Women raised on feminism are discovering that its promises remain unfulfilled—and unfulfilling. We need to understand the troubled history of modern feminism, and God's future plan for a world in which true values will make today's feminism obsolete.
Women are looking beyond feminism,
and making remarkable decisions.
Surprising changes are in the wind. Women are writing articles, publishing books, giving seminars and setting up Web sites to convey a sobering message—that a generation of women has been misled and deceived! Executive Diane Passno observed: "We've been duped… We bought into a lie that sounded so good… feminism as a world view has wreaked havoc on our culture" (Feminism: Mystique or Mistake? Passno, 2000, pp. 3, 169). A growing number of accomplished women are questioning and rejecting feminist ideology because it has not produced the "glorious fruits" that were promised. Have you had a similar experience—or have you noticed this dramatic shift?
Since the 1960s, feminist ideas have surged over our society like a tidal wave, sweeping along academics, clergy, entertainers, politicians and the media. In the wake of this flood, traditional concepts about marriage, family and sex roles have been rejected or radically altered. While only 34 percent of young women identify themselves as feminists, much larger numbers have absorbed the assumptions and ideas of feminism (American Demographics, April 2001, p. 44). The "surface issues" of feminism—equal pay, equal opportunity and equal rights—are reasonable ideas. But there is a dark side to this powerful force, and a more radical agenda that is kept out of view. The destructive impact of this deceptive ideology is also becoming obvious. As a result, courageous women are stepping out from the crowd and making surprising discoveries. Their search has carried them beyond feminism and back to a source their mentors rejected.
We need to understand the origins of modern feminism, why it spread and why it is failing. We need to grasp the prophetic significance of the modern feminist movement and what lies ahead, because a real revolution is soon to come—one very different than feminists envision. That future is outlined in the Bible—a book often blamed for many problems that women face. But first we need to notice important lessons we can learn from the history of the women's movement and why a shift back to traditional values is occurring. This information could change your life in remarkable ways.
The roots of modern feminism can be traced to social changes that occurred in American and Britain in the 1800s. During the great debates over the abolition of slavery the status of women did not go unnoticed. "Women were powerless. They could not vote.… They had no legal rights; they could not own property, nor could they have custody of their children in case of divorce… in Massachusetts and Vermont it [was] a greater crime to steal a cow than to abduct and rape a girl" (Passno, pp. 14–15). Women who joined the first wave of feminism sought equal treatment and opportunity—to be recognized as human beings—not as property. In addition to seeking the vote, they campaigned against alcohol abuse, traffic in drugs, prostitution, child labor, exploitation of the poor, dangerous working conditions, and horrendous disparities in wages and living standards between rich and poor. Many of these equity feminists were guided by principles of their religious faith. They were pro-family and against divorce.
But the developing women's movement also contained a radical element that did not share a devotion to biblical principles. Feminists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, saw the Bible and orthodox Christianity as the real cause of women's oppression. In an attempt to undermine the biblical foundation of sex roles, Stanton published The Woman's Bible in 1895, which reinterpreted scriptures dealing with women and asserted that the Bible was not the inspired word of God but had been deliberately manipulated by male translators. Stanton claimed that in America we have "a state without a king, a church without a Pope, and now we are to prove it possible to have a family without a divinely ordained head" (The Woman's Bible, Fitzgerald, 1993, p. xviii). She urged women to "rebel" against the idea of "heaven-ordained subjection" (p. 158). These views marginalized the radicals from the women's movement—but their ideas did not die.
The civil rights era of the 1960s generated a second wave of the women's movement and a return of radical ideas—that targeted marriage and the traditional family. Women were told that domestic roles were inferior and restrictive. Betty Friedan, a former revolutionary-turned housewife, beckoned women to a brave new world outside the home (see Newsweek, Nov. 9, 1998, p. 72). Describing her plight as a "trapped housewife," Friedan wrote that she felt like a "freak… passive and apart" due to a "feminine mystique which defined woman only as a husband's wife, children's mother" (The Feminine Mystique, 1973, pp. xi, 5). Friedan asserted that a woman's real fulfillment and identity were in a career outside the home. Her message found a receptive audience in a generation enamored with freedom and discarding traditional values.
Friedan acknowledged that her education (at an exclusive women's college) did not prepare her for the domestic role she was trying to play (p. 6), and that she sensed no great purpose as a housewife and mother (p. 69). Friedan quoted Theodore Parker (a liberal Boston theologian of the 1850s): "To make one half the human race [women] consume its energies in the functions of housekeeper, wife and mother is a monstrous waste" (p. 85). Friedan's book speaks of marriage as a "state of slavery" asserting that women can only become "complete human beings" by rejecting marriage and motherhood (pp. 87–89). In "an act of rebellion" (p. 80), Friedan divorced her husband and moved out of suburbia—and helped spark a sexual revolution. Millions have followed her example.
Ironically, the "pied pipers" of feminism who lured women out of the home and nearly destroyed the traditional family in a single generation were very often unhappily married or divorced, never married and childless or bisexuals or lesbians (Domestic Tranquility, Graglia, 1998, p. 13). Carolyn Graglia (happily married, fulfilled full-time mother and trained lawyer) noted that "it was these jaundiced abdicants from traditional femininity that led the assault on the traditional wife and mother" (Ibid., p. 16). They labeled devotion to home and children "a virtually worthless pursuit" and women who enjoyed being homemakers "mentally disturbed" (Ibid., pp. 17–18). Men were expendable, happiness was independence (by divorce or abortion if necessary), sexual freedom demonstrated equality and heterosexual love was inferior to love between two women (see What Our Mothers Didn't Teach Us, Crittenden, 1999).
The pupils of radical feminist leaders have generated a third wave of the women's movement—resenter feminists. Walking in the footsteps of Stanton—who resented being born a woman—these women are organized, angry and determined to change totally the way society thinks and functions. They blame men, and a Bible-based patriarchal society created by men, for women's woes. They consider knowledge, truth and reason to be masculine concepts used to control women. They question all history because it was written largely by men. Naomi Goldberg explained their ultimate goal: "The feminist movement in Western culture is engaged in the slow execution of Christ and Jehovah… God the Father of Judeo-Christian Scripture as the architect of the patriarchal society… will have to go… we women are going to bring an end to God" (Spirit Wars, Jones, 1997, pp. 180, 195).
Women's studies programs have become battlegrounds in a "gender war" where young women are "converted" to view society as "a patriarchal system of oppression" that must be overthrown (Who Stole Feminism? Sommers, 2000, p. 47). In feminist classes "resentment is harbored and nurtured" and women are encouraged to "get angry" as they discuss how they have been victimized by men (Ibid., p. 42). Lesbianism is promoted as a wedge for dismantling patriarchal culture. Goddess worship is fostered and erotic pleasure emphasized. Feminist educators want boys educated more like girls to "rescue" them from their masculinity (see The War Against Boys, Sommers, 2000).
What are the fruits of 40 years of feminist activity? What does their utopian world actually look like? On the positive side, women have better wages, more freedom, more opportunities and fewer barriers in nearly every aspect of life. However, these new freedoms have spawned a host of problems. As women left home for the workplace, the quality of family life deteriorated and "latch-key" children appeared (children who come home after school to an empty house). Trashing traditional moral values and the lack of parental supervision in the home led to increased sexual activity among teens, soaring rates of sexually transmitted disease, a 400 percent rise in births to unwed mothers, increasing numbers of children living in single parent homes and the feminization of poverty. Legalizing abortion to facilitate sexual freedom has killed millions of babies and scarred millions of women! Day care—the option for many working mothers—appears to foster aggressive and defiant behavior in children (Arizona Republic, April 19, 2001).
While liberal intellectuals talk about feminism's pursuit of tolerance and progress, perceptive women are more realistic. Graglia noted "the forked tongue of contemporary feminism" which is "the creation of women who rejected the traditional family and traditional femininity" and that "the ideology they developed is based on misrepresentation of the facts—feminism's falsification of reality" (Graglia, pp. 17, 354). Danielle Crittenden saw that her generation discovered the hard way that feminist slogans like "domestic dependency is dangerous to women" and "love can flourish only between adults when everyone pays his or her own way" were lies (Crittenden, pp. 63, 96). Studies actually show that "when women support themselves, there is a lesser degree of bonding between husband and wife" (Graglia, p. 25).
Journalist Dale O'Leary noted that "educating young people to believe that men and women are the same, or that motherhood is the same as fatherhood, is lying to children" (O'Leary, p. 162). Passno saw that "feminists and their cohorts in psychology and education brainwashed an entire generation into thinking that the sexes were no different… is it any wonder that this type of nonsense has resulted in male/female gender confusion with tragic results" (Passno, p. 29). Observed Crittenden: "Feminism has failed women… the belief that women should bear no consequences for their decisions, that we can live independently of men and children—that we should live independently of them—is among the great foolish and destructive beliefs of our age" (Crittenden, pp. 24, 191).
But how could modern, educated, men and women be misled so easily to discard traditional values that have stabilized human societies for thousands of years? The answer—our secular society has lost sight of the fact that we are not alone in the universe. The Bible reveals that "we wrestle… against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12), and that Satan and his demons have deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9). Satan misled Adam and Eve by appealing to their emotions and reasoning abilities (Genesis 3:6–13). Today, intellectuals reason that the Bible is the cause of women's oppression. However, the real cause is the misreading of Scripture. Jewish sages who thanked God daily that they were not born as women, and theologians such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas who viewed women as "defective and misbegotten males," got their ideas from pagan Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle who taught that women were "inferior" creatures (see Christianity and Feminism in Conversation, Coll, 1995, pp. 72–73). Because perverted ideas about women were promoted by men calling themselves Christian, many have assumed these ideas came from the Bible. That is part of Satan's attempt to discredit Scripture.
The Bible also reveals that human beings can be possessed by evil forces (Mark 5:1–15; Acts 16:16) and become unwitting pawns who promote Satan's agenda. Friedan revealed that when she was writing her book attacking marriage and the traditional family, "the book took me over, obsessed me, wanted to write itself… I have never experienced anything as powerful, truly mystical as the forces that seemed to take me over when I was writing The Feminine Mystique" (Friedan, pp. 7–8). Only belatedly did Friedan ask: "Am I wrong to try to redefine our concept of family?" (Friedan, p. xxi). The tragic results indicate that she was! Today, women are declaring feminism "bankrupt as a movement" (Passno, p. 8) and "one of the bad jokes that history occasionally plays on us" (Crittenden, p. 65). Ironically, feminists urged women into the workplace just as Russian women began clamoring to return to the home (Graglia, p. 11). Feminists have ignored this lesson of modern history.
Few today grasp the prophetic significance of the modern feminist movement. Yet the Apostle Paul wrote that "in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). When we understand the demonic influence behind radical feminism, it is not surprising why the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing (which promoted abortion, prostitution, child sex and pagan goddess worship) has been called "the most radical atheistic, anti-family crusade in the history of the world" (O'Leary, p. 173). Paul also stated that "in the last days perilous times will come… men [people] will… creep into households and make captives of [captivate] gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts" (2 Timothy 3:1–6). The feminist movement, appealing to emotions and desires, has deceived millions of women and undermined biblical morality and the traditional family in less than a generation. Isaiah recorded a startling end-time prophecy about the nations of Israel: "As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err" (Isaiah 3:12). These words could not be more relevant to our culture today. The Bible describes that a period of feminist activity will be one of many deceptions in Israelite nations just before the return of Jesus Christ.
The future also holds exciting news. When Jesus Christ returns to set up the kingdom of God on earth, there will be a "restoration of all things" (Acts 3:19–21). The truth of God will go forth from Jerusalem to all corners of the world (Isaiah 2:2–4; 11:9). Human beings will learn that God did not create men and women to live independently and alone, but in a mutually enjoyable relationship (Genesis 2:18). God designed men and women to be different and gave them complementary roles (Genesis 1:27–28). They are each to glorify God as they fulfill their unique roles. Women were not created inferior to men—as an afterthought by the Creator—but for the special opportunity to foster relationships and to bear and nurture children—the future members of God's family.
God designed marriage to picture a God-plane relationship characterized by permanence, where divorce has no place (Ephesians 5:22–33; Matthew 19:6–8). In the kingdom of God, the laws of God will safeguard marriage and the family. Society will learn that the best environment for children is a home where both biological parents provide uniquely different inputs in a lifelong marriage. Regrettably, many women today feel unable to fully devote their energies to raising children, as divorce, poverty, family illness or materialistic desires pull both spouses into the work force. The feminist idea that successful women must get out of the home is also a factor.
The Bible reveals that men are to lead the family and play primary roles in the public sphere and that a married woman's primary role is in the domestic sphere working with her husband (see Genesis 2:18–25; Titus 2:4–5). Although demeaned by feminists, managing a family and a household is a demanding responsibility that requires just as much skill as running a business (see Proverbs 31:10–31). These roles, however, are not exclusive. Miriam (Moses' sister), Deborah (a judge) and Esther (a queen) played prominent public roles in the history of Israel. The New Testament specifically mentions the contributions of single women. The widow Dorcas had a reputation for serving others by making clothes (Acts 9:39). Lydia was a successful merchant (Acts 16:14–15). Aquila and Priscilla were a husband and wife team that assisted Paul in his ministry in the early Church (Acts 18:18, 26). Both men and women are to serve as role models so that important social values can be transmitted to future generations (Titus 2:1–5). The powerful and practical truth of these biblical principles is generating a return to traditional values.
In spite of decades of feminist pronouncements that fulfillment should be sought in a career outside the home, many women are making astounding discoveries! They are quitting jobs and moving to the suburbs to raise children—"and are startled by how much they enjoy being mothers" (Crittenden, p. 136). Many young women, after training for careers, "later discover that raising a family demands far more brains and creativity than they would need in the corporate world" (Passno, p. 166). Graglia wrote movingly about her marriage: "When I stopped practicing law and became a housewife, an unexpected benefit was that I felt even better loved than before. I began to feel the glow of contentment and self-satisfaction which derived in part from the realization that my husband cared for me enough… to provide so well for me and our children" (Graglia, p. 365). She found that the joys and delights of motherhood "were not only incomparably satisfying, but were the best learning experiences of my life" (Ibid.). Graglia understood that her role in molding the lives of a future generation was much more significant than preparing legal briefs. She sensed an incredible purpose that Friedan and others had missed.
Radical feminist ideas have fostered a massive deception on an unsuspecting world. Millions of women have been deceived into ignoring traditional biblical guidelines in their search for fulfillment. The results of feminist attempts to restructure society have been tragic and the costs horrendous. However, there is hope ahead. We can prepare to play an important role in the coming kingdom of God by developing a real understanding of God's true purpose for men, women, marriage and the family.