I always knew I was a feminist, despite my lack of knowledge in the movement and philosophy growing up. I did, however, have the religious support of my family and community to be an Evangelical Christian. I knew all the right words, mannerisms, and behaviors to represent myself as the proper Christian woman. I went on mission trips abroad, wore purity rings, attended sexual purity retreats and church camps, prayed fervently, spoke in tongues (glossolalia), contributed 10 percent of my meager earnings, and above all, fell in love with God.
As a first-generation college student, I was thirsty for knowledge and ready to take on the world. Some of my favorite courses during my undergraduate career included: “Psychology of Women,” “Women, Gender, and Ethnicity,” and “Psychology of Sexuality.” My coursework in gender, sexuality, and the social sciences compelled me to pursue graduate studies in gender, culture, and media at a university abroad. My studies in gender theory and feminist philosophy, and how it intersects with religion and social institutions ignited my spirit.
As a result, my relationship with god suffered. My newfound feminist beliefs were not solely to blame, however. Rather, a variety of reasons contributed to my detachment from god and the Evangelical church which I explain in my post, “Leaving Behind My First Love.” My new feminist identity was the main driver for questioning my relationship with god. Everything from the male-dominated language and rhetoric used in the church, to the discrimination and prohibition of female pastors, to the stringent gender roles expected of congregants.
Reading books like She Who Is and Dance of the Dissident Daughter in college impelled critical thought regarding the religious identity I had accepted through osmosis from my family, cultural heritage, and charismatic community. First I blamed religion as an institution, reassuring myself that it wasn’t my relationship with god that was the problem. Rather, religious doctrine and the conservative church were to blame. This, of course, wasn’t entirely accurate.
My relationship with god, the constructed god I had come to know through the Evangelical church, was the deity I was in direct relationship with. I tried to maintain this spiritual relationship, but the more I tapped into the pool of knowledge production, focusing on feminist theory, the more I began to distance myself from the god I used to know and love. The contradictions between what I had learned in the church and feminist philosophy were plentiful. So many that I gradually came to a point of no return.
I soon transferred my Christian evangelicalism to being a feminist evangelist. My feminist journey afforded me the opportunities to work with domestic violence shelters, feminist organizations, and pregnancy centers; be a participant of the “Vagina Monologues” production; lead and organize a gender equality and media campaign; join feminist networks; and promote feminist ideologies to my peers. I declared myself a radical feminist during my undergraduate career and into my early graduate life, but as I delved into the complexities of global feminist theories, I soon realized there was no easy solution for women.
As a Christian evangelist, there was one answer: accepting Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as your Lord and Savior. We won souls for Christ, so that they wouldn’t have to perish in hell. With academic feminism, there were always more questions than answers. I recall sitting in a graduate seminar discussing female genital mutilation in African regions.
My gut reaction: This is devastating and wrong. We should rise up and change this!
But before I could voice my revolutionary declaration, I was bombarded with what seemed like illogical comments about how the U.S. often acts like a policing nation and that the Western ideal wants to save people in marginalized communities. Thus, we should consider the cultural and social implications of their activities before “fixing” them.
I left the seminar feeling infuriated.
In retrospect, I understand the counter-argument, but years later, I still haven’t changed my original stance on the matter. This example replicated itself over and over in the classroom, in feminist academic literature, and in the feminist networks I joined. The more I learned about feminist theory, the more confused and helpless I became about finding a solution to end the patriarchy.
I began to question what the patriarchy really is. The gender pay gap, the male-dominated corporate culture, violence and rape, religious doctrine? Did we truly live in a patriarchal society, or was it merely perspective, or a complicated basis for both?
I had adopted a perspective and behavioral process similar to my Christian evangelical identity in that I treated feminist philosophies as a belief system, trying to find a “one size fits all” solution and recruiting people to the movement. Feminism couldn’t replace my relationship with god, but it did enable me to discover an agentic self and leave behind a damaging relationship and community.
Today I realize that there is no perfect definition, tenet or philosophy that fits me, or perhaps anyone. I wholeheartedly advocate for the basic principles of a feminist identity – the economic, political, social, religious, and sexual equality between the sexes. Thereafter, I believe, an alignment to a feminist identity depends on the individual’s goals and the situation at hand.
I advocate for the social welfare of all citizens which, I think, makes me more of an egalitarian. However, I will always respect the unwavering dedication and courage of our feminist leaders throughout history. But it’s no longer a belief system for me. It’s no longer a spiritual replacement. Instead, I look to feminism as a guide in specific situations – an activist and intellectual toolbox if you will, that may provide a new perspective or solution in the public space.
I always knew I was a feminist. But more importantly, I now understand an ideology or set of philosophies cannot replace a once deeply embedded psycho-spiritual relationship.
Andreea Nica is a freelance writer, media strategist, and egalitarian. She writes for Sociologists for Women in Society, Apartments.com,Huffington Post, AlterNet, amongst other top-profile online platforms. She is a featured expert on SheSource, Women’s Media Center, and the Founder of OrganiCommunications, a consultancy that empowers organizations and enterprises in content development and media strategy ventures. Currently, she is writing a narrative nonfiction on her transition from the Pentecostal sect. She holds a M.S. from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a B.A. in Psychology from Northern Arizona University. You can find Andreea hiking throughout the Pacific Northwest with her better half and kitty. Follow her @integratedcom and connect on LinkedIn.
Categories: Activism, Belief, Christianity, Church Doctrine, Community, Evangelicalism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Awakenings, Gender and Power, Gender and Sexuality, General, Identity Construction, Patriarchy, Spiritual Journey, Women's Agency