Hi, my name is Jessica, and I’m a Jesus Feminist.
I wasn’t always a feminist. I spent my formative years in the bosom of the Episcopal church, where I never experienced any form of sexism. I was an acolyte, I loved God, and nothing in my faith was denied me because of my gender. And here I check my privilege, because I am a white cis-gendered heterosexual. My place in the church has never been questioned because of any of this, but rather, because I am a woman.
In my high school years, I started attending a Baptist church, where I learned to love Scripture and worship with my hands held high. One night, I was lamenting about my complete lack of success with dating, of wooing and wining boys with my womanly wiles. I was informed that my lack of a male counterpart was because I was smart. Boys don’t like smart girls. I was apparently intimidating to them, because I could name all the Chinese dynasties in order, got straight A’s , and nearly wet myself with excitement whenever someone talked about pathology (nothing much has changed). Boy’s don’t like girls who refuse to keep silent. See, that’s what the Bible says. I’m to keep silent and mind my place. Maybe then some boy would want me.
This is where I began to question what my beloved faith had to say about what chromosomes I possessed. I felt shamed by those passages about women keeping silent, submitting to the man above us. I felt like I could never measure up to that “standard”. I tried to fit the ideal woman I created as a read those passages: silent, tiny, fragile. Porcelain girl. Any one who knows me can go ahead and laugh at this, because I have never been any of those things. The God I knew was the God who spoke in the desert to the “other woman”, and gave her a vernacular to experience Her: The God who Sees.
I went to college with a lot of bitterness and fire for the words that were used to oppress me. I marched up to my Bible professor after my first class and threw those words in his face: women are to keep silent; obey; submit. And he told me that he was sorry for how those words had been used against me, to silence me, to make me into something I am not. He told me that “Biblical womanhood” sounded a lot more like 1950’s white suburbia than Deborah the Judge.
And a weight was lifted.
I first started saying I was a feminist because I liked the shock value that word produced when I used it. Then Sarah Bessey told me about being a Jesus Feminist. And I learned about the legacy of saints before me, of women like Perpetua and Felicity who defied social status and died for their love of Christ and neighbor. Then I knew that my faith and feminism were not mutually exclusive; rather, they are mutually inclusive.
My faith in Christ Jesus had freed me to be a feminist. I’m learning and growing, reading and redefining. Learning how to walk in my own skin for the first time, praying for the courage to make my life a place where others are free to do the same.
My name is Jessica, and I’m a Jesus Feminist.
PS: I’m absolutely indebted to the work of Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans. Without their courageous voices, I would have never found mine.