Admittance is the first step:

I am a feminist.

Considering I am a pro-life, unoppressed, conservative Calvinist, this might be something of a surprise. Yet here I am, a Christian feminist.

Instead of bra burning, I follow the blogs of women like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey who seek to recover biblical womanhood.

Instead of hating men and the idea of family, I am constantly blessed by a loving marriage and an honorable husband.

Instead of confining myself to the limitations of traditional Christian hierarchical chauvinism, I am encouraged to be involved and active within my church.

Hannah and Jesse Belleque on their wedding day.  Photo by Jacki Moore y

Hannah and Jesse Belleque on their wedding day.
Photo by Jacki Moore y

I am a feminist, sure, but first, last, always, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. My first allegiance isn’t to feminism. My first allegiance is to Jesus and furthering his Kingdom.

If youʼre still scratching your head over how Christianity and feminism can feasibly coexist, know you are not alone. Itʼs hard work being both a follower and a feminist.

I was raised in a church where women were not only commanded to follow male leadership, but were also not given a voice among male leaders. In my own marriage, there are times where my husband and I come to an impasse because his idea of “feminism” (radical) and my idea of “feminism” (moderate) do not blend.

I wasnʼt always a feminist, either. When I was in high school, a kid I was mentoring asked me what a feminist was.

“A feminist is a woman with an authority problem,” I said.

It was a black-and-white world I lived in then, one where I had all the answers (because I had heard men talk about them in hushed tones at church) and I wasnʼt afraid to tell my student.

I was the least likely person to ever become a feminist.

Most surprising of all, I blame my father for my feminist disposition.

The only man in a family of five, my father instilled in my sisters and me unwavering confidence and self-worth, though his methods were often unorthodox.

While other girls took riding lessons and joined Girl Scouts, Dad signed me up for a month of karate and five years of soccer.

In middle school, while all my friends wore layers of iridescent eyeshadow and dyed their hair every shade under the sun, Dad didnʼt allow me to wear makeup until high school (and even then, mascara was reserved for “special occasions” only).

If my school outfits were in any way revealing, Dad would wait patiently in the car until I chose a new outfit he deemed appropriate. My father was never overbearing, but fiercely protective.

He wanted—still wants—for his girls to embrace their natural selves, be it appearance, personality, or talent.

Later, when faced with the silent pressures of university life, I often called my father for advice. Whether it was boys or paper topics or car questions, Dad always had an answer. During one call in particular, Dad was noticeably distracted.

After a few minutes of small talk, I finally asked him what was on his mind. It was a Sunday, and my sister, Kaitie, had come home from her sixth grade Sunday school class crying.

She didn’t explain anything to my parents until later that afternoon, when she finally agreed to confide in Dad.

“The teacher went around the room and asked everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up,” Dad sighed. “When it was Kaitieʼs turn, she said, ‘I want to be a pastor.”

I didn’t say anything. For years, Kaitie had wanted to preach.

She was captivating and friendly, and spent countless summer afternoons watching Joyce Meyer reruns at our grandmother’s while playing “Communion” with our baby sister on the kitchen floor.

I waited for Dad to continue.

“Then,” he said, “the teacher shook her head and told Kaitie that only men could preach and that Kaitie should pursue something more appropriate.”

At that moment, I knew I was a feminist. Not because I thought it was biblical for a woman to be a pastor—that took years for me to discern—but because I knew Kaitieʼs teacher was wrong. Dead wrong.

My sister, with a quiet spirit and God-given talent, was being repressed. I left that phone call feeling nauseated, knowing somewhere, girls like my sister were being silenced. Nationwide. Worldwide. Yet I was doing nothing to stop it.

Weeks after the phone call with my father, I resolved to make myself heard.

While attending Corban, I started an internship as a fashion journalist, became the Yearbook Editor, voiced my Calvinist opinions freely, started a blog, joined Camp Team, became a mentor, and was steadfast in my feminist perspective.

Truthfully, the decision to give myself a voice on campus—especially as a feminist Christian—was more of a challenge than I was prepared for.

I received backlash in Bible classes, was asked (repeatedly) to alter or dispose of blog posts and articles, and lost quite a few friends in the process of becoming “heard.” In spite of these things, I also gained new friends, learned from my mistakes, and helped others find their voice.

Feminist. That is what I am. You may think feminism is still radical, but I define feminism as the simple belief that women are people, too.

Now, I have found my voice.

I am no longer bound to the mediaʼs definition of the skinny “woman.” I am no longer coveting the apostle Paulʼs definition of the silent “woman.” I am no longer my university’s definition of submissive “woman.”

I am wife. I am daughter. I am sister. I am follower. I am friend.

I am woman, phenomenally.

Feminist woman, that’s me.