This week I saw several faces of feminism at a community lunch held up the road. Taryn*, a quiet and sweet unmarried mother of two, told me she was six weeks pregnant. Taryn hopes the pregnancy will get off to a better start this time. She was “on contraception” when she conceived her prior two children, and found out about the pregnancies later. The director of the community center were I met Taryn was also at the lunch, a forty-something mother of pre-schoolers who has her kids in care while she works four days a week. She also has a teen son, and was a single Mum of one for many years after an early divorce. The politician seated one place down from me is also a Mummy, but working from seven in the morning till late at night never leaves her with time to pick the kids up from school. Judy, across the table, is there with her “partner”, a friendly-sounding guy with a building business. Once you look feminism in the face, you begin to see her everywhere.
In 2001 I was deeply grieved to see women rallying to make abortion freely available. This was the catalyst for a long journey of thought about feminism and what it means to be a woman. At university I studied a Bachelor of Arts, and feminism was taught in every subject area. So when I came to the chapter on feminism in Voices of the True Woman Movement, “We’ve come a long way, baby”, I didn’t think I would learn much. However, I was refreshed in my understanding of the impact of feminism. I was reminded that prior to the 1970s, it was rare for a woman to get divorced, have children out of wedlock, work outside the home when she had children, remain unmarried into her late 20s, or have an abortion. Homemakers were considered essential. Imagine a society where “living together” before marriage was so rare that statistics for this phenomenon were not recorded! Now Christian women, like the wider culture, reflect the dominance of feminism in their life choices.
Since the time when I was confronted with and rejected feminist thought, I’ve sought to act in an opposite spirit. Feminism “liberated” women to pursue careers and have young children. Post-feminist society has deemed the role of a full-time homemaker irrelevant and unnecessary. I’ve taken delight in calling myself a housewife, with no excuses. Feminism presents children as a threat to a woman’s life, and planning them as a necessity. I have longed to welcome children as God’s gifts, whenever and in whatever numbers they come. Often, I have been confronted with my sin. Submission does not come easily. Pride, rather than love for God, has sometimes been a motivation. At times I have desperately hated what feminism has done to our society, culture, and family life, especially as I see its effects in the lives of my friends. “We’ve come a long way, baby” was a helpful reminder that we must allow God to define us as women. While it is good to reject feminist influenced choices, that is not the essence of true womanhood. Rather, “The heart of true womanhood is to understand and agree with the purposes of our Creator”.
*All names have been changed.