You can buy Kate Kirkpatrick’s Grove booklet Women, Justice and the Church: an apology for feminism for about AUD 7 and I suggest that you do so. It’s not about why Christians should be feminists (indeed, she explicitly states that this is not necessary); it simply explains why feminism exists.
Kirkpatrick isn’t writing for the convinced feminist; this is a primer for the suspicious. To those who suspect feminism of favoring women or wanting to replace male rule with female rule, she explains that “[Feminism] is partial … not in the sense of being preferential towards women, but in that it focuses on a specific brand of injustice in order to bring that more clearly to light. Just as using a microscope amplifies our vision of a small field, feminism aims to highlight one particular dimension of the injustice that permeates human existence.”
She takes Michele Le Doeuff’s definition that a feminist “someone who knows that something is still not right in the relations between a woman and everyone else” and with clear and well-referenced examples unpacks just what that ‘not right’ is: her chapter on sexualisation and suffering is particularly devastating. What emerges is a picture of injustice, one which may be unintentional, but is built into the very ways our society operates and communicates and indeed even how women see themselves. Whatever the law may be, she argues there is, in reality, an injustice.
From the outset she’s clear about her agenda: “The aim of this book… is to urge the church not to be so focused on whether or not women are in pulpits that it fails to serve the pressing needs of women in the wider world. Feminist research can be the church’s ally in that mission.” She’s only got 30 pages to do that, so there is only a little about misconceptions of feminism, and no analysis of issues that are contested by conservatives such as the gender pay gap. Nevertheless Kirkpatrick’s diagnosis, with the help of feminist research, of those ‘pressing needs’, and her call for the church to be at the front of combating this injustice is pertinent and powerful.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.