have started some sort of conversation about why they disagree with Christianity/the problems with religion and in very rare circumstances those conversations have been aggressive (usually someone very young defending why s/he is most certainly *not* going to hell and resent the implication that s/he is).
Saying I’m a feminist is a far more noteworthy act. The following comments have all been made to me, in response to that simple statement of fact, within the past month:
- Really? Why?
- Huh. And to think I used to respect you.
- Oooh (eye roll). Now I understand why you always disagree with me. (implied: now I can stop listening to your opinions, however well-thought-out they appeared before you used that word).
- (In response to my suggesting that a friend’s toddler should get a baby “This is what a feminist geek looks like” t-shirt) Hahaha–Ah, no. Not in my lifetime.
- Guess you’re not as smart as I thought you were.
The second and final comments were said teasingly to me (ie. I do know that the people who said them still respect me and recognize my intelligence), but they weren’t joking about not respecting feminism as a concept or ideology. Now, a lot of people genuinely don’t respect Christianity as an ideology, but they’re a damn sight less inclined to say so to the face of someone who self-identifies as a Christian, especially if that person is being polite and non-confrontational.
I recognize that this point is ridiculously obvious to the few people who read this blog, but it’s far from obvious to most of the people I know in real life, many of whom are sympathetic to feminist or anti-oppression arguments, but would never really start talking about them or self-identify in that way. It’s partially because of exactly this dynamic that I think it’s really important to do so, and that I wanted to write one of my usual, far-too-wordy pieces of meanderment in order to spell it out, regardless of how simplistic a point it is.
I would, however, really like to hear what happens to other people when they use such terms to describe themselves, and in what context (also, whether it changes based on who that person is–ie, if they’re female or male, straight or gay, conventionally attractive or not, etc etc etc).