ZU Magazine is a publication of ZU Media. The following is an article from Issue 5: Revolution.
Staff Writer | Katrina Williams
Christian feminist. For some conservative circles of faith, being a Christian and being a feminist are two titles that never belong together. Being a “Christian feminist” in college looks different from campus to campus, especially on religious campuses like Azusa Pacific.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, feminism is defined as, “the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Due to the broad nature of the technical definition of feminism, the meaning may vary between individuals’ with different values and beliefs.
Dr. Katherine Smith, a professor of Biblical and Religious Studies and manager of the religious studies program at APU, said, “Feminism is the advocacy for the position that all people are human and that it is just to treat all people equally.” She went on to say, “Christian feminists advocate that all people are created in the image of God and thus are worthy of equal treatment and dignity.”
As a Christian institution, APU strives to integrate Christian faith and education. In the opinion of some, this should include feminism. For others, feminism does not align with Christian academia.
Smith holds the former opinion.
“There are those who, because of proof-texting and not reading the entire record of scripture, interpret certain text in ways that convince them to marginalize, silence, discredit, and devalue women,” Smith said.
According to Smith, feminism and Christianity should go alongside one another. Although APU professors like Smith believe this, some APU students, such as Nicolas Guido, do not.
According to Guido, the feminist movement does not properly advocate for women’s issues. As someone who does not identify as a feminist, Guido does not believe that the feminist movement will bring constructive change to the world.
“I have experienced feminism to only identify or classify problems without providing any solution,” Guido said, “which ends up creating more hatred between groups due to the aggression the topics are approached with.”
From a Christian perspective, Guido feels uncertain about what the Bible says in regards to feminism within faith and education.
“I have read some scripture which seems to contradict feminist ideals and I have read some scripture which seems to support feminist ideals,” he said; “I think it is ultimately left up to interpretation.”
Theology major Ariana Wagoner opposes Guido’s views, though she is discontent with the perception of feminism on campus. Wagoner identifies herself as a “queer womanist.” According to Wagoner, womanism is feminism, but from the perspective of a black woman.
“It is difficult being a womanist at a Christian university for sure; typically, I find the movement as a ‘controversial issue’ rather than a dynamic, social justice endeavor working towards healing, wholeness, equality and embodiment of women,” Wagoner said.
Wagoner believes that Christian campuses need to change their perspectives about who women are and what they portray the feminist movement to be. She advocates for a healthy, open dialogue.
“I either find feminism to be boldly embraced and proclaimed, a source of uncomfortability of conversation, or straight up rejected,” she said.
In 2015, online magazine Her Campus, surveyed 3,135 college women about feminism in their universities. To their surprise, 78 percent of these women identified themselves as feminists. But, 82 percent of the women surveyed also said that they thought feminism was not represented accurately in politics or the media.
Due to this discontent in the public’s portrayal of feminism, various campuses have received attention for their stand for feminism or against it.
Wheaton College student Jordan Ashley Barney is head of the Christian Feminist Cabinet on her campus. In an interview with MSNBC, Barney revealed that although she sees no difference between a feminist and a Christian feminist, she keeps Christian in the title of her club to make people “less worried.”
According to the MSNBC report, Wheaton college was concerned that having a feminist club on campus would promote pro-choice values. In reality, Barney explained that they “end up talking about women in ministry most of the time.”
Similar to Barney, other Christian women have been taking a stand for feminism. Author and public speaker Sarah Bessey has dedicated her life to aligning the mission of Christianity with the life of a feminist.
In her blog post titled “On being a Christian and being a Feminist…and belonging nowhere,” Bessey writes, “there are people within the church who think I don’t belong. They see me as the embarrassment to the Gospel. I make them feel angry. They think I’m doing damage to our witness in the world. They are pretty sure I don’t know Jesus.”
Because of the shame Bessey has experienced from different religious groups and churches, she often feels like an outsider in both feminist and Christian circles.
“I choose to be a feminist in the way I believe Jesus would be a feminist,” she writes, “This does not mean fitting into a stereotypical Christian or feminist box, but instead, it means being radical in love by sticking up for one another.”
Every college campus, both religious and non religious, fall somewhere different on the feminist-praising, feminist-bashing spectrum. Some people see feminism as a way to live like Jesus, while others find the topic controversial and unnecessary when in direct application to their faith.
Although APU does not openly condemn or praise feminism on campus, Wagoner believes they could make extra steps towards empowering women.
“Personally, I think all students should have to take a modified version of Women in the Biblical Tradition, an upper division biblical studies course,” Wagoner said, “We need to say and proclaim the names and lives of women who are in scripture. They exist! And they’re not all prostitutes.”