Free to [be]: Let’s Talk About Feminism

feminismBY LIZ VESTALMarch 4, 2015

Fun facts: The founding Jesuits were all between the ages of 18 and 25 at its conception. JK Rowling drafted Harry Potter on a napkin while riding the train. Steve Jobs started Apple in his garage.

No matter age, resources, or funding, all it takes is passion in order to spark something big. Not that I would compare myself to the likes of these innovators, but this idea rings true with a movement in which I am involved at Saint Louis University called Free to [be]. This concept is based on the following question we pose to our campus:

What does feminism inspire you to be?

A friend of mine determined she was a feminist after learning more about what it was and how much she cared about creating equality. What began as simple e-mails between friends and peers grew into a week on campus to explore what feminism means and looks like on SLU’s campus. This week of events, including speaker Sandra Kim, performances by the girls of GetLit, a 5K with Take Back the Night, dialogues with students and with women in the St. Louis community, and a dance party (because what week is complete without one?) are all meant to facilitate the conversation about what feminism means in the context of our culture.

So, what does feminism mean in our culture, and what does it mean in our Church?

Feminism, by definition, is the promotion of the political, social, and economic equality of the genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, ability, or sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, this definition is vastly under-represented as the meaning of the word. Instead, feminism is taken to mean a radical idea of women’s domination in society, or women who are anti-men. This is inaccurate for a couple of different reasons: One, this movement is for both women and men. Men have just as much of a stake in the feminist movement, because most everyone has a mother, sister, daughter, or friend who identifies as a female. In order to uphold the dignity of those people, we should all be considered on the same playing field. And two, when it all boils down, feminism is no more than an issue of social justice, and of primary concern for today’s church.

The fact of the matter is that women have been largely neglected in history books, and of primary concern is the way one of the most widely read books in the world treats women: the Bible. While the Twelve were all men, and most of the stories in the Bible only mention men by name, there are several examples of womanhood to which we can point. Though women are mentioned by name on various occasions (see Mary, Martha, Esther, Ruth, etc.), there are not many descriptions of society’s interactions with women that are fruitful. We have to remember here that Jesus was the most radical figure of his time, and part of that reason was because he hung out with women.

Lorax-2In order to delve further into the church’s perspective on women, here are some book recommendations: The Friendship of Women and From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism. Both take a look at the role of women in the church, and call into question both how women are viewed now and how they should be in the future. As disciples of Christ we are called to use our lives to point back to him, just as Mary spent her whole life pointing to her son.

I am reminded of the great philosopher Dr. Seuss’ quote, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Once you find the one thing you are passionate about, there emerges this sense of unity that links your life together. Like Ignatius and his group of friends, I found myself in the midst of conversations that have led to something greater. Feminism inspires me to [criticize]. Feminism inspires me to [hope]. Feminism inspires me to [pray].

What does feminism inspire you to [be]?

Free to [be] week will be taking place on SLU’s campus March 16-21. Learn more about the week’s scheduled events. Follow the Free to [be] movement by looking us up on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram @FreetobeSLU


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