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1 - The emergence of Christian feminist theology

from Part one - The shape of feminist theology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2006

Susan Frank Parsons
Affiliation:
Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge
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Summary

In this chapter, I will trace the emergence and development of feminist theology in Christianity. I start by asking what counts as feminism, what counts as feminist theology, and what social and cultural conditions allow it to emerge. Feminist theology is not just women doing theology, for women have done theology that does not question the masculinist paradigms of theology. Nor is feminist theology simply the affirmation of 'feminine' themes in theology. What has been called 'feminine' in Western thought has been constructed to complement the construction of masculinity. Thus, the adding of feminine to masculine themes in theology mostly enforces the dominant gender paradigm.

Feminism is a critical stance that challenges the patriarchal gender paradigm that associates males with human characteristics defined as superior and dominant (rationality, power) and females with those defined as inferior and auxiliary (intuition, passivity). Most feminists reconstruct the gender paradigm in order to include women in full and equal humanity. A few feminists reverse it, making females morally superior and males prone to evil, revalorising traditional male and female traits. Very few feminists have been consistently female-dominant in their views; more often there has been a mix of egalitarian and feminine superiority themes. I take the egalitarian impulse of feminism to be the normative stance, but recognise the reversal patterns as part of the difficulty of imagining a new paradigm of gender relations which is not based on hierarchy of values.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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