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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is “Feminists for Life” an Oxymoron?

"Feminists for Life" is taking back from the modern anti-life, anti-woman feminist movement the feminism of Susan B. Anthony and others, whose feminism was compatible with authentic Biblical feminism. Following is a reflection on this organization by Laura Callender, President of Oglethorpe University Students for Life. Please see related article about the FFL speaker they are hosting on March 26th, which promises to be a very fruitful event! Your prayers, financial support and presence are needed at this great event!

When I tell my friends that I joined a group called Feminists for Life of America, it is always interesting to see their reactions.  First, the response is usually something like, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”  Then, if the person to whom I’m speaking is a Christian or pro-life, I hear, “I don’t know…I don’t trust feminists.”  Now, my friends generally believe that women and men deserve equal rights and respect, but all they know of feminism is the more radical strain that was born around the time of the Cultural Revolution.  They have heard self-proclaimed feminists tell them that “sexual liberation” is a good thing, that there are no real differences between men and women, that any woman who chooses to be a homemaker is enslaving herself, etc.

The feminism of Feminists for Life is very different.  It is not “about women passing as men.  Women should celebrate our life-giving capacity.”  It is about protecting “the rights of all,” regardless of “race, religion, gender, size, age, disability or parentage.”  This is the feminism of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Wollstonecraft, and countless other feminist foremothers.  It is also compatible with the principles of Biblical feminism: that men and women are mutually dependent upon each other (Gen 2:18-24), that domination by men over women is a product of sin (Gen 3:16), that Christians are called to “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21), and that the unique characteristics of each gender are gifts which, taken together, form an image of God (Gen 1:27; Eph 5:21-32).  Because Feminists for Life states its philosophy in secular terms, however, it can articulate the same principles of mutual respect and appreciation accessible to a wider audience. 

When feminism is viewed the way Feminists for Life views it, a pro-life feminist is no longer an oxymoron.  On the contrary, a true feminist must by definition be pro-life.  As FFL reminds us, “the basic tenets of feminism are nonviolence, nondiscrimination and justice for all.  Abortion violates all three.”  And, like our feminists foremothers, they believe that the first injustice of abortion is that women are pressured to choose between themselves and their children.  As feminist foremother Mattie Brinkerhoff wrote in 1869, “when a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society—so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is evidence that either by education or by circumstances that she has been greatly wronged.”

This is exactly the mission of Feminists for Life.  They dedicate themselves to eliminating those circumstances that wrong American women so much that about half of us have abortions by age fifty.  “When Planned Parenthood’s research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, revealed the long list of reasons that were cited by women who had abortions—primarily lack of resources and support—we said this is our task list. Abortion is a reflection that we haven’t met the needs of women, and women deserve better,”  says FFL president Serrin Foster.

And it’s working…so well that Planned Parenthood has called FFL’s college outreach program “the most challenging new anti-choice student organizing.”  From my own personal experience, I know that women are thirsting for this new kind of feminism: one that tells us we are gifted to be women and that we do not need to settle for such a horrible choice.

When I explain this to my friends, they tend to become feminists.

1 Clark, Cat and Erin M. Sullivan, Ed.  The American Feminist.  Spring 2005: 14.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 The Revolution 4(9): 138-139 September 2, 1869.

Posted by Margarita on 03/13 at 03:46 PM
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