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Alternative to Feminism

Hertig, Y. (1998, January). The Asian American Alternative to Feminism: A Yinist Paradigm. Missiology: An International Review, 26, pp. 15-22.

Asian-American women are often trapped in a male dominated world and culture. This article offers an alternative to the traditional feminist paradigm, which is male dominated. Written by an Asian-American to an Asian-American audience, the article argues that an integrated theology of wholeness—yinism—is a more appropriate model for feminist thought. It is particularly helpful for any Asian-American woman who feels trapped in both an American and a male world. Hertig provides personal insight and a liberating message of hope and renewal for Asian-Ameican women.

Reaffirming the closeness of racial, class-based, and gender-based, reconciliation to the heart of the gospel, Hertig points out that Jesus chose to identify with a marginalized ethnic group in becoming a Galilean. She writes, "Jesus’ journeys in and around Galilee and Jerusalem offer insights into the obliteration of the socially constructed wall between the margin and the center today." (p. 15) Furthermore, Hertig states that if feminist thought starts with a hierarchical reference point, it is only seeking acceptance into a system it deplores. Asian-American women should therefore seek to eliminate the concept of center and margin, while acknowledging the need for wholeness between males and females.

Secondly, Hertig criticizes feminist thought for its failure to view race and class as equally affected by sexism. For too long feminist thought has been dominated by a male-centered and combative paradigm. This dualism is divisive according to Hertig. "If one simply replaces the power holder of dominance, there is no liberation or transformation." (p. 16) The goal is what Hertig calls yinism, taken from the word yin, the female energy in Taoism. "The yin is holistic, dynamic, synthesizing, and complementary with yang (the male energy in Taoism)." (p. 16) Thus, feminist thought should be as much about reconciliation and interdependence as it is about separation and demarginalization.

Next, Hertig asserts that the frustration between class, gender, and race can be best understood as an imbalance of yin and yang. This means that a proper balance between yin and yang within individuals will produce an interdependent result culturally. Examining Jesus’ qualities, Hertig asserts, reveals a perfect balance between yin and yang, and that understanding the importance of that balance—for example, of mercy and compassion with anger and judgment—will give Christians a proper paradigm for viewing racial and gender-based healing. Yinist spirituality, "seeks to process multiple dimensions of relationships and their mutual interconnectedness with God, human beings, nature, and the ecological environment...what matters is balance." (p. 20)

In conclusion, yinism, an Asian-American alternative to feminist thought, "seeks coexistence without male or female domination." (p. 21) Its center is the gospel message, but that same message understood through an Eastern paradigm. It offers the hope that because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, the world can experience racial and gender-based reconciliation. It criticizes traditional feminist thought for seeking acceptance into a male-dominated system instead of integrating an interdependent wholeness. The article is particularly helpful for Asian-American women, who may be more familiar with yinist thought.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. Do you believe American society is dominated by males, who are considered more inherently able to lead?
  2. Is traditional feminist thought helpful? What truths does it illustrate? What can the church learn from it?
  3. If you are an Asian-American woman, is it helpful for you to think within the yinist paradigm? If so, why?
  4. What kinds of things can the church do to integrate "a theology of wholeness and integration?" What is your part?
  5. How can female relationships with one another provide a special place for this to occur?
  6. What steps, if any, do males need to take to overcome a hierarchical model with them on top? If you are a male, how can you do this within your family, church, ethnic group?

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Asian-American women are all too often placed in a restrictive environment with males at the top of the social ladder.
  2. Reaffirming the truth of Taoist interdependence and the redemptive work of Christ is a helpful model for Asian-American feminism.
  3. By taking steps toward interdependence, acknowledging the particularly male and female contributions to the body of Christ, the family, and the world, the church can overcome a male dominated paradigm.
  4. The individual plight of Asian-American women may best begin with dialogue between women, leading to dialogue with Asian-American men, which will provide a model for the rest of the nation.
T.J. Tomlin cCYS