replacing the "f" word with the "d" word (no, not those ones!)

replacing the f word with the d word* this post is part of the monthly synchroblog, different bloggers writing on the same topic.  this month’s topic is around gender equality, an issue near and dear to my heart.  check out the link list at the bottom of this post to read the other posts (i’ll add more as they come in).

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“i have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” – martin luther king, jr.

feminist is a dirty word in a lot of Christian circles.  it has come to be associated with anger and reverse sexism and all kinds of other things that were never the idea.  i personally don’t mind being called a Christian feminist because it goes with the territory;  i am a passionate advocate for the liberation of women and am grateful for those who have gone before us and will go after us to pave the way for greater equality.  at the same time, i’m not crazy about the word.

like the word “church” and “pastor” and a lot of other loaded words, i think we need to try to reclaim them or at least come up with some better ones that describe what we mean without such negative connotations.  for me, i am not a feminist for the sake of women’s power.

rather, i am for dignity-restoring-in-all-the-places-where-it-has-been-lost.

when people are thought of as less-than, no matter what shape, size, color, gender, or experience, their dignity is stripped.  period.

when 1/2 the population of the world is generally thought as less-than and inferior somehow, we’re in some pretty big trouble.

i don’t feel a strong call to promote the “f” word of “feminism”.

but i do feel a deep & burning passion to promote the “d” word–“dignity”- for all people.

we are all made in the image of God and have inherent worth because of it.  many complementarians will agree, saying that men & women are “equal in value but different in role” but i believe they miss the point and underestimate how powerful the “under another” theology creates a propensity to oppress, silence, limit, and reduce.

it strips us of our dignity.

women are seen as less-than in most cultures.  they were in Jesus’ time, too.

but he, God in the flesh, embodied something radically important–restoration of the dignity of not only women but anyone who was thought of as less-than.

still, the church of Jesus Christ, which should be the free-est, most radically inclusive, least-oppressive, safest space in town has tossed out a lot of what he modeled and went on to perpetuate inequality toward women in the same old ways.  we’ve used a few scripture verses and an already-deeply-grooved-against-women-cultural-system to perpetuate oppression instead of follow Jesus’ example of restoring dignity & setting people free–like really free.

i do not want to see women empowered so that they can then power up on others & create the same kinds of inequality we already have, only in reverse.  that would not be reflective of the kingdom of God, which is what God has called us to participate in creating.

rather, i want to see women set free to step into who they were created to be without man-made limitations that strip their dignity so that the reality of God can be reflected in all God’s children, here & now.  when that original image of God is uncovered, unburied, fanned into flame, all kinds of beautiful things emerge.

men’s dignity will be restored, too.

the systems we have perpetuated haven’t only robbed women of their worth.  they’ve robbed men of theirs, too.  they’ve reduced them to stereotypical roles that they can’t live up to.  they’ve put men in a place of wielding power that they didn’t even necessarily want.  the systems have limited the possibilities of finding equal, strong partners.

dignity restoration is contagious.

over time, the divides that usually separate us can be crossed.

over time, families, neighborhoods, cities, organizations, nations will be changed.

over time, beside each other together as equals, we can more freely reflect the image of God in every relationship and system we are in.

to me, there’s nothing more beautiful than dignity-restored.

yeah, i don’t think we need more Feminists.

i think we need more Dignity-restorers.

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other bloggers writing on this topic:

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Looove the way you have put this, Kathy. Puts the whole issue into a broader perspective. “when people are thought of as less-than, no matter what shape, size, color, gender, or experience, their dignity is stripped. period.” Well said!

  • Beautifully, beautifully put Kathy. It actually reminded me of MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” where he talked about unjust laws. I’ll just quote it here because it fits so well with what you’re saying here:

    Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

    Keep up the good fight, and thanks for getting us thinking about it.

    • thanks marta, i haven’t had a chance yet to read everyone’s posts but look forward to it. oh that MLK, he rocks. thanks for sharing!

  • Awesome Kathy. Dignity is the point. The word “feminism” has been vilified and distorted horribly in order to shut down the whole movement. But the original idea was to uplift and restore women to their full dignity in society alongside men. Thanks for bringing us back to the real point – human dignity for all.

    • thanks, ellen, it is such a bummer how the word has been stripped of its intention. yet another example how the forces of the world do not like change and freedom!

  • Kathy,

    What a beautiful post! So true. And best of all, you are doing this in your area and with the Refuge. In my limited time with you, I have seen how you are restoring dignity to everyone you come into contact with. So much like Jesus! Thank you for leading the way.

    • thanks for reading, jeremy, and i look forward to catching up on all these great posts everyone wrote soon. i feel so thankful to know you and so many other dignity restorers…

  • Lovely. Powerful. Inspiring. Yes, I want to forget the hyperbole around certain labels and just be a dignity-restorer. I like that focus much better than trying to explain away, wiggle around or try and defend certain words. If we all just focused our words, actions and thoughts to being dignity-restorers…wow.

    • thanks, rebecca, for reading & sharing. yeah, semantics really jacks a lot of things up. i don’t think the world’s crying out for the “right words” but it sure is in need of some right actions.

  • I affirm your words so strongly. I’m discouraged by the voices that disenfranchise others and rob them of their dignity, especially within the Church. But I’m encouraged by the growing number of voices like yours raising the cry for dignity for women in particular, for I believe that this is the paramount issue within the Church and in our world right now. And it is tied with upholding the dignity of all.

    I especially like these words you wrote:
    “the systems we have perpetuated haven’t only robbed women of their worth. they’ve robbed men of theirs, too. they’ve reduced them to stereotypical roles that they can’t live up to. they’ve put men in a place of wielding power that they didn’t even necessarily want.”

    Feminism, dignity-restoring, isn’t just about setting women free. It’s about setting men free to–all of us in fact. Thanks for sharing and for speaking out.

    • thanks andrew, for reading & taking time to comment. i am glad, too, for the groundswell of people who are trying to be the change…

  • Thanks for this beautiful post and for the way you live out the idea of restoring dignity to all people.

    • thanks, liz. when i think of someone who is a dignity restorer, i think of you. and i love how it has nothing to do only with gender but across all those who are considered less-than.

  • I’ve never been comfortable with feminism, but I didn’t know why for a long time. After all, I’m a woman, and I want to be treated with respect. But I never wanted to be a powerful career woman. I wanted to raise my children, pursue my artistic hobbies, and write stories. (I even work in a traditionally feminine field, elementary education.) So I never thought of myself as a feminist.
    Women and men are different, and feminists don’t seem to acknowledge that. Instead of celebrating our superior qualities such as intuition and compassion (I’m generalizing), feminism tries to make us into imitation men. I’m powerful, I’m strong, I can do anything a man can do! Well, I can do things a man CAN’T do! I can comfort a crying child. I can also deal with dissatisfied clients. Homes and workplaces would be better if they weren’t run by men and imitation men.
    I think that to really bring dignity to women, we MUST admit that it’s okay to be feminine. I don’t mean we should all stay home (unless we want to) but we should take advantage of our truly wonderful feminine talents.

    • i agree with you, that it’s totally okay to embrace our femininity, and i do not at all embrace the idea of needing to “be like men” in order to play. that’s all part of the problem. rather, i think the idea of our uniqueness, whatever that looks like, being valued equally is the most important. that we can be comfortable in our own skin, whatever that skin is, and have our dignity and value be recognized.

  • Thank you for helping restore dignity to those from whom it has been taken – women, men, single mothers and people struggling with finances, health, mental health and mistreatment at the hands of those who should have been loving and supporting.

    • thanks, sam. you embody this so beautifully. it was fun to see you, too!

  • Kathy,

    Thank you for this post. Someone tagged off my post and basically said I was self serving in wanting to be treated in a manner consistent with men. You said what I was trying to say with way more grace than I did. I feel much better now.

    • thanks, wendy, i haven’t had a chance to read the posts so argh, sorry that was the response, so interesting. one time a friend of mine wrote on self-care and got a barrage of feedback how we’re not supposed to be self-centered. it’s just nuts sometimes out here! thanks for the work you are doing to recognize & restore dignity where it’s been lost…

  • “The church of Jesus Christ . . . should be the free-est, most radically inclusive, least-oppressive, safest space in town.” I love that vision. And I grieve that in most cases, it’s the exact opposite.

    I agree that in forcing women into a box, we’ve forced men into a box of their own. I’ve known too many wonderful, gentle, thoughtful men who have struggled with their gender identity because they have no interest in pushing people around or forcing their way.

    And I’ve known far too many smart, funny, resilient women who have decided the Christian faith isn’t for them because they have gifts other than taking care of small children and serving potluck dinners.

    We are who we were made to be, with a mix of gifts God designed just for us. The church chops off its own fingers and toes every time it says “oh, no, only a man can have the gift of teaching” or “you may THINK God is calling you to speak. He’s not. But the nursery needs volunteers.”

    The churches that thrive are those that offer what you describe: dignity, freedom, a joyful embrace of the gifts God has given, even when they come in unexpected shapes and sizes.

    • preach it! amen. so good, so many great thoughts here, thanks for sharing. my favorite line: “the church chops off its own fingers and goes every time it says…” thanks for reading & sharing.


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