Could You Be a Feminist?
About the Guest
Would you call yourself a feminist? Growing up with three brothers, Courtney Reissig believed she could do anything boys could do and tried her hardest to prove it. Saturating herself in feminist theory in college, Courtney felt conflicted. Although she really liked guys, she didn't have a strong desire to get married or raise a family. Cut off from her family, Courtney began to feel the brunt of her choices and tells how God gradually changed her heart and led her back home.
Courtney ReissigCourtney Reissig is a pastor's wife, freelance writer, blogger, and teacher. She was born in California, grew up in Texas, and did a couple of stints in Michigan before finally graduating from Northwestern College (MN). After doing some graduate study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, she met her husband and fell in love, and they now make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can read more of her writing on her blog or follow her on Twitt...more
Growing up, Courtney Reissig believed she could do anything boys could do and tried her hardest to prove it. Courtney tells how God gradually changed her heart.
Could You Be a Feminist?
Bob: Courtney Reissig grew up in a Christian home. Her dad was a pastor, but that didn’t stop her from heading down the wrong path when she reached young adulthood. In fact, there was a period of a year or more when she didn’t even speak to her parents.
Courtney: I remember where I was—I was sitting at my boyfriend’s house in his room. They called and said, “We’ve been listening to this sermon series, and we wanted to apologize to you.” I think, just out of the blue, I blurted out, “Can I come home and visit?” It just came out of me. They said, “Well, let us pray about it, and we’ll call you back.” They called me back that night and said, “Yes, you can come visit, and we’ll pay for it.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We will trace Courtney Reissig’s journey into a far country and back on today’s program.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, you expect to get a little mail on this one?
Dennis: No, I don’t. I think people are going to listen. I think our guest is just going to bathe them in love, and they are going to soak it in.
Bob: You think, even when they hear the title of her book, they’ll keep listening?
Dennis: Well, we’ll see. I’ll introduce that in a moment; but first of all, let me introduce our guest, Courtney Reissig. Welcome to the broadcast, Courtney.
Courtney: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: How’s that for an introduction?
Courtney: It’s a great introduction. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes, really.
Courtney: I don’t have to read the mail. [Laughter]
Dennis: No, you don’t have to read the mail, but I am counting on you to carry the freight on this because you’ve written a very interesting book of which I am still not going to mention the title of it yet; okay?
Courtney: Keep people in suspense.
Dennis: You’ve been married to Daniel, though, since 2009. You’ve written a book called The Accidental Feminist. Now, you think about feminism—I have to ask you, Courtney—“How does anybody become an accidental feminist?”
Courtney: Well, an accidental feminist would be someone who doesn’t know they are feminist. I was a militant feminist before I was an accidental feminist.
Bob: Well, you say, “I was a stereotypical, secular-millennial, militant feminist.”
Courtney: I was.
Bob: You fit the mold that you think is just kind of the common millennial mold. You would say most young women your age are feminist today.
Courtney: I would say so because it’s the waters we swim in. We don’t understand the feminism of our mother’s generation in the sense that we don’t remember women being encouraged to go into the workforce in the 70s and 80s; but we just kind of all have grown up in a world where “Anything a man can do, I can do better,” or “Women can do and achieve whatever men can achieve.” Some of those achievements aren’t wrong; but we’ve grown up thinking, “We’re equal,”—which means same— “and we can do anything a man can do and no one can tell us otherwise.”
Feminism told women they could have it all.
What we take it as is: “We can have it all right now”; but we can’t. We are limited human beings. So, women are given a unique timeframe where they can conceive and have children. We don’t get to change that. Science has tried to change that, but that’s just not reality.
I think that for women to understand that it’s not wrong to want to do something—I wanted to be a writer—but to understand that there is a timeframe for those things. So, we can’t have everything we want when we want it. God has created us as His image- bearers with unique roles and purposes. Some of those purposes have limitations—we’re limited beings. We’re not God.
Dennis: Explain to our listeners how you, as a young woman, thought. Unpack what it means to be a feminist.
Courtney: Well, I grew up in a home with all brothers. My parents are believers. They did not allow me to be one of the boys with my brothers in a good way. They really encouraged—my mom always said: “You’re a girl. You’re their sister.
“You’re different.” So, my brothers could not wrestle with me in the same way they wrestled with each other. They had to hold the door open for me and my mom. Those were things that I learned at a young age—that there was a way we interacted with each other that was different, and good, and God-created.
But I—like so many other kids and women in my generation—I just ate up this whole: “I can do anything you can do.” I was a fairly independent person, and I have always been a follower—so, I don’t like being different. I don’t like going against the fray—which, now, I am with this book. So, I suppose the Lord has redeemed that in my life. [Laughter]
So, then, my first years of college—I was not a believer, and I was an English major. I was in literary theory classes where we were studying various types of theories. The feminist theory just really stood out to me—of reading every book from the angle of the oppression of women.
I really viewed women as this oppressed gender that needed to be freed from the tyranny of men.
Dennis: And yet, you were conflicted because you were attracted to guys?
Courtney: I was. I liked being liked, and I liked men; but I didn’t really want them to control or dictate me. I didn’t have an interest in being married to them; but like most women, I was willing to live with them. I was willing to act like I was married to them, but I didn’t want them controlling me.
Bob: Now, wait! You grew up in a pastor’s home.
Courtney: Well, my dad became a pastor when I was in early college—yes.
Bob: But you grew up being taught—
Courtney: Yes, I did.
Bob: —a biblical way of thinking. You’re at college, and you are ready to move in with a guy?
Bob: How did you get—
Courtney: I wasn’t talking to my family, at that point. They had given me kind of an ultimatum—that I wasn’t living in a way that they could condone; and so, if I—and it was kind of a rescue mission—and they said, “If you continue living this way, we can’t support you.”
Dennis: Oh, they are going to pull the plug?
Courtney: Yes. So, I said: “Fine. Pull the plug.”
Bob: Talk about the spiritual drift that got you there because, growing up, I’m sure you went to church, and were in the youth group, and did all of that; didn’t you?
Courtney: I did. We were not in church in high school. That was kind of this—kind of years of wandering for our family. So, we weren’t in church or youth group. We were toward the end of high school. The only way I can think of it was I just really liked the world. The world seemed way more appealing to me than the things of the Lord. I’ve always been pretty independent and pretty rebellious—and so—
Dennis: Actually, your vocation—didn’t you have an interesting job?
Courtney: Yes, I worked in the restaurant industry for a long time. After high school, I went to a community college. A lot of my friends went away to school. Because I’ve always really enjoyed people and really enjoyed having friends, I didn’t like that I didn’t have friends who were in town all the time anymore. So, I just adapted to the people who I worked with; and they liked me, and I liked them. My parents saw me drifting and tried to pull me back.
I said, “I don’t want to be pulled back.”
Bob: So, if I’d have known you in your sophomore year in high school,—
Bob: —the path you were on was a path that would have led to moving in with a guy—
Bob: —maybe, getting married—probably, having a kid before you got married.
Courtney: Probably, yes. Yes.
Bob: And in your mind, that seemed like a good path. You weren’t looking at that going, “That’s what I have to settle for.”
Bob: You were looking at that going, “This is what I want in life.”
Courtney: And in a lot of ways, I thought, “Maybe, I’ll be a Christian later,”—like: “I just want to live my life before I have to settle down.” I mean, in all honesty, sin just seemed way more appealing to me than the things of God. I didn’t have a very sensitive conscience, as a child. So, I just didn’t—I suppose I did when I was younger. I think most children have it when they are younger, and—
Bob: —and it deadens over time.
Courtney: Yes, I see that with my toddlers. They’re very interested in Jesus right now.
They are very—they can tell when they do something bad. I told my husband: “I can tell that’s a God-given gift to us that we just suppress in our own unrighteousness at some point.”
Dennis: So, was there a rock-bottom that you hit that—
Dennis: —ultimately, sent you toward Christ? Share with our listeners what happened.
Courtney: Yes, my parents had been—they—I needed to be completely cutoff. So, I don’t think that’s how everyone should deal with prodigal children, and my parents don’t either. But for us, that was the way—it was the best scenario. I needed absolute cutting off.
Dennis: Explain what you mean by “cutting off.”
Courtney: They—well, financially, they cut me off. We didn’t talk for a good year-and-a-half. My dad would occasionally send me letters.
Dennis: They didn’t call you?!
Courtney: No. Sometimes, when I was drunk, I would call them; but no, they didn’t call me. My dad would just occasionally send me letters, saying, “I’m praying for you.” My mom sent me a letter one time. And by God’s grace, I kept them—which I’m really glad I did—I still have those letters.
Dennis: What about your brothers?
Courtney: No. My brothers were still in high school. My parents—because they [my brothers] were under 18—felt like they needed to protect them from me.
Bob: So, they didn’t know—they knew: “We aren’t talking to Courtney.”
Bob: Did they know what Courtney was off doing?
Courtney: Yes, and they were—my brother actually had a very serious accident, and he almost died. So, he was really upset with me for a while. They all were because they were there when he almost died. They were like: “You weren’t here.” So, they saw what I was doing and didn’t want any part of it at the time.
Dennis: So, you were how old, at this point?
Courtney: I was 19.
Bob: Were you conflicted at all about the fact that you were now cutoff from your family; or was it like: “I could care less about them. I’m going to live the way I want to live”?
Courtney: Yes, I didn’t want anything to do with them. I wasn’t conflicted at all primarily because—I still remember sitting at the community college. I had friends from work who went to school with me, and I was doing pretty well as a waitress. At the time, I had no debt. I was paying for school out-of-pocket. I had just really—I had no expenses.
My friends helped me figure out how much I needed, and I knew I was making it. I was like: “I don’t need them.”
Bob: What about Christmas?
Courtney: Yes, that was hard. I—my mom bought me Christmas gifts every year and kept them. When I reestablished contact, I got all those Christmas gifts—which I just think is a sweet testimony of how much she hoped that I would come back. But I remember thinking, “It’s not the same,”—like it wasn’t my family Christmas / like it wasn’t what we did. I remember being kind of: “Oh! That stinks. No one is buying me the gifts that my parents would buy me because they know me better.” But I just didn’t really care.
I missed them—but I think I tried to call them one Thanksgiving. My parents would always say: “Why are you calling us? Are you calling us because you’re lonely, or are you calling us because you recognize that you are living in sin and you need Christ?”—which was the way I needed to come home.
Dennis: They put it that bottom-line to you.
Bob: Dennis asked about hitting bottom.
Bob: When did that happen?
Courtney: Well, it was a slow process. About six months before I hit bottom, my parents had been listening to a sermon series on parenting. They had felt convicted that, maybe, they had exasperated me and contributed to some frustration I had with them. So, they called me to repent—I mean, out of the blue. I remember where I was—I was sitting at my boyfriend’s house in his room. They called and said: “We’ve been listening to this sermon series. We wanted to apologize to you for how we, maybe, led to you leaving.”
I think, just out of the blue, I just blurted out, “Can I come home and visit?” It just like came out of me. They said, “Well, let us pray about it, and we’ll call you back.” So, they called me back that night and said, “Yes, you can come visit, and we’ll pay for it.” I was living in Dallas at the time, and they were living in upper Michigan.
I flew up there to see them. I mean, we both were awkward—we were terrified. They hadn’t seen my face in over a year. I was walking down the steps to the baggage claim—I could see them walking in. They looked nervous. You could tell—they were rushing in and looked nervous. I don’t even remember if we hugged or not. I know they cried.
Dennis: What about you?
Courtney: I didn’t cry. I saw it as an opportunity to go see my family. I didn’t see it as—I wasn’t broken—they knew that. They said—when I left, they knew I wasn’t broken—and they said: “She needs some more breaking. Something else has to happen.”
And we—I remember my mom helped me pack. I know, for her, it was hard because she—they knew, as long as I was with the guy I was dating, it wasn’t going to change. I know she wanted to just say, “Just break up with him and come home,” but they didn’t want me to come home just to come home. They wanted me to come home repentant or, at least, broken in some capacity.
Bob: What happened six months after you spent the time with your parents?
Courtney: Well, once contact had been reestablished, they felt that the Lord was moving in them to continue with this contact. They invited me home for Thanksgiving—so, we had planned for that. I, at the time, knew my graduation from college was going to be probably a year-and-a-half out. They were like: “Well, we’ll come for that.” They, I know, were praying that somehow I would change or want to move home or something.
Something shifted when I went—that I thought my life was pretty good—but my dad and my brothers were really kind to me. I didn’t realize how poorly I was being treated by my boyfriend and the men in my life back home. So, there was a stark contrast between where I was with my family, and then, going back home. I just forgot what it was like to be treated with kindness. That really stood out to me of just—even my dad holding my bag for me / my suitcase.
I had been so—“I can do it myself.” And my boyfriend had just as much bought into the “Women can do anything men can do,” attitude that why would he even help me with anything because “Women can do anything men can do.”
We talked, periodically, about school—very surface-level things. Then, my relationship with my boyfriend really just got kind of rocky after that. I think, obviously, it was the Lord. I mean, it was never a great relationship; but I’d been with him for over a year at that point. So, I moved to school with him. I had been going to community college—went to a state school—and life just fell apart when I got there. I wasn’t making any money at the restaurant I was working at. I was barely making ends meet; and we were fighting all the time.
I think, one night, I just decided: “I’m going to break up with him. I just can’t deal with this anymore.” So, I broke up with him. I called my parents the next morning, very hung over.
My life was pretty much drinking a lot of alcohol that I consumed. I think a lot of that was to mask the guilt that I felt, and that had begun to really seep into my life. So, I called my parents—and I know that was the Lord. I knew that if I said, “I want to come home,”—I wasn’t repentant, and they knew that—but they said: “Okay, you can come home. You can move home now.” They started the plans of my moving home.
Then, I got mono like a week later and ended up in the hospital. My parents basically coordinated for me to have care. Over Thanksgiving, they got a ride for me to Dallas so I could go stay with Mom’s best friend; and they just cared for me. My dad flew down to Dallas. Then, was going to rent a car or had a car—the car died. So, he took a Greyhound bus from Dallas to San Marcos, which is about three hours.
I remember him saying: “I’m going to get to you. If I have to—I’m going to find a way to get to you.”
He got there, and he basically came to help me pack my stuff—I couldn’t pack because I had mono. I was completely helpless, but I wasn’t repentant.
Dennis: That did not break your heart?
Courtney: No. No, I’m really stubborn; but it helped because, again, my dad continued to just love me so well. He stayed in my dorm with me. He made me eat because I was sick, and I wasn’t eating. I had lost a lot of weight. He went to the cafeteria with me every day and would fill my plate up and say, “You need to eat this,”—and packed my stuff up / went to my boyfriend’s house, and packed most of my stuff up because a lot of it was there.
The thing that really broke me, though, was—there was a guy, who I was hanging out with, who was in one of my classes. I went to a fraternity party with him as his date. I—because I was a feminist, and believed women could do anything men could do, and believed that it didn’t matter how you lived—I lived promiscuously. I didn’t care.
So, I went to the date party with him. I think I had told him I wasn’t going to do anything with him beyond what we’d already done, but I got so drunk I didn’t remember. I woke up next to him one morning. For the first time in almost two years, I felt guilty. I was like: “Why do I feel guilty? I haven’t—this is the same thing that I’ve always done. Why do I feel so guilty all of a sudden?”
I got back to my dorm, and he tried to call me a few times. I called my mom, and I told her what happened. I said: “I feel guilty. I don’t remember what happened, and I feel guilty.” She told me, “Honey, Christ can take all of that away.” I think that was the moment where I finally realized: “I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t live like there is not morality. I can’t live like rules don’t matter, and I can’t live like there is not eternity on the end of this.”
It was a long process of moving home. My parents really kind of discipling me—I was too sick to go to school that semester—so, I lived at home for six months.
I didn’t really know how to read my Bible. I didn’t know what to do with anything. I remember asking my dad: “Well, what should I read?” He said, “Just start in Genesis.” I said, “Okay;” and I started in Genesis. Then, I would just come ask him all these questions after I would read books of the Bible.
I worked a little bit; but I had all this time to just really rest, and to reconnect with my family, and to grow in the Scriptures. I was rough around the edges, and it took some time for me to really see the complete work of what Christ had done.
Dennis: You know, for some people, they can’t point to an instant or a moment / an act of the will, where they made a choice to choose Christ, and His love, and forgiveness, and grace. Sounds like you can’t either.
Courtney: I can’t. I can’t. I wish I could. I know that—from that moment on, something changed—
—but I still held onto a lot of my old sinful tendencies and didn’t really—and still struggled with falling back into sin, and wanting to grow and change, and then falling back into sin. So, I—yes, I can’t pinpoint an exact moment; but I know, from that moment on, I didn’t want to live the way I was living before. I know I suddenly felt guilty; whereas, I really hadn’t ever felt guilty before.
Bob: Courtney, I still struggle with falling back into sin—
Bob: —and I not wanting to change and falling back into sin.
Courtney: Yes, I know.
Dennis: Don’t we all?
Courtney: I know. I do too.
Bob: But He who began a good work in you has been and continues to be faithful; right?
Courtney: Yes; yes. I always say, “I know I’m saved now.”
Dennis: And to that person, who is listening right now, who doesn’t know that they are saved or who has really identified with your life—maybe, it’s a different set of circumstances. Maybe, it’s really similar—male or female. Now is the time.
Dennis: I mean—
Courtney: You’re not guaranteed tomorrow.
Dennis: No, you’re not. And if you haven’t come to that point of just going all-in with Christ and saying:
“I need Your love, I need Your forgiveness, and I need Your grace. Come change me. Come become my Master, and I’ll be Your slave.” That is the most important decision we’ll ever make.
Bob: Yes, and I’d encourage our listeners—if they have not been to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—when you go there, if you click in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “GO DEEPER,” you will see a box there that says, “Two Ways to Live.” It maps out just what you’re talking about, Dennis, which is the decision that is in front of every one of us: “Are we going to live according to our agenda and our way of thinking about what’s right or what’s wrong or how to live?” or “Are we going to align our lives with God’s design for us?” That’s the choice that is facing every listener today.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Click that box that says, “Two Ways to Live.” Just spend some time thinking about the path you are on and whether you are on the right path. The website, again: FamilyLifeToday.com. When you click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” you’ll also see information about Courtney Reissig’s book, The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Design. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy from us, online. Again, FamilyLifeToday.com is the website. Click the “GO DEEPER” button to get more information about Courtney Reissig’s book, The Accidental Feminist. Or you can order that from us when you call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, what Courtney has described today about her own life is really at the core of everything that we talk about, here at FamilyLife.
Our goal / our mission is to effectively develop godly families because we believe godly families change the world, one home at a time. We also believe that the foundation for all of that has to be a right relationship between us and God. We have to be rightly-related to Him. We believe the only way there can be help for today and hope for tomorrow in your marriage and in your family is if you, first, are surrendered to the lordship of Christ.
And I know our Legacy Partners, who support this ministry each month, or those of you who will make a donation, from time to time, in support of FamilyLife Today—I know many of you agree with that fundamental premise. That’s part of the reason why you support FamilyLife Today because you are committed, as we are, to seeing practical biblical help for marriages and families made available through this program, on our website, the resources we create, the events we host. We just want to say, “Thank you for your partnership with us.”
If you are able to help with a donation, as we get ready to wrap up our fiscal year, here in the month of August—we are hoping that we can finish the year in a solid position and head into September ready to tackle new objectives, as a ministry. If you can help with a fiscal yearend contribution, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey that’s all about praying together, as a couple—it’s called Two Hearts Praying as One.
If the donation you make today is your first donation in 2015, we’d like to say a special “Thank you,” by sending along a prayer card that will help you know how to pray for your family during difficult or challenging seasons in your life. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make an online donation. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE.” Or you can call to donate. Our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can also mail your donation. Let us know that you’d like the book from Dennis and Barbara Rainey—and if it’s your first donation—
—the prayer card as well. Write to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to dive into where the culture and the Scriptures clash as it relates to women, and feminism, and femininity, and how that’s all to be lived out to the glory of God. Courtney Reissig will be back with us. Hope you’ll be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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