I'm a feminist because of men

holding hands

During my sophomore year, my male piano instructor announced he was leaving Pensacola Christian College, and I asked him why. One of the reasons he gave stuck with me, especially over the next few years as he was proven right many times. He claimed that PCC’s administration did not treat women with dignity— which at first I completely dismissed. But my junior year, a job opening became available for the Campus Church’s orchestra director, and they hired a man who was obviously not as qualified as the woman who applied for it. Later that year, they gave the College Choir to another man, even though another, more qualified woman wanted to direct it– but she was denied. They were both told “no” for no other reason than they were women and the position would require them to demonstrate leadership inside of a church building.

When I was in graduate school, a male colleague told me that I should watch Mad Men because “I would be one of the few people who actually get it.” I watched all three seasons during spring break that semester, and came back asking how he’d known the show would click with me that well. “Because you lived that life,” matter-of-factly. “You know what it’s like to be a woman in an environment like that.” Over the next few months we talked about Joan, and Peggy, and Betty, and parsed out how each woman could only try to make a good life for themselves based on the tools they’d been given. We talked about Joan earning her partnership, about Peggy learning to live with being a “humorless bitch,” and about Betty trying to use what she saw as her one and only asset– being a pretty and submissive woman.

I met my partner, and we started e-mailing back and forth, covering a ridiculously wide range of topics. He told me he’d gotten into an intense debate about whether or not women could hold leadership positions in church, and asked me what I thought. When my answer was “I don’t know,” he bought Women in Ministry for us to read, and became an egalitarian before I did.

When I told him that my father was expecting him to ask permission to date me, his gut reaction was “aren’t you offended by that? You’re an adult– that means you get to make your own decisions.” I told my father I was dating (and kissing) a week later, and stood my ground through the few weeks of fallout that followed.

After I got married I started reading blogs, and found #FemFest through Preston Yancey; reading his post was the final catalyst I need to finally, finally claim feminism for myself.

But . . . I realized I had always been a feminist.

I was a feminist when a boy I’d never spoken to said he was “breaking up with me” in order to impress the girl he actually liked and I called him on it in front of all of his friends.

I was a feminist when bullies were throwing rocks at a black boy and I shouted at them to stop– and when I hid with him under the playground equipment until they went away.

I was a feminist when three boys told me to “pick one of them,” because “they wouldn’t fight over me” and I said “you’re all gross, go away.”

I was a feminist when boys tried to manipulate me with physical threats and I would not be cowed by them.

I was a feminist when I defied the leadership of my church and went to college anyway.

I was a feminist when I stared my rapist straight in the eyes and refused to allow him to take my future away from me.

I didn’t openly start calling myself a feminist until February last year, and although it’s just a label, it’s an idea that felt like coming home. I’m a feminist, I could say and make the world make just a tiny bit more sense.

But it was some very good men who helped get me here.

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  • Not sure I would use the term “Feminist” to describe your actions though. I think a better word would be “Leader”.


    • I feel that, currently, being a feminist is to be a leader. I don’t feel that it’s one or the other. So often, even daily, women embody both leadership and their female identities; all at once. Bringing those two things together is at the heart of feminism.

    • Oh, I’d definitely use the word feminist, with pride and dignity. We come from a long line of devout Christian feminists.

  • That was beautifully said. I resisted the label for many years as well, thanks to the demonization of the term by Christians and other assorted misogynists. But like you, I think I always was a feminist. And unlike Jekyll, “feminist” is exactly how I would describe your experiences–but what is more important is that “feminist” is how you describe your experiences. Your right to self-label and wear labels that are comfortable for you is one of the most important rights you will ever have, and it is one worth defending. Words have power. I’m glad you are not letting anybody take your power away. <3 Hope the kitty is doing better.

  • Thank you for this wonderful post.

    Jekyll, you can describe whatever you want however you want. This is her post, and she can and should describe her feminist acts as “feminist”. She is a leader, and a grown up, and demonstrates no need for recommendations on rephrasing.

  • Julie Pomerville-Steiner

    While I greatly enjoy and appreciate men, I agree with what you have said. The discrimination women face is absurd; I so hate it. I want my husband to open doors for me and treat me like a lady, at the same time I enjoy working and expect equal rights. Having manners toward women does not demean us.

  • It’s a good thing to know that there are some good men out there. This reminds me of my 16 year old brother. One night just after I left home I was having a disagreement with my dad at the dinner table about modest clothing when my dad said that women wearing ‘immodest’ clothes caused men to be distracted by them. My brother, who is very quiet and NOT one to argue, said, ‘Yeah, but we choose to look.’

    No woman will ever be good enough for my little bro 🙂 Also, when he ended up going to high school, he wrote about how women’s sports are under represented in the media for a Phys Ed assignment. I am so proud of him.

    One more thing – I first came across your blog on No longer Quivering. I’m so glad to have run into on WordPress! Keep up the great work.

  • My college experience was probably the exact opposite of yours…I went to an extremely liberal party school where my first introduction to “feminism” was the stereotypical man-hating, bra-burning, anti-shaving hippie. I refused to have any part of it.

    It’s weird to say now, but I think being raped ultimately made me a feminist. I was not aware of the pervasiveness of rape culture before that (or just didn’t pay attention, or assumed I was somehow “above” being affected by that). But now my entire worldview has changed. If only more Christian men were willing to call themselves feminists, too. Or more men, period.

  • L

    Back when I used to listen to patriarses all the time I was so scared of men and despised them so much, but the more I have learned about feminism + interacted with normal men in real life, the more I enjoy being around men and appreciate them. Feminism helped give me a sense of personal power that has enabled me to like and trust the many good men out there.

  • John E. Baker III

    Yew TELL ’em, Shugah!

  • swimr1

    @Julie Pomerville-Steiner – there’s nothing wrong with guys opening doors for women. However, I think anyone (male or female) should be polite and open the door for anyone else entering behind them or with an armful of stuff. I open doors for people all the time – just to be considerate and show people kindness. It has nothing to do with their gender. Having said that, though, the moment someone just stood there and expected me to open the door for them – I think that would be the moment I would not open the door.

    Fantastic post.

  • I love this. Feminism is about granting equality and human dignity to ALL. 🙂

  • Samantha, when you talked about the teacher leaving because of PCC treating women poorly, did the teacher have the initials CR? Just curious.

  • Ah. I was hoping it was Mr. Ralston. Thanks for the clarification. 🙂

  • Beautifully written. Thank you! Like you, I had resisted the term feminist for years, until I finally realized that I was one. And always had been one.

  • I’m a feminist. How I got that way is a long story, but it’s the only stance that makes sense to me. I know a lot of men and women who are feminists, but don’t call themselves that, either because they don’t realize that their attitudes make them feminists, or because some groups have done their best to make the word unpopular.


  • Reblogged this on temporary and commented:
    Very nicely explained!