disrespect for the women who came before

January 31, 2008


I’m writing a lot on here…I guess I had more to say lately than I though hehe…

Please don’t let me monopolize but I’ve really enjoyed the discussion so I thought I’d keep the momentum going.

So I was talking with the mom of one of my daughter’s friends at a recent play date and we got to discussing politics and religion. She’s Episcopalian, a liberal and about 15 years older than me. She said something I thought was very well put and something I had not thought of. She grew up “watching women’s liberation unfold on TV” and she talked about how disturbed she is at the rise of the young, conservative, mostly evangelical women who proudly shout about male headship and female submission…from a college campus where they’re receiving a masters degree.

She said it’s an insult to the women who fought for the rights of women in this country, for the right of those very same women to attend that very same campus and get that coveted masters degree so they could actually have a chance at getting hired. Young women who know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING of what it means to be in an oppressed system are now encouraging even younger women and girls to place themselves “under submission” of men, to do things like the pastor suggests in my other post – allow their boyfriend to firm up the boundaries in their relationship. She was passionate about her frustration and I don’t blame her. It’s a perspective I hadn’t thought of being young myself and enjoying the benefits of a revolution I did not have to fight in.

Have any of you experienced this new conservatism? Specifically with very young women? Is it because they were raised by radical feminists and suffered because of it? Is it because they have to have SOME WAY to rebel? Do you see it as something we should be concerned about or is it the typical swinging of the pendulum?

She also said she is waiting to see a new generation of hippies rise up. Hehe… I had to laugh because we always say that had our 5.5 year old been born in that generation, she likely would have been a pacifist hippie flower child. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not naive enough to think that “women’s lib” did no wrong (that’s a discussion for another day) but the fear of “going back” is very real for women like my friend who also has 2 daughters the age of my girls.

20 Responses to “disrespect for the women who came before”

  1. Jessica Says:

    I have definitely experienced this new conservatism and even been raised that way myself (thank God for a few excellent college profs and friends). It is especially rampant in the evangelical subculture, and working at a Christian university, I see it everyday. Evangelical parents raised during the decades of women’s lib have almost no tolerance for the aims of that revolution and choose only to see the negative impacts, while completely ignoring the positive gains that affect even them and their daughters, like your friend pointed out. It is so frustrating to hear, “I’m definitely not a feminist” said in tones of utter contempt. These girls have no idea of the history that is allowing them to be who they are. They have been raised only to see that feminism is destroying the traditional (read 1950s) family, causes abortion, leads to lesbianism and undermines men’s self-confidence and God-given leadership ability. Hence the reason books like “Created to Be His Help Meet” still exist.

    I think it is definitely cause for concern, because it isn’t even a natural rebellion or swinging of the pendulum (at least not among young Christian girls, I have little experience of young secular girls’ attitudes toward feminism). Its brainwashing by their parents, by their Christian schools, by their youth groups and Christian friends and the Bible schools they attend. Not to say that there is nothing positive in all of those things, but on this particular issue an evangelical heritage almost guarantees a narrow-minded perspective on women and feminism in general. Even when perceptive girls begin to notice the discrepancy of attitudes towards male and female in history and in the church they are made to feel that disagreeing with the church on this teaching is sin and that they must submit to God’s will for his church and their lives (read the male-dominated church’s will for their lives).

    Sorry, I’m ranting. :]

  2. Mak Says:

    not a rant at all, good stuff there. I’ve seen the evangelical brainwashing in action too. I suppose in all fairness they’re just passing on their ideals…but wow, sad ideals to pass on if you ask me.

  3. bonny Says:

    I don’t worry terribly for my daughters … my 14yo is a bigger activist than her mama.

    I see an uprising of evangelical anti-feminists who come across as more radical, graceless and angry than most of feminism that I’ve been exposed to. It makes me thankful, more than anything, to not be raising my daughters (and son!!!) in that type of environment.

    I see countless amazing discussions among the Fisher women in the years to come…

  4. bonny Says:

    or maybe it’s not an uprising, and it’s been like this always, but I’m just noticing it now.

  5. Mak Says:

    yeah, that’s very possible with me too. I never had a fundie phase so it’s odd to me. I played with the whole “happy housewife” thing and realized I hated it and I wasn’t being true to who I was. But while my parents preached “headship” along with my churches – in my family AND my churches, women were still very visible and free. Which was odd but at least I learned what was demonstrated and not so much what was preached.

  6. Mak Says:

    and for the record, I don’t think for a minute that conservative traditionalists care a lick about whether or not women’s libbers are offended hehe..

  7. myste Says:

    yeah i agree, i dont see it as much as a swinging pendulum as straight up brainwashing. kids at evengelical churches are told which talking points to believe in and then just go along with any notion that seems to fit in whether biblical or not. this came up all the time with the gender issue when i was growing up. i can’t tell you how many people actually believe there is a verse in the bible that directs men to “lead” their wives and be “responsible for the spiritual health of their families” and most of them have never even hear of Epesians 5:21. its like that quote, i think it was by Elizabeth Elliot, where she says that men should be in control in the bedroom because 1 Cor 7:4 says “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband.” but she failed to mention the second half of the verse, “In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.”

  8. Mak Says:

    and this is so frustrating too because often, those sorts of teachings are more ineptitude than they are overt misdirection. Which is why we all, and leaders in traditional power systems especially, MUST MUST MUST examine the lens through which they teach and own up to the deeper issues at work. But they don’t and most often won’t…because of the very power structures that hold them in authority.

  9. Bethany Says:

    Nothing but agreement here. I don’t want to remember how many conversations I had in college and elsewhere explaining how “feminism” was not a bad word, how there were women blatantly out for their MRS degree, how many of my friends (and me too) had to break up with boyfriends over this issue. My denomination does not ordain women (10% of the churches still don’t allow women to vote–and they like it that way), and issues of headship get tied to issues of leadership and then ordination so it can be frustrating to argue that the past 40 years were any use (not that I’ll stop trying). All I can say is thank God for sites that refresh and encourage.

  10. liz Says:

    great piece :)

    I was raised in a conservative catholic household but have come in to my own in the past few years – reading lots of germaine greer and going to art school will do that to you. I have nothing but disdain for the girls who can’t respect the strides that their mothers generation made.

  11. As I’ve mentioned on my blog, I’ve recently been reading a lot about gender and politics (the whole Hillary factor). A recent editorial mentioned that Hillary had little support from young women. The article suggested the reason for that was because these women are post-feminist. While I take issue with the idea that if you are a feminist you will vote for Hillary, the description made sense. These young women have never faced oppression. They experienced a school system that favors girls over boys and had their choice of higher education. They have yet to face the glass ceiling in the workplace or mommy issues that reveal that most of the burden of childcare is placed on the women. They haven’t had to fight for anything yet or have had their dreams hindered because of their gender. They are complacint because they don’t have to be otherwise.

    In the church it is worse. Women have enough freedom not to feel an urgent need to seek change and so they never have reason to think about it. they can be brainwashed and spout the rhetoric of patriarchy. It may take years before they come to realize the hollowness of that life. and even still all they will do is pray for God to help them be a better person and better wife. Very few will have the courage to question or reach that feminist awakening of why yes, I am a person too.

  12. Jenn Says:

    I haven’t so much noticed this in women younger than me (I’m 2 mths shy of 30) but greatly in women in my own age bracket. What’s most disconcerting for me is watching strong women squelch their true selves and what, I believe, God really has for the purpose in their life to the whims of husbands saying “yay” or “nay”. Sad.

  13. sonja Says:

    I know the first time I noticed this was in our first church when I ran into male headship. Our pastor has two daughters who were pre-teens at the time. I knew them well and they were/are very bright, talented young women who were busy making plans to go to high school and then college. I was just amazed. Why go to college, I thought, if the most you’re being trained for is to be a wife and mother? What’s the point and why were the parents being such hypocrites with their daughters. It was just cruel.

    I’ve never been able to get past the negativity surrounding feminism in the church. I don’t understand it. I came from a family and culture which celebrated the great strides that feminism brought to our country. So I’ve always been very conflicted on this.

  14. Sally K Says:

    I know what you mean, Mak. I am 47; I saw the feminist activism of the 70’s happenning, but was really too young to participate in it. My parents, secular jews,supported the movement. I have certainly benefitted from it;I am an MD married to another, and I work with colleagues enlightened enough to let me work part time so that I can homeschool our kids.
    I do not get the subordination thing at all. I prefer to see my husband’s & my life together, and the choices we make, in terms of submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, a radical notion at the time it was first written, and a fundamental one to all Christian relationships. I really don’t understand the “headship” thing; I think we please God by using the gifts he has given us, regardless of our gender, for his glory.My husband and I make most of our choices about how we do things in our family based on who is better suited to them. I do most of the teaching, because I am by nature better suited to it, but when it comes to teaching fancy math, he’s the one with that gift. Debra led an army. Jael pounded a tent peg through a bad guy’s head. Priscilla partnered with her husband in creating a house church. Contemporary Christians tend to forget that Jesus was radically accepting of and accessible to women! He probably would not have called himself a feminist, but he really kind of was one.

    Our daughter (15) thinks about going to seminary. Her mentor is our Minister of Christian Nurture, a woman. She (our daughter) was dumbstruck when she first encountered people who thought women should not be ordained. Couldn’t wrap her mind around it . my prayer is that she (and we all) will use our gifts to glorify God, whatever that ends up meaning.

    sorry to rant. sally K

  15. molleth Says:

    I remember being taught, when my husband and I were dating in Bible College, that the Lord would begin moving us into a place of my boyfriend being the authority over our relationship and over me, and that I needed to “flow” with that and begin to submit to that.

    It was the beginning of the end for me, in so many ways (the beginning of me putting myself into a little box and closign the top). I wanted to obey God wholly, so badly, and I truly believed that my teachers and pastor knew God, therefore *must* be right.

    Turning a living breathing relationship like ours into a heirarchy ended up creating about 10 years of pain. (Most of which was pretty well repressed, thanks to believing that “not liking” any of it was a sign of rebellion against God, which we obviously did NOT want, and therefore only in hindsight does it show itself clearly)

    I am SO glad we managed to come out of that steadily growing hell.

    I love my husband so much, but I admit, it often feels like we are starting all the way over, as if we’re young lovers all over again (which is nice, admittedly *blush, blush*, but it’s so SAD SAD sad that we missed out on an entire decade of the goodness of a one-on-one relationship, all becuase we were taught to view ourselves as one-OVER-one instead of one-NEXT-TO-one.

    There’s only so much “depth” that can be in a relationship that finds it’s foundation on heirarchy, you know? I know that most folks giving girls the advice to “start letting their boyfriends lead” MEAN WELL, and I don’t begrudge them that. I still can’t help but be angry, though, at the great cost of this well-intentioned but terribly wrong advice.

  16. talialovesyou Says:

    I’m nineteen. My church [a Grace Brethren] doesn’t bring this up much, but there are no authority-holding women. The highest positions that women there hold are probably church secretary and “assistant youth director” (she’s married to the youth pastor)..I’ve been taught my whole life [directly through books, school curriculum, different speakers, and then reinforced by the leadership positions at my church] that women were created to be under male authority because we’re somehow less. Thank God I never saw that at home. I’m not quite sure why, because my parents are both conservative evangelical Christians, but I’m thankful. My mother stays home full-time and homeschools, but that’s a decision she made for herself, I’ve always seen them as equals. Deep down I always knew the evangelical institution was wrong about this, but I was afraid to admit it because it was also “wrong” to question it. I only started to research for myself and form my own opinions about gender roles in the last couple years..it took a while to break apart what I’d been taught for so long, but one abusive and sexist boyfriend was enough to take care of that.

    So. Yes, I’ve definitely seen this happening, my small group leader (a man) and I disagree on pretty much everything. He’s teaching his 4-year-old daughter that girls have to submit to male authority, and it makes me sick. For crying out loud.

    I’ve also seen something else happening in my peer group. Obviously not with everyone, but enough to cause a scene. Like a new wave of feminists. The women’s lib movement has won us so much freedom, and now I think we want to take it the next step. There are still so many wrongs and injustices, and we have to win our battles a few at a time. The next wave of feminism, to me, is only moving forward..

  17. Kathleen M. Ball Says:

    I first have to say that I am very, very thankful that there is a website such as this. I have only fairly recently become a feminist and I sometimes find it a bit difficult to reconcile it with my Christian faith, but as difficult as it is, I have found greater freedom and reward than I ever thought possible.

    I was one of the new generation which did not appreciate the sacrifices of the women before me–the women who made it possible for me to vote, to get a college education, to make a life for myself independent of male authority, to be accounted a person and not a piece of property. Growing up, I had mixed teachings on the role of women. My mother mostly had to raise me and my brother on her own because my father was in the Navy and so was gone most of the time, and I think that had a lot to do with why I was able to so easily become a feminist in my 20s. However, the same sort of impression still remain: women were subject to me, woman’s main role was that of wife and mother, women could not be ordained (I still struggle with this one), women had to be chaste, etc.

    True, I was taught that I could have a life of my own, but it was always made clear that I would one day marry and have children. However, while I was all right with the idea of marriage, I was never all right with the idea of having children and relinquishing everything I was for their sake. Selfish, maybe, but I have always been sort of independent and now that I have new direction in life, I am even more reluctant to have children. College is truly wonderful. After a course in Literary Criticism (I am a double major in English and History), I was made more fully aware of the feminist movement and what it did. I finally knew the truth. Growing up, feminism was sort of an anathema on par with everything else conservatives fear and with everything a Christian should fear. I found out that it was all false. There is very little to fear from feminism and very much to glean from it.

    However, my real “conversion” was last semester. I took a course on women and literature from a professor who I have come to know and respect almost as a second mother. That course changed my life because it opened my eyes to everything that the patriarchal, misogynist Church had done and how I had fallen for it all hook, line, and sinker. I came to terms with my own rebellious feelings towards the feminine mystique which had characterized the fundamentalist and biased teachings of my youth and I realized that I had, all along, been a feminist without realizing it. Feminism was not my enemy, I realized, but it was my ally. I have come to treasure that ally and I have to say that it has actually improved my relationship with God. It has forced me to see Him in a new light, to look at His Word again to see for myself what He says and to see what the patriarchal theologians have deliberately misinterpreted for centuries upon centuries.

    Sadly, many other young women suffer from the delusions and the prisons built around them by the extreme conservatives. As wonderful as the homeschooling movement is–I certainly benefited from it as a homeschooled student–I have seen within this movement the strongest enemies of feminism. As much as it provides educational freedom, it also allows extreme conservatives to try to put women back into the dark ages. Home economics courses abound, and while I have no problem with this since home economics is a very useful thing to know, these courses often go too far and place women back into a Victorian, feminine mystique-like existence and say that such an existence is necessary for true believers and for a truly Christian life.

    I have had at least two friends in the past who have only wanted to get married and have children, even though one of them was smart enough to get a full ride scholarship. One of these friends, to the best of my knowledge has refused to learn how to drive and to leave her parents’ house as a result of this belief system. She is so brilliant and she could do so much, but she squanders it. The other blindly followed whatever her parents taught her and last I heard, she hadn’t completed high school. It’s sobering to think I could have become like that. God is very good. He gave me a new chance and He gave me peace–a peace that I have been searching for, even without realizing it. But, yes, I do see a disturbing trend to dismiss feminism as a dead cause.

    The only question now, is where to go next, what battle to fight next. I think that is our generation’s greatest decision. Whatever battle it is, as long as it pleases God, I will be as much a part of it as possible. My ambition is to be a college professor somewhere in the English field and regardless of what my concentration is (I am leaning more towards a Renaissance concentration) I have pledged to myself and I pledge to my fellow women that I will try to spread the truth of feminism and try to break down the stereotypes which surround it in the fundamentalist community.

  18. Mak Says:

    Kathleen, thank you so much for sharing your story, could I post it in a post on its own, I think it should be heard.

  19. Kathleen M. Ball Says:

    Most certainly! I am truly honored that you think it that important! As I said before, I am a relative infant in my feminism, so this really quite an honor!

  20. maclafforcrydepending Says:

    Me comments be centered to begin with anyways
    On the following paste
    Which I think is not one of the comments but the main thing for I believe janurary 2008

    I usually don’t read there because it’s the same old tune – men are the head, there are godly gender roles and this is what they are, men like video games and fixing heating and air conditioning systems, men shouldn’t act like women…blah blah blah… but I get curious sometimes esp. since I know most of these men from my 3 years in “leadership” at that church.

    In the spirit of mclaughlin reports on pbs tv

    Methinks the best handle on a lot of the male / female bible controversy
    Be that underneath it all is how women on a symbolic level be
    About the intuitive subconcscious mind function in both sexes
    But that in general women tend to be more intuitive, right brained, space oriented than men but not necessarily……
    Other symbols of the subconscious mind functions be left[as right brain controls left hand etc] , the heart ,

    Now man is as symbolic of the active , present conscious choices in both sexes……
    Also relates to left brained or right handed or logic time sequential mindedness.

    But here be the rub .. ye Shakespearean laguaged types
    U know hamlet …. And methinks my lady protesteth too much..
    Actually Shakespeare was probably just a front man for a secret society
    Of which sir bacon was the main guy there
    And his ma was queen liz who was gonna have him killed as an infant
    But lady bacon asked to be given the child as she had just lost a baby …
    Anyways, here be the rub about conscious subconscious
    ..if we add into the mix …the superconscious as god the father
    we have the holy trinity
    ah the rub the rub
    which properly should have control over which…. Should be the head of
    so to speak ….
    Should not god the father be the head of all Christians
    And is not jesus our example of perfect obedience to the one creator….
    Now how does this tie into the husband being the head of the woman
    Well now simply this me proposes
    Husband male = conscious mind in both sexes
    That Christians be convicted of their sin nature and repent and accept the holy spirit
    Thru jesus Christ to cleanse our old sin nature i.e. a corrupted heart .. a corrupted
    Past as recorded in our subconscious mind to have our heart cleansed….

    Shoot library is closing early coz of weather
    sigh ra ra nah rah

    but enuf methinks for some to get my drift how this applies to head husband stuff….

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