In certain circles, the word “feminist” scares people. They want nothing to do with it because of the negative connotation. 

Instead of being connected to equality, feminism for them is synonymous with threatening change and a belief that women want limitless authority. 

However, the feminist movement provides a language for concepts already known regarding femininity and gender roles within a system or society. It brings attention to something that has been ignored – women. 

For most of human history, women have been treated as secondary to men and boxed into particular roles. Women didn’t have much authority and power outside of what society ascribed to them. 

In many cultures, women are expected to stay home and raise children. These expectations are to fill the nurturing roles within a society, keeping the focus on men in leadership positions. 

If a woman chooses a different path or expresses herself differently, society criticizes her and expects her to return to the “woman’s role.”

Women are judged more harshly/ critically as parents than men. The same is true of their physical appearance. 

Today’s ideal woman is seen as strong and wise yet never raising her voice or showing aggressive traits. Consequently, not all women desire to stay in these restrictive roles with unrealistic expectations. 

Feminism began within this context, claiming the radical notion that women are people with distinct voices.

As women collectively began to question how society treated them in the early 1900s, they also began questioning religious institutions. Feminist theology carries these roots into the church.

Theologians, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rosemary Radford Reuther, Katharine Bushnell and Elizabeth Shussler Fiorenza, raised questions on the feminine experience of God and the roles women have within the church. 

In their works, feminist theologians turn to the Bible with a more nuanced perspective, considering the patriarchal context of the time. Feminist theology draws attention to the fact that each book of the Bible is influenced by its historical expectations of femininity and prescribed gender roles. The feminine voice within a given passage will be affected by this. 

Furthermore, they challenged a more literal reading of scripture on female submission and defined gender roles. This appears explicitly in passages like First Timothy 2 and Ephesians 5, evidenced implicitly where women are pushed into the background or named the “wife of” or “woman” for identifiers. 

Feminist theology reminds us that this information is essential. On the surface, a passage might seem to apply to us directly, yet before applying an expectation to a particular gender, consideration is essential. 

There are two different contexts: the biblical narrative’s context and our own. Compared to the Bible, we live in an entirely different culture with new concepts and perspectives on femininity.

Many more questions begin to arise. How can a female relate to the predominant male imagery of God? Is there feminine imagery to be found?

What roles do women currently fill within the church? Can women be in leadership positions? 

All these questions still exist today within the church. While they can be daunting, feminist theology does not necessarily provide clear, definite answers to these difficult questions. 

Instead, they merely begin the discussion and expand current understanding. Feminist theology allows congregations to expand their current role structures, beliefs and views on women. 

Feminism is not a threat but an opportunity to grow. Christians can choose to create welcoming places for women, giving them a voice and a place to be heard.


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