So I watched footage of the Femen protest at the Vatican, where a topless woman grabbed the Baby Jesus statue out of the crib with the words “GOD IS WOMAN” on her bare chest. I am conflicted.
On the one hand, I’m really uncomfortable with the whole protesting topless thing that Femen does. Not because I’m a prude about nudity, but because (according to a recent documentary) Femen actions are largely directed by a heterosexual man who ostracizes women who won’t go topless or who don’t fit his ideal of beauty. The group claims noble ideals of feminism, but I don’t think that choosing conventionally attractive women to take part in the actions does a lot to further full equality of all women regardless of size, skin color, or (dis)ability. And I don’t buy the argument that naked breasts are the best or only way to get attention to promote gender equality.
On the other hand, I love a creative, provocative, direct action protest, and grabbing Baby Jesus from the crib at the Vatican nativity scene while shouting “God is Woman!” is pretty fabulous. A lot more thought provoking than holding up a sign. Christmas is the day Christians believe God became incarnate, a human being. And many Christians hold on to a centuries old unfounded assumption that God is solely male and could only become incarnate as a biological man. It is a harmful theological assumption that continues to devalue women and keep women from living lives free from oppression. So a protest that interrupts the standard Christmas narrative, subverting the assumptions about who God is and how God is gendered? I love that. I don’t believe God is a literal woman (any more than I believe God is any literal human form we can imagine, male or female), but I love the fact that this protester stopped the traditional Christmas festivities for even a moment to prod us into considering the implications of God as something other than a baby boy or an old white man with a long beard.
How might we treat baby girls if Jesus was born a little girl? How might we treat women if we truly believed them to be in the image and likeness of God? I’m grateful for the woman who snatched up the Baby in the nativity scene and reminded me to ponder these questions.