I drove to my local train station the other day and there were no long-term car parks available, the only vacant parks were limited to one or three hours. There was another option - I could drive down the block and park in unrestricted street parking. However, I get back from university late on Wednesdays and utilising that street parking meant walking alone in the dark for roughly ten minutes. So I parked in a three hour park because getting a ticket was preferable to walking down the street - alone - at 9.30pm.
Most women have undertaken the brisk walk back to their car in the dark, regularly checking over their shoulder; we have walked with our keys between our fingers as makeshift defensive weapons, or taken our hair out of a ponytail so it can’t be used to grab us in an attack. We have kept our eyes down and continued walking as men have called out objectifying comments.
Yet, it is still more dangerous for a woman to be in her home. The leading cause of preventable death for women aged 15-44 in Victoria alone is physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner[i]. Statistics from the ABS indicate that 39% of Australian women over the age of 18 have experienced ongoing violence since they were 15. Furthermore, women over the age of 18 more likely to experience physical and sexual violence from someone they know, rather than a stranger[ii].
Gender inequality and sexism, discrimination, physical, sexual and emotional violence is a reality Australian women face regularly. The church needs people who are willing to stand with women who experience systemic discrimination and violence. How we view women, and how we treat women is directly related to the inequality and disadvantage of women. That is, strict gender ideology, sexist jokes, and degradation of women lead to their marginalisation and increase their chances of experiencing violence. The church needs people to advocate for equality. The church needs feminists.
Feminism has become a dirty word. But feminism is not man-hating or extremist, or about the uninhibited promotion of women. ‘At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance – not greater than, but certainly not less than – to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women’[iii]. We can be feminists because Jesus was the ultimate feminist. He regularly campaigned for the rights of women in a culture where they were literally considered property. He called out misogyny and sexism, and spoke freedom into the lives of women who had been relegated to the margins of society.
It is important to acknowledge that feminist theories propose different approaches regarding the equality of men and women, but as Christians we are united by the Kingdom of God. Being a ‘Jesus Feminist’[iv] means that wherever we observe exclusion or oppression, we raise our voices in objection; we challenge cultural practices that lead to discrimination and abuse of power; we let go of our privilege and power so that others can experience equality. Isn’t this the call of being a Christian, putting others first so they can experience the Kingdom of God in its fullness? Let’s join Jesus in the restoration of our word. Let’s redeem feminism. Let’s challenge the social structures that reinforce gender stereotypes and perpetuate violence against women.
I am a feminist because of Jesus, because he desires to see the Kingdom restored and because he seeks equality. I am a feminist because it is safer for me to walk down a deserted street at night than it is for women to be in their homes. I am a feminist because I want equality for all people, of all ethnicities, gender, class and backgrounds.
For more information and Family & Domestic Violence visit Just Salvos White Ribbon Campaign
[iii] John Stackhouse, Finally Feminist p.17.
[iv] Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey, 2013.