Contemporary Feminism Vs. Biblical Womanhood

Feminism was originally a positive movement that sought to give women the basic rights God intended every human being to have; however, the movement now generally focuses on eradicating the distinctions between men and women. The term feminism means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” The history of feminism is divided into three waves. The first feminist wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s, and the third extends from the 1990s to the present. The first wave started when women fought for female education rights, women’s suffrage, better working conditions, and abolition of gender double standards. The second wave then focused on other cultural issues such as ending discrimination. The third wave feminism, which is contemporary feminism, arose as a response to the second wave, which was perceived as a failure due to its essentialist definitions of femininity.  

The equality that modern feminists now fight for argue that there should not be any difference between men and women, and that any perceived differences are only because of social conditioning. Radical feminists actively seek to overthrow any sign of male dominance. They support abortion with the saying “My body, my choice” and also support the LGBT community, where the roles of men and women are blurred and unidentifiable. They even fight for language equality, for example, “chairman” should not be used but instead “chairperson,” whether the person in the position is male or female. Symbols can also cause controversies for feminists, such as the female and male symbols used for toilets, or even the little man on traffic lights used to signify pedestrians to walk or stop. Nowadays you can also find gender neutral toilets, which is promoted so that anyone of any sexual or gender orientation may use it, further promoting their misconstrued concept of “equality”.

In the beginning when God created Adam and Eve, man and woman, it has been clear that He intended for them to have different roles. In Genesis 2:20-23, it is shown that because Adam, the man, had no helper fit for him, God created Eve, the woman. For it was from Adam that Eve was created, God had designed from the very beginning that men and women are created to complement each other, meaning they are intrinsically different, but that does not mean they are unequal where one is superior and the other less. The problem with feminism nowadays, is that it fails to see the beauty of the difference between male and female; they see this “difference” as inequality and injustice. The modern society is so focused on being “different” (referring to uniqueness and originality in order to stand out), and yet they fail to see how the difference between men and women, as designed by our Creator, is not life deprecating, but in fact beautiful and fulfilling. It is not simply about who makes or nurses the baby, who works to provide, or who makes the sandwich; the differences between these two sexes are rooted in their own unique humanity which God has created as part of His grand plan. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Christians are called to delight in the way God has created us, and it is a grand thing that He created men and women, both in His image. As John Piper said, “When it comes to human sexuality, the greatest display of God’s glory, the greatest joy of human relationships, and the greatest fruitfulness in ministry come about when the deep differences between men and women are embraced and celebrated as complements to each other.”

A complementing, Godly relationship requires the man to have biblical headship and the woman to have biblical submission, and the qualities that allow men to lead and women to submit are given and designed by God. In John Piper’s sermon “God Created Male and Female: What Does It Mean to Be Complementarian?”, he gave the audience a depiction to portray the differences of manhood and womanhood. It goes as such:

Among the young adults at the Downtown Campus a young man and woman — say twenty years old — find themselves chatting before the worship service. He likes what he hears and sees, and says, “Are you sitting with anyone?” They sit together. They notice how each engages with God in worship.

When the service is over, as they are leaving, he says, “Do you have any lunch plans? I’d love to treat you to lunch.” At that point she can signal she is not interested, “I do have some plans. But thanks.” Or she can signal the opposite: “I do, but let me make a call. I think I can change them. I’d love to go.”

Neither has a car, so he suggests they walk to Maria’s Café down on Franklin Avenue, about 10 minutes from the church. As they walk he finds out that she has a black belt in martial arts, and that she is one of the best in the state. At 19th Street two men block their way ominously and say, “Pretty girlfriend you’ve got there. We’d like her purse and your wallet. In fact, she’s so pretty we’d like her.” The thought goes through his head: “She can whip these guys.” But instead of stepping behind her, he takes her arm, pulls her back behind him, and says, “If you’re going to touch her, it will be over my dead body.”

When they make their move, he tackles them both and tells her to run. They knock him unconscious, but before they know what hit them, she has put them both on their backs with their teeth knocked out. And a little crowd has gathered. The police and ambulance come and she gets in the ambulance with the young man. And she has one main thought on the way to the hospital: this is the kind of man I want to marry.”

John Piper’s purpose of this story is to illustrate that the differences between manhood and womanhood are not about superior or inferior competencies. There are three main points in Piper’s sermon. First, the young man took the initiative and asked the young woman if he could sit with her and if she would go to lunch and also suggested the place and how to get there. She could see clearly what he was doing, and responded freely according to her desires. This says nothing about who has superior competencies in planning. God writes the impulse to lead on a man’s heart, and the wisdom to discern it and enjoy it on a woman’s.

Second, he offered to treat her to lunch and this sends a signal that the young man believes that it is part of his responsibility and he desires to initiate and provide. She understands, approves and supports the initiative he has taken and graciously accepts the offer to be provided for. This has nothing to do with who is wealthier or more capable of earning; It is what God’s man feels he must do.

Third, it is irrelevant to the masculine soul that a woman he is with has greater self-defending competencies. It is his deep, God-given, masculine impulse to protect her. It is not a matter of superior competency. It is a matter of manhood. She recognized it and did not feel belittled by it, but honored, and she loved it. At the heart of mature manhood is the God-given disposition that the primary responsibility (not sole responsibility) lies with him when it comes to leadership-initiative, provision, and protection. And at the heart of mature womanhood is the God-given disposition that none of this implies her inferiority, but that it will be a beautiful thing to come alongside such a man and gladly affirm and receive this kind of leadership and provision and protection. Despite that man’s heart may be distorted by sin and may often times not comply with these God-given inclinations, these are still deep dispositions written on the heart by God that calls men to lead and women to submit.

Piper’s story is supported by Ephesians 5:22-23 regarding the topic of marriage and home. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

As written, marriage is a symbol of Christ’s relationship with the church, in which He is the head and the church is the body. Husbands are called to be like Christ and wives are called to take her cues from God’s will for the church. So the men’s role is to be the leader that takes initiatives and leads the family with love, just as Christ loves His church and was willing to lay His life on the cross for His church. So this is clearly not about who has the rights and the power, but about responsibility and sacrifice. That is why abuse, bossiness, authoritarianism, arrogance, and pride is not what God designed men for, which is contrary to the commonly misunderstood definition of the “leader” position men are called for in the Scriptures. This leadership in the home involves the sense of primary responsibility for nourishing provision and tender protection, because that is what Christ does for his bride. Thus, biblical headship for the husband is the divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christ-like servant-leadership, protection and provision in the home; And biblical submission for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and be his helper that carries it through according to her gifts.

Nowadays women that desire to be stay-at-home moms or any occupation related to “femininity” are often times mocked by modern radical feminists with the reasons related to being weak, dependent on men, embarrassing and regressive. However, using an analogy, a spoon is different than a fork, and people can acknowledge this difference without arguing which is better than the other; and what would be the point of comparing? Trying to scoop soup or porridge with a fork would be impossible, and it would also be difficult to twirl pasta and pick up a piece of steak with a spoon. A spoon has to be evaluated according to the standards of what makes a good spoon, and forks have to be judged on their own terms as well. Christians are supposed to acknowledge that God created men and women to be different; Therefore, women have to be held up to the standards of what makes an excellent woman, not a man, and vice versa for men. A high-achieving, admirable woman looks different than a high-achieving, admirable man, and she is going to accomplish different things. This is at the core of the differing perspectives between Christians and feminists. Feminists want the standards, categories, and judging to look exactly the same for both men and women. However, if people really think about it, the standards they want to apply to everyone are the ones that have always been applied to the men. Feminists are now insisting that masculine standards for achievement should be imposed on women. This sounds far from liberating women and they have actually removed women’s potential for true excellence. Women who achieves success in the masculine world gets all the cheers, while women that want to raise a family are ridiculed and belittled, is this not horribly patronizing?

Christians, particularly Christian women, need to fight harder to recapture the idea of feminine excellence. Often times it is misunderstood that the stereotype of a “helpless, soft, little woman” persona is what it means to be feminine. However, that is simply not true and not what God calls women to be like. Christian women need to delve into Scripture and learn to embody virtue, obedience, ambition, wisdom, courage, faithfulness, and strength like the women God designed and desires females to be. (DC)

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