8.16.2017

Why I'm Not a Feminist


Yeah, that's right.  Today I want to talk about feminism and the reasons why I believe it is a harmful ideology.  This is something of a personal treatise, I guess, or rather, that's what I hope it will be.  That said, this could be a long one.

I am not going to talk about or help explain what feminism is or its different waves through history.  There are people and resources that will be much more helpful if you want to do some research.  If you want to learn about it from a Christian perspective, I recommend listening to four episodes of the Sheologians podcast, episodes 26-29.  In those episodes, the hosts take you through all four waves and identify many of the problems with each wave.  Today, I want to dispute feminism as it is in society today.  Because here's the thing.  Early feminism?  The suffrage part?  I am totally on board.  The right for women to vote, the push for equality in the workplace, the effort to change the way society saw women as people who could work outside of the home, etc.  I believe that all of that was great and I am thankful for the women who advocated for these changes.  I am not here today to talk about that part of the women's suffrage movement.  Today I am going to talk about feminism today in our society and why I think that it is a dangerous thing that goes against Scripture and the way God created man and woman.

I am also not going to go into all the technicalities of feminism.  There are lots of trustworthy resources out there about stuff like the "wage gap" and the reasons for it (one of those being the above-mentioned podcast) and I am not qualified to talk about stuff like that here.  With all the disclaimers out of the way, let's get into the meat of this.

First, I'm not a feminist because I don't need to be a feminist.  I don't need feminism.  I don't need to add an ideology to my life or my faith in order to validate who I am as a woman.  There is a book out there called Jesus Feminist by a Christian blogger and that title captures in a nutshell what I mean.  The idea that we have to add feminism to our faith in order to be whole women, or in order to ensure our rights, etc. is not Biblical.  The idea that Jesus needs feminism, or that Jesus is/was a feminist is absurd.  I think this whole concept strays into the territory of adding to Scripture.  Christianity is and has always been the most pro-woman faith the earth has ever seen.  Compared to every other religion at the time (and even now), Christ offers/offered a revolutionary view of the woman: who she is in the eyes of God, what she is capable of, and what He has called her to.  The ideology of feminism does not need to be tacked on to Christianity to make our faith more empowering (ugh).  Everything we need, men and women, is found in the person of Christ and our purpose has never been more beautiful or fulfilling than that found in the Bible.

Second, and this is the best and most compelling argument against feminism that I have ever come across, the ideology is inherently anti-woman.  In Eric Metaxas's book, Seven Women, he quotes Alice Von Hildebrand, whose husband was a Bonhoeffer-like figure in Germany during WWII (!!!).  Hildebrand (she's in her 90s) has written two books that deal with the issue of men and women.  I haven't read them, but they're on my list (find them here: The Privilege of Being a Woman and Man and Woman: A Divine Invention).  I'm quoting from the introduction to Seven Women where Metaxas is relating a conversation with Hildebrand:
As she fiercely declared in my most recent interview with her, she is tremendously pro-woman–and she was that evening we poke–but she also makes it abundantly clear that it is precisely for this reason that she is a devoted and lifelong opponent of feminism.  She firmly believes feminism to be anti-woman because it pressures women to become more like men (Metaxas, xvii).
This is the basic reason I am not a feminist.  As an ideology, it seeks to "empower" women by pitting them against men.  Feminism says that until women are as equal as men, or better than men, or have all the same jobs as men, or are as powerful as men, etc., women are inherently less than and not as important in society.  Side note: this whole conversation about equality stems from a decidedly post-modern worldview in the first place.  The Bible says men and women are created equal.  End of story. Since we live in a society, though, where truth is dead (or at least dying), feminists believe they have to prove that they are equal to men, and they fight for their place in society because they don't have sight of truth that says they are equal and worthy just as they are.  

Now, I hope it is clear from my language above, but so far, I have been referring mostly to feminists who are not Christians.  The reason I decided to write this post, however, is because I have recently seen a surge in Christian women who identify as feminists.  If feminism only meant the belief that men and women are equal and should be treated as such, that would be one thing.  I still don't think it is necessary because remember the thing I said earlier?  The Bible doesn't need feminism.  But, feminism in that sense–its true, unadulterated sense–is fine.  Go nuts.  Today, though, it means a LOT more than that.  The feminist movement today (most of the time) means a grappling between the sexes, it means a woman's right to her body (her body including the body of her baby as well), and it means (with intersectional feminism in particular) that being pro-woman is also being pro-LGBTQ+ and pro-Transgender people who identify as female.  There are two sides to the coin here (and probably more don't @ me).  There are the Christian feminists who have decided that the Bible's stance on issues of sexuality etc. don't matter or are otherwise not viable and therefore feminism as it is today does not in any way contradict their faith.  Then there are other Christian feminists who declare that they are feminist and only feminist–they are pro-women and pro-equality without all the other stuff.  I don't have anything to say to the first group–that is a whole separate post.  But I would urge the second group to search the Word of God and ask if anything is missing.  Does the Bible need feminism?  Is God not already loving and using and upholding and filling women with His Spirit to such a degree that He is all we need?  Also, does society see your feminism as something rooted in the Biblical idea of the equality of the sexes, or does it see your feminism as the thing it has become today–an ideology at odds with the Gospel of Christ?  

I am asking myself these same questions and searching my heart because listen, at the bottom of my heart, in the deep, dark corners, my sin nature grasps for this sort of power.  Feminism looks good to my flesh.  I struggle with the picture of a woman in the Bible–I will be the first to admit that.  I struggle with submission to God, to His Word, to the figures of authority in my life.  I sometimes chafe at the Biblical concept of gender roles and the concept of a woman's submission to her husband, to her Spiritual leaders, etc.  The idea of women running the world and doing everything men can do and more besides is enticing.  Having power over men and over authority was in our hearts from the beginning, when Eve disobeyed God for the chance to be like God herself.  We want power, we grasp at control and achievement and the chance to prove that we are just as great as those around us and above us.  We will exhaust ourselves and run our legs off trying to prove that we're equal and just as strong and just as worthy.  But we don't need to.  Jesus came and died and makes us all His children–equal in His sight.  He calls us worthy and He's the One who give us value.  Not men, not society, not a social movement, not even ourselves.  He can heal our power-hungry hearts and fill our grasping hands.  He is all we need forever.  

As I mentioned in the paragraph above, I sometimes struggle against the Biblical vision for women.  But usually, when I notice this creeping in, I realize how little I actually seek out this vision and try to understand the heart of it.  The Bible's vision for women is amazing.  The women in Scripture are amazing.  All throughout the Bible, God speaks about women, and especially about His bride, the Church, with the most incredible, redemptive language of intimacy and love.  And I don't know about you, but when God speaks about His Church as a woman, a bride, it carries extra weight for me as a woman.  God's vision for us, sisters, is greater than we can know.  It may seem less obvious in the Bible, we may need to hang onto those stories of Esther and Ruth and Mary a little more tightly for their being few, but I don't know how the Bible could be more for women, contain a better purpose or a higher calling.  I simply need to be more diligent in seeking out this truth.  

Finally, I am not here to condemn feminists or Christian women who call themselves feminists.  I don't know their hearts and their intentions or motivations.  It is true that throughout history, women have been disadvantaged and abused and exploited by men and by societies that do not consider them human.  I understand that in America's society, today, there are still instances of misogyny and sexism and places where the equality of women is not respected or understood.  I am not trying to brush all of this under the proverbial rug.  I do believe, however, that these problems will not be solved by trying to make women more like men, or forcing them to compete against men in society.  The only way the issue of men and women will be reconciled is by drawing them upward to a higher standard, measuring their worth not by comparing and contrasting, but by setting our sights on the person of Jesus on the cross.  This world needs the truth of the Gospel in so many areas, and the Bible's view of women is the only one that will bring healing to our hearts and satisfy our power-hungry souls.  

Finally (part 2), I am all for lifting women up and encouraging our sisters in pursuit of calling and purpose and career and platforms all through society.  I think women should be in all of the fields and in all of the places (okay, not all).  I saw a thread on Twitter a few months ago that was started by some of the Christian women I follow that was all about amplifying women.  That is great.  Let's do that more.  But let's never lift a group up by/or while tearing another group down.  That's not the way.  

And that is finally the end.  Go watch Wonder Woman, go search out the Scriptures, go read the story of Esther, go read about women in WWII, go lift up a sister, and let's pray that women find their worth in their Savior.  If you have any thoughts or want to challenge me on any level or point out things I missed, leave a comment or DM me on Twitter (@EllaStettner).  I would love to have a conversation about this.  It is such a large, complex issue, and I am 100% sure that I missed something or got something wrong here.  As always, thanks for reading.

8.09.2017

On Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Okay, so I finished this book a couple days ago, and I just need to talk about it real quick.  Excuse the goofy cover.  The book is not goofy.

I'd heard about the novel Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh numerous times, but the reason I finally tracked it down and picked it up was because the Rabbit Room podcast told me to, which is the reason I do many things.  This book was talked about in two old episodes (26 and 27) all about the art of spiritual subtext, in which Lanier Ivester and Sarah Clarkson talk about two books that have illustrated to them how an author's faith underlies their creative work – in this case their fiction.  Lanier's discussion of this novel in particular made me push it to the top of my list.

On a whim, then, this past weekend, I added it to my pile of stuff to read before school starts and got stuck into it.  Today I want to hint at the plot and the spiritual subtext of this novel in a way that won't spoil it or reveal too much of what you really need to discover for yourself, but in a way that will make you want to read it, too.  Also, go listen to those two podcast episodes – though I would probably recommend reading the novel and listening afterward, as the hosts do not shy away from spoiling things.  And as in stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, it is always more powerful to be surprised and moved by themes and whispers of grace on your own than to have everything explained first.

Brideshead Revisited is a quiet story about a bunch of messed up people and how they are pursued by grace throughout their lives: through their sin, through their sorrows, through the people they love.  Evelyn Waugh wrote this novel in 1945 after his conversion to Catholicism and the narrative is thick with the presence of God.  The thread of grace, or rather, the subterranean river of grace that pervades Brideshead is subtle – perhaps so subtle that if one is not attune to it they may easily miss it altogether – but it pervades the story.  Conversations drip with hints and allusions to it; mistakes are redeemed by it; the most stubborn characters are moved by it.  This most ordinary story of human struggle and failure is saturated with grace from beginning to end.  This is not a book you'll see in the "Christian Fiction" section of a bookstore, it doesn't hit you over the head with the Gospel, and the characters who live and love in its pages are not those imaginary creatures who vaguely struggle without God, then find Him, and with Him a perfect life.  The grace of Brideshead Revisited – the subterranean river that barely ever bubbles up to the surface but seeps into the story so that the story of human failings and losses is haunted with the presence of God – reminds the reader of the way grace is at work in his as well.  Brideshead is a story of the way God woos sinners and draws them to Himself, the way He pursues relentlessly and chases after and works through even the worst failings of fallen creatures who refuse to lay down at His feet.

Read Brideshead Revisited to be reminded of the grace of your ever-chasing, unrelenting God – the one who woos and redeems and pursues even me, even you.