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To be feminist or not to be evangelical – that is the questions.

This entry is part of a research project for Cultural Interfaces and Cross-Cultural Rhetoric at Stanford University. For more about this assignment and the class projects, click here.

My research is on evangelical feminism as part of the Cross Cultural Rhetoric project for my PWR2 class. In particular my research focuses on how the unique characteristics of Christian evangelicalism and the American social landscape of the last half century have interacted favorably to allow evangelical feminism to thrive despite the antagonism between feminism and evangelicalism.

I can’t be a feminist!
I am a firm believer in the inerrancy of the bible and the need for personal salvation but I disagree wholeheartedly with the socio-political leanings that the term evangelical has come to represent. Nonetheless, I would feel more comfortable calling myself evangelical than feminist!”

This is a quote from TK, a male Stanford sophomore explaining his stance on evangelical feminism. The term feminist has, for a long time, been a charged one that many Americans feel uncomfortable associating themselves with. When asked why only five people, only one of them male, out of the ninety residents of a Stanford dorm self-identified as “feminist” one female junior responded “Maybe they agreed with the philosophy but didn't want to be associated with the kill-all-men-and-have-babies-through-artificial-insemination kind.”

Her terminology may have been unconventional, but her analysis was exactly right. This situation is only heightened for mainstream evangelicals who grow up in a culture that often actively vilifies feminism beyond its already stigmatized placement as this quote from a renowned evangelical shows:

"(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
–Pat Robertson, Founder, American Center for Law and Justice


Her terminology may have been unconventional, but her analysis was exactly right. This situation is only heightened for mainstream evangelicals who grow up in a culture that often actively vilifies feminism beyond its already stigmatized placement as this quote from a renowned evangelical shows:

"(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
–Pat Robertson, Founder, American Center for Law and Justice


I must be evangelical!

My research revealed another interesting trend among younger evangelicals who were egalitarians in their interpretation of gender roles. Although they were openly critical of the political overtones that have come to be associated with evangelicalism in recent years, political views that often are completely antithetical to their own beliefs, they felt a responsibility not to abandon the term.

“I don’t like any of the political stances that accompany the term [evangelicalism] but I am not perfect either. Even though I openly disagree with their decisions, I cannot disown them from their sin any more than I they can disown me for mine. The thing that brings us together is not our politics but Jesus and that we still share deeply in common,” was how Margot put it. Margot, by the way, is the same evangelical senior who complained about the shortage of feminists!

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Can't you be both? :)

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