The Default of Feminism
About the Guest
Is feminism the default today? Author Courtney Reissig thinks so. Reissig explains that to most feminists, equality equals sameness. In Scripture, however, God made men and women equal before Him, yet unique in their distinctive roles. Reissign shares how God changed her from a staunch feminist to a Bible-believing wife and mother.
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
Author Courtney Reissig explains that to most feminists, equality equals sameness. Reissig shares how God changed her from a staunch feminist to a Bible-believing wife and mother.
The Default of Feminism
Bob: The Bible says children are a blessing from the Lord. The culture says: “Children can be awfully inconvenient,” and “You ought to wait a while before you have any.” Here’s author and speaker, Courtney Reissig.
Courtney: Feminism told women a lie—that they had an endless amount of choices, and an endless amount of time, and that they could have everything they wanted when they wanted it. The reality is—biology has told us: “No you can’t.” No amount of technology is going to allow women to have children for as long as they would like to have them. I think that’s one of the—especially with Christian women—the way that feminism has influenced them most acutely regarding children.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll examine today some of the ways feminist thinking has influenced the culture and found its way into the church. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve had the opportunity this week to hear a little bit of Courtney Reissig’s story about her time away in a far country. [Laughter]
Dennis: I was wondering how you were going to describe what she was dealing with. Courtney—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Courtney: Thanks for having me.
Dennis: I’m going to go right to it today. Courtney has written a book called The Accidental Feminist. You and your husband Daniel have been married since 2009. You live here in Little Rock—
Courtney: I do.
Dennis: —and we are thrilled to have you back. I want to ask you if you can summarize—this may be impossible—what do you think women are looking for when they embrace a feminist way of thinking?—what’s the longing of their souls?—do you think?
Bob: Well, I may even go—step back from that and say, “Do you think women are consciously embracing a feminist way of thinking, saying, ‘I’m looking for something. Therefore, this is what I am’?” or “Is the default position of women in our culture today a feminist way of thinking?”
Courtney: Yes. I think it is default. I think some women are consciously saying they are feminist. When those women are—I think they may be seeing some evidences of women not being, in their minds, equal—or they feel like women are not getting the advantages that they need. So, they want equality. When those women embrace it, I think they want that; or they don’t want the stereotype—that she has to be home with her kids, and she can’t have any ambition, and she can’t have an opinion. So, they are like: “I’m strong. I want women to be strong.”
But I think most women are embracing feminism and not even realizing it. Even a woman who would say, “I’m not a feminist,” is most likely embracing it because it’s just what we live and breathe in our culture now.
Bob: Well, if you ask the average person on the street: “What is feminism?” most of them are going to say, “Equal pay for equal work.”
Bob: “That’s what feminism is.” By the way, if that’s what it is, I’m a feminist.
Bob: You don’t have any problems with equal pay for equal work for women; right?
Courtney: No. No, I don’t. A Christian women’s author calls it—“A radical notion that Jesus believes that women are people too”—which is—[Laughter]
Bob: You would agree with that?
Bob: Okay, so, what’s the difference between “the radical notion that Jesus believes women are people too,” and the kind of feminism that you would say is problematic in the church culture today?
Courtney: Because feminism is very fluid—so, people—you can’t really pin it down. Some women will say—like the other author would say that “It’s the radical notion that women are people too.” Some would say it is equality—equal pay for equal work.
I define it as equality equals sameness. I believe I first heard Mary Kassian say that before—is that: “We are equal; therefore, we are the same.” So, we can do the same things. If a woman wants to preach, she can preach. Submission in marriage is mutual. It doesn’t matter if the husband submits or the wife submits.
We are both called to submit to one another. It doesn’t matter who stays home with the children. A husband can stay home or a mom can stay home—it doesn’t really matter. So, it’s the interchangeability of that. Besides biology, we’re really not all that different.
I think that—that’s the more problematic notion of feminism. That’s kind of what we all believe if we are not consciously looking beyond that for answers in Scripture.
Bob: So, there are aspects of the cultural feminist movement today that you would say: “I’m for that. I don’t want women to be oppressed. I—equal pay for equal job.” If you’re talking to the church today and saying: “Here’s where we need to shake hands with the feminists and say: ‘We’re with you. We agree.’”What would you say?
Courtney: Well, definitely, equal pay for equal work.
Courtney: I think we can hold hands and say, “It’s a good thing that women are full participants in our society because I think that society is better when men and women are working together—
—when they are both contributing their viewpoints to a culture,”—I think that culture does better. When women are oppressed, we are missing a very unique and valuable voice. I think that’s one of the primary ways we can link arms with feminists—is that we can say: “Absolutely. We need women to be full participants in society—to be voting, to be—
Bob: We believe they are just as noble as Jesus believes they are; right?
Courtney: Absolutely. And that was so radical about Jesus—is that He was welcoming women into a culture that viewed women as very beneath them. I think that we can even look at Him as the model in that—yes, He believes women are people too—but He still is the Author of creation and created us differently.
Dennis: You answer that in your book by going back to the book of Genesis—
Dennis: —and talk about how men and women are made in the image of God.
Courtney: Yes; yes. People think feminism is the answer for women, and I actually think it’s not. I think Genesis is the answer for women. God created us in His image.
We are telling a story about God, in our humanity—but then, it also goes on to say, in Genesis 1:26 and 27—that He created male and female in His image. There has got to be something there about being female that images God that is not just mere humanity or biology.
I think that feminism was trying to answer a problem of the battle of the sexes—which is a problem that we see coming out of Genesis 3, where sin entered the world; and now, we have strife. So, feminism isn’t the answer. If we had just gone back to the Word of God, we could see that the answer is found in: “We were created to image God in very unique ways that tell a story about who God is,”—and a much better story than what feminism could ever tell us.
Bob: I’ve said, for years, that during the ‘50s and the ‘60s—the time when I was growing up—I think the culture endorsed and embraced male selfishness in such a way that—
—after years of that, a lot of women said: “Well, now, hang on just a second! If men can be as self-focused as they can be, we should have the right to be equally selfish.”
Bob: And I’ve said that, in my mind, is second-wave feminism, saying, “I want the right to be as self-focused and as selfish as men have been allowed to be,”—not just allowed to be but celebrated. We hear a lot of people talk about the ‘50s and the ‘60s as kind of the glory days of traditional roles.
Bob: Well, anybody who lived through it, and knows what family structures were like in the ‘50s and the ‘60s—there was a whole lot of dysfunction. There was a whole lot of sin and selfishness going on back then. I, for one, am not interested in going back to the Mad Men days and saying, “This is what it should be like for men and women in our culture.”
Courtney: It’s so unique, too, in an American Western culture too. It doesn’t take into account the person who lives in India or the person who lives in Africa.
We—there has got to be something bigger than just a throwback to the ‘50s and ‘60s, or even a throwback to the 1900s and late 1800s, when first-wave feminists were coming on the scene because they were answering a very real problem of women had no voice to do anything.
Courtney: Maternal health laws weren’t in place. So, a woman had no voice to care for herself and her unborn baby. There were very real problems that were addressed; but I think, as Christians, we have a better answer than putting women in front of men and continuing this whole battle-of-the-sexes thing.
Dennis: I’ve said, for years, that I believe the feminist movement occurred because men were not the godly men God called them to be—to lay down their lives on behalf of women. If they had given women the dignity, the nobility, the value that God places on them, as women, and as men—especially husbands—are commanded to give them, this whole movement as we know it today—I don’t think would have occurred.
Dennis: I think that many women went in search of identity.
They just searched in the wrong place.
Courtney: Yes, they did. They were looking for—Betty Friedan encouraged them to find their identity, not in their role in the home, but in themselves.
Dennis: And not according to how God designed them,—
Dennis: —as women, to function.
Courtney: Yes, and the problem with the 1950s and ‘60s was the home was the place of consumption—not a place of productivity. It’s this post-World War II era, where the housewife, who stayed home, was a status symbol of “You’ve arrived.” She’s educated/she’s made it. She’s found the husband, and he provides for her. Now, she has hired help who watch her children; and she can play bridge with her friends. She has an endless amount of free time that women didn’t have before.
I would get bored, too, if someone else was watching my children—or my children were gone all day—and I had someone else cooking for me, and I had a lot of free time. I would get bored too. We’ve kind of lost this understanding of what it means to be productive and to work.
The identity was in the home—so you’ve arrived as this housewife.
Dennis: And what I want to say, as gently as I can—both the problem with men and with women—when they seek to define their identity apart from Jesus Christ—
Dennis: —and the Scriptures, it’s not going to work because that’s not how God designed men to behave—or for that matter, how women should also live.
Bob: And you talked about how we tend to look at women in our culture and through American lenses; but we’ve got to be aware that, around the world, in Muslim cultures, women don’t get the dignity/the respect—they are mistreated—in Asian cultures, the same kind of thing. It would be easy to make a case for the fact that there is a worldwide epidemic of women being—is oppressed the right word?—do you think?
Courtney: Yes—which is why the language of women being oppressed in America is so bothersome to me—because I feel like it really diminishes the true oppression that women face throughout the world.
Because a woman can’t preach or because a wife is biblically called to submit to her husband, that’s not oppression. It’s a real slap in the face to the woman who truly is oppressed. But I do think it is an epidemic—I think that it’s a tremendous problem. I think, not being a feminist and being a Christian woman, who says: “Feminism is not the answer. I think I’ve got a better answer than ‘Let’s empower women to rise above the men.’”
We have a family friend who told us that, in some African cultures, the women do everything. The men kind of sit at the city gates or sit and converse with one another. When the gospel comes to these cultures—and the men see that they are supposed to love their wives, and to sacrifice for their wives, and to die for them—it really changes the way they view how they treat their wives. It can really put them at odds with the people who aren’t believers in their culture.
I think to not have a stereotype and a caricature—
—that we just say, “We’ve got to be like the 1950s,”—but to really have a better biblical model than that—I think, for cultures and for people—that it can apply to anyone across all time and all countries.
Bob: Yes, we ought to acknowledge that, if guys start stepping up and living sacrificially for their wives—or even in a dating culture, where a guy says, “I’m going to be sacrificial for my girlfriend,”—some of the other guys are going to say: “Hey, dude, don’t—don’t—no! First of all, now, all of us look bad;—
Bob: —“and you’re messing up a good thing that we’ve got going here.”
Dennis: Exactly. I want to go to something you talk about in your book. You talk about how women relate to men—women who are feminists—how they relate to men. Explain and unpack how you see this occurring today.
Courtney: One of the things is that women—they want men to care for them, and to be chivalrous, and treat them with some respect. Romantic comedies are a good barometer.
No one in romantic comedies wants the woman to be the one who gets down on one knee at the end—those aren’t the ones that do well. There is something within us that wants the man to be the man; but you also see, in romantic comedies, that there is something about the woman who is like in control and he helps break her in the end or something like that.
I think that women relate to men in two ways. They relate to them in the sense that they want them to be men, but then, only men to an extent—so: “Don’t tell me what to do / don’t control my life—but can you still treat me like I’m a queen?” I think that’s a real problem with how women relate to men.
Bob: Is that how you related to guys when you were dating guys in college?
Courtney: Oh, absolutely.
Bob: “Treat me like a queen, but then, don’t—
Dennis: “—don’t control me.”
Courtney: Yes, absolutely. I didn’t want to be controlled by anybody. I didn’t want anyone controlling me—which is the problem of the Fall—I mean, that’s what happened with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve did not want God controlling them.
I think feminism started in the Garden. I think feminism started when Eve said, “Did God really say…?” and “No, God can’t be trusted with what He told me. So, I’m going to go and forge my own path.”
Bob: And when God says to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you,” God is setting up there that one of the results of your disobedience is there is going to be this battle for control between men and women.
Courtney: There is some debate about what that passage means. I, personally, think it is the evidence of the strife we have between the sexes. I think it’s that women want to control men, or they’re passive about men—they let them control them. There are two ways—so, women might not feel this burning desire to control men; but they kind of just let men walk all over them—they don’t even think about it.
Dennis: Okay, let’s talk for a moment about how a feminist views children because it’s not just men that they have an opinion about.
Courtney: Yes; yes.
Dennis: Children can redefine their lives. So, they’ve got an opinion about them as well.
Courtney: Feminism was really the driving force behind the pro-choice movement. Roe v. Wade was, in a lot of ways, brought about because women didn’t want the constraints of having children. They wanted to be able to have sex when they wanted it, and they wanted children when they wanted children because children do—they change your life completely, from the time you get pregnant with them until the time they leave your house. Feminism really made children a lesser status for women—so, to want to have children is the end of your life as you know it.
I think a more subtle way that feminism has influenced us—especially as Christian women and how we view children—is the belief that having children can wait. Let’s say you are a young woman, who is graduating from college. The prevailing message you are getting is that: “Start your life. Start your career, and then, think about husband and children.” Then, even the young married couple—I mean, how often are we advising them to: “Enjoy yourselves. Get that house. Get your life in order before you have children”? The reality is—anyone who has had children knows—
—there is no amount of getting ready for children that prepares you for having children.
Feminism told women a lie that they had an endless amount of choices, and an endless amount of time, and that they could have everything they want when they want it. The reality is biology has told us: “No, you can’t.” No amount of technology is going to allow women to have children for as long as they would like to have them.
A lot of women are finding, in their 30s—they are trying to have children and being met with a negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test because they bought the lie that: “I can have it all. I can have my career in my 20s, and I can have children in my 30s.” I think that’s one of—especially with Christian women—the ways feminism has influenced them most acutely regarding children.
Dennis: You know, it’s an easy target to create a target on the wall here—call feminism and start throwing different darts—
Dennis: —that we look back at and accusing them of being the source of it.
Dennis: But I wonder, today, if much of the Christian community’s opinion of children has been influenced by this movement of not seeing children as a blessing—
Dennis: —not seeing children as this incredible gift / a delightful gift—but instead, a cost—
Dennis: —and something that is standing between you and you being all that you were designed to be. That, to me, is an oxymoron.
Courtney: Yes, I think some of it is feminism, and I think some of it is just the culture that we live in. We have a very autonomous selfish culture, where “What I want / what I want to do” is ultimate. I think feminism is a piece of that, but I don’t think it is the entire problem. I think it’s just we have a very selfish culture.
My generation, I think, was given everything they wanted, when they wanted it, in a lot of ways. I think that children disrupt that—you don’t get things you want, when you want it. I think people see that and it terrifies them. Career has been kind of the main focus—
—dream big / do big things—and children seem very small on the scale of doing big things in this world.
Bob: So, how do you think differently about men, and marriage, and children today than Courtney would have thought in the middle of your college years?
Courtney: I always liked kids. So, children weren’t as hard for me; but I see men as valuable. I see—because we are created as image-bearers—we both bring something to the table. So, I need men—and primarily, my husband—in the same way that men need women. We need their input / they need our input. We, together, image God most fully. I think that has helped me to appreciate the contribution they bring.
Men aren’t stupid. They are not these buffoons who—“If they would just act like me, then, everything would be better.” I think that is, sometimes, what we feel like, as women—is: “If men just acted like women, then, our life would be so much better”; but that would not fully image the Godhead and the way that God designed it to be.
So—and children—they are a blessing—but they are hard work, and they disrupt your life in ways you never ever would have dreamed. But they are much better than you ever could have imagined they’d be.
Dennis: And they do redeem us from ourselves; don’t they?
Courtney: Oh, absolutely—absolutely!
Dennis: I mean, you can’t be a great parent and be selfish simultaneously.
Courtney: No. I often say: “I know less about parenting today than I did two years ago; and each passing day, I know less about parenting.” [Laughter] So, I thought—I had all these visions of what I was going to be, as a parent; and they rocked my world.
Dennis: So, take a step back and look at Courtney today and—if I could have gotten in some kind of time machine and gone back to when you were a sophomore/junior in college and said: “Hey, Courtney, here is the picture. Here is what it is going to look like”—
Bob: “Here’s where you are going to be ten years from now.”
Dennis: “What do you think about that, Courtney?” What would you have said—
“That’s somebody else!”?
Courtney: Yes—“married to someone who is in ministry and”—yes, I would have thought that would not have been my life. One of the things of—as a newer believer is—I thought that if I wasn’t doing something really big for the Lord—like going on the mission field and being martyred for my faith—then, I wasn’t doing something of value. I really missed the beauty in the mundane.
I think part of the accidental feminism of my new life in Christ was thinking that a husband, and children, and the mundane reality of life was kind of slowing me down. It really doesn’t slow me down—it enriches my life and it makes my life better. It allows me to see my sin in ways I never saw before—which, for me, is more important than dying on the mission field for Christ. I needed to see the reality of my sin, and I needed to see that there is beauty in the mundane. I didn’t have to go half across the world to be doing something of value for the Lord.
Dennis: Well, your perspective of life radically changed.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the word that really radically changed in your life, as a wife—it’s the word, “submission.”
Bob: You’re going to go there; right?
Dennis: We are going to go there, and I think we’ll have a good time doing it.
Bob: Yes. I hope our listeners agree with you by the time it is all said and done. We do have copies of Courtney’s book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Let me encourage our listeners to go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” There you will find a copy of the book, The Accidental Feminist, by Courtney Reissig. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER. You can order a copy of the book from us, online, if you’d like. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and request the book by phone—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, the reason that we have conversations like this on FamilyLife Today is because we are convinced that, when our lives are aligned with what the Bible teaches about marriage and family, God is glorified. There is joy that comes to us as our lives are in alignment with God’s purposes. I really appreciate, Dennis, those folks who partner with us in this ministry and make the ministry of FamilyLife Today possible. Your donations—whether you are a Legacy Partner or a person who makes an occasional contribution—you hear something and you go, “I want to support that;” or maybe, God has used a resource in your life and you just want to express your thanks—your support is what makes this ministry possible, and we are grateful for your partnership with us.
In fact, if you can make a donation today, we’d like to express our gratitude by sending you a copy of a book that Dennis and Barbara Rainey have written called Two Hearts Praying as One.
It’s about husbands and wives praying together—which is something that we think is pretty important. In fact, we are going to be—we’re going to be encouraging you in that direction more in the weeks to come. So, stay tuned for that.
Again, right now, you can request the book, Two Hearts Praying as One, when you make a donation to support this ministry. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—the link that says, “I CARE.” You can make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone and request the book on prayer. Or write to us—mail your donation and request the book when you write to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
By the way, if your donation today is the first donation you’ve made during the year 2015, we’ll add an additional thank-you gift—
—and that’s a prayer card designed to give you ways you can pray for your family in the midst of difficult times. Again, that’s for anyone who is making a first-time donation to FamilyLife Today during 2015.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to continue our conversation with Courtney Reissig about the way that feminism has influenced our thinking, our culture, and our lives. In fact, we are going to get into the subject of submission tomorrow. So, I hope you can be back with us for that.
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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