Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

Feminism & Liberty

Posted on May 31, 2013 at 10.29 am

Q. What do you think of feminism? — skepticalyouth, from tumblr.

A. I delayed answering this because 1) it’s super broad and a lot could be said in response, and 2) right around the time you sent it, a start-up magazine in the UK did an email interview with me on related topics. Since then, it seems like the magazine won’t be publishing that interview, so I’ll just post some of what I wrote for them here. Also, if you’re interested in reading the work of a libertarian feminist (a label I don’t claim), check out this blog.

➲ Do you think there will come a point at which feminism will have achieved its goals for the most part, and what do you think should be done to help advance the goals of feminism?

That depends on what you mean by the goals of feminism.

First-wave feminism’s goals are by and large achieved in the Western world. Women have the right to vote, hold property, testify in court, etc. in the United States. Personally, I think that achieving that baseline for women around the world by working peacefully with local activists should be a top feminist priority today.

I also think the attention feminists have brought to victim-blaming is important, and actually very compatible with libertarianism — it’s quite analogous to the attitude the government often takes in foreign policy in particular:

  • “I wouldn’t have raped you if you weren’t in the wrong bar at the wrong time, looking like a slut in your skimpy clothing.”

is eerily similar to:

  • “We wouldn’t have droned you if you weren’t in the wrong house at the wrong time, looking like a terrorist with your Muslim clothing.”

As for achieving and advancing feminism’s other, later goals, I can’t claim any special expertise on what we’ll see in the future. My main interest, as it would be with any social movement, is that needed cultural change is effected through peaceful, voluntary action, not government mandate.

➲ The GOP at the moment seems to be cooking up policies in which women’s rights are being demeaned and infringed upon — do you think this is true?

I think both major parties do a lot to infringe on women’s rights, not just the GOP. Both support policies like indefinite detention (NDAA); spying on our private lives without a warrant (PATRIOT Act); censoring our internet usage (SOPA/CISPA); regulating what we put into our bodies (drug war, fat and soda bans, smoking and drinking limitations); killing civilians (drone strikes and undeclared wars in the Middle East); devaluing the money in our pockets through inflation and deficit spending; and much more. All of these policies are demeaning to women.

It’s not a question of whether one party or another is anti-women’s rights. That focus totally misses the point. These policies are broadly supported by the establishment of both parties—and they’re not just anti-women; they’re anti-human.

➲ Do you think that women should become more active in the libertarian movement and what would be your pitch?

Yeah, absolutely. The liberty movement is young collectively and in terms of the age of its members, and it’s rapidly growing and diversifying. That’s fantastic.

As for a pitch to get more women involved, I don’t think there’s any single pitch that would appeal to all women, and I don’t think we need one. Rather, I’d say we need good marketing all around—an understanding that having great ideas isn’t enough; we also have to present our ideas in an attractive manner. And that entails a lot of things, like starting with common ground and explaining the practical benefits of our ideas instead of just categorically announcing they’re true. In many ways, this is really an intra-movement discussion at this point.

➲ What is your opinion of the left wing and their policy when it comes toward women?

Well, “the left wing” is a pretty broad term, so I hesitate to generalize. That said, I will comment that there’s a serious cognitive dissonance in those on the left (which is not everyone, but certainly some) who tout their support of choice when it comes to abortion but have no similar interest in choice when it comes to food, drink, smoking, insurance, light bulbs, unions, drugs, and schools.

This video from the 2012 Democratic National Convention typifies what I’m talking about.

It’s patronizing at best to say that women are capable of deciding what to do about an unwanted pregnancy but not capable of deciding what size soda is right for them.

On women and war.

Posted on January 26, 2013 at 3.15 pm

Much is being made of the recent announcement that women will no longer be banned from combat roles in the military — and inevitably the question of whether women will be required to register for the draft has been raised.

My thoughts on the subject are simple. Rather than focus on whether women should/shouldn’t/will/won’t be put into combat or drafted, it seems to me that there are bigger fish to fry: If our government is killing children with drones or coercing people into the military, the detail of what gender is pressing the kill button or being coerced strikes me as comparatively minor.

Is allowing women in combat a step toward equality? I suppose. But without significant changes in our foreign policy, what a horrifying equality it is.

Women, Jesus, and the Church

Posted on August 24, 2011 at 9.59 pm

Q. Could you address reconciling Christianity and feminism?  It’s something that interests me from the Biblical vs.Christian practice standpoint — I’ve grown up in more conservative evangelical churches and find that we overwhelmingly are affected by the outside world’s view of women and their role in the church and society rather than that of Jesus or the Bible.  I contend that the Christian influence on Western society has actually created the friendliest environment for women to thrive and be treated respectfully and equally than any other culture in the history of the world.   I think about 2000 years ago, in the church Jesus started, there would’ve been much less confusion than there is in the post-Victorian, post women’s lib US church. — Marian, from Northern Virginia.

A. I grew up in strictly complementarian churches — to the point that now that I’m actually looking into the scriptural theology on the role of women in the church, I often find myself thinking after reading a strong egalitarian argument: “Yeah, but it would still be weird to have a woman pastor.”

I’ve put off answering this question supposing that I might come to a firm conclusion in a fairly short period of time.  But I haven’t, so for the time being I’m mainly going to quote two articles which have helped me thing about the issue, and then I’ll hopefully revisit the matter sooner than later, perhaps with more articulate thoughts of my own.

First, this interview with New Testament scholar William J. Webb, an egalitarian who was fired from a university position for his views:

Many evangelicals think that you can’t take the Bible seriously and be comfortable with women in the pulpit. But you do, and you are! How do you read 1 Timothy 2:12?

The prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12 has both cultural and transcultural components embedded within it. The rationale that women are “more easily deceived” (2:13) was true of women in the ancient world. But today, this isn’t so: women share equal knowledge in university, college, trade school and seminary education. And primogeniture — the idea that Adam has authority by virtue of being created first (2:14) — dominated the ancient world. But this isn’t as prominent or persuasive a rationale in our times. We don’t leave a “double inheritance” for the first born (as Scripture instructs) within an egalitarian society. We should apply the transcultural teaching within 1 Tim 2:12-14 — the ultimate ethical application implied within the culturally bound concrete text — by doing the following: put into leadership/teaching positions only those, either men or women, who are not easily deceived and who are respected within the Christian community.

Many complementarians believe that an egalitarian reading of the Bible owes more to our own cultural prejudices than to a faithful reading of Scripture. What’s your answer to them?

I think this question betrays two incorrect assumptions. First, it wrongly assumes that hierarchicalists or patriarchalists do not have their own cultural and subcultural prejudices that impact their reading of Scripture. Second, it wrongly assumes that Scripture itself has not been impacted in its own formation with cultural components and a fallen-world context that shapes its social ethics. One would do well to read Mark Noll’s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis to see how communities dominate how we read Scripture (many preachers used Scripture to defend slavery). Did ancient culture impact the biblical ethics of slavery but not that of women?

The point which Webb hits on — that those who read the Bible as complementarians now and that those who wrote the Bible each have their own cultural prejudices just as much as egalitarians do — is an important one, I think, and it speaks to your point about the confusion in the “post-Victorian, post women’s lib US church.”  For a long time complementarian theology has been the dominant view in the American church, and as such I think we too often tend to view it as the unbiased or “normal” perspective which is accurate until proven false — but that isn’t necessarily the case.

(more…)