Feminism is not a dirty word

Ah, the month of March, when ancient kings marched off to war, ancient women remained home to do and teach young women the women's stuff, and 21st century men and women - at least, those who are informed - acknowledge Women's History Month.

Proclaiming a month to honor what women contribute to the world, however, does not necessarily change minds about where they belong. As different as the peoples and nations of the world are, the majority keep women in their culturally-assigned places. Religion, a subculture, is the greatest offender. Christianity, the faith claimed by the majority of Americans, too often prohibits women from occupying the positions given them by its founder, Jesus Christ.

When the Founding Fathers agreed on "we hold that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights," they literally meant "males," specifically, "white males," rather than humankind. The same arguments used by advocates of past slavery are used to keep women out of business, government and church participation and leadership.

Consequently, women did not have the right to vote until passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Qualifications were still a states-rights' issue. And, what state was the last of all to give women the legal right to vote? Florida finally capitulated on May 13, 1969, almost 50 years after the federal mandate.

"Feminism" is not a dirty word. The term goes back to Betty Friedan's late-1950s book, "The Feminine Mystique," where it simply referred to a person of either sex who supports the rights of women. Friedan and others took issue with the post-war mood, represented by such television shows as "Father Knows Best," a mood dictating that all high-school girls take Home Economics and all boys sign up for Agriculture or Shop classes.

Of such thinking, actress Susan Sarandon says: "I think a lot of people at some point leave behind their conditioning and examine fundamental myths they've been taught." That may be too optimistic in view of the evidence. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that "the great unfinished business of the 21st century" is achieving equality for women and girls.

Results of a Pew Research Center report in December 2013 said that despite gains in pay - women under 32 now receive earnings at 93 percent of men - women remain as pessimistic as previous generations about gender equality. They see it as a "man's world with the deck stacked against them."

Patrick Buchanan, political commentator and former presidential candidate, in a vehement protest against full integration of women into combat, accused feminist ideology of contradicting human nature - a "surrender to the spirit of our age." It is a good thing 1st century Christianity did not agree. Before his conversion, Paul arrested and killed "men and women" (Acts 9:2), both obviously engaged in freedom fighting.

Feminism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive. One can be a biblical feminist, standing strong in conscience and works for biblical truth, unwilling to settle for anything less than God's original plan for Adam and Eve, a plan completed in the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.