This is something I have thought about lately. It is pretty obvious that differing voices are sometimes looked over in the feminist movement. Maybe it is time we need to start welcoming those who have different cultural backgrounds, religious opinions, among other traits. We are currently in the “fourth wave,” and the fourth wave, unlike the second, seems to be a little more attuned to the reality of spirituality. In the second wave, religion was looked down on altogether. Now, it seems things are beginning to change a little more for the better.
In the first wave of feminism, religion played an integral role in the fight for justice and equality of women. Though the Churches did tend to oppose them, the early feminists did not let the institutions get in the way. Just because the Church opposed them, didn’t mean that God wasn’t supporting them. In fact, just because the institutional authorities said things that were derogatory to the early feminists, that didn’t invalidate their religious faith. Institutional opposition made their faith in God stronger. They knew the difference between personal religious conviction and the institutional authorities (who tended to be corrupt and cruel).
Belief in God was the driving force in the fight for the equality of women. While churches were preaching from the pulpit about a woman’s “sphere,” these early feminists knew that the Church was preaching falsely. Injustice perpetuated the church and society, and the feminists spoke up. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was quite a shy woman, and had a hard time speaking in front of people, but she gained courage somehow when talking about something important regarding women’s status in society. They knew that God was on their side.
The second wave unfortunately, divorced spirituality and faith from feminism. I feel that was a huge mistake. There are many religious women who would be great allies in our fight for equality. It’s just that feminism has gotten a bad rap lately among people of faith because the second wave divorced feminism and faith. Maybe it’s time to put the two back together. Faith and feminism are not separate and contradictory. In fact, they go beautifully together like two peas in a pod. We have a lot to learn from the founders of our movement regarding spirituality and faith. Faith and feminism make a happy marriage.