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Nearly 40 years ago, the so-called “women’s movement” took by storm and we still see flotsam wash ashore from the shattered lives of women who crash their lives on the shoals of faulty reasoning about the path to power. Far too many women find that their grasping attempts to seize power lead not to self-actualization but disillusionment and cynicism. In the wake of their frustration, ordinary women who want simple respect, dignity and fulfillment find it in their faith and in their homes, families, careers, and communities. Without faith, they are left to lead lives of quiet, or not so quiet, desperation.
For a cadre of elites, “feminism” becomes a rallying cry to crush “patriarchy” as the source of women’s problems and to champion all women as “victims.” These views quickly coalesce into an extremist agenda that is both radically chic and politically correct. Even today, the early views of Gloria Steinem influence college coeds.
Steinem, though eventually she married, used to say, “You become a semi-nonperson when you get married.” She also talked about married women being “part-time prostitutes” and called marital bedrooms “settings for nighttime rape.” Steinem, also a champion of women’s “reproductive choice,” had an abortion just out of college and remains childless. One of her personal friends told me that she said, “Once I realized that I wanted children, it was too late.” Now she is dabbling in Wicca and seeking to find spiritual “fulfillment” in a “coven” of likeminded women.
Steinem’s own divergence from the values she lauded for over 30 years should be a red flag to any person who looks for life’s meaning in the principles she so adamantly and forcefully paraded before women for three decades. Yet sadly, her popularity among college student remains high; she regularly fills up auditoriums when she is scheduled to speak and her increasingly more outrageous and radical ideas remain influential.
We have to ask: Why do the messages of self-absorption and personal power resonate so profoundly? Why are feminists still celebrated when their lives and messages have not stood the tests of time?
According to conventional wisdom, women have been an oppressed class throughout much of history. There is no denying the truth in this characterization. But then how do we explain the seemingly contradictory sayings: “Never underestimate the power of a woman,” and “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world?”
History is replete with examples of women who have had a powerful impact on the world around them. And, amazingly few of these powerful women have held positions of status and worldly power.
Motherhood today is often disdained. Mothers report feeling disrespected or patronized. But witness the books that have been written and the monuments erected in homage to the influence of mothers whose children grew up to change the world.
Radical feminists have argued for decades that a woman’s search for power and her struggle for equality can only be satisfied externally -- in the marketplace, in relationships, in monetary terms. Phrases like “my goals,” “my body,” and “my self-fulfillment” run like threads through most radical feminist writings.
In our modern culture, many women consider self-fulfillment a basic entitlement. The concept of “doing your own thing” has been lifted to the level of a constitutional right or a theological truth.
As a result, many are engaged in a relentless pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfillment, or domination and oppression, or of simply trying to live life on their own terms regardless of the consequences or personal costs.
It’s a seductive, fruitless philosophy that confounds and often ensnares women -- sometimes even the most ardent women of faith.
Jesus demonstrated that all “power and authority” belong to Him. Nothing could be clearer: any philosophy or form of deceptive thinking which places self at the center instead of adopting the servant’s posture modeled by Christ -- the One who humbled Himself and washed the feet of His disciples, disciples who called Him “Master” -- is diametrically opposed to the wisdom of God and doomed to fail.
Betty Friedan’s biographer asserts that prior to Friedan and the women’s movement, “women celebrated in American history books were footnotes.” While there is truth in that observation, the problem, of course, is in the writing of the history books, not in the accomplishments of women.
As surprising as it may seem to some, radical feminists did not invent the idea of the powerful women. God did!
Long before Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem brought their definitions to bear on who we are as women, God raised up women who exemplified His definition of a woman’s true strength and power. Women don’t have to rant and roar; through Him, we are all overcomers. God gave women the power to soar!
And, long before there was any kind of feminism, Jesus established real women’s liberation. Paul wrote to the Galations emphasizing that through faith we all now share in God’s glorious new covenant that provides freedom for those who believe: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse is a Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute. She writes about contemporary issues that affect women, family, religion and culture in her regular column "Dot.Commentary."