Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of other contributors to FI. I understand that this is a sensitive topic and I write this to pose questions that we all can think about. I do not intend to offend.
I've interacted with several people who call themselves feminists, both online and offline. Most of them either identify as atheist or anti-religious. I see feminist pages on Instagram with 'god-free' or 'atheist' in their bios. Famous feminists have often rejected religion. I've been raised in a Christian home with both my parents being supporters and advocates of gender equality. Over the course of perhaps 3-4 years, I've seen some girls my age identify as feminists only after rejecting religion.
The uglier side of this is when religious people and online activists start fighting and oh boy, is it ugly. Activists trash religious beliefs totally while religious people remain blinkered about their faith. This leads me to two questions:
1. Is there a place in the feminist movement for religion?
2. Is there a place in religions for feminism?
Gloria Steinem, one of the most recognized faces of Second Wave Feminism, remarked that religion is 'just politics in the sky' and it poses a huge problem to feminism today. This was in 2011 at the first MAKERS conference, where she was interviewed by Jennifer Aniston.
Simone de Beauvoir, 20th-century philosopher and author of the groundbreaking book 'The Second Sex' argues that religion is a creation of men in order for them to get some sort of divine right to subjugate women.
Kate Kelly is a human rights lawyer who founded Ordain Women (an organization that advocates for the ordination or Mormon women into the priesthood of the Church of Latter Day Saints). She was excommunicated in 2014 after staging a protest and failing to attend a disciplinary council.
Dr. Amina Wadud became the first female imam to lead a mixed-gender prayer, which she did in the US. She received death threats and condemnation from all around the world for this.
Of course, these examples do not represent the opinions of everyone out there, but it is indicative of the general attitudes of feminists towards religion and of religious people towards feminists. Despite some women breaking through barriers and fighting for women's rights within the framework of the religions they follow, they are still not recognized by the media. Compare their work to 20-something celebrities that post #yesallwomen on social media. Why is it that keyboard warriors are recognized more than these strong-willed women who have promised to make a change?
Several women have chosen not to give up. They have chosen to stay and work with institutions to grant women equal spiritual footing in front of whatever supernatural being they believe in. Yet they are still treated like second-class women: not feminist enough for feminists and not religious enough for the people that follow the same faith.
Of course, there are more complicated issues that plague this soup of religion and feminism. What I think is necessary is for feminists (and everyone else) to think about religious feminists. They strive and work hard for the sake of equality within sturdy institutions. Even if one does not subscribe to any of these institutions, it's worth lending an ear and a hand to our sisters and brothers.
Despite three whole waves of the feminist movement, we still haven't quite found our way when it comes to faith. It is, therefore, necessary to go back to the basics and examine how the two can co-exist. I believe that they can. There needs to be work from both ends; fearless and tireless work.
Scriptures say that humans are equal before God. And if an omnipotent being is not going to distinguish between humans based on their natural differences, why should humans? Humans ought to be free from external pressures of subjugation while simultaneously remaining free to explore the internal aspects of their spirituality. In the end, both exist to provide solace, freedom, and comfort.
They must co-exist.