“They stand for social justice, and I just don’t agree with social justice,” she said.
That stunned me. “But, but . . . Lutherans are known for social justice,” I blubbered. “We have adopted 10 social statements [now 12] since 1991 addressing social issues.” (If only I had been so coherent.)
Clearly her understanding and my understanding of the phrase social justice are different. When I think of social justice, I think of standing up for the equal rights of all people. I think of Jesus. This caller had something else entirely in mind. But what?
The same thing happens when the word feminism crops up. A few years back, we ran an article in Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) titled “Fuzzy-Sweater Feminist.” The woman who wrote it was married, a mom who spent her days “taking a sick child to the doctor, vacuuming the living room, running a couple of loads of laundry through the washer and dryer, and baking a loaf of whole wheat bread.”
The article questioned how the word feminism got such a bad rap when its dictionary meaning says it is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”
Equal rights for all people: male or female (white or brown, rich or poor).
Oh my, did we get calls on that article. From women! Some people apparently have the idea that feminists are something like gun-toting Annie Oakleys. (Actually, Ms. Oakley was a talented marks-woman who ironically brought in more money than her manager husband, Frank).
When did equality became a four-letter word? What other words and phrases create misunderstanding? How do we overcome that?
Terri Lackey is director for communication for Women of the ELCA. She was managing editor of the magazine when she wrote this piece in October 2010.