In response to my recent post regarding gender differences, a former student asked for an elaboration on my position on feminism. I was surprised by the difficulty I had in teasing out just what I did believe. Feminism is one of those terms with so much baggage attached that it looks like Paris Hilton headed to the airport for a week in Maui. Thrown about by so many people who mean so many different things by it, I almost want to come up with my own word rather than deal with checking all those unnecessary bags. If I were to come up with a word to describe my view, it would be “femaleness.” (Highly creative, right?) Still, when I think of what it means to be a woman in this fallen world, I think of the verse in Genesis 1: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them.” As Matthew Henry says in his commentary, God created one human and out of that oneness drew the other, whereas with animals He made them the male and female separately. There is a sameness in substance between male and female that is undeniable, just as there is a sameness in substance in the Holy Trinity which we have the great honor to reflect.
However, just as in the Trinity, there are distinctions, in both duties and personality. Man and woman were created with different purposes and characters in mind and attempting to deny this is like saying that God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not just one but the same. This, however interesting (at least to me), is all pre-fall stuff and terribly difficult to translate into this distorted world we live in where each sex attempts to rule over the other. For the most part, men have been more successful at the ruling than women. No one can deny that there has been a great deal of abuse and discrimination against women over the centuries. I would certainly never attempt to brush that aside as if it meant nothing. However, when modern feminists attempt to define just what that abuse and oppression has been, too often, they include roles and responsibilities that are, in my opinion, basic to what it is to female. Being subjected to the whims of an unfeeling husband, having your rights and voice unrecognized by the legal system and so on is truly inexcusable. But so is being expected to not just be equal to men but the same as men. To close yourself to the possibility of having children, raising a family, and serving that family through the sacrifice of your time, hard work and often your dignity is to close yourself off to part, not all, of your very essence. (Obviously, there are many cases where these options aren’t available to women. Single women or those who cannot have children are no less feminine. They can look for other ways to express the character that makes women so well-equipped for the duties of mother and wife, and these roles are by no means limited to baking cookies and teaching Sunday School.)
Do women have the right to pursue careers in all fields and have opportunities in education, etc? Absolutely! But they have to recognize that in order to do so, they must be willing to make certain sacrifices. Once you make the choice to get married and have a family, certain compromises have to be made. “Fair” or not, for thousands of years women have committed a great portion of their lives to raising families. Feminists too often seem to think that this great gift (that is given to and given by women) is slavery. Yes, there is a lot about being a mom that is mind-numbingly dull but I think that raising responsible little people is actually pretty important and well worth the effort. Moms aren’t super-human. We are most definitely fallen creatures (just ask my kids) but to suggest that we are mindless zombies marching to the beat of someone else’s drum isn’t a truthful depiction either. For me, I have found a great outlet for expressing my gifts through staying at home with my kids. That doesn’t mean I think everyone has to make that choice. If I am willing to acknowledge the legitimacy of their choice, I will ask for the same respect in kind. I don’t want to align myself with anyone who thinks I am wasting my time. Just as God created male and female with their own unique gifts to contribute, so, I think, He created a great diversity within the genders. Trying to define female in one particular way is like trying to pack all Paris Hilton’s clothes in one carry-on. Better to get a luggage cart and bring everyone along for the ride. I hear Maui is beautiful this time of year.