Feminism Can’t Fix What’s Broken Between Men and Women
Freedom in Christ, not feminism, healed my wounds from spiritual abuse
Recently, I was reading an online thread in which a bunch of middle-aged men chatted about the general incompetence and unpleasantness of women. I found this heartbreaking, since I knew for a fact that at least a handful had both wives and daughters. In reaction to radical feminism and the negative impact it had had in their lives, they had painted all women with a broad brush: not only as feminists and radicals, but also as idiotic, nonsensical, and stupid.
I’ll admit, I got angry reading the conversation. It didn’t help that it came at the tail end of seeing a man in the comments section of another article stating that women were useless after their child turned three. Even though other men jumped on this guy and told him what a horrible statement he had made, I still found myself mentally spinning out.
I was raised in conservative Christian homeschooling circles. My worth was tied to my virginity before marriage, and to my ability to bear children after marriage. “Quiverfull” was the norm, birth control (including NFP) was frowned upon and women were expected to have child after child without consideration for even the most basic need for a woman’s body to recover between pregnancies. My family was outside of all of this, as my sister and I were the only children my parents had due to infertility. We were, in many senses, the outcasts.
My mother was not especially fond of the patriarchal set-up of the communities we were involved in. It was an atmosphere where men dominated women, and girls had to listen to the oldest man in the room even if it was a teenage boy. There was an overabundance of unexplained rules coupled with an under-emphasis on respect between the sexes. These recent online threads have brought to light much of the pain I experienced from being taught that I was lesser, simply because I was born with female genitalia.
Nothing I did would ever gain me the respect that men inherently had in that community. Not manual labor. Not dressing like a Mennonite. Not being quiet and submissive. I could not change the way I was perceived, I could only change whether or not I believed that this was the correct way to live.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that things began falling into place for the better. He taught me that men were to protect and cherish women, not rule over them and beat them down. He took me to the original texts of Scripture and showed me where and how they had been taken out of context to verbally beat women into obedience. He freed me from legalism and treated me with dignity and respect. Despite our age difference, there was never a question about whether or not we were equal. It simply didn’t matter because neither of us measured our worth against the other, we were distinct creations of our Lord and Savior. Comparison of worth was suddenly a foolish notion, which I’d instinctively felt all along.
This is to a total contrast with my starting college at the ripe old age of 16. There, I was quickly ushered into very liberal groups both online and off. These groups championed feminism and, quite honestly, tried to groom me into it as well. At first, they were “nice.” They gently tried to teach me how brainwashed I was by explaining to me that complementarian ideas were really patriarchy in disguise. They fed me slogans and catchphrases and repeated them over and over and over.
That is, until they realized I wasn’t like them. I still held Christian values, in spite of having walked away from legalism. I wasn’t swayed by arguments for things that I instinctively believed were immoral. I did not budge when they asked me to violate my conscience over various topics in the interest of inclusivity or championing women’s rights.
I wasn’t interested in a power struggle between men and women, I was concerned with fostering love and respect.
Even the most intellectually honest feminists I knew did not encourage and often silenced me from sharing the abuses I’d seen delved out by radical feminists, but they actively encouraged me to talk about patriarchy and the abuse dealt out by men. They weren’t interested in honesty and addressing all abuse, they were only interested in blowing the whistle on other people and letting things slide within their own community.
Certainly, I know a few feminists who are exemplars of intellectual honesty, and we can chat about anything and everything. But in my experience, they have been the minority.
Because of my experience with patriarchy and spiritual abuse, I am very passionate about many things that feminists are — but I still refuse to be labeled a feminist. I have never, in my entire life, encountered so much push-back as I have with this decision. I won’t be aligned with a community that violates the morals I stand for, and that’s without considering the intellectual dishonesty.
In a world where you can identify however you please, including as an ethnicity to which you were not born or to any given sexual orientation you choose, I’m truly baffled as to why my decision, which unlike many has nothing to do with chromosomal or physically solidified fact, is met with a “you can’t do that” or even better, “well, you aren’t a real woman.”
I’ve heard that if I am not going to identify as a feminist, then I shouldn’t identify as Christian either because Christianity has intellectually dishonest people and abuse running through it as well.
But here is the rub — feminism has one thread running through the mouth of all who champion it: “feminism is about equality.” But there is no place in which “equality” is explicitly defined. Equality means different things — often radically different things — to different people, and no one can authoritatively decree whose definition should be adopted. Aside from that, earthly equality, by anyone’s definition, has no eternal significance.
As a Christian, I can go to the Bible in context to dispute the abuse and nonsense that comes up among believers. And unlike my experience with feminism, Christianity is not about controlling other people and the way they view you, but rather self-sacrifice and real love. It isn’t about what I can demand of my neighbor and society but rather how I can serve my Lord and my neighbor.
This is better than earthly “equality;” it is genuine justice, spiritual equality, and a solid identity in Christ. There is no need to go running after people to validate your worth. Christ has already done that for you, even when no one deserved it.