September 28, 2017
Wheaton’s Christian Feminism club hosted a lecture on the history of feminism on Tuesday, Sept. 26. The Fireside Room was packed with students, both female and male, to hear professor of philosophy Sarah Borden explain the importance, history and terminology of feminism, as well as its implications for Christians.
“One of the reasons you should care about feminism is that you all, either you personally or [someone you know] has asked the question, ‘Should I be here? Do I belong here? Is this something I can do?’ So you should care about feminism because it’s a question human beings ask themselves, particularly women have asked at various times in their lives,” Borden opened.
Borden spent most of the lecture describing the various waves of feminism and how it’s evolved from its beginnings in 1848 with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and The Seneca Falls Convention, which stemmed from the abolitionist movement. She said that feminism started as a focus on similarities between men’s and women’s experiences, evolved to a focus on differences between the two and eventually became an acknowledgment that the term “women’s experiences” is unhelpful because not all women experience life the same way.
She also explained some of the tension between the feminist movement and the struggle for racial equality, starting in the 1860’s when black males were granted the right to vote before women. “I am sorry to tell you it became somewhat ugly,” Borden said. “It is not, I think, the high point in the feminist conversation.” She explained that this issue resurfaced in the 2008 Democratic primary election between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, when people asked the question of whether it was more important to have a female president or an African American president.
“Attending this lecture was the easiest decision I’ve made all semester,” said freshman Joseph Saperstein. “I decided that now that I’ve arrived at Wheaton, it’s as good a time as any for me to learn how to substantiate the label of ‘Christian feminist’ that I’ve always claimed for myself.”
Borden took questions at the end, most of which centered around feminism in Christianity — how do we reconcile feminism with the teachings of Paul, should we use gendered language while addressing God and how do Christians handle a world filled with “hot topics” like gay marriage and transgenderism?
“I don’t think I could overstate how much issues of sex and gender pertain to our life as a campus community. They have everything to do with how we conduct ourselves, how we behave in and outside the classroom, and will spill out into our professional and familial lives once we leave here,” Saperstein told the Record.
“There is so much confusion and misunderstanding around feminism that we feel it is important at the beginning of every year to present an understanding of what this all means,” said Meredith Gibson, president of the Christian Feminist Club. “It is important to recognize that being a Christian community does not mean that Wheaton is immune to issues of inequality. It simply means we have a higher responsibility to do better.”
September 28, 2017