I was waiting for this day. The day when my favourite feminist blog Jezebel discovered CBMW.
Hugo Schwyzer’s a thoughtful writer but I confess I did feel a little sorry for CBMW — they just have such a PR problem! Take Schwyzer’s quote about their fight against ‘feminist egalitarianism’. That’s an in-house Christian term, referring to a particular Christian position. It’s not, as I suspect many modern feminists would hear it, an attack on equality or basic human rights! But while ever CBMW continues to interact with a mere caricature of feminism, Schwyzer’s criticism holds. And it’s particularly poignant in this article where it seems marriage is elevated over singleness.
But it’s worth taking a step back and being a little self-critical at this point, because I count myself both a feminist and a complementarian. How does that work? As Schwyzer points out, the former seems to encourage women’s independence from men and the latter seems to discourage it.
I guess the first thing to acknowledge is that when I talk about being a complementarian, what I’m envisioning is a pretty far cry from the narrowness of CBMW’s predefined roles. In my opinion, they are so culturally bound to an American Christian context, they legislate way beyond where scripture takes any discussion of gender. I think there are complementary aspects to the nature of men and women, but I’m not sure I’d like to tie that down to ‘roles’ too quickly.
When I talk about being a feminist, I bring that sense of being complementary. ‘Sisters doing it for themselves’ is a tragedy in my view, not because they can’t, but because men and women are designed to bring about each others’ flourishing. Humanity works best when we all work together. I want to see women experience life as whole, respected and valued human beings. There’s a lot of work to do there and as men and women work for that together, there’s much for both of us to gain from a feminist perspective. That’s part of the reason Arthur’s happy to call himself a feminist as well!
I don’t like labels, and I suspect that many readers of this blog would express similar sentiments to what I have here, but with different labels! But these are the ones I have.
So why am I a complementarian? Because I want to see men and women working together, neither independent of the other, each bringing vitally different things to the table.
Why am I a feminist? Because I want to see that work geared towards undoing the historic injustices against women that continue to plague our society.
How can these two cohere? If men and women are complementary, to dehumanise women is detrimental to the humanity of men as well. In my view, the mutuality of men and women is a concept that Christian thought shares with modern-day feminism.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.