As noted in the last post, today’s radical feminists are motivated in large part by an ideology that is virulently anti-Western. This should be a matter of great concern for women in particular because it is Western Civilization – in particular, its Christianity – that has made us the freest and happiest women in the world.
I know this is a bold claim. You no doubt have heard many times that women were blissfully liberated creatures up until the advent of Christianity, at which time the boot of patriarchy at last crushed their spirits. But you know what? That narrative is a load of hogwash. In truth, Jesus Christ was the first feminist. Don’t believe me? Let’s turn to the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Those who have a reasonable familiarity with the New Testament should recall that in this interlude, Jesus has a long theological conversation with a woman who has been married five times and is currently cohabiting with her latest beau. In the exchange, Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman just as He has spoken to many men; there is no sign that He considers her any less capable of spiritual enlightenment. Then the apostles arrive and – here’s the key detail – they are “amazed that he was talking with a woman” (John 4:27 NAB). Why are they amazed? Could it be that in Jesus’ time, speaking to a woman as an equal went against tradition?
Let’s consider another well-known female Biblical character: the adulteress who was nearly stoned in John 8. Notice, first of all, that this woman’s accusers don’t bring the man involved before Jesus. The woman is, in essence, unfairly singled out for punishment. Does Jesus accept this? No. Instead, in a moment that should warm the heart of any honest feminist, He subtly urges the men to consider their own sins before cruelly executing the woman for her weakness. Jesus may have selected twelve men to serve as His apostles, but He always – always – treated the women He encountered with a compassion that was radical for that time and place. The apostles recognized how very different He was — and so did the women who flocked in droves to the early Church.
A year or so ago, I independently completed an introductory course in Church history, and one of the things that really struck me was how often wives were responsible for converting their pagan husbands to Christianity. Why would they do that? Why would these women give up the supposedly wonderful pagan world of contraception, abortion, infanticide and “free love” and jump into a faith that condemned all four of these things? Could it be that the radical feminist version of “herstory” is wrong? Could it be that women were less happy in the pagan world? Could it be that the strictures of Christianity allowed women to feel safe and cherished for the first time?
I’m not saying that women were always treated well within Christendom. I am saying, however, that our upward trajectory as a sex started with Jesus and continued until a few decades before the present date. This truth is made manifest when we compare our current status as Western women with the status of women in parts of the world where Christianity has had less of an influence. In the Muslim world, women are still stoned for committing adultery. In some rural Hindu communities, sati (in which a widow is immolated on her late husband’s funeral pyre) is still practiced despite the Indian government’s furious attempts to suppress the custom. We really have it great relative to women in other nations; only a bratty sense of entitlement could bring a woman in the U.S. or Europe to the opposite conclusion. True, correlation doesn’t equal causation; but the existence of a relationship between the presence of Christianity and the eventual development of women’s liberation movements is certainly compelling.
And here’s more evidence for the inherent feminism of Christianity: now that Christianity’s influence on our society is under assault, we women are less happy — and arguably less safe. When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in the early nineteenth century, he famously observed that:
It is true that the Americans rarely lavish upon women those eager attentions which are commonly paid them in Europe, but their conduct to women always implies that they suppose them to be virtuous and refined; and such is the respect entertained for the moral freedom of the sex that in the presence of a woman the most guarded language is used lest her ear should be offended by an expression. In America a young unmarried woman may alone and without fear undertake a long journey.
This is certainly not true today. What changed? Urbanization is certainly a factor, but so too is the gradual loosening of moral standards — a trend that has definitely been helped along by radical feminists.
Today, women’s magazines – which are largely edited by women who identify as feminists – are hopelessly focused on sex and beauty. Why? Because we’ve slipped back into a pagan world in which a woman must constantly train her attention upon snaring and keeping men. The possibility that she may be abandoned by her boyfriend or husband for a hotter babe is ever present, and so she must worry constantly whether she’s sufficiently attractive — or sufficiently skilled in bed.
Over the past few decades, I have seen girls’ interests and concerns gradually narrow. Back in the eighties, I climbed rocks, swam in dirty ponds, and rode my bike several miles from home on a regular basis. I read every book I could get my hands on — and newspapers too. I developed interests in science and medicine, current events, American history, science fiction and fantasy, and religion. And the girls I played with were similarly well-rounded. In the twenty-teens, on the other hand, girls no longer get a chance to experience the long latency period I enjoyed on the coast of Connecticut. Tweens are expected to dress to attract before they’ve even developed breasts and body hair — and as a result, these girls are overly concerned with boys and fashion at a time when they should be developing their unique and wonderful personalities.
Again, correlation does not equal causation. Still, the fact that these changes have taken place after the advent of radical gender feminism should provoke serious thought.