The Challenge of Feminism -- By: Mary A. Kassian

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 14:1 (Fall 1996)
Article: The Challenge of Feminism
Author: Mary A. Kassian

The Challenge of Feminism

Mary A. Kassian

24 Greenridge Drive
Sherwood Park
Alberta, Canada T8A 5G4

For our society, feminism has become a deeply divisive topic. For many, it evokes emotions of bitterness, anger, and defiance. Others regard feminism with amusement, scorn, or even disgust. Feminist philosophy addresses the deeply significant question of who we are as women and men. It provides a framework for defining the reason and purpose of our lives. Feminism is controversial, for it touches us at the level of our own everyday existence. It evokes strong emotions, for it confronts our personal view of ourselves, of our world, and ultimately of our God.

If we look at feminism from an historical perspective, we can observe an overarching pattern in its development. This is not to deny that various streams of feminism exist. Feminists differ significantly in their political, sociological, and theological ideology. Nevertheless, one common presupposition overshadows these differences, shaping and dictating the progress of all feminist thought. Feminism is based on the presupposition that women have the right to “name”; that is, to define for themselves the meaning and direction of their lives. All feminist thought adheres to this presupposition, albeit in various ways.

The feminist presupposition is progressive in nature. When a woman seizes the authority to name self, she eventually turns self outward to name that which is other than she. A brief review of the development of modern feminist philosophy from its inception over thirty years ago up to the present time demonstrates the natural progression of the feminist presupposition.

Naming Self

During the cultural resettling after World War II, women grew increasingly discontented. They felt they needed “something more” to experience satisfaction, meaning, and wholeness in life. The North American women’s movement began in response to this perceived need. Many refer to its appearance as the “second wave” of feminism, for it was not the first time such a quest was undertaken. Indeed, the feminist tradition of pursuing wholeness for women has spanned many generations.

A French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, and an American journalist, Betty Friedan, pioneered feminist philosophy for the generation of the sixties. These feminists argued that women as a group had been assigned second-class status in the world. They claimed that men had convinced women that females should not want careers, higher education, or political rights, but should seek fulfillment only as wives and mothers. According to de Beauvoir and Friedan, this mystique of feminine fulfillment i...

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