What is a “True” Woman? On Babies, Bathwater, and the Women’s Movement

Voices of the True Woman Movement: A Call to the Counter-Revolution is a book of essays addressing issues related to being a woman in our era and the women’s movement.

The central thesis of the book is that Christian women need to take our relationships to God seriously and seek to influence our culture for Christ.  I can totally get behind that, and I also agree with the Biblical tenets espoused in the manifesto at the end of the book.  I found many of the essays thought-provoking and useful, although a few places bothered me in tone and/or emphasis.

Many of the essays were inspiring and helpful, such as the one by Joni Eareckson Tada about how Christians can cope with suffering, and another on the importance of prayer.  I also appreciated how several of the essays reinforced the idea of God’s sovereignty and our own ability to be used to further the Kingdom of God.

Because it’s about furthering the Kingdom of God, right?  Not the Kingdom of Leave It To Beaver?  At a few points in the book I was left wondering.  I recently heard a podcast that talked about how Christians can be tempted to hold a “traditional values” worldview rather than a Christian worldview, believing that the answer to our problems is for the culture return to the good old days rather than turn to Jesus.  The podcast pointed out that that is not Christianity, it’s sentimentalism.  Whether it was the intent of the authors or not, at several points in the essays I felt like that line between sentimentalism and Christianity was crossed.  It seems to me that the women’s movement didn’t arise out of a vacuum.  There were real problems in the way women were viewed.  The women’s movement attempted to solve the problem with goals of equality, many of which I think are totally in line with the Bible’s teaching that women are not second class citizens.  At several places in the book, however, the essayists focused on the (very significant) downsides of the movement, such as legalization of abortion and implied that it would be better if we could go back to the good old days.  To me it seems that the way to have a counterrevolution is to celebrate the good things about the women’s movement (voting rights for women, protection from sexual harassment, equal pay for equal work, etc) and work to change hearts through the Gospel so that negative aspects can be overturned.  Not like I have this all figured out, but I think true freedom for women is not found in endless pursuit of equality with men OR in turning back the clock, but rather in being part of the work God is doing where He has called us–whether that is in a boardroom, a playroom, on the mission field or in our backyards.  Rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the women’s movement, I think it would be better to redeem the women’s movement for Christ.

Again, I want to make clear that I got a lot out of many of the essays, and that I support the general tenets of the manifesto in this book (which are broad, and could easily be misapplied in a traditionalist rather than a Christian worldview, but could also be construed as broad enough to encompass Christian women in all sorts of different cultures and situations), but the issues I had with the book needled at me enough that I thought I should mention them.  If you can skim over that sort of thing and not get hung up on it or offended by it, you would probably get a lot out of this book, and I think those controversial statements would probably make this an ideal book to discuss in a group.  No lack of conversation from these chapters!

If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it?


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One thought on “What is a “True” Woman? On Babies, Bathwater, and the Women’s Movement

  1. I have not read this one yet, but I sympathize with what you are saying so I would probably be quite frustrated. I think that talking about going to the “old ways” is not only not biblical but it often puts things in a “new vs. old” debate. That is not the issue. True biblical thinking is what is critical.

    And while I do believe in many of the principals trying to be promoted, I, for one, am incredibly grateful that I an vote, that women have a voice to speak up against abuse, and that if I choose to work I can get paid what I am worth. So, yes, some of the movement is really good. Thanks for getting me thinking! 🙂

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