My husband accused me the other night of being a feminist. I was watching a clip online and mid-moan about the way a male interviewer had framed his questions to his female interviewee, and my husband dropped the f-word.
I jumped up from the couch indignantly. In my head, I know the true meaning of feminism is not all it's conjured up to be. But it still grates.
Despite its negative connotations, I would say most women recognise the word 'feminist' itself isn't actually such a bad thing. According to the Oxford Dictionary, feminism means, "the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of equality of the sexes."
I don't think many of us would complain about that. So why was I immediately defensive? Why do we, as intelligent, free-thinking Christian women, avoid this label?
Because deep down we really don't believe that women are the same as men.
And fair enough too.
A ton of steel or a ton of feathers?
The concept of feminism today has gotten mixed up with the idea that women are the same as men. But that's not what feminism is about.
Yes, women are equal in value to men. But we are not the same.
Just like that brainteaser we've all heard, a tonne of steel and tonne of feathers both weigh the same, but they are certainly not identical.
Likewise, my television might be worth the same as my washing machine, but they certainly don't have the same abilities.
Just because two things are of the same value, does not mean they are the same.
I was very sporty growing up, and always took great delight in beating the boys in pretty much everything. I was taller, stronger and faster. Around age thirteen it all came tumbling down. Overnight, the boys around me shot up in height, they suddenly could run like the wind, and smash my hand into the table in an arm wrestle.
It took me a while to accept that although I was equal in value, I was not equal in physical ability.
A deeper difference
As I've grown older, I definitely see the differences between men and women, particularly highlighted in a military environment. During extreme stress, we react differently. We prioritise differently. We behave differently. Some of this may be inadvertently following cultural norms, but there is definitely a deeper 'difference' that makes men stronger in some areas, and women stronger in other areas.
A radical feminist would argue with me. She might argue women can do everything men can, and we need to break free of our perceived weaknesses and fight the stereotype of our perceived strengths. But I disagree.
It's just the way we are. God made us different.
We are all of equal value, regardless of gender, but we are not the same.
Gender inequality is still a huge issue around the world. It needs to be tackled by those who understand the true meaning of feminismâthat it is about recognising equal value, not attempting to be identical.
"The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved."
- Matthew Henry
Claire Debrois grew up in Feilding, NZ, and holds a communications degree in public relations from Massey University. She lives with her husband in Wellington and works in digital communications for the Bible Society. She enjoys keeping fit and active, and is a field engineer in the Army Reserves.
Claire Debrois' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/claire-debrois.html