Sunday, January 10, 2010

The "F" word

I've been pondering this for some time now, wondering if the term, feminism, is redeemable. Wondering if it is helpful and if Christians should repackage it for cultural consumption. Of course, some will say that it already has been in the form of "Christian Feminism", sometimes known as Egalitarianism. The problem with this form of feminism, however, is that it is, at best, heterodox. Being born in anthropological modalism and grown in the fetid soil of gnosticism, it can't provide us with the answers we need. It can't help us determine where or not feminism is redeemable for it has already determined that feminism is no only redeemable, but that it is their variety of feminism which is required to redeem the church.

The problem with feminism, if we take it as an umbrella concept, and not in specific forms such as religious feminism or equity feminism, etc., is that it is beholden to worldly philosophies that are, at base, incompatible with Christianity. The primary philosohpy is Marxism, which in its religious form is known as liberation theology. The trouble with both Marxism and it's barely baptized incarnation as liberation theology is that they are about power, and mostly about personal power in temporal situations. The marxist base upon which religious feminism and liberation theology are built is about power, control and victory over temporal situations.

Because of this, because they are about the here and now -- whether I am given a just wage for my work, whether my husband does his share of the household work, whether my church represses the use of my gifts where I see fit to use them -- we miss the larger liberation. We miss the true liberation in Christ. The liberation Christ offers us does not require a just wage or sexual equity -- Christ's liberty is of the spirit, it frees us from laws of the flesh such as these I have mentioned, it frees us for liberty in the spirit - the things against which there is no law.

It is this freedom, these gifts, the fruit of which we are free to live out in spite of our circumstances.

Baroness Thatcher rather famously pointed out that the problem with Socialism is that, sooner or later, you run out of other people's money. Socialism, like religious feminism, is a game of leveling, playing fair, bringing everyone down to the same meagre level of subsistence. I have not because you have so we must change the rules so we both have, but have in sum, less.

And here we have come to the heart of the matter, the reason Feminism, as a concept, is utterly beyond redemption. It is because Feminism is about leveling. Feminism is a zero-sum game. the only problem with the game is that the total sum ends up being less.

In the case of feminism versus sexual orthodoxy, we have less because we have leveled our differences and denied the opportunity for men to be brave, bold, strong, and lead -- we have denied the chance for men to be men. We have denied the chance for women to be beautiful, strong and yet vulnerable, to shine by their deference and meekness -- we have denied women the opportunity to be women. We have leveled everything to merely human and so we have, in sum, less. Because a zero-sum world of sex denies the opportunity for growth in Christian virtues, in the fruit of the Spirit in a similar way to that in which a socialist, centrally planned economy denies the chance for capitalist entrepreneurship and economic growth.

The problem with feminism is that it is a zero-sum game - a world of grey. And who wants to live like that when we can have the technicolor beauty of sexual orthodoxy? A world of men who are men and women who love them to be men. Where women are women and men cherish and protect all that is vulnerable in them.


alaiyo said...

I like it, Kamilla. I'll send you a copy of my Summit presentation on feminism, whichI think I subtitled "Why I am not a feminist" -- it takes a different tack, but ends up in the same place, I think. Might be some food for additional thought.

Silouan said...

Sounds right on to me. Rather than settling for "equal to a man," I'd like to see women in Christ explore their potential to be a free, unashamed woman... I don't think our culture has often seen what that looks like.

I also suspect that our culture, with its power-dynamics obsession, misses an important point: A woman choosing a role other than that of a female man is exercising her freedom to be what she chooses; yet modern feminism derides her for following a calling of her own. If what's traditionally been called "femininity" is threatening to feminists, it suggests an essential insecurity on their part.

But hey, I'm a guy, so don't let me define you :-) Be what Christ calls you to be, then point to yourself and say "This is what a woman looks like - deal with it."

Lydia McGrew said...

I like the analogy to Marxism/socialism. I think you're right on the money there. The dullness of equality (and what is now called "diversity"), whether economic or sexual, is beyond description.

I'm sure you've heard this joke: Peter is a Russian peasant who has lived all his life under Communism. One day he picks up a bottle and rubs it, and out pops a genie. "I will give you one wish," the genie says. Peter thinks and then begins complaining about how unfair it is that his neighbor Ivan has a goat and he doesn't, how it makes him angry every time he thinks of it, and so on. The genie interrupts: "Okay, I understand. You want me to give you a goat, too."

"No, no," says Peter. "I want Ivan's goat to die!"

Kind of says it all. For that matter, it even explains the Democrats and healthcare. But I digress.

You have probably already read it, but if you haven't, I think you would enjoy Lewis's novel _That Hideous Strength_. He has one scene in it where the supposedly "liberated" character, Jane, is frustrated because she's being told that her marriage has been a failure (sexually, among other ways) because she is a feminist. She realizes that there is some truth to this but feels that it is frustrating to hear it from a Christian, as according to her worldview, she as a secularist should be more sexually happy than the Christians. Theirs should be, she thinks, the "stained-glass attitudes." Then, says Lewis, she remembered for a moment what stained glass really looks like!

There is a similar (and similarly childish) attempt to use "stained glass" in a pejorative sense in the Billy Joel song "Only the Good Die Young," btw.

If you've never read THS, have the most fun by starting first with the other two books in the space trilogy.

Stacy McDonald said...

"The problem with Socialism is that, sooner or later, you run out of other people's money."

But I thought you could just print more. ;-)

Good post, Kamilla. I especially love your closing two paragraphs. Beautiful!

Jennifer said...

"Be what Christ calls you to be, then point to yourself and say "This is what a woman looks like - deal with it.""

This is what every egalitarian I know does-they don't care about being like men, they don't wish to blur the lines of difference, and they're certainly not indifferentialists. I've always loved the differences between male and female and don't find them in the least threatening, namely because I don't see a hierarchy. If we were indeed all blurred hermaphrodites, that'd be boring indeed; I have little patience for people who can't decide what gender they are (cue Adam Lambert and the pregnant "man").

Kamilla said...


The problem is that Egalitarians are *not* doing what Silouan suggests. They are not being what Christ calls them to be, they are definitely blurring the lines of difference -- something you do here just by using the term "gender" when what you really mean is "sex".

When religious feminists (Egalitarians) deny that husbands are to lead and wives are to submit, when they deny that only men are to teach and lead in the assembly, then they *are* denying what Christ calls each of us to be as men and women - they are negating the "this is what a woman looks like" part of what Silouan said.

And yes, inso far as they are Egalitarians, they are Indifferentists. That's the nature of the beast.


Jennifer said...

Hi, Kamilla. That's been a very erroneous way of seeing egalitarians, from my experience. They don't define femininity as "following" and masculinity as "leading", which is an error I've seen comps make constantly. History and the Bible prove that both sexes have more dimensions than this. You certainly don't strike me as a woman who has a primarily "following" mentality.

Kamilla said...


You're going to have to explain your first two sentences, because it looks to me like you have things backwards or you have misunderstood what I wrote.

If you want to bring history and the bible together on this you are going to have to explain why the Church has always, always, always taught and understood something other than what Religious Feminists now claim the Bible clearly says.


Jennifer said...

I was talking about leading and following in general. Regardless of what the Bible says on church matters, men and women have both been leaders and followers in other matters. This is what I meant, and this is what egals recognize; rather than practicing the heavily patriarchal tactic of some complimentarians (identifying all things masculine with leading and being proactive, and identifying all things feminine with following and being reactive), they believe males and females are far too complex to be so tidily restricted to one role each.

Kamilla said...

Regardless of what the Bible says?

That's the problem, Jennifer. You have to hold your view outside of what the Bible says.

Then you deny religious feminism is about indifferentism but you espouse precisely the sort of individualilsm which does reduce our sex to mere accident and holds us out as complex individuals. No sensible Patriarchalist ever denied we aren't complex creatures - but we are, each of us, creatures of one of two sorts. We are either male or female therefore, we are created to be man or woman and until we recognize the basis on which each sex is to function we will never be genuinely free. We will always be a bit precious about "tidy" restrictions and worried about fairness.

What religious feminists miss is that the Christian life is full of paradoxes. One of the most delicious, beautiful and delightful paradoxes is the freedom women find in proper submission to their husbands, pastors, elders. The great seceret is that what appears from the outside to be "tidily restrictive" is the most freeing thing the world has ever known.

As for tidy restrictions, you might want to read a series of posts by my friend, Anne Jones here:

That's a link to part one of what is now a four-part series. You may have to cut and paste the link.

She is far wiser than I.


Jennifer said...

I was speaking aside from the matter of the church, period. Meaning, outside of the church, not INSPITE of it.

"until we recognize the basis on which each sex is to function"

Meaning, leader or follower? Is that what you're saying? If so, that way of thinking is very strange to me. It's also strange that you think I'd assume we're a sex by accident. Believing that God doesn't assign us pink and blue lists of what to do when we're born based on sex doesn't mean sex happens by accident.

Kamilla said...

"I was speaking aside from the matter of the church, period. Meaning, outside of the church, not INSPITE of it. "

Oh yes, I understood that - and the problem of religious feminism remains because the world outside of the church only tells us about what *is*, not what *should be*. This still leaves you in the pickle of advocating how men and women should act *in spite* of what the Church has always taught and understood the Bible to be saying.

Second, you are using the word "accident" in a different sense than I use it. By saying religious feminists reduce our sex to mere accident, I mean that sex is a nonessential property, not that it is an unplanned event as in your contention that I, "assume we're a sex by accident". By reducing sex to an "accident" in the sense I mean the word, religious feminists are saying our sex doesn't matter to what we do or how we do it in large swathes of our lives. While they will pay lip service to recognizing and enjoying our differences, in practice those differences don't seem to matter for much more than who gives birth and who does not and, for most religious feminists, who can marry whom. That's why I think the term, Indifferentist is really quite accurate.

Finally, as far as tidy restrictions, playing "follow the leader" and lists of pink and blue things - you're the only one here I see wanting to reduce things to such inanities.


P.S. You really might benefit by reading the "Pleasure of Patriarchy" series.

Jennifer said...

"You're the only one here I see wanting to reduce things to such inanities"

I think I've very clearly shown that I detest such inanities, which I've seen aplenty in patriarchy. You haven't answered my question regarding that, though.

"This still leaves you in the pickle of advocating how men and women should act *in spite* of what the Church has always taught"

And how do you think that should be?

Kamilla said...


Read the Pleasures of Patriarchy thread to which I gave a link earlier.

There are no pink and blue coded lists which you say you detest while you keep trying to reduce sexual orthodoxy to such (dare I say it again?) inanities. You seem to want lists from me and they simply don't exist.

There are some posts here that would help as well:

2/17 How PD James made me a Complementarian

1/31 The Art of the Ordinary

2/19 United from Above (mostly a link to an article elsewhere - better than anything I could have said on the matter)

And, for how it is *not* supposed to work:

11/4 Temporal Pragmatism or The Futility of Utility

11/21 Let's just seal that life partnership with a kiss, shall we?

12/22 Anthropological Modalism, Exhibit #29


Jennifer said...

Even if I was mistaken about how you see the sexes or seemed to be implying you see them, I do not see them as lists PERSONALLY at all. But yes, I HAVE seen them defined as little more than pink and blue lists from many others on your camp. Most comps? No; people like John Piper and Elisabeth Elliot are intelligent enough to refrain from doing such. Groups like the Vision Forum, on the other hand, do so with a vengeance.

You claim there's a very clear way for men and women to behave, yet you won't tell me what it is and when I ask further, you say that I am reducing the sexes to behavorial lists? Or asking you to do so? Not at all; I merely stated that I've seen this treatment of the sexes before from people of your beliefs and asked what specific ways YOU think men and women are meant to behave. I know the basics of patriarchy, but this particular question is directed only towards you; I'm not asking you to answer for comps in general and you couldn't anyway, since hordes disagree on various matters.

Kamilla said...


I know very little of Vision Forum, I don't belong to a "camp" and I've certainly never seen anyone of "my beliefs" reduce these matters to pink and blue lists.

It seems no answer I give can satisfy you as I have now referred you to those answers several times - they are found in the constant witness of the Church through her entire existence, they are found in what I have written elsewhere on this blog (several helpful titles were listed) and they are found in my friend, Anne Jones' series on Patriarchy.


Jennifer said...

I think I get the general idea. Thank you for your time, this has been a very interesting discussion. I appreciate the confirmation.