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November 2nd, 2010
08:00 AM ET

My Take: Feminist theology and feminism, R.I.P.

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Yesterday my students and I discussed Mary Daly, the Boston College professor, feminist theologian, and professional provocateur who died earlier this year. Judging by our discussion, feminist theology has died too, and feminism with it.

Our reading for the day was a selection from Daly’s second book, Beyond God the Father (1973), which decries a sexist cycle that has patriarchal cultures creating patriarchal divinities who then sanctify in turn the patriarchal cultures that gave them birth. “If God is male,” Daly writes, “then the male is God.”

When I was in college a generation or so ago, just about everyone I knew was a feminist. The question wasn’t whether western civilization was sexist; the question was what to do about it, and how guilty each of us should feel in the meantime.

Today, feminism is alive and well in academia. At last week's annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, there were meetings of the Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network, and for the board of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. A “Feminist Theory and Religious Reflection Group” held a series of sessions, and there were two panels devoted to celebrating the life of Mary Daly herself.

But there was little celebrating (and only a little more life) in my classroom yesterday. Hardly any of my students showed any sympathy for Daly’s critique of the “Superfather in heaven,” and, when I asked for a show of hands, only four of my hundred-plus students were willing to out themselves as “feminists.”

Much has been written about how the right has successfully turned the term liberal into a dirty word. But the other f-word (feminist) has fared even worse, sullied by some combination of the Reagan Revolution, the culture wars, and the success of the feminist movement itself, which has left young women today feeling more empowered and less vulnerable than their more feminist-friendly forebears.

When I asked my students why they don’t want to call themselves feminists, they spoke of bra-burners  man-haters and Femi-Nazis, which is to say that in the war of the words which was the feminist movement, feminists seem to have lost perhaps the most important battle: the battle over the meaning of the word feminism itself.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Education • Women

soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. Kate

    Perhaps the subject of your class, religion attracts more conservative students than liberated one. I know my daughter is a feminist, although I suppose she may not really know the meaning of the word, which in a way is a good thing.

    November 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  2. Chad

    AB, I think your assessment is correct; younger women are able to enjoy the gains fought for by previous generations of women, and are therefore, in general, not fully aware of the benefits of feminism that have been conferred upon them. However, this is evidence of the success of the historical feminist movement, and while it may be hard to let go of the passion that motivated such a movement, I wonder if that passion might be better directed at other issues today. I would also argue that there is a need for younger generations of men and women to appreciate the sacrifices and gains made by previous generations, but this does not mean that they necessarily have to pick up the same torch and carry it forward to some extreme conclusion. Maybe another torch needs to be lit and carried by this generation: How about all of those foster children and babies that need homes? The unequal treatment of children is arguably a far greater concern for the current generation, and I wish there was a passion and a movement to equal the enormity of this issue.

    November 2, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  3. Sunflower

    All I want is to get married, be a great wife, have a family, and take care of my husband and home forever. Nothing else on this planet matters. . .I need a man and I make no apologies for it.

    November 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • Megan

      I really hope you're being sarcastic. Otherwise, your life kinda sucks.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
    • Sunflower

      Not being sarcastic at all. All the Femi-Naszi's can just strap on their dic-s and grow a pair so they can try to act even more like the men they want to be. I'd rather be enjoying one than wearing one. Have a great day!

      November 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Chad

      What is wrong with what Sunflower says here? I thought pretty much the same way: all I wanted was to get married, be a great husband, have a family, and take care of my wife and home forever. I needed a woman, and I wouldn't apologize for that either. Thankfully, I did find a wonderful wife and I'm still working on the "being a great husband" part (that's a life-long education, if you take this sort of thing seriously). Sure, I have a job and other aspirations, but these pale in comparison to the responsibility and joy I have for my family. What is perhaps ironic here: the greatest equality a human being can possibly discover may be the equal love and respect that the person discovers in his spouse. What better way can that sense of equality be realized than the way it comes to fruition through a life time of years spent together?

      November 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • Chad

      Just to be clear, I was responding to Sunflower, part one. Sunflower, part two, is a whole other story 🙂

      November 2, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • Sunflower

      I don't want to offend anyone, but I also make no apologies for being blunt in telling it like it is.

      November 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • Megan

      Sometimes "telling it like it is" is actually fairly ignorant, IS offensive, and SHOULD be appologized for.

      November 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
    • Sunflower

      You sound quite angry. Sorry to hear that. (Yawn)

      November 2, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • civilioutside

      After all... freedom to choose what their life will be should also include the freedom to choose being a wife and mother if that's what makes them happy.

      November 2, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • Maverick

      Sunflower,

      Hear hear! What you say is not antiquated, dated, or even a step backward. You way what you want because it's what YOU want. It does not say you need a man to be complete; quite the contrary you will help make a life complete!

      November 2, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Sunflower: There is nothing wrong with wanting what you want. That is the point of feminism – that people respect the choices you make for yourself and that you are afforded as many choices as possible. That being said, I personally think, and you will probably find out when you do get married, that there is much more to life, and that you might need more than just a man to feel fulfilled. But that's my perspective, not yours. This feminist thinks you should pursue what you think will make you happy.

      @Chad: "the greatest equality a human being can possibly discover may be the equal love and respect that the person discovers in his spouse". We have much that we agree on today. But I have to point this out. Being a male, you do come from a different perspective than women. You have always had those options to get married, and have a job and pursue those other opportunities. Women did not. So while you can speak with joy about the responsibilities of being a husband, you do so with the knowledge that it is only one of a number of paths you chose. All the better to appreciate it. When women only have the one path, the joy of that responsibility becomes more of a burden, knowing there is no other choice. I am glad we have come far beyond that one option for women. But all the paths are not open yet.

      November 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • E

      and when he leaves you for his secretary how will you pay your bills?

      PS the whole point of feminism is that YOU get to make the choice for your future, rather than have others choose for you. You want to be 100% dependent, go ahead, it is your choice.

      November 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • housewife

      and i married a man who wanted a beautiful stay at home housewife/soon to be mom in 2 years. and like you I AM NOT ASHAMED. there is nothing wrong with having a traditional family household.

      November 3, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  4. AB

    I agree with the idea that feminism is a victim of its success. Young women today do not realize how much has changed over the past 20 to 30 years and even more so before this. Women did not have the right to vote in the US until 1920. A woman could not obtain a loan without a male co-signer until 1970. I realize that most of the students in the class were not yet born in 1970, but this truly was not that long ago. In the 1980's we had women's issues. Now we call them family issues (e.g. day care, woman- centered healthcare for woman).

    November 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  5. Montserat

    Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon were the most responsible for sullying the word "feminist". Women who love men don't want to identify with that type of thinking.

    November 2, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  6. bandgeek1

    Perhaps feminism isn't dead, but has become so much a part of the modern culture that it is overlooked or taken for granted. My husband, a church musician, carefully chooses anthems and has altered the language in some older ones to better reflect the inclusion of women. i.e. God of the Ages (rather then Fathers).The integrity of the music and theology remain intact while acknowledging that God is not just of the fathers, but mothers too.

    The days of the "bra-burners" (which never happened, btw) and man-haters labels pushed upon those seeking fair treatment for everyone still exist and stand as testimony that more attention needs to be paid to acknowledge the gains that have been made in equity based issues that benefit everyone.

    November 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • Ann

      Young women today just don't realize (or care) that those of us who went before had so many obstacles to deal with. How many remember looking through the classified ads for a summer job, and seeing the separate listings for "Help Wanted – Male" and "Help Wanted – Female"? (Bonus question: Guess which jobs paid better?)

      November 2, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • KC

      Yes, Ann, I remember. I also remember being told that while it was legal for me to work as a nanny and tote a 75-pound disabled child around, it was not legal for me to work in the potato chip factory lifting 10-pound boxes from the conveyor belt to the handcart, because there were laws limiting how much women could lift in the workplace. I remember college professors assuming I was only there to catch a husband, and grad school professors telling me that I was taking a seat away from a man who'd need the education to support his family, on the assumption that women would work a year or two and then quit to raise children.

      November 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  7. Billy

    As a man I am all for feminism, equal rights, and equal pay.

    The feminist movement should stop fighting for the rights to kill babies, and then it will have the support of the majority of men and women.

    November 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • TMcGregor

      And just how many unwanted children have you taken into your home or adopted? Stop equating feminism with abortion, that's a tired old argument. Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings, and deserve to be treated as such., including the right to make personal and moral decisions about their lives.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • Chad

      I've taken in three children myself. TMcGregor's concern about adoption and fostering (I'm adding the latter one in) is a better issue for women and men to be addressing right now. It seems like many activists these days are jousting with proverbial wind mills, instead of actually tackling real problems. Sure, there are men who still don't regard women with the proper respect, and the biological differences between males and females will ensure that men will never be truly equal to women, and women will never truly be equal to men (no matter how much either side shakes its fist). There is, however, equal treatment under the law, which is all we can expect from civil government. Now we simply have to govern ourselves and ensure that our conduct with each other, no matter our gender, is respectful and loving towards other human beings (and I would suggest that this includes babies, small children, and even men).

      November 2, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • Marvin

      TMcGregor

      You know i found a very interesting parallel regarding abortion and your argument. Its basically the pound. You know? If you don't adopt the dog, they euthanize him/her. That's basically what it comes to in regards to treatment of unborn HUMAN zygotes: Treated as DOGS.

      That is the 1 and only reason why i don't like " Feminism " to the highest degree. Everything else is fine. Just that one little detail.

      November 3, 2010 at 12:24 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Marvin,

      Your reasoning is correct….

      Little girls see that having babies and being Mothers carries little respect or honor. Children see and hear that killing babies in the womb is what they should do if they should ever get pregnant. I was called a ‘walking breeder’ on another comment page because I am against killing babies in the womb. This is what our society has produced….people who, once they are born, do not do not see why all should have that right. It is a total disrespect for human life except for one’s own life and pleasures.

      Men can help women see the sacredness of life again…one way to begin is to not haul her off to the abortionist and then say ‘It is your decision because it is your body’;….start telling her that the baby’s body is not her body…. Tell her ‘together we will love this baby’….

      November 3, 2010 at 10:13 am |
    • Frogist

      @CatholicMom: I don't know where you are getting this idea that girls are being taught that motherhood should garner no respect. Feminists fought for motherhood to be recognized as a legitimate choice, and a dam tough job. You are also projecting an incorrect image of women who are pro-choice. None of us are as flippant about abortion as you seem to say. Most, if not all of us, are concerned about both the potential child, as well as the fully grown woman carrying it.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • Marvin

      @Reality
      According to other jews, christian and other historians, which surpass 1.6 million. It is not.

      🙂

      November 5, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  8. Chad

    In recent decades, our culture has embraced a healthier balance between men and women, and this has made the fervent activism of feminism unnecessary. The feminist movement that remained morphed into an extreme ideology that earned its reputation for selfishness, hatred of men, and a disdain for the un-bor-n. It's no wonder that women of younger generations want nothing to do with this label. Good for them!

    November 2, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • brad

      Another thought, Chad. When a woman wants to terminate an unwanted tumor growing inside (un-bor-n), the father has no rights at all. If she goes through to term, he's now supposed to be a father. This has reduced fatherhood to a second class position depending on the whim of the female. The feminists now have to eat what they've served up for themselves.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Tweedledum and Tweedledee

      November 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • Frogist

      @brad: Your position on childbirth and rearing is fascinating. Gosh, I hope you're celibate so no woman has to be subject to your whims of not paying child-support or forcing her to carry a child to term.

      November 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
    • Maverick

      "In recent decades, our culture has embraced a healthier balance between men and women"...what universe are you living in? With channels like Lifetime and Women's Entertainment showing programs on the strength of women and the weakness of men; with programs like "Married with Children", "The Simpsons" and others showing men as brainless neandertals with one think on their minds; with a fellow colleague who said, after the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep "Now it's been proven men are obsolete"; and in a society where a woman can accuse a man of physical abuse and he is arrested, but a man accuses a woman and he is talked out of having her arrested, how can you say there has been embraced a "healthier balance between men and women"?

      November 2, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
    • Artemis

      Brad,
      On domestic violence: prevelance between men and women is equal, meaning half is done by men and half is done by women. However, when stats look at fatalities, the numbers change drastically: over 90% of killings are done by men.

      November 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Artemis,

      Just who does the most killing?....have you forgotten abortion?

      November 2, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
    • Artemis

      Please try to broaden your view outside of that tiunnel.

      The the three major religions have been influencing gender relationships for at least four thousand years. 38 years of Roe v Wade isn't going to come close to the number of men who've killed the women in their life for whatever slight they've interpreted against their honor, feelings or sense of manhood over the past few millenia.

      November 2, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  9. spilisz08

    Perhaps your students didn't feel a real sense of sadness over the loss of Mary Daly because she wasn't that great of a theologian? I have a BA and MA in theology, and for feminist theology, Elizabeth Johnson (author of She who Is) is a much better thinker and writer, IMHO. Of course, I also think that feminist theology itself is seriously flawed, and not particularly relevant to the lives of most college students. When I studied it in undergrad, I found it interesting, but not ultimately compelling. Talking of God as "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier" is not incorrect, but it certainly is incomplete. It makes God's being and importance all about what God has done for us, rather than WHO GOD IS, from all eternity. Who God is, is Father, Son, and Spirit. Because even if God had never chosen to create, redeem, or sanctify us, God would still *be* the essence of the relationship of eternal Father, to eternal Son, with the Spirit as the love that flows between them.
    Feminist theology lacks a true understanding of Trinitarian theology.

    November 2, 2010 at 11:43 am |
    • Frogist

      @spilisz08: It sounds to me like you are saying god has to be male to be relevant. Is that accurate? The article provided little substance regarding feminist theology so I'd appreciate some more information.

      November 2, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • civilioutside

      Which only matters if Trinitarian theology is itself valid....

      November 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • BellaTerra66

      Trinitarian 'theology' was made up by MEN.

      November 3, 2010 at 7:39 am |
  10. brad

    One thing I've learned in the last decades is how easily language can be distorted. That word "patriarch" has stuck in the feminist craw for a long time. Someone (probably a woman) realized that if you say "patriarch" with a sneer, it would shortly become a dirty word. To me, the word "patriarch" has always meant responsibility. Sometimes to the point of being soul-killing and back breaking. I have raised four children. I have changed more diapers, administered more baths, lost more sleep to child sickness, mopped up more puke, searched the streets for derelict teens, and stood in more unempolyment lines than many a woman. And I am only a patriarch when some squabble needs arbitration. Women think only of the imagined priveledges of patriarchy.

    November 2, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • Reality Check

      I agree with the last statement. If patriarchy, or any -archy, is about power to control others, it will be corrupt. If it's about service, well, suddenly it's not so interesting anymore. There is a power expressed in service and in love. This is the true God the Father.

      Feminism's achilles' heel is that it decries the abuse of power by men, and as a solution suggest that women should wield equal power with equal opportunity to abuse.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • Kate

      You suggest that feminists should not advocate the equal holding of power? Why, so they can be subservient? Um, that's the whole point of feminism. Equality, not corruption.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
    • Megan

      Oh no! Fatherhood! What blasphemy is this! Now you're leading the life of. . .. . well. . .. millions of men AND women! I bet when you DID get hired, though, you made 20% more than a woman would have. Making affording those 4 kids a little easier.

      November 2, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • brad

      @MEGAN: Here's some real world. I was working in a factory that was due to be shut down. I asked numerous people what they were going to do. The man were just keeping a stiff upper lip. Every woman, except one, said "Oh, I think I'll stay at home for awhile." That 20% extra pay their husbands were getting bought these girls an awful lot of freedom. Have you had any experience with these kinds of things?

      November 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
    • Artemis

      Brad,
      You missed the point. Yeah, maybe these women could stay home for the extra 20% their partner makes. As a man, he usually GETS the extra 20% because he IS a man. I'm fortunate: I work in a profession that doesnt discriminate, so while my income isn't high, it's comparable to the men I work with.
      Why do you think there were more men then women losing jobs during this recession? Because they were making more money, and for company's to cut back on finances meant cutting out the higher salaries. All my women friends work one full time job, and either have a part time job, or they also care for their homes (kids and husbands) full time, in addition to thier job(s). Hardly lazy, or looking for someone to take care of them.

      November 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  11. Farhibide

    I think the main reason why young women are reluctant to call themselves feminists is because by the time they reach college they have heard all of the chauvinistic jokes their male peers make about women who "leave the kitchen" and are afraid to be made a subject of ridicule.

    November 2, 2010 at 11:07 am |
    • jardaneh

      We men don't really do that. If anything, we do ourselves a disservice by pumping the female ego through excessive fawning and supplication during a hormone-dominated adolescence.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Frogist

      @jardaneh: Au contraire. I've met a great number of men who "do that". Also I do not understand what you mean by "excessive fawning ... during a hormone-dominated adolescence." Please elaborate.

      @Farhibide: It is interesting the amount of anti-female sentiment still in existence. You would think we have come pretty far but not far enough apparently. Take the case of Ben Barres, a transgender male who once was female. He found acceptance in his field of neurobiology as a man while his experiences as a woman were much less respectful from his male colleagues.

      November 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Mary

      If I had a nickle for every time I've heard a kitchen/sandwich/woman joke, I'd be rich. It's funny the first few hundred times. Then you start to realize that a startling number of these guys actually believe, somewhere in the back of their minds, that you've no business doing anything but. There is still a culture of men who resent women being out in the workforce.

      But god help you if you get annoyed about sandwich joke #173947595639. Then you're an over-sensitive whiny b*t*h. Even other women will shun you, fearing to be labeled as such. I would love to see people going around and telling African Americans "why don't you go back to the field and pick me some cotton?" and see how well that flies. The fact that it's still alright to joke about women being house servants for any man to command is proof enough that we still need feminism. It's not the joke that's the problem; it's the fact that the idea behind it still hasn't died.

      November 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  12. Reality

    Hmmm? "Mary Daly (October 16, 1928 – January 3, 2010[1][2]) was an American radical feminist philosopher, academic, and theologian. Daly, who described herself as a "radical le-sbian feminist",[1] taught at Boston College, a Jesuit-run insti-tution, for 33 years. Daly consented to retire from Boston College in 1999, after violating university policy by refusing to allow male students in her advanced women's studies classes. She allowed male students in her introductory class and privately tutored those who wanted to take advanced classes.[1][3][4]"

    Obviously, Mary D did not like men in any of her pursuits!!

    November 2, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • ellid

      She was one non-representative theologian. FAIL.

      November 2, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  13. Cheryl

    There is really no substance to this column. However, I did want to relay that this is really nothing new – unfortunately. When I was a freshamn in college in 1995, my English teacher asked anyone who considered themselves to be a feminist to raise their hands. Two people raised their hands – me and another girl. Of course, in the course of discussion, everyone comes to find out that they are "feminists" by the modern definition, but too afraid to label themselves as such. What would make this column WAY more interesting is a deeper look into why that is. -@Calton – Props to you. I – a feminist- love ya for it 🙂

    November 2, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  14. jardaneh

    I'm in a doctoral program where feminism definitely is not dead. Having an inclination toward New Testament doctrine, this places me in a necessarily silent minority. But, its nice to know that there are still classrooms and professors who aren't afraid to openly stick with the patriarchal framework that is in the spirit of the founding fathers, and that has made us the greatest civilization on earth. Long live the American family!

    November 2, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  15. phira

    Feminism hasn't died, and there are plenty of us, myself included, who still proudly call ourselves feminists. Try a larger survey sample next time; you're not necessarily going to get a good idea of what's going on with feminism when you're teaching a theology class. Many of us are atheists, or otherwise uninterested in theology academically.

    November 2, 2010 at 10:48 am |
    • Mark

      Feminizam is soo great it brought out the murderer in women all in the name of equality. Of course many of you arwe athiests. The whole goal is to throw off all authority. I wish it would die.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  16. Mike Raduenzel

    ....I'm predicting the next major "movement", whose marketting will undoubtedly be supported by big business and the wealthy elite, will be for the "rights" of young children to work and be equal. Don't believe it? Just watch. Watch how far the wealthy investor class is willing to destroy society in the name of cheap goods, lower prices and higher profits.

    November 2, 2010 at 10:44 am |
    • Reality

      Hmmm? Doing away with child labor laws? Give us a break!!!

      November 2, 2010 at 10:57 am |
    • ellid

      Considering that several Tea Party candidates have advocated doing away with the minimum wage, privatizing Social Security, and similarly dismantling the entire social safety net, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they also want to start rolling back child labor laws.

      November 2, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Mike
      I don't think that will happen in the Unites States so long as the option of outsourcing child labour to third world countries exists.
      Let China, Taiwan, Vietnam etc. exploit their uneducated children for us! That way fewer hearts bleed here at home.
      Out of sight, out of mind.

      November 2, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Reality: It's already started. Thanks Rand Paul...

      November 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
    • Reality

      References to Rand Paul's attempts to end child labor laws are? And if you think US companies like Apple, Nike, Microsoft et al are using child labor, then don't purchase their products.

      November 2, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  17. David Johnson

    Prothero has never been one of my favorite contributors to these blogs. I am glad I have never had to take any classes from him.

    November 2, 2010 at 9:51 am |
    • Sum Dude

      @David Johnson

      Have you noticed his picture is like that famous "troll-face" cartoon? It always makes me want to laugh. He also reminds me of this guy I used to work for. A nice enough guy, but...anyway, he has his good and bad days like the rest of us.

      This is not the best article I've seen, that's for sure. Dragging feminism into the belief blog is a bit of a stretch, really.
      I expected a bunch of women to attack him for not being female while "disrespecting" feminism or something like that, but the day is still young....! 😀

      November 2, 2010 at 10:58 am |
    • Peace2All

      @David Johnson

      I don't always like his articles... as I fear that some are more about promoting his books, or whatever project he wants more publicity on. But, usually I like what he has to say.

      However, I have read his 'books,'... don't know if you have or not, but I like some of the things he has to say.

      Peace...

      November 2, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Tacoma

      @David Johnson

      I'm in agreement with you.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  18. Carlton the Doorman

    I would have said that "classic feminism" died around the time that the book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" came out.

    To acknowledge that there are major differences in thinking patterns, perceptions, priorities, and a host of things like that, is to acknowledge that these differences are, in a vast number of people, a cause of great conflict and inequality in terms of specialization, interests, etc.

    But there are exceptions to every rule, it seems.
    "Feminism" as it used to be called, was a call for equality, but suffered under the label of "feminism" as being one-sided and patently se-xist – a definite handicap in any call for equality between the se-xes.

    It was unavoidable, perhaps, but necessary. Energy needed to be given to investigating the evidence, as the majority of the "feminist" movement were fighting against the male-dominated status quo.

    Fighting against the status quo is, I would guess, always a difficult proposition.
    The sheer inertia can be overwhelming, as we have seen in other battles against the status quo, like the battle for civil rights, women's suffrage, equality for a growing number of disenfranchised groups coming forward and seeking equality and justice.

    Every battle leaves something on the battlefield. In this case, it is the term "feminism".

    I grew up during that era of the E.R.A fight, of talk about the "glass ceiling" that still exists.
    But for many, the fight for equality has produced a harsher note for our society – the destruction of the roadmap everyone tried to follow in our dealings with the opposite s-ex.

    The answer, as usual, is rooted in psychology and our human brains that retain so much of the primate reactions to stimuli.
    Where did feminism go?
    It's still around here somewhere. I forget where. It got kind of lost in the blender of modern America.
    I still hold open doors and try to be a gentleman. And it still doesn't get me any respect. Thanks for muddying the waters, feminism....enjoy that equality on your own way over there.

    I'll be over here, disrespected as a man who tried to support feminism and gaining the antipathy that is now everyone's birthright.

    Whee.

    November 2, 2010 at 9:21 am |
    • phira

      Chivalry isn't feminism. Holding doors open for people, not just women, is a nice thing to do, but it does not make you a feminist ally.

      November 2, 2010 at 10:50 am |
    • dagwud

      It's true that chivalry isn't feminism. But neither is it a misogynistic attempt to continue to convince women that they can't take care of themselves and must depend on a man. And, yes, I've been told, to my face, that my efforts to open a door for a woman were an attempt to "keep her down."

      November 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • Artemis

      I've had men open doors for me and I thank them for being polite. I have also gone out on dates (the first one only-thankfully!) where men have tried to treat me as a thing to be directed, ordered, or protected. One man has actually told me not to get out of the car until he opened the door, and ordered my food for me without asking me for my preference. I"m careful to be polite to strangers who I think are only being polite to me, but even when someone is helping me, I still get flashbacks to these miserable control-freaks who wasted an hour or so of my time thinking they were the ones in control of me.
      (And no: the loser who did this didn't get more than an hour: I left the table to go to the batheroom and instead called a cab!!)

      November 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
    • Kevin

      The author is clearly a self-righteous baby boomer. Speaking as a man born in 1978 who was raised (and taught) by the baby boomer generation, I had an awful lot of political correctness shoved down my throat from a very young age. The backlash the baby boomers feel from the younger generations is because the baby boomers OVER-corrected the world's problems and actually made things worse for men. Equal rights for women wasn't enough, the feminists spent decades demonizing men (especially white men), making affirmative action and custody laws work against men, and calling all men potential rapists. And what they did to women was equally bad: feminists like to make women feel guilty for wanting to do traditionally feminine things like raising children. So, yeah, of course no one wants to call themselves a feminist anymore – we wouldn't want to call ourselves nazis, either.

      November 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  19. Reality

    Warning for new commentators:

    The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

    More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

    November 2, 2010 at 8:53 am |
    • DA

      t-itle – i posted it without the hypen and it does say awaiting moderation. if this posts quicklly, you are correct!

      i find a lot of young people have a knee-jerk reaction to the word feminism, but can't even describe what it is. sad.

      November 2, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
    • DA

      yep – you are correct. my second, hyphenated comment posted immediately. where is the entire list of words! lol.

      November 2, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • Reality

      DA,

      No one other than the moderators know the complete word/fragment set. Here are some added words tabulated by Raison:

      "Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)"
      1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
      --–
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
      Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
      – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
      s-ex
      c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
      sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
      ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
      t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
      an-al......ban-al
      sh-it
      fu-ck...isn't this a great word? yet they filter it.
      who-re
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
      pr-ick
      sl-ut
      c-lit
      va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
      hor-ny
      ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
      nip-ple
      po-rn
      c-ock
      nig-ger
      cu-nt
      b-itch
      ra-pe
      jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
      p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
      There are more, so do not assume that this is complete.
      -–
      okay words that you might not expect to be filtered....!!!
      beaver
      penis
      ass
      crap
      damn
      anal
      anus
      sphincter
      testicles
      testes
      pubic
      boob
      --
      I have found the best way to re-submit is to hit the back button, delete
      the cookies, look for and fix the problem and then hit "post".
      There are also "technical" ways past the filter, like "html ent-ities"
      (google it without the dash), but the words and letter combos remain the problem...
      Here's a word to add to the banned list: co-co-on
      whether it's c-oc, or co-on, this is ridiculous

      November 2, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  20. Frogist

    This was sort of a non-article. I would really have liked to know more about what the students said about Ms Daly and the concept of the SuperFather in Heaven. I am aware that the term "feminist" is regarded with disdain. Even though I am not sure why. I am even less sure of why women consider it a bad thing to be a feminist. Oh well. I really do wish there was more content to this article. It sounded like an interesting take on religion from a feminist point of view.

    November 2, 2010 at 8:52 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Frogist

      Hey CK..!

      You Said....." I am aware that the term 'feminist' is regarded with disdain. Even though, I am not sure why. I am even less sure as to why women consider it to be a bad thing to be a feminist."

      Just some thoughts..... I think that today's generations of females, in general, are not quite as aware to the struggle for equality–politically, socially, economically, etc.... that was trail-blazed and fought for by the early original women 'feminists.'

      So, therefore, because there is, for the most part, as far as they(the younger kids/generation-females), they possibly take their equality and freedoms for granted. If you look nowadays in the media, and you see things like that for the first time, females, are now, making more money than the average man, etc..

      So, I think 'part' of the issue is they are not aware of the all of the good hard fought trail-blazing that was done in past decades, so- they quite literally really don't know anything different.

      Secondly, another and additional possibility is that there aren't still enough leaders and role models, that are 'reminding' the younger generations of the 'struggle' of what happened to keep the 'movement' alive.

      Take a look at the holocaust. While, certainly a much, much more extreme example.... they have generations of people that constantly say..."We will never forget." Same with the civil rights movement for Blacks in this country, and other minorities at the time. They are 'keeping the push' on. There are people that continue to grab the mantle of leadership to keep driving their cause forward.

      Third, the term 'feminism' in general has been 'euphamized' into meaning kind of less than wonderful attributes for Women, (in general). Today's girl/woman(in general) wants to be seen, and rightly so as equal, with no axe to grind against men. So, the term 'feminism' itself, no longer, in some circles, in our society holds a 'positive meaning' as a result.

      I am aware, I could be totally wrong... right, or somewhere in between on my musings. But, those were some of the thoughts that struck me.

      Would love to hear what you think...!

      Peace...

      November 2, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Sum Dude

      @Peace2All

      Very well said! I have never put it in quite those words myself, yet they sound right. Huh. Must be all that head-bangin' ...I did not expect these sorts of results, though....very strange....! 😛

      November 2, 2010 at 11:22 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Sum Dude

      THANK YOU for the compliment...!

      Peace...

      November 2, 2010 at 11:32 am |
    • Tacoma

      @Peace2All

      I don't know that Females are unaware of what the women before them did. I for one am very grateful to the women who have preceeded me whos actions have given me the right to vote, the right to work in a job and not have a glass ceiling (though I think in some ways that's still being worked on), who have fought my right to have equal pay, and who fought to protect women from abusive husbands when the law didn't necessarily side with them. However, I do believe that in order to be a feminist nowadays you need to have a certain idiology. You have to believe that protecting a womens health means protecting her right to have an abortion, you shouldn't shy away from a belief that if a women is showing off her body she is empowering herself and so on and so forth. Since I don't hold these things to be necessarily true, many women today would not call me a feminist, though I am aware of what my forbares did for me and I will fight for my right to have equal pay, my right to vote, my right to hold office, and my right to advance in the workplace.

      November 2, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Peace2All:
      Hey SM! Yes, you are right about what you said. Women and girls don't remember or even know of the fight to give women a fair place in society. Which is a shame because it is fairly obvious that there are still many mountains to climb to give women equal footing in society. It is shocking that girls today only hear about feminism from the Christine O'Donnell's of the world who make a farce of the term. She is as far from feminist values as you can get. Anyone who plays on the stereotype of what a woman should be, is anti-se-xuality, puts down men for not being male enough, and then plays the gender card so people pity her for being a girl is doing feminism, and women everywhere, a grave disservice.
      The younger people have fallen victim to a reinterpretation of feminism that puts the terms "feminist" and "feminine" on opposing sides which is also incorrect. Unfortunately, this is a fault of some feminists as well who reject aything "girly" as being subversive to the cause. But that can't be further from the truth. Feminism allows that you take ownership of your se-xuality. Which is why people who clamor onto the bandwagon of saving women from Islam and the burqua under the guise of standing up for feminism are so misguided. A lot of women choose to wear it as an expression of their se-xual and cultural ident!ty. And there is nothing so anti-feminist as ignoring women's ability to make choices for themselves. To me, people who take up that fight are often using the term "feminism" to prop up their self-serving fear or hatred of something that is different from themselves. And if any civil rights movement, like feminism, has taught us anything, it is that different does not mean inferior.
      I really think discourse on the subject from the Hillary Clintons, Violet Blues, Michelle Obamas of the world could seriously set straight the misconceptions of what a feminist is. Instead of only hearing feminism in conjunction with people who say bias is ok and se-x is bad, like O'Donnell.
      BTW: Women still earn less per dollar than men in most areas. Only in certain demographics do women earn more. But the rise in the amount of money women are earning, is tied at least partly to the tanking economy where men who earned more were the first to be laid off.

      November 2, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • C. Brown

      The overarching reason feminism is dead relates to a takeover by those who neither understood the true nature of the philosophy nor were willing to stand up for those who didn't believe in feminism outside of their own definition. National Organization for Women (NOW) is a perfect example. When conservative women were villified outside of the liberal NOW political spectrum, NOW remained silent which actually solidified feminism as political instead of an apolitical philosophy. NOW had the greatest opportunity to become the torch bearer for women of all faiths, affiliations, races, etc. Instead it became the poster child for such monickers as "femi-nazis," bra-burners, failure to recognize and condemn cultural ill treatment (some Islamic practices, polygamy), and the like. The high road is tough to stay on but takes you much farther than the easy emotional path. True feminism has made an impact on me as a male. The idea of equality for pay, treatment in the work place, mutual respect, shared child rearing, and other women's specific issues challenged me to ensure I treat all with the respect I'd want my daughter to enjoy. Progress has been achieved but it could have been a longer lasting movement with much more ground to plow.

      November 2, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • John

      Through her silly and illogical assertions Daly did more to hold women back than a man ever could. "If God is male, then male is God"–really? So if coffee is hot, then hot is coffee? Oh wait, I've got another: if paint is red, then red is paint. Or how about if knowledge is power, then power is knowledge. Or we could try "if clocks tell time, then time tells clocks."

      Her writings and reasonings liken her to the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Her conclusions were so silly and insipid that she was hard not to laugh at.

      November 2, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Artemis

      To John:

      I think you missed the point of her quote. To say "If God is male, than the male is God" refers to the privileges that go to the gender who is made in God's image. While many people have been quick to try to explain that the reference to "Man" or "Mankind" in religious texts is supposed to be a generic term for all humans, what is actually preached, practiced and culturally absorrbed is something else entirely. By making the only Diety in a culture referred to as "He" leaves out another half of humanity from the God equation, or, at best, second rate runners-up whose purpose is to support Men, but not have the benefits they do. The inferred status that goes with this distinction can be so subtle at times, but it's because of its subtlety that it's so dangerous. I'm not a he: I'm a she. And there's no She in the Big 3 religions.

      November 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
    • Chris

      It seems to me that woman in general have pretty much turned the tide... look at graduation rates and the # of woman attending college. In my career as a lowly graphic designer I have worked mostly for women – who have mostly been competent. In my home my wife and I share all responsibilities... although I still do most of the yard work – oh and she hates cleaning the shower. It seems to me that the problem with any "movement" such as this is that when it is successful it then in essence kills itself. I believe this is what has happened with so called civil rights activists and feminists. People generally are fair minded so when they see a group getting or pushing for special treatment based on gender or skin color they are naturally turned off by it.

      November 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Tacoma

      Hey Tacoma..!

      Thanks for your input...!

      Peace...

      November 2, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Frogist

      Hey CK..!

      Thanks... As a man, I was goin' out on a limb there with my musings. Good to know, that I was pretty-much spot on.

      Peace...

      November 2, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
    • Dennis

      Feminism R.I.P. for sure...otherwise, why aren't they raising seven colors of hell about the treatment of women in the middle east?

      November 2, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Artemis: You can see this in the justifications of the Catholic church to deny women from becoming priests.

      November 3, 2010 at 9:24 am |
    • TByte

      As a young man, I used to consider myself a Feminist and supported feminist causes.
      But then I found myself in a divorce, and a custody battle, and I came to realize that Feminist's pursuit of equality ended when it bumped up against the many areas in our society where women receive benefits and special privileges.
      Now, I consider myself an "Equalist". The current feminist movement does NOT pursue gender equality in all areas of society.
      I will bet you that if you ask your class how many of them consider themselves "Equalists", you will get many hands raised, even if they have never heard the term before. And what this would show is that, far from being ignorant of the advances made by the women's movement that you hold so dear, in fact your students have actually moved beyond yourself in terms of social morality.
      And it is about time you started catching up with them.

      November 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • MicheleG

      In reply to Dennis: spot on. If there is a "feminist movement" why aren't they raising seven colors of hell about the treatment of women in the middle east? If ever there was a missed opportunity to really get in and dig and do some spectacular good, this would be it.

      November 19, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.