Wednesday, March 30, 2022


An interesting essay asks whether Dorothy L. Sayers can properly be considered a feminist. Sayers is one of my favorite authors and also a Christian and friend of C.S. Lewis. I've excerpted some of her writing on this blog. From "The Feminist-Not-Quite-Feminist":
.... Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957)—detective novelist, playwright, academic, and lay theologian—is just such a voice. And the fact that Sayers does not neatly fit within our contemporary categories makes her an even more poignant voice for a conversation that has become tragically polarized.

In Are Women Human?—her 1938 address to a women’s society—Sayers’s argument is simple: we need to treat women like ordinary human begins. Women aren’t particularly virtuous, or particularly evil; they aren’t particularly qualified or not. They are human beings—both unique and ordinary—each with distinctive desires and work to do, and they should be free to pursue that work.

While Sayers’s advocacy for women is clear, the answer to the question of whether or not Sayers was a feminist depends entirely on whom you ask. ....

We might take Sayers at her word and wash our hands of the sticky debate:
… I replied—a little irritably, I am afraid—that I was not sure I wanted to ‘identify myself,’ as the phrase goes, with feminism, and that the time for ‘feminism,’ in the old-fashioned sense of the word, had gone past.
Case closed, right? Except that Sayers’s biography, work, and writing push back against this statement and make the question of her feminism more complicated and, I’d argue, more fruitful than we’d imagine for understanding her life and influence. ....

Sayers does not neatly fit within many of our categories, but she does make one thing clear: Christian scripture provides a picture of human flourishing that is unflinchingly at odds with a culture that abuses and dismisses women. Whether or not a Christian is comfortable putting the word “feminist” in their Twitter bio does not and should not determine their commitment to rooting out abuse within their church, workplace, and community. ....

I imagine Sayers would have all manner of thoughtful, biting criticism for all sides of our contemporary debates, which is precisely why she is a good voice for our time. She cannot be “used” for a cause; she must be treated, first and foremost, like a human being. And this practice alone—of treating men and women like the human beings they are—might help us transform our conversations, our conflicts, and our churches. (read more)
The book cover above is from my copy published by Victor Gollancz in 1946. It includes the Sayers essays quoted by Lambert.

Christina J. Lambert, "The Feminist-Not-Quite-Feminist," March 30, 2022.

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