There was a popular article circulating the web not too long ago detailing the ten types of women that Christian men should avoid when considering marriage. On this list, in spot number 4, was (you guessed it): The Feminist.
As the author of the original post put it, “There’s no room within Christendom for the ‘Christian feminist.'”
When Abigail Hewins was a freshman at Lee University, she would’ve agreed with the aforementioned article wholeheartedly.
“When I first came to Lee, I thought feminism was dumb, and wrong, actually,” Hewins said, “Not only was I not a feminist, but I thought that men were greater than women. Not just that we didn’t need feminism because men and women were already equal, but I legitimately thought that God’s best way for us was that God loved men and He loved women, and he created them differently. But, men were designed to be the leaders of women.”
With this philosophy, she avoided churches where women were pastors, and used her voice to contend against such leadership positions for women.
Four years later, Abigail is a senior at Lee University, and her perspective has changed drastically. She marched in the Women’s March in Chattanooga after the Presidential election, is the founding member of a feminist club, and is a self-identifying feminist.
Although the process that caused her opinions to shift so drastically was a gradual one, Hewins can recall the moment that these shifts began.
“There is a specific moment I remember that catalyzed my transition into feminism,” said Abigail.
On a trip to Israel, Abigail was able to see the way that the three major religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) responded to women. These observations were coupled with her personal searching in the ministry of Jesus.
“We went to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. There was a certain part of the wall that men could go to, and a certain part of the wall that women could be at,” Abigail remembered, “The part that men could go to was closest to the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and the women couldn’t get as close.”
Abigail watched these interactions from afar, and was struck by the way that women were kept farther away from the presence of God in such a physically evident way.
“I really started thinking about how, when Jesus died on the cross and the veil was
torn, his presence was made available equally to men and
women,” she said, “From then I started deconstructing and reconstructing what I think God’s purpose for women is and what their role is in society.”
Abigail’s feelings about feminism may have began changing at that moment, but she found these opinions solidifying even more during the 2016 presidential election.
Although there were obviously differing opinions on policies that came into play, Abigail explained how this was also a big moment for the feminist movement as a whole, and for her personal journey into feminism.
“This was an incredibly interesting and unique situation, because not only did a man beat a woman in the presidential election,” Abigail explained, “But it was a man who said overtly offensive and discriminatory things about women.”
Going forward from the Women’s March, she feels it is important for the feminist movement to advocate for more intersectionality within the movement itself.
“Intersectionality is the fact that a black woman not only has to bear the burden of ‘woman’, but also ‘African-American’ and the stereotypes that come against both of those,” said Hewins, “So, where feminism can fail sometimes is when opportunities are afforded to white women that are not afforded to black women. For instance, white women make $0.80 to the dollar that a white man makes in the same position, but African-American women, and Hispanic women, for example, make even less than that for the same jobs.”
As Abigail likes to put it, “When one woman fails, all women fail. And when one woman fails, everyone fails.”
Despite her newfound passion for gender equality, Abigail is aware and understanding of the issues many Christians struggle to accept when it comes to feminism. Some of these issues include abortion, or believing that men are created for different, more dominating roles than women.
“If you think that feminism shouldn’t be about abortion, then you should become a feminist who doesn’t support abortion,” says Hewins, “As far as trying to reconcile feminism with your biblical worldview, go back to your Bible and really press in and seek God, and not just the culture that the Bible was written in.”
For the Christian who is seeking truth about feminism, Abigail’s journey makes her empathetic. To conclude her thoughts, she said, “You may be surprised at how different Jesus is than what you thought.”
Here are some more resources on Christianity and feminism that Abigail has used in shaping her current beliefs: