Feminism and Why Adventism Needs It

In August of last year, US president Barack Obama published an article on feminism in the fashion magazine Glamour. Identifying himself as a feminist, he wrote that twenty-first-century feminism is about “the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.” This applies not just to basic human rights, but to gender stereotypes as well. "We’ve come a long way," he wrote, "but there are still many things we need to work on:"

We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs. We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online.

We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women. We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.

For Obama, the feminist movement is far from finished. We need to keep working on feminism to liberate everyone, male and female. Other people are less certain about the benefits of feminism.

In a 2014 social media trend called “Why I Don’t Need Feminism,” women were invited to take a picture of themselves with a caption that described why they don’t identify as feminists—and many did.

At the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, I listened to Natasha Nebblett explain to the delegates why she didn’t want the GC to allow women’s ordination. She argued that while people often recognize her work as president of Generation of Youth for Christ, “they should give more recognition when I become a wife next February and a mother after that, since the Spirit of Prophecy says that that position is higher than the ministry and the desk and the king on his throne.”

I’ve also heard a lot about pastor-evangelist Doug Batchelor, who argues that feminism is “becoming” more about angry women who wanted to be like men rather than attaining the rightful respect for being a “woman.” He feels that feminism is pushing the church “beyond” voting rights and equal pay into the arena of unisex “thinking.” Now that women have equal pay and are allowed to vote, what is feminism doing? For Batchelor, it’s turning all of us into some form of male-female hybrid. It’s limiting us, both male and female. Who is right? Is feminism a liberating movement or a limiting one? The answer is too complex to be summed up in a few words. But let’s see what we can do.

Feminism existed before the women’s liberation movement in 1960s America, and it’s likely to be around for a good while. It has been many different things at different times, to different people. It’s only natural that things get a little complicated as a movement gains size and momentum. Like Christianity (or even Adventism) feminism is not a static entity, composed of people who think exactly alike and who all move in the same direction. Nor should it be—if it was, it wouldn’t be able to do the thing it aims to do: work towards equal rights for all people, regardless of their sex. In fact, the illusion of unity—unity of one group, or even of the whole human race—was one of the problems feminism had to overcome along the way. Let me explain what I mean with a short history lesson.

Hillary Rodham Clinton may have been the first woman nominated to a major political party in the US, but she’s certainly not the first woman to run for the office of president. In 1872, almost fifty years before any woman would be able to legally vote for her, Victoria Woodhull became America’s first female presidential candidate. A campaigner for women’s suffrage, she reasoned: “If Congress refuse to listen and to grant what women ask, there is but one course left to pursue. What is there left for women to do but to become the mothers of the future government?” If the government was not going to listen to women, women would just have to join the government. She lost spectacularly to Ulysses S. Grant, but her campaign drew a great deal of media attention, and she continued to campaign for women’s rights until she died at age eighty-eight—seven years after women were finally granted the right to vote.

Woodhull, and other women like her, formed what we call the “first wave” of modern feminism. The height of first-wave feminism was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the suffragettes and the women’s rights movement. These feminists were largely focused on the legal aspects of equal rights: the vote, the right to be educated, the right to own property, etc.

The “second wave,” generally marked as taking place from the 1960s through the 1990s, came up against a different set of challenges. Equipped with the legal rights won by first-wave feminists, the second wave set out to negotiate questions of identity and social justice. Women were now legally “equal,” but deep-seated cultural biases still kept them from true equality on most fronts. They had to fight for the right to be women in the workplace, and in this new environment they were forced to reconsider what it actually meant to be a woman, and what it meant for a woman to be equal to a man.

Undaunted by these challenges, second-wave feminists succeeded in reforming higher education, business and politics, and reproductive rights; set up organizations and legislation for the protection of battered women; and raised awareness about the movement at a popular level. Second wave feminism was loud and proud, and this is the wave we are still most likely to associate with the term “feminism.” They also changed history in a deeper way. I work at a university, teaching, and researching literary and cultural criticism.

Basically, I study how art and literature shape identity. In my field feminism is hugely important— and not just because the feminist movement ensured my right to work in the first place.

For hundreds of years we assumed that great art was universal. We believed that it held up a mirror to the world—that it showed us who we were as people. Then, in the middle of the twentieth century, we suddenly and shockingly realized that most of the art we had previously considered “great” was actually only reflecting a very small portion of the world, from a very specific point of view. Most of the art was made by men: specifically, well-off white men from the West. We discovered that “we” were not as united as we had thought, and that our unity had only been possible because we were excluding everyone with a different perspective than ours—people who were women, who were black, who were poor or uneducated. These people didn’t matter in our society, and so their art couldn’t possibly matter either. Until a group of feminist critics came along—at this point still mostly women—who, thanks to their nineteenth-century feminist forerunners, were finally allowed to participate in scientific discourse. They pointed out, in a language other scholars could understand, that actually these other perspectives were everywhere, and could be very valuable indeed.

The impact this realization had on the arts (and later on the sciences as well) cannot be overstated. There were endless, conflicting worlds and perspectives out there, just waiting to be recognized. The effect was revolutionary.

Batchelor argues: “All of history has been altered in the last fifty to sixty years. Up until the feminist movement, the church understood for 1,900 years that the final authority was to rest solely with husbands and men pastors.” He’s absolutely right. Feminism is responsible for teaching us to read differently, from multiple perspectives. It opened our eyes. It showed us that our society wasn’t as fair as we thought it was, but that we could make it better. We just needed to open the floor to other voices.

Soon the feminist scholars were followed by postcolonial scholars and class scholars. They didn’t focus on women, but on non-Western peoples and on the poor. They were followed by disability studies and by queer theory. Some feminist critics (male and female) even turned their focus back to the old perspective, to learn how these new perspectives could help us reevaluate thousands of years of rich, white masculine—and all the men left out by that category. The floodgates were opened and the knowledge poured in.

Some people took this knowledge to strange extremes, as people always do. This was OK. Feminism taught us that difference wasn’t the end of the world, it was the beginning. Some feminists hate men, and some feminists are men. A thousand varieties of third-wave feminism were born. They responded to second-wave feminism’s attempts to avoid the mistakes of the past 2,000 years by teaching us that there is more than one way to be a woman (or a man). Where the second wave was mostly composed of highly educated white women, third-wave feminisms work to improve conditions for all people, each according to their needs.

Some of these feminisms are contradictory, and that’s OK. People are contradictory as well. But it’s important to recognize that feminism made their contradiction possible in the first place. Feminism isn’t obsolete. It’s still doing exactly what it was meant to—building the opportunity for real democracy and equality, for everyone.

The Adventist Church still needs feminism too. The world church is arguing for unity, but feminism has taught us the dangers of that type of unity. Can the church be truly unified? Or are we enforcing unity at the cost of people? Are we only united at the cost of excluding everyone with a different perspective? Could that be why the church needs feminism? Not, as Batchelor fears, to push the church into “unisex” thinking, but to allow everyone in the church a voice? To make our church better and more fair? To let all of us be equal and more free?

Feminism isn’t about ordaining female pastors and it’s not about recognizing the position of wife and mother above that of president or king. Feminism is about recognizing that you should have the right to prefer being a mother or father over being president, and vice versa.

Feminism is about recognizing that your way of looking at things is not the only way of looking at them. Of course, that’s just my perspective. The beauty of feminism is that you are free to offer your own perspective on equal footing, regardless of your sex, race, class, or gender. No matter how radical.

Megen Molé is a feminist and a fourth-generation Adventist. She was a Dutch delegate to the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, and she is currently a teacher and PhD researcher at Cardiff University in Wales.

This article was first published in Volume 44, Issue 4 (Winter 2016) of Spectrum under the title "The Dangers of Unity."

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7860
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Oh, how rich the world is now, with all these varied voices! What freedom to be the unique persons God created us to be! I am thankful I have lived to see this recognition of all the world, and our church, have to gain from the multi-faceted wisdom pouring forth!

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Why not humanism? Gender in careers has the norm, since Woman’s suffrage. why must we fight it all over again. Is the church that far behind? I count 8 women who materially helped me in my career and my life. Countless others in education and the health professions. one I hold dear is an LPN who alone on a Labor Day weekend nursed me while I was burning up with a 105 fever. That was 1980 and I remember it clearly… Thank You.TZ

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How many male nurses and female physicians were there in the 20’s when women’s’ suffrage was finally passed? Women fought for many years to gain the right to vote. Yes, the church if far behind in the West, otherwise women would be considered fully equal for positions as men. But both women and men are still fighting for equality, aren’t they?

You have been helped by women in your career. How many men have helped women achieve full equality? How many have they hindered?

You are for women’s equality. How many men your age believe full equality for women?

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perhaps natasha can explain why egw wrote the following:

“In this age of the world, as the scenes of earth’s history are soon to close and we are about to enter upon the time of trouble such as never was, the fewer the marriages contracted, the better for all, both men and women.” 5T:336…

i think a minimal, reasonable take of this statement is that marriage, and its constraints, isn’t a necessary destiny for all women, nor are women in some way demeaned if they choose to remain single…

as i see it, doug batchelor simply has no credibility on this issue…he is on record as saying that ordained women pastors will lead to gender confusion in our youth, who of course aren’t confused because their mom drives a car to work, their doctor is a woman, or their representative in congress isn’t a man…it just so happens that earlier today i spotted a female police officer handing a speeding ticket to a hapless male motorist…fortunately i was able to maintain my sanity long enough to avoid veering off the road…

i think this article makes some very good points…a proper understanding of inspiration cannot mean that some subsets of the population must be systematically subjugated for the good of the group…

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YES!! Doug Batchelor in one of his presentations Listed 27 REASONS WHY WOMEN WERE INFERIOR to Men.
Presented in assumption that God AND Christ created Women that way on Day 6.
Doug did say that ONLY MEN should be going to semen-aries and become Biblical scholars.
Unfortunately, his presentation, for most people, is probably THEIR Biblical Theological view of Women.
And in some respects, Ellen White echos that same Theological View. Stated above. Women find their HIGHEST calling in God to find a man, become married and have a baby. Spending the rest of their lifetime “keeping house” and making sure “Their Man” stays happy.

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“And in some respects, Ellen White echos that same Theological View. Stated above. Women find their HIGHEST calling in God to find a man, become married and have a baby. Spending the rest of their lifetime “keeping house” and making sure “Their Man” stays happy.”

Yes, and it seems to be superfluous to say that it was the only world that she knew where men worked and women stayed home and raised children. So very much has changed since then and EGW did not champion anything that did not promote the Adventist “Message”. I don’t believe that everything that she wrote over a hundred years ago is still relevant in today’s world.

Doug Batchelor may have his own psychological “baggage” from his childhood dealing with a “Feminist” mother. What his mother may have lacked in child-rearing graces she was quite an accomplished person in her own right having been an accomplished songwriter, helped established the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, etc., etc. I would like to add that the assumption here was that Batchelor did not have a good childhood in part (or in whole) because his mother was a “Feminist”. I know other Feminists that have raised healthy and happy children so the fact that Batchelor was not well raised must have had other factors within his family.

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And when the kids once - as you have to hope for - make their own living, they bake cookies, knit and stitch, watch for the progress of the flowers planted recently, write third class poems, have their chats in the style and level like meeting at the greengrocers - - and maybe do some charity work.

Some scenes : Adam and Eve both were supported by the Creator with equal working wear : leather kuntonaet = chittwn = kittel, the necessary protection for working bewteen thorns and thistles -

A millenium or so later : He keeps the herd of goats and sheep together and by good plowing and planting hopes for a sufiicient harvest. - You also have to take care of the oxen ! - she grinds the wheat - this affording quite some strenouousness - and the oath in time to get the soup - do not forget having enough water ! - ready in time - -

Not so long ago here in Central Europe the children - educated themselves mutually - and they soon were led to do their contribution to the rural economy : Taking care of the chicken and the geese and the rabbits - -

Craftsmanship, workshops, factories : The husband went to “work” - sixty to fourtyeight then to to fourty and now to 38 hours. the week. Mother helped to stabilize the family budget with houseclealning at some distinguished ladies household or donig “homework” for some enterprise at the kitchen table like painting the reflecting dots on watch faces and hands ( highly poisonous ! and poorly paid !.)

I am selfish. I do ( did) not at all look for a spouse beinrg a rather poor nurse to me . cookie baking, tablecloth stitching. And already demonstrating in her conversation .a very limited view for interesting things, behold problems, behold theological issues…

What do you imagine about Priscilla and Aquila ? - Or : Where an when ever could a representative percentage of women fulfill,what Kim Green quoted as EGWs advice for being a godly woman ?

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And paul says pastors should work physical for there mind wellbeing . Do our pastors work ?
There more feminized and egw talks about that and its dangers!!
And Israel had a system in teaching physical work to children and some parents shouldn’t have kids as well
There are many issues in family or social unit. why is feminism so popular ? Is it a counter reformation
Violence on any level good ? society watches violent hollywood movies and people
demonstrating or promoting this is it ok ?
Egw like in the civil war . I wouldnt take sides in this as adventists. feminism civil american war, nor promote it spectrum.

There is a old slavic saying.
Thow a bone into the crowd and watch them nibble
All these debates are fruitless

My question to writer is should a section of adventist start a lobby group the masculitiism?
Did lucifer divide a man and a women in eden ?
I can understand this mindset of the writer I attended best university’s in architecture and had workshops with best award winning architects and still have ritchard neutra’s book .
Moses . Danial . Joseph and many more trained in the arts but seperating the arts and there own worship is so important .
If church do something its got nothing to do with man vs women

God bless hope someone understands my blabber
I failed english miserably tho

Ps women debut at Olympics when 1900 and 1928
So this has a social evolution aspect and evolutionary sciences

Duxiemom
Culturally America started junkfood and its a cultural thing right so how long till cuba wants a outlet ?. SDA church is a global identity(body) united in the word there are 7 churches and seven issues ?

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What a delightfully written, informative and timely article. Thank you, Megen, for sharing your knowledge and expertise on such a wide ranging and important topic.

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I am intriqued by the comments. A very informative article. I think that what many fail to realize is that every culture has it’s “feminine” problems. A wise teacher once told me not to look back at my mistakes but to use them as stepping stones to the future. yes, she was an Adventist and this was at Washington Sanitarium and Hospital. I know, this is dating me back to some pre-historic time, but I think of her advice and have tried to follow it, even have given it to my daughter and my grandchildren. We cannot remain stagnant in our thinking. What is good for America may not be good for Cuba or Mexico. We are a world of many cultures. We must respect each and every one even if we do not agree. I believe that if a women is called by God to be a minister to the people she should be respected as a woman and a minister. If you really think about it, we are all ministers of the gospel whether we are ordained or not. Ordination makes it legal and some times that is what is called for.

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I would say those are general attributes of emotional intelligence and agility, and are not gender specific.

Clearly, clearly, though, our environments affect our ability to navigate the social world. No argument there. So, with Tom Zwemer, I would say, “Why not humanism?” Polarization makes for strife.

Bad barrels make for bad apples, as Dr. Philip Zimbardo put it in The Lucifer Effect.

Notice that, in the above graphic, the women has no face. Also, note that she is wearing one of the infamous, ubiquitous “pussy” hats, furiously knitted in reaction to Donald Trump’s live mic pornographic remarks.

They were in evidence everywhere at the Sister March I participated in at Austin, Texas on Inauguration Day.

I mused, “We don’t need Donald Trump to objectify us; we self-objectify ourselves quite nicely on our own.” The faceless-woman graphic couldn’t make that more clear.

Now, if you think “pussy” can ever be a term of endearment, in any application involving females, I beg to differ. Some words cannot be rehabilitated. I won’t say more

In addition, missing altogether from the article was any mention of children. This is a huge omission, in my opinion.

Granted, the attitude displayed in the anti-suffrage posters at the site below is galling, yet there is truth there also, I believe:

http://art-sheep.com/a-1900s-campaign-against-womens-right-to-vote-through-enraging-anti-feminist-posters/


As the old 60’s song goes,

Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

I would say treasures of incalculable value have been lost in this last wave of feminism, I pray not irretrievably.

James W. Prescott is an American developmental psychologist, whose research focused on the origins of violence, particularly as it relates to a lack of mother-child bonding.

Prescott was a health scientist administrator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the Institutes of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and he created and directed the Developmental Behavioral Biology Program at the NICHD where he initiated NICHD-supported research programs to study the relationship between mother-child bonding and the development of social abilities in adult life. (Wiki)

This is what he said:

Breastfeeding Bonding Prevents Infant Mortality And Suicide

Baby-carrying is the external umbilical cord that assures that the baby is connected with mother, and breastfeeding bonding for 2.5 years, or longer, has been found to be essential for optimizing brain-behavioral development for the prevention of depression and suicide, which makes possible peaceful, harmonious and egalitarian behaviors later in life possible.

These two behavioral measures of maternal-infant/child affectional bonding: 1) baby-carrying during the first year of life and 2) breastfeeding for 2.5 years or greater are the singular developmental events that can PREVENT infant mortality and suicide in the teen and adult years of life.

These early life events form the foundation for the neurointegrative brain (joy, happiness and love) as opposed to the development of the neurodissociative brain (depression, alienation, homicidal and suicidal violence).

https://ttfuture.org/blog/james-prescott/breastfeeding-bonding-prevents-infant-mortality-and-suicide

This is every human being’s God-given birthright.

You tell me what is more important.

Adventism, according to Ty Gibson, has 5% of its members below the age of 25. Do you find that alarming? You are losing your children from their church family!

Adventism is deracinated! This is an emergency!

Every Adventist urged to help stem membership losses
G.T. Ng makes the appeal in his report to the Annual Council.

#Nurture should become part of church culture.

https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2016-10-10/every-adventist-urged-to-help-stem-membership-losses/

I hope Spectrum, aToday, ADvindicate, Fulcrum7, and all other Adventist publications will launch series of articles on the importance and science of nurture.

I hope Loma Linda, Andrews, and all educational institutions will make nurture their central focus.

I pray it’s possible to save the Adventist family.

It will take feminine and masculine genius and power, by the grace of God.

And probably a great big miracle.

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Adventism needs more feminism like my kids need more superantibiotics when they have a cold.

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I missed the news about feminists en masse opposing breastfeeding. My understanding was that most feminists advocate for breastfeeding.

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