Monday, June 1, 2009

Chapter 1- Dented Femininity

When I picked up this book I discovered that I was well and truly amongst its target audience — that of the women who had only vaguely heard of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and others. (But I confess that I did hope that I had heard more of what the bible had to say than the girls at the college conference!)

When I was a teenager my home church ran a Sunday afternoon class called 'Gender: Being Male and Female', which I went along to (from which I still have the notes, and they are still good notes). I also grew up in a single mother family after the death of my father when I was four. The irony of that is that while I saw that life without men was possible, I also absorbed the subliminal message that family life with men would be much more preferable. Anything I saw as a disadvantage in my growing up seemed to me to be related to the absence of men, not their presence.

As a consequence of that course, my upbringing and possibly also the informed men and women around me together with the admirable way those men treated those women, I think I subconsciously thought the “feminists” were are bunch of crazy, angry women out there somewhere, who had it all wrong. So I never really bothered to explore the way they had impacted the “post-feminist” society in which I lived. And I never stopped to think about the fact that I was heading off to University to undertake a male dominated study program or that many of the things I wanted to “do” in this life would have been unheard of or maybe even impossible a hundred years earlier.

Since then I have been a little more educated, though this book still had many things to teach me. I do, however, wonder if (or suspect) my background is quite different to that of some women of my generation and younger, especially, perhaps, those growing up in the city, many of whom tell me that at one stage of their life they did identify themselves as a “feminist”, in some capacity. So I’d love to know your story and how you came to be where you now are in your understanding of this philosophy.

Given my general lack of information on the subject, I appreciated Carolyn’s work in this book in pointing out that “chances are there are aspects of your femininity that have been negatively impacted by feminism, no matter how you identify yourself now” because we do live in a world where “feminism is a given” and now so ubiquitous it’s difficult to detect.

Similarly, I also appreciated the quote on page 27 stating that in some ways it's a wonder that the feminist movement took so long to form, in response to the subjugation of women through the ages, which is worth keeping in mind as we read (if like me you thought the feminists were crazy!), because, as Carolyn mentions, serious inequities have been changed by this movement and some of the conditions the feminists fought against are largely unimaginable to us now. However, a word of caution here, because as Kirsten Birkett discovered in researching the history of feminism in England (which has perhaps impacted us more here in Australia than that of America), many of the often-spouted victories of feminism, such as women going to university, being able to have a job and to vote, cannot actually be claimed by the feminists alone (at least not in the UK), and happened within a wider historical context that involved increased opportunities to other classes of society also (eg lower-class males and slaves) and were motivated by ideas often directly opposed to feminism (I recommend reading Chapter 5 of The Essence of Feminism). So it’s worth making sure we have a balanced and informed history before giving feminism all the credit.

Finally I liked Carolyn’s rationale for writing this book on page 27 that:

Feminism (like most other “isms”) points a finger at other people for the problems of life. But I learned that Scripture tells us that other people are not the real problem. Our sinful nature (James 4:1-3), spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12), and the lure of this present world (1 John 2:15-17) are our real problems. But for me—and many women in this present age—the definition, practices and contours of femininity are where the battles rage.
As we get started I think it is worth asking again the questions that Jennie Baddeley gave us at the start of her posts on The Feminist Mistake last year, which are:

How much have I really been influenced by this movement?

We need to be able to answer this to be able to then tackle the question that really matters:

How can I be counter-cultural, not for its own sake, but in order to live out a Christ-centred, Scripture based life?

I thought I would go chapter by chapter through this book since they are topical, twice each week, most likely on Monday and Thursday.

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