A few years ago, as I was eating lunch with a few classmates, a woman came around asking for signatures for a petition. My classmates had no hesitation and signed it while saying how great of a cause the petition was and raving about it, all while I was panicking inside. Then the petition came to me. Part of me wanted to sign it, and the other part knew that what the petition for was “wrong.” However, after seconds of doubt I took the pen and signed. The girl thanked us and walked away, and I felt like I betrayed God, my religion, everyone I went to church with, and my parents. The petition was to legalize civil unions in Hawaii for same-sex couples, and I, a Pentecostal Christian, signed it.
You may be thinking, “Good for you!” but I felt extremely conflicted.
I grew up in a Pentecostal church, so throughout my childhood I learned about the Bible and sang songs about how great God’s love is. I was in the kid’s choir from ages 5-12, and was in our church’s Christian version of the Girl Scouts. As I grew up, I never did drugs, I didn’t drink, and never had sex. I was a “good Christian girl.” That was me even during high school. I was in marching band and was a total band geek. I still went to church and had Christian friends. When it came to learning about homosexuality and abortion, it was an automatic reaction: Those things were bad. If you are pregnant, you don’t abort your unborn child, and if you are gay, you shouldn’t be able to get married. That’s just how it was, or so I had been taught.
As I attended college, I slowly began discovering feminism because all my women English professors were feminists. I first noticed the mere fact that although some of my women professors were married, they had kept their maiden names. I remember one of my professors saying how liberating and great it was to change her last name back to her maiden name, and that really stuck with me. I told my uncle that I had a few professors who didn’t change their last names and he told me, “I bet you your professor’s marriages aren’t happy marriages because they didn’t change their names.” I took his words to be total bullshit, because his wife took his last name and now they’re divorced.
With all these new feminist ideas, I began to question WHY a woman has to take her husband’s last name. Now, as a Christian woman, you pretty much know you have to do it, but I began to not want to.
Throughout my three years of college, I began to discover more and more about feminism. One semester I had four classes that all dealt with domestic abuse, cuckolding, lesbians, and other issues dealing with women. As I read Shakespeare plays and novels like “Bastard out of Carolina,” I began to really get into feminism. I began to question what it meant to be feminist and if I identified as a feminist. Questions like those began to fill my head to the point I wanted to take women studies as a minor. As I was learning all these different issues and realizing I cared about them, the petition incident happened and I was extremely uncomfortable to say the least.
As Hawaii was trying to get what was then called HB444 into law, my church was very active in the fight to ban it. They were giving us postcards to send to our senators asking them to vote against it and giving us dates to go to the state building to protest against it. Meanwhile, I would see many people at school rally for it, and others on TV at the same state building with signs for the same bill I was supposed to be opposed to. There I was, not knowing if I should sign a petition or not. After I signed it and was with just my close friend, she mentioned how she could notice how uncomfortable I was about signing it. All I could think of was how disappointed God must be with me for signing it even though I believed in the cause.
After signing the petition, I began questioning if it was actually possible to be a feminist Christian. Can I still call myself a Christian but be pro-choice and pro same-sex marriages? Can I still be a Christian and not change my last name to my future husband’s? And the ultimate question: Can I still be a Christian and be a feminist? I am sure a lot would say no to all of these questions, but I say yes. I believe in God and at the same time believe if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant she should be able to have an abortion if she chooses.
I am a strong, independent woman who refuses to believe that I need to “save myself” for my future husband or that I need to change my last name when I get married. I may seem confident as I write these proclamations, but in reality I probably wouldn’t tell my parents, “I signed a petition in support for HB444.” Obviously, becoming comfortable in my beliefs is a slow process. However, I’m really hoping I will become more confident. I did discuss the new Texas abortion laws with my mother; it was awkward, but pretty liberating. For now though, I’ll write this in the hopes I will become more comfortable with how I feel about these topics and stop feeling so bad for signing that damn petition.
Written by Danielle Aleman