Last week I wrote a post about being a feminist. (You can read it here.) I received a couple of comments on the actual post and some more via twitter. But one friend, Nate Sparks, dm:ed me privately with his comments. His reason to dm me privately was that he didn’t want his comment to detract from my post. I really respect that choice and felt honored by it. However, Nate and I have a really cool friendship. You see, we do not agree on everything, specifically as it pertains to certain issues regarding sexuality, sexual identity, and gender identity. There is much overlap in our thoughts, but there are differences. That he felt the freedom to come to me and tell me what he was thinking was an honor to me, specifically because of the dialogue we had as a result; that I was still free to say: “hey, we don’t agree here” is a beautiful measure of the real freedom that our relationship has. I don’t want to be surrounded by the people that I only agree with nearly 100% of the time; conflict and tension aren’t to be feared in relationship with an other, with another human being, but to be pushed through. If the cycle of death to life in relationship is to continue, which it should, then conflict and tension demand the setting aside of self (the death of the self (of both selves) in the relationship) through ardent listening to the other and desire to have your language altered because of the other. I’m not sure if any of that makes sense. With those with whom I agree nearly completely, my listening and language become lazy; but with those friends who disagree with me, listening and language are taken to another level because they have to be if the relationship is to remain alive and concurrently life-giving. This is the kind of relationship I am fortunate enough to have with Nate, and, frankly, I’m really grateful for it and blessed by it.
With that said, I wanted to take the time to honor Nate and his extremely thoughtful and well thought out response to my post on feminism. I was going to add it to the comments section of the original post, but after I read it a number of times felt compelled to give it its own place. Nate in his comments challenges me to think bigger and offers some very interesting things to contemplate. So, below, is what Nate wrote to me. Enjoy.
Yay! I love what you did here, and love your humility in writing it. Its awesome that Travis can come to you like that and you can listen and learn. That is a trait I love about you, and this post makes me even more proud to call you a friend. I’m not pushing you to change the post, but I did have a couple thoughts as I read it.
1. Many feminists will recoil at the phrasing “man-hating.” Because much of the angst of feminism is based in very real slight and mistreatment, mosts feminists would rather be perceived as “man hating” (though that is largely a misnomer) than be seen as playing by the rules of the patriarchal system.
2. I encourage you to give feminist theologians another shot. I used to cringe at feminist scholarship because I saw it as twisting and manipulating the text. But I recently went back to some feminist theology/commentary books I own. I was struck by a word in the work of Elaine Wainwright on the Gospel of Matthew. She said that, when so much of scholarship has worked to exclude you, you have to form a new meaning (she uses poesis) with a new and inclusive narrative. This involves going against the grain and asking the questions often deemed too dangerous. There are certainly feminist scholars who go a bit off the deep end. But I greatly value and learn from feminist scholarship and have found much of what so believe challenged by learning to see the narrative of women where once I never even thought to look.
3. I absolutely agree you are a feminist, but be careful not to define feminism in a way that dismisses intersectionality. Feminism, at least since the third wave, has strongly emphasized that overcoming patriarchy benefits all people. They are things like racism and homophobia as rooted in patriarchy and the pursuit of the “ideal masculine” which rules over and is privileged above all others. As such, feminism is about equality for POC and LGBT as well. A prime example is Black Lives Matter. Many are unaware the movement was started by and still run nationally by two black, queer feminists. Again, I don’t say this to dismiss your words or crush you. I certainly hope they haven’t done so. It takes a lot of deprogramming to embrace feminism – trust me, I know that full well. I only want to encourage you to continue the journey and keep exploring. I know I am often tempted to say, “Okay, I embrace feminism and equality, so I’m here now. I’ve arrived.” I need to remember that I am on a journey, that it is okay to listen and learn and develop over time. In as much as I know I need to be reminded of this, I hope to encourage you in this as well. You’re an awesome person, a great teacher, and an amazing friend. I’m happy to see you grow more comfortable in your skin as a feminist. Thank you for sharing with me