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Feminism

 An overview of feminist theology

 Sharon James

The starting point of feminist theology is women’s experience, and the rejection of ‘patriarchy’ (the structure of society whereby men rule women).  Women, it is argued, will only become truly  human, with the ending of  patriarchy.  The Bible is a patriarchal text through and through.  Some feminist theologians regard the whole text as toxic, others believe that there is a core of helpful teaching that can be retrieved.  In looking back over church history, many feminists challenge the sexism of, for example, the early church fathers and reformers, and they seek to recover the ‘hidden history’ of women. Surveying the field of academic theology, many would argue that it is and has been a ‘male-defined’ project.

Theology means study of God; the word theo is a masculine form.  Some feminists today prefer to speak of study of thea - feminine form - hence thealogy.  Some believe in one God/dess; others in a plurality of goddesses; others still that G*d cannot be named or known - but that whoever G*d  is, s/he is in all things and in us too - we look within to find it/her.   

There is a huge range among feminist theologians.  Some see themselves as within the orthodox Christian tradition.  They regard themselves as continuing a prophetic tradition of calling believers back to authentic religion (in this case a renunciation of sexism).  Others view the Christian tradition as so hopelessly compromised that the only solution is an exodus out of patriarchal religion to the older ‘goddess’ tradition of pre-Jewish/Christian paganism.

The nineteenth century saw the beginnings of feminist theology, as part of the natural outworking of the feminist movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible was published in 1895 and1898.  Just as equal rights for women were demanded in terms of education, employment and the law, so also equal rights were sought in the Church.  By the time of  Vatican II, many people argued that because in many sections of the Church women could not be ordained the Church was sexist and must reform.

Broadly speaking, the feminist biblical theologians of today are from a liberal reformist feminist tradition - which historically minimised the differences between the sexes and argued for ‘equal opportunities’ in the Church.  Feminist post-biblical theologians are more likely to feel affinity with radical (‘romantic’) feminists, who are comfortable celebrating the differences between the sexes.  The variations between feminist theologians are almost infinite, and there are distinctive traditions among Black, Hispanic and Asian women.  This is a simplistic and selective listing ranging from the most conservative to the most radical - there is some overlap between categories 3, 4 and 5.

1 Evangelical feminists

would affirm the authority of the Bible and the truth of the historic creeds.  Many would argue for ‘gender neutral’ language to be used in translating the Bible, and some would maintain that there is mutual subordination within the Trinity.  They reject any hierarchy or order in the relationships between men and women. The best and most recent resume of current egalitarian thinking is the symposium Discovering Biblical Equality, eds. Pierce, Groothius and Fee (IVP, 2005).

2 Biblical feminists

would affirm the usefulness of the Bible as a source, but in denying the authority of the whole canon and affirming a ‘canon within the canon’ they stand in the liberal tradition.  They are critical of the Christian tradition, but want reform from within.  Examples  include: Rosemary Radford Ruether (see below) and  Elizabeth Shussler Fiorenza (see below).  

3 Post-biblical feminists

would reject the authority of the Bible altogether, and in fact would regard much of it as toxic, shot through with patriarchal values.  Examples include Mary Daly (see below) and Daphne Hampson (see below).

4 Goddess feminists

celebrate their own divinity (variously one or many; male and female or just female; some believe in an ‘actual’ deity, some believe in an ‘archetype’) with their own rituals.  Some revere Gaia, the spirit that animates the natural world.  During the 1970s many in mainstream religious feminism adopted paganism as their spirituality.  They looked back to a ‘golden age’ of human society in which matriarchal religion prevailed.  Such thinking was adapted from Germanic romantic anthropological theories that imagined matriarchy as a universal state of civilization before patriarchy.  (Such a view of the past has been discredited, but Goddess feminists are often unashamed about using ‘wish-craft’ in envisaging the past that they imagine to have been ideal). Carol Christ has written Rebirth of the Goddess - a sort of systematic thealogy.
 

5 Wicca feminists

see themselves in the tradition of those who follow ‘the craft’ (ie.  witch craft). Feminist Wicca is a subgroup within the broad category of Goddess religion (see above).  Wicca is a European earth religion, honouring a male and female deity. (Wicca adherents are to be distinguished from Satanists.  Satanism is a ‘black’ form of ‘reversed’ Christianity in which the devil is worshipped).   Zsuzsanna E.  Budapest, who has written several books on witchcraft, says ‘a witch is a woman or man who considers the earth to be a living being – to be regarded and respected as God herself.  To be a witch, you have to see yourself as part of God, who is present in, not separate from us.’   Miriam Starhawk is a feminist pagan witch, who, according to her website, ‘travels internationally teaching magic, the tools of ritual, and the skills of activism’.  Her book The Spiral Dance (1979) is considered a key text in the neo-pagan movement and has been translated into at least seven languages.
 

Leading feminist theologians

 

1 Mary Daly

Mary Daly, a Catholic with degrees in philosophy and theology, visited  Rome in 1965 hoping that Vatican II would bring about reforms which would herald greater equality for women in the Catholic Church.  She was totally frustrated, and, in response wrote  The Church and the Second Sex (New York 1968).  Disillusionment with institutional Christianity then led her to reject mainstream Christianity altogether.  Beyond God the Father (London 1973) repudiated the notion of ‘Father God’.  The symbol of ‘Father God’ is spawned in the human imagination.  ‘If God is male, then the male is God.’  Such anthropomorphizing of God is demonic, and the naming of God as a noun is effectively to murder ‘God’ as a verb, as ‘Be-ing’, a force or energy.   The ‘God of Explanation’ (the idea that God has a plan); the ‘God of otherworldliness’ (the emphasis on the next life) and the ‘God who is the judge of sin’ are, argues Daly, idols that must be dethroned.  Daly claims the right to name (create?)  her own Deity – ‘To exist humanly is to name the self, the world and God’.

In her third book, Gyn-Ecology: The metaethics of Radical Feminism (Boston, 1978), she rejected the term ‘God’ altogether, as it can never be cleansed from male/masculine imagery.  Her next book, Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (Boston, 1984) called women to connect with their wild side and ignore taboos imposed by ‘phallocracy’s fabrications/fictions’.  Female spirituality is best expressed in witchcraft/paganism.  This theme continued in Webster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language (Boston, 1987) which condemned each aspect of conservative theology as demonic.  She regards the Incarnation of Christ as the ‘symbolic legitimation of the rape of all women and all matter.’  Her next work Outercourse: The Bedazzling Voyage Containing Recollections from my Logbook of a Radical Feminist Philosopher (San Francisco, 1992) promotes eco-feminist witchcraft.       

Mary Daly is probably the best known post-Christian, indeed anti-Christian thea/logian.  She was a professor in the Department of Theology at the Jesuit Boston College, until she was forced to retire due to her refusal to admit males to her classes on feminism.  

2 Daphne Hampson       

Dr Hampson is Professor Emerita of Divinity at St Andrews University, and Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge.  Author of Theology and Feminism (Oxford, 1990), she is ‘post-Christian’ as she rejects the particularity of Christianity.   She argues that Christianity and feminism are incompatible: ‘an observant friend once remarked that whereas Christian feminists want to change the actors in the play, what I want is a different kind of play.’   For Hampson, Christianity cannot be moral, because it is irretrievably sexist. She summarized her perspective in a lecture in 1997: ‘I am a Western person, living in a post‑Christian age, who has taken something with me from Christian thinkers, but who has rejected the Christian myth. Indeed I want to go a lot further than that. The myth is not neutral; it is highly dangerous. It is a brilliant, subtle, elaborate, male cultural projection, calculated to legitimize a patriarchal world and to enable men to find their way within it. We need to see it for what it is. But for myself I am a spiritual person, not an atheist . . .  I am quite clear there is an underlying goodness, beauty and order; that it is powerful, such that we can draw on it, while we are inter‑related with it. I call that God.’

3  Rosemary Radford Ruether

Rosemary Radford Ruether’s doctorate was in classics and patristics (Claremont Graduate School, California).  As a young wife, she found the hard line taken by the Catholic church on contraception to be totally unacceptable. It seemed especially intolerable in situations of dire poverty, such as were found in nearby Mexico.  During the mid 1960s she opposed Catholic teaching on contraception, but soon widened her attack to the ingrained sexism of the church.  She became involved in the fight for civil rights for black Americans, and identified with the liberation theology espoused by some Latin American theologians.  Her book Liberation Theology: Human Hope Confronts Christian History and American Power (1972) attacked the Christian tradition wherever it discriminated against Jews, blacks, women and Latin Americans.  Unlike Daly, who rejected mainstream Christianity altogether, Ruether wanted reform from within.  However, she too eventually gave up on the institutional church, calling women to leave and form ‘Women-Church’, and to incorporate goddess worship into their liturgy, as in Women-Church: Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical Communities (New York, 1985) and  Gaia and God: An EcoFeminist Theology of Earth Healing (London 1992).  She dislikes the ‘linear’ religions of Judaism and Christianity, preferring the cyclical patterns of nature and fertility religions.     

Ruether’s most influential book to date is Sexism and God talk: Towards a Feminist Theology (London, 1983/2002).  It presents her basic thesis:  ‘The critical principle of feminist theology is the promotion of the full humanity of women.  Whatever denies, diminishes or distorts the full humanity of women is, therefore, appraised as not redemptive.'

Ruether has lectured at Yale and Harvard, she now lectures at the Pacific School of Theology,  and she has authored or edited numerous books.

4 Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza is Professor of Divinity at Harvard. A prolific author, her best known work is  In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (London 1983) which includes a section on ‘The Sophia-God of Jesus and the discipleship of women.’  For her, the critical issue for interpretation is that of securing justice and freedom for all.  A recent book, Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation (New York, 2001) argues that ‘Engaging in a feminist biblical spirituality . . .  means learning how to read/understand the bible from the standpoint of a feminist theory of justice and a feminist movement for change.’  Biblical interpretation is above all a tool for becoming aware of structures of domination, which must then be abolished.  Feminist biblical scholars are not mere academics, they are part of a social movement for emancipation. Each reader must learn how to ‘discern the spirits’, or look at biblical texts and identify their life-giving or death-dealing functions in different contexts. She rejects a  dichotomous hermeneutical model of understanding/application.  Readers of the Bible must abandon long-held convictions such as the view ‘that G*d has written it’.  Any interpretation must be judged as to ‘whether it is empowering to wo/men in their struggles for survival and transformation.’     Wisdom Ways acknowledges that the equations  men = oppressors and women = oppressed are too simplistic.  Fiorenza is critical of ‘kyriocentric’ language as found in the Bible, as this points to an oppression of poor/black men as well as of women.  Thus she designates oppressed men as wo/men – (honorary women); such oppressed men she designates ‘subaltans.’
 

5  Phyllis Trible

Phyllis Trible is Professor of biblical studies at Wake Forest University Divinity School. In God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (Philadelphia, 1978), she maintained that the female perspective on faith had been obscured because of centuries of male interpretation, and must be recovered.  She traces out the  ‘womb/compassion’ metaphor for God, which points to Biblical female imagery for God.  She also highlighted those heroines in Scripture who challenge patriarchal culture (eg.  the Hebrew midwives in Exodus). In Texts of Terror (Philadelphia, 1984) she developed a ‘hermeneutic of remembrance’ to pay tribute to four abused women of the Bible, while directly challenging the misogyny of the author of the texts, and of God, in what she views as their disparagement of these victims.  She believes that these terrible accounts have to be grappled with ‘without a compassionate God to save us’.  She observes that the ghastly story of the rape and dismemberment of the unnamed Levite’s concubine is followed by the stories of Ruth and Hannah, which should ‘show both the Almighty and the male establishment a better way’, as if the Almighty was in someway implicated alongside the ‘male establishment’ in the atrocities unleashed on the concubine.

6  Sallie McFague

Sallie McFague is the Distinguished Theologian in Residence at Vancouver School of Theology. In  Models of God (1988), she argued that the Scriptural metaphors for God (King, Ruler, Lord, Father) must be discarded because they are hierarchical and ‘death-dealing’.  More suitable for our time is a monist and panentheist metaphor – ‘the world as God’s body’.  God and the universe are one.  The universe is not the creation of a transcendent God.  Knowing God is relating to her body (the universe), and loving her is serving the universe.  McFague proposes using the terms mother, lover and friend for God.  In The Body of God: An ecological Theology (1993) she argues that human possession of nuclear power, the power to destroy, ‘makes indefensible the view of a bygone age in which God is understood as externally related to and sovereign over the world.’

Major themes

Given the huge variation in emphases between evangelical feminists on the one hand and pagan wicca feminists on the other, it impossible to encompass all these views in a few short points.  They have in common a commitment to feminism.  This is not just a movement to promote the dignity and worth of women, rather it is the conviction that women have the right to ‘name’ themselves, the world and God.

The points below have reference to the spectrum of thought between Biblical feminism and wicca feminism (ie non-evangelical feminist theology).  The common factor is the rejection of patriarchy.  
    

1 Critique of Western Culture: ‘A conceptual error of vast proportions’

The historian Gerda Lerner has argued that our whole culture (including the Christian tradition) is infused with ‘a conceptual error of vast proportion’ –  the ‘androcentric fallacy’.  All human thought has been communicated from the male view point, and is thus skewed.  We cannot just ‘add’ women to thinking and institutions,  what is needed is a radical restructuring of all thought from the female perspective.     

The foundation of Western culture is rational (‘straight line’, logical) discourse.  This is denounced as ‘male’ thinking.  Subjective experience and opinion is the valid means of self expression.  Some argue that all previous thinking (including the Christian tradition, and the Bible) is infused with ‘sexism’ and has to be challenged:  if a student questions this, she/he may be told that it is because she/he is ‘sexist’ and needs to be re-educated.

2 Critique of compulsory heterosexuality:  ‘Gender Trouble’

Judith Butler has argued that feminism as a term is illegitimate, because it reinforces the stereotype of femininity.  The gender divide between male and female is itself an artificial social construct and must be challenged. In Gender Trouble, (1990/1999) she maintains that those who maintain ‘traditional’ gender distinctions and gender roles are immoral, because by implication this condemns those who want to choose their own gender.  In particular, the assumption that heterosexuality is ‘normal’ and homosexuality/lesbianism is ‘deviant’ is offensively discriminatory against homosexuals/lesbians.  While Butler is not a theologian, such thinking is  increasingly influential in (generally non-evangelical) feminist theological circles,  and there is a broad acceptance of the acceptability of homosexual/lesbian relationships.  Those who condemn homosexual/lesbian activity are regarded with as much hostility as racists.  For example, in Sensuous Spirituality (1992), Virginia Mollenkott says that ‘compulsory heterosexuality is the very backbone that holds patriarchy together’.  Indeed, insistence on the Judeo-Christian heterosexual ethic is sin. The radical Bishop Spong maintains that ‘feminism and homosexuality lie at the heart and soul of what the Gospel is all about.’

3 Critique of the traditional view of God: ‘If God is male, then the male is God’; ‘God is not other’

Use of masculine gendered language of God is, broadly,  seen as unacceptable as it perpetrates a world view in which the male gender is superior.  Christian feminists prefer to use gender neutral terms for God such as ‘Parent’ or ‘Creator’.  They wish to remain within the Christian tradition and worship a gender-neutral God.      

Thinkers such as Naomi Goldenberg argue that the Judeo-Christian God is the architect of patriarchal society - therefore he must be jettisoned.  In Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions (Boston, 1979) she wrote ‘we women are going to bring an end to God’. And she argued that the feminist alteration of the sacred texts would actually introduce a new religion altogether.  ‘The feminist movement in Western culture is engaged in the slow execution of Christ and Yahweh.  Yet very few of the women and men now working for sexual equality within Christianity and Judaism realise the extent of their heresy.’

Post-Christian feminists replace ‘God’ with ‘Goddess/es’, or with an abstract verb ‘Be/ing’, or with a universal principle, a  ‘cosmic matrix’ which in the minds of some is identified with nature/creation/humanity.  ‘I saw God within me and I loved her fiercely’.  Such post-Christian feminists maintain that ‘God’ is not ‘other’, s/he is within us.  For example, Daphne Hampson argues that feminism is incompatible with  Christianity, because the God of the Bible is ‘other’, he existed before creation, he intervenes in the world from ‘outside’ and he can only be known by means of revelation.  Hampson argues that feminism offers the religious insight that God is not ‘other’; rather God is that which is connected to everything that is.  
     

4 Critique of Biblical generic language: ‘he’ does not include ‘her’

There is a rejection of the ‘generic’ language of the Bible. ‘Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked’ has, traditionally, been understood to function as a ‘generic’ inclusive of men and women.  But women, it is argued, feel ‘excluded’ by generic language, and thus inclusive language is used in some modern Bible translations and liturgies.

5 Critique of the authority of the Bible: the ‘Canon’ is decided by individual female experience

Traditionally, conservative Christians have held that the whole of Scripture (the 66 books of Old and New Testament for Protestants, these plus the apocryphal writings for Catholics)  is inspired and authoritative.  But feminist theologians decide on a ‘canon within the canon’.  For some, this is ‘whatever part of the Bible does not deny women’s full humanity’, for others it is  ‘whatever part of the Bible is on the side of liberation for the oppressed’.  The rest is rejected.  Ruether sees some texts as demonic (eg.  Lev.  12:1-5; Eph 5:21-23; 1 Tim.  2:11-15; 1 Peter 2:1) and provides a liturgy for exorcizing their influence.  ‘These texts have lost the power over our lives.  We no longer need to apologize for them or try to interpret them as word of truth, but we cast out their oppressive message as expressions of evil and justifications for evil.’  Fiorenza writes ‘The locus or place of divine revelation and grace is therefore not the Bible or the tradition of a patriarchal church but the ekklesia of women and the  lives of women [who are] . . . struggling for liberation from patriachal oppression.’     

Biblical feminists adopt a variety of hermeneutical techniques.  For example, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza argues for:

* a hermeneutic of suspicion: readers can and must question the Biblical writers’ interpretation
* a hermeneutic of proclamation:  those parts of the Bible which affirm liberation should be proclaimed, the rest rejected
* a hermeneutic of remembrance:  reclaim and honour the suffering of biblical women who were victims of patriarchy
* a hermeneutic of creative actualisation:  rewrite the biblical text to ‘put back’ the forgotten women

Some Christian feminists regard the Christian canon as the product of the (male) winners in the patristic church, and see the rejected (‘heretical’) texts as written by the ‘victims’ and potentially equally valuable.

Post-Christian feminists such as Daly, reject the whole biblical text as ‘toxic’.   
 

6 Critique of the traditional view of  ‘sin’ and ‘salvation’

The classic Biblical definition of sin is ‘transgression of the law of God’. The feminist definition of sin is ‘anything which detracts from my autonomy and self-realization’ (in particular patriarchy in all its manifestations).   The call to self-sacrifice is seen, not as moral but as immoral.  For example, Virginia Mollenkott writes: ‘Gone are traditional Christianity’s emphasis on sin, guilt, and  retribution; instead we are empowered toward co-creator ship, welcomed to continual renewal on a continuous Great Non-Judgment Day.’     

If sin is re-defined, so is salvation.  For many at the radical end of Christian feminism, and certainly for those who embrace goddess spirituality, salvation is equated with self-realization:  the realization that one’s true self is God.    
    

7 Critique of the particularity of Christianity: a move towards syncretism

Most Christian feminists are uncomfortable with the exclusivity of conservative Christianity.  They want to hold onto the fact that the Bible contains principles of liberation, but are often willing to look elsewhere as well, including to other religious traditions.       

Those who have moved towards goddess spirituality abhor the exclusivity of traditional Christianity.  In 1993 a meeting of the ‘Parliament of the World’s Religions’ proclaimed that the spirituality of all religions is the same.  They are all routes to the same goal.   No one religion can claim exclusive truth.  Matthew Fox (author of twenty-eight books and President of Friends of Creation Spirituality) denounces fundamentalistic and exclusive Christianity as a mental illness.  He believes that the renewal of the Church will incorporate the mystical practices of all the major religions.      

8 Critique of traditional Christian eschatology: ‘heaven’ will be a post-patriarchal society on this earth

For example, Rosemary Radford Ruether rejects personal in favour of collective immortality. After death our individual existence ceases, and dissolves back into the ‘cosmic matrix’.  It is this matrix, rather than our individuated centers of being, that is ‘everlasting’.  Acceptance of death is acceptance of the ‘finitude of our individuated centers of being’, but also ‘our identification with the larger matrix as our total self that contains us all . . .That great collective personhood is the Holy Being in which our achievements and failures are gathered up, assimilated into the fabric of being, and carried forward into new possibilities . . . It is not our calling to be concerned about the eternal meaning of our lives, and religion should not make this the focus of its message. Our responsibility is to use our temporal life span to create a just and good community for our generation and for our children.’      

Critique from an evangelical point of view


The following are a brief response to the common features of (non-evangelical) feminism
 

1 One God , the Creator – not ‘All is One’

Theism and monism are opposed.  The Bible proclaims that God existed before the Creation, and cannot be identified with the Creation.  He is ‘other’.  God has named himself, and the name of God represents who he is.  ‘To challenge or change the name of God as God has revealed it is a denial of God.’   

2 Christ is the only way to God  – all religions are not one

If there were any other way to be right with God, then Christ’s death on the Cross is the ultimate absurdity.  The Bible proclaims that this is the only way to God.  

3 The problem with the world is sin –  not ‘making distinctions’

The evils noted by feminists, evils of oppression and misogyny, are caused by sin: ie. rebellion against God and his laws.      

Christian feminists redefine sin, some saying that it is patriarchy.  Those affirming goddess spirituality tend to adopt the monist view that ‘sin’ lies in making dualistic distinctions, for example between good and evil or between Creator and Created.        
   

4 True religion based on revelation – not human experience

Much of Christian feminism is just the latest development in the progression of liberal theology, which takes its departure from human experience.  Personal (female) experience is always the benchmark.  But what when experiences diverge?  I am a woman, and my experience is that of liberation and fulfillment within a conservative Christian context, but presumably my experience is invalid because Christian feminists would judge that I have been brainwashed.  Is it only those women whose experience fits feminist pre-suppositions whose experience counts?  We others are judged to need ‘re-education’ or ‘consciousness raising’ through a women’s studies course or similar.  Christian feminist texts provide  a bewildering smorgasbord of ideas, because each author is free to make up their theology as they go along.  Liberated from an authoritative canon, theology becomes totally arbitrary.


5 Christian and post-Christian feminist theo/alogy is intolerant in the extreme

Orthodox Christianity is routinely denounced as demonic, toxic etc.  All previous ‘patriarchal’ interpretations bear bitter fruit and the tree must be cut down:  feminist interpreters are there with the axe.   Indeed, it must be so, as for many ‘patriarchy’ is now defined as sin. There are astounding personal attacks on those who disagree: for example Rosemary Radford Ruether refers to women who are conservative as ignorant, unqualified, and usually dependent on their bread-winning husbands (only ‘one man away from benefits’).  Much of the discussion is extremely patronising, for example Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza has decided that poor men are now to be called ‘subaltans’ and are to be regarded as wo/men.  

6 Are Christianity and feminism compatible?

Evangelicals are divided on this.  Evangelical feminists (‘egalitarians’) believe they are compatible.  They believe that although the Bible was written within a patriarchal framework, the principles of freedom and equality are contained within it, and we can keep the principles and discard the cultural husk.  They reject gender-based differentiation of roles within church and family.      

Others disagree.  On the far right are those who are unashamedly chauvinistic, and use the Bible to endorse oppressive marriages and female passivity within the church. 

Then there are those in the middle, evangelicals who abhor abuse of women, who do not believe women should be passive in the church (or in marriage) but who affirm the complementarity of men and women: that they are created ‘different by design’.  This is referred to as the ‘complementarian’ perspective.  For example, Mary Kassian argues that commitment to feminism ultimately leads one away from maintaining absolute confidence in the authority of Scripture.  One has to choose an ultimate authority,  the Bible or experience.  She documents the journey of several Biblical feminists away from conservative Christianity towards radical feminism and pagan spirituality.  (Kassian, The Feminist Gospel, pp.  225-240).  Certainly post-Christian feminists such as Daphne Hampson would agree that the Bible and feminism are incompatible.  You have to choose one authority or the other: Scripture or female experience.

It is possible to be fully committed to the dignity and equality of women and not be a feminist.  The Bible teaches that men and women are of equal value in God’s sight, created equally in his image.  But it also makes it clear that created beings do not have the right to name God.  God has named himself, his creation, and he has named man and woman.
    

For further reading:

Overviews of feminist theology:

Ann Loades, ed.  Feminist Theology: A Reader.  SPCK, 1990
Melissa Raphael. Introducing Thealogy: Discourse on the Goddess.  Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.
Letty M. Russell, ed.  Feminist Interpretation of the Bible.  Westminster Press, 1985.  

Critiques of feminist theology:

Mary Kassian. The Feminist Gospel: The Movement to Unite Feminism with the Church.  Crossway, 1992.  (New edition now available, entitled The Feminist
Mistake: The Radical impact of Feminism on Church and Culture. Crossway, 2005).
Kimel, Alvin F.  jr.  Speaking the Christian God: The Holy Trinity and the Challenge of Feminism.  Eerdmans, USA and Gracewing, UK.  1992. Kimel, Alvin F.jr.  This is my Name Forever.  IVP, US, 2001.     
Critiques of evangelical feminism:
Wayne Grudem,  Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. IVP. 2005.
Sharon James, God’s Design for Women. Evangelical Press, 2002.

Critique of pagan and goddess spirituality:

Peter Jones.  Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America.  WinePress Publishing, US, 1997.
(for a simple overview) Peter Jones.  Gospel Truth: Pagan Lies.  WinePress Publishing, US, 1999.
 

Critique of modern gender theory:

Marcus Honeysett. Meltdown: Making Sense of a Culture in Crisis.  IVP, 2002.  Chapter 4 is a critique of a key section of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble.

Discussion of ‘gender neutral’ translations of the Bible:

Don Carson.  The Inclusive- Language Debate: A Plea for Realism.  IVP, 1998.
Vern S.  Poythress & Wayne A Grudem.  The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words.  Broadman & Holman, US, 2000.