As a young teen, Marie Antoinette came from the cozy family atmosphere of the court of her mother the Empress of Austria to marry the heir to the French throne. Morals were lax at the French court and Marie Antoinette’s higher standards made her plenty of enemies, especially when she snubbed Madame Du Barry, her father-in-law’s mistress. Soon Marie Antoinette became queen, but the gossips hinted that her husband was—in these early years, at least—not interested in her. One rake, the Duc de Biron, thought she might be pining for some male attention and tried to get her alone. Witnesses reported that they heard the queen crying, “Sortez, Monsieur! Get out!” and saw the Duc come running out with a red face.
I like Marie Antoinette, and this story is a great illustration to some of the best advice a young woman will ever hear. I first saw it demonstrated by my mother, then put into words by Nancy Wilson, and more recently re-iterated by Martin Selbrede. It really is critical:
Say it like it is. Don’t hold your tongue, or sit still, or apologise. Be able to see when something inappropriate is happening, and be ready to put a stop to it.
I don’t mean that we should forget the Lord’s specific commandments on how we are to act and speak. The law of kindness must rule our tongues (Proverbs 31:26) and we need to have a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4). But we should be careful not to idealise these commands into an image of femininity that leaves all the fighting to the men. These verses are rules to live our life by, but they should not be isolated from the rest of Scripture as plaque verses that look nice painted onto a plate with maybe a little border of pansies around. The Scriptural definition of kindness is a little different to ours. Psalm 141:5 says: “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness.”
The Christian life is a battle, even for women. As GK Chesterton used to point out, you cannot love a thing without fighting for it. No one can profess to be righteous who is not willing to do a bit of smiting now and then.
And there’s a terrible need for it. More is at stake than you may realise. This is really about righteous authority. We stand for the just authority of husbands, fathers, elders, and magistrates against the antinomian feminism that claims the right of every woman to live by her own rules. We say that men can hold just positions of authority, that they may hold authority over us, but we say this because we first recognise the authority of God and His Word over all of us.
Human authority is also limited by God. Because men were created to hold offices of authority, they can sometimes fall into the temptation of taking too much, or assuming authority they were never meant to have. Know how to resist this. Know how to smite like a righteous woman, and if the man is a righteous man, he will thank you (and if he is a creep, he’ll run). Know, in other words, when and how to be rude.
Your father or husband or other covenant head has the authority to sit down and discuss with you whether you should ever wear jeans or be Facebook friends with guys. Nobody else’s covenant head has that right, even if he’s the charismatic leader of a parachurch organisation and everybody else is busily following his advice. For that matter, while your dad has the right to require you not to dress like a tart, he doesn’t have the right to make you act like one, since that would be against the word of God, the ultimate authority, who rules and limits every other authority. Because He is supreme in heaven, nobody can be on earth.
So don’t believe what the feminists say about that Fifty Shades tripe, which romanticises abuse. They’ll tell you it drags women back to the bad old times before feminism liberated us all from patriarchy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Novels like this are the same kind of attack on righteous authority as is feminism. It’s bad to deny any men any measure of authority, but it’s just as bad to grant perverted boyfriends more authority than Scripture allows them. Both are attacks on just authority as defined by Scripture. They are cut from the same cloth. They are the same madness, expressed in different ways.
In other words, you cannot defend just authority without enforcing its limitations.
The men who founded the US understood this. Writers and pastors like Samuel Rutherford and John Witherspoon made it clear that when the state overstepped the bounds of its rightful authority, that same authority required men to stand up, resist tyranny, and re-establish justice in the land. Subjects who failed to protest and resist in times of tyranny or invasion were guilty of the same crimes as the men they supported. In the famous words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Many of you will have heard of the doctrines of just resistance to tyranny as they apply to the civil realm. I think we need to start applying what we believe to our own lives. You have a duty to resist some things. You have a duty to be rude. Yes, you, a woman.
An officious young man rebukes you for not covering your head in church. It’s none of his business. Tell him so.
A chatty waiter in a cafe asks you for your phone number. Say “No.”
A youth pastor grabs your knee. Leave. Speak to whoever’s in charge of him.
An enemy flees to your tent and asks you to hide him. You know what to do next, and you’ll be needing a tent peg and a mallet. You ought to be able to get them from Lowe’s or Bunnings or somewhere.
From the harmlessly clueless to the downright dangerous, guys like these are probably going to happen to all of us. It takes maturity and practice to see the impropriety and do something, and evil can outsmart us or outgun us sometimes. For that reason, we need to run to our dads or guardians for protection. But we are our own first line of defence.
Know how to react. Know the limits of authority. Be zealous for justice. Be rude. There is no real feminine virtue without it.