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Intimate Wars: A Faithful Feminist

by Manis Rayles

January 18, 2012

I am a believer. If I had to name my religion, it would be “Judaism-Islam.” As the believers of both religions believe in One God, my heart stays indivisible. It is a paradox. I cannot choose between these two religions, the two principals of my family (in which there are also devout but very tolerant Catholics). In recent months I have attended evangelical churches in France, not to convert myself, but to study the Gospel and Scriptures that I know very little about. I accompany my best friend, who is an evangelist.

Hold a Dialogue With Believers

Thus, in recent months my feminist “action” has taken place with people I meet in evangelical churches. I have learned a lot from them; they are very warm people. I listen and ask them what they think about the low status of women. Women find it normal: “woman is a help for man,” “with gentleness and patience, a woman can get everything from her husband.” But I cannot talk openly about feminism – if I do, my friend may be removed. So I ask questions, I ask them their opinions. And that makes us think together. Once, a woman I had never talked to said, during a meeting whose subject was “How to Avoid Divorce”: “You men you talk about equality, but these are only words. You never do anything at home, we are your equal when it suits you.” The pastor listened, and let this woman speak. An angry man left the room.

Here are some notable phrases I’ve heard in evangelical churches: “the woman is a gift that was created for man”; “women’s emancipation encroaches on the pride of man”; “a man waits for a small intelligence from his wife: that she doesn’t humiliate him, for instance”; “the woman has a natural impatience”; “the woman has the natural temptation to break free of the man, as man has the one to escape its responsibilities, so if everyone stays at one’s place, there will be no trouble.”

A Matter of Interpretation

In spite of the existence of this patriarchal society that has lasted for thousands of years, I continue to hope. Jews, especially Orthodox Jews, wait for the Messiah. Christians wait for the return of Jesus. In fact, feminism or even Communism is like religion: that is to say, it is a utopia. It is an ideal in which we believe and we hope.

I have experienced horrible things, but I know there is always worse. Some situations are unbearable and then only God can carry us: He is like a rock that I can hang on. When I take this into consideration I see feminism as a weapon that God has given me for my self-defense and to allow me to stand up. Therefore, feminism is my fight and my faith is my strength.

One wonders sometimes, “Is God misogynist?” In fact, God is the greatest feminist because, firstly, He is the largest in all good things; and secondly, according to the Scriptures, the first human being exposed to free will as well as the imperative to make a choice, was a woman.

This post originally appeared at Feminists for Choice and is part of the Intimate Wars Blog Series appearing at Fem2.0 and The Cafe on January 17-18, 2012 in celebration of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the release of Merle Hoffman’s memoirs, Intimate Wars. You can purchase a copy of her book here. To submit a post for the blog series, please contact Fem2.0, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter using #intimatewars.

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Manis Rayles is a contributor of Feminists for Choice, a student in her final year of a double Master and a freelance writer. She studies History and Media Education and links these two fields of study in order to work on gender issues.


Kogie posted: 2012-03-13 12:04:31

Right on, theobromophile!First, being a woman is tnfieadely NOT a prerequisite for recognizing and appreciating the rights of women. I am very male, yet very committed to the core femenist ideology, unlike my wife. I encouraged her to keep her to hyphenate her last name after we married, which she did grudgingly, but later dropped her maiden name. I hate letters addressed to "Mr. & Mrs. male photog." Why must her identity be subsumed in mine? (but I digress.)I am completely pro-life (or anti-choice, depending on your persuasion). In fact, I am so pro-life that I changed my stance on the death penalty. I didn't feel that I could be pro-life and pro-death at the same time. (but, again, I digress).I think that, perhaps, Jesus was the first femenist. Women played a culturally uncharacteristic role in his ministry. He first revealed his divinity to the Samaritan woman at the well. And his first appearance after the resurrection was also to a women.

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