Feminism Is Radical
Feminism is a radical movement. As such, it goes to the very root of the relationship between men and women and seeks to alter the societal and institutional structures that are perceived to be in conflict with the ideas and goals of feminism. Janet Richards declares that "Feminism is in its nature radical . . . . It is the social institutions of which we complain primarily . . . . If you consider the past there is no doubt at all that the whole structure of society was designed to keep women entirely in the power of men."1 As a radical ideology, feminism's goal is revolution. Gloria Steinman speaks for feminists when she says: "We're talking about a revolution, not just reform. It's the deepest possible change there is."2
Feminists want to create a "new society" where the restrictive social conditions of the past have been forever removed.3 How successful have feminists been in promoting their agenda of social revolution? Davidson says: "Today, feminism is the gender ideology of our society. From the universities to the public schools to the media to the military, feminism decides the issues, sets the terms of debate, and intimidates potential opponents into abashed silence."4
Feminism Against the Family
The social institution that feminists have targeted as one of the most repressive to women is the traditional family. By "traditional family" we mean the family structure that developed in Western society under the influence of Christianity and the Bible. In the traditional family, the man is the head of the home and the one responsible for providing those things necessary for the sustenance of life. The woman is a keeper at home and the one primarily responsible for the care of the children. The traditional family thus defined is in line with the Biblical plan for the home.
Feminists hate the family that is patterned after the word of God because it is contrary to all that they accept as true. Thus, their goal is the total destruction of the traditional family. Feminist Roxanne Dunbar said it plainly: "Ultimately, we want to destroy the three pillars of class and caste [i.e., sexist] society—the family, private property, and the state."5
Feminists seek the overthrow of the traditional family, and in its place they look for a radically different social institution that is shaped by feminist dogma.
The Success of the Feminist Agenda
When we consider the radical nature of feminism and its agenda to overthrow the family that is structured after the Biblical model, we would be wise to pause and ponder how successful the feminists have been in remaking the family according to their own design. The fact is, that in Western society, feminism has been enormously successful in destroying the traditional family.
The feminization of the family has already taken place! By the "feminization of the family" we mean the remaking of the family according to the beliefs and goals of feminism. This feminization has taken place in the last thirty years and with little opposition from men. As cowards wither before the charge of a determined enemy on the battlefield, men have fallen away in fear at feminist charges of sexism, repression, tyranny, and exploitation.
Nothing seems to have terrified men more than the angry glare and words of feminist ideologues.
When we say that the feminization of the family has already taken place, we do not intend to imply that the feminists have fully reached their goals in regard to the family. We mean, rather, that a revolution in family life that is due to feminist influence and in accord with feminist ideology has already come to pass. As we approach the year 2000, the social institution of the family is far more in line with the vision of Betty Friedan than with the teaching of the Apostle Paul. This represents a triumph (at least a partial one) for the feminist's radical vision of social revolution. The feminization of the family can be observed in at least six areas.
First, marriage has been destabilized and divorce is rampant. Feminism's "diabolization of marriage" has made divorce "socially and psychologically more acceptable by the idea that it is a reasonable response to a defective and dying institution."6 The Biblical teaching that marriage is a divine and sacred institution that binds a man and woman together for life by covenant (Gen. 2:18-24; Matt. 19:3-9) has been repudiated by modern society. The Biblical concept has been replaced with the notion that marriage is a mere human institution, an imperfect one at that, and that divorce is a reasonable way to deal with the misery associated with it.
Second, male headship in the family has been replaced by a "egalitarian" arrangement where the husband and wife "share" in the leadership responsibilities in the family. The Scriptural idea that the man is head of the family (1 Cor. 11:3-12; Eph. 5:22-23) and lord of his household (1 Pet. 3:5-6) is considered by feminists to be both tyrannical and barbaric, a vestige of primitive man and his ability to physically dominate his spouse.
The notion that the wife should submit to her husband is scoffed at by the overwhelming majority of men and women today.
Joint Economic Responsibility
Third, the man as provider has been rejected for the new model of joint economic responsibility. The view of our time is that the man is no more responsible than the woman to provide for the financial needs of the family.
Feminists believe that the teaching of Scripture that the man is the family provider (1 Tim. 5:9) is part of a male conspiracy to hold women down by making them economically dependent on men.
The "Working Woman"
Fourth, the woman as a full-time homemaker is scorned and the working woman finding fulfillment in employment outside of her home is now the cultural norm. The Biblical mandate that a woman be a "keeper at home" (Tit. 2:4-5) is either unknown or unheeded. Feminists consider it to be a demeaning thing for a woman to stay at home and confine her work to the sphere of her house and her family. A career is "the way to go" for today's wife and mother.
Liberation from Maternalism
Fifth, the woman as a nurturer of children has been replaced by the model of the working mother who hurries her children off to "daycare" while she pursues more important matters. The responsibility of motherhood is seen in far different terms now than it was in the past. The Biblical call to the mother to be with her children, to love, train, teach, and protect (1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14) is rejected for the feminist vision of the woman who is freed from such constraints on her individuality and own fulfillment.
The "Ideal" (i.e., Small) Family
Sixth, the idea that a large family is a "blessing" is rejected for the ideal family of one or two children (and for some, no children at all). The advocacy of "family planning" geared at reducing the number of children in the home is followed by nearly all. The Biblical teaching that a large family is due to God's blessing and sovereignty (Ps. 127; 128) is despised by modern families. The feminist view that we determine the number of children we will have, that we are sovereign over such matters, is accepted with hardly a question. Of course, this supposed sovereignty over life and birth readily leads to the justification of abortion, the ultimate birth control.
The traditional family built upon the teaching of Scripture is not the cultural norm for the West as it once was. This is due largely to the influence of feminism and its radical notions concerning the family. The Christian concept of the family based on the teaching of Scripture has been replaced by the feminist concept of the family—easy divorce has replaced the covenantal view of marriage; egalitarianism has replaced male headship; "joint providers" has replaced man as provider; the wife and mother's working outside the home has replaced the woman as a keeper at home; the mother in the workforce has replaced the mother as nurturer of her children; "family planning" and "birth control" have replaced the large family.
Two factors have greatly contributed to the success of feminists in overthrowing the traditional family. The first factor is the cowardice of men, yes, even Christian men. To a degree it is understandable (though still shameful) that non-Christian men have cowered before the feminists and their attacks on them and the traditional family. But that Christian men who have the truth of the word of God should have likewise capitulated is a sorry fact indeed. God has called men to defend his truth in the world and to live out its precepts. Yet a look at the average evangelical Christian home will reveal that it too has been feminized to a very large degree. Radical, Christ-hating feminists have transformed our homes, and Christian men have raised nary a peep and have contested little for the possession of the holy ground of a Biblically patterned family. Furthermore, men have shown cowardice in their failure to lead and take up the responsibilities that God has given to them. They have been more than willing to shuck the full burden of leading and providing for their families, and have been more than happy to share that load with their wife. The family has been feminized because men retreated from their duty.
The Silence of the Church
The second factor is the silence of the church. The feminization of the family has taken place in large measure because the church has mostly been silent. The church has not met the assault of feminism head-on with the sword of the word of God. Rather, and shamefully, the church has retreated and has actually brought into her bosom many of the alien ideas of feminism. The church has been guilty of teaching such things as egalitarian marriage and "family planning," and of supporting the ideas of a career woman and "working mother."
Much of the blame must be laid at the feet of weak, effeminate preachers who have been afraid to preach the truth concerning the family as God has revealed it in his Holy Word. The feminists have been successful in altering the family because the church failed to expose, denounce, and answer the lies of the feminists.
The Right Response
What should our response be to the feminization of the family? Our response begins with the recognition that it has happened. Denial will do us and others no good. Then we must take up the task of the de-feminization of the family and the re-Christianization of the family. This task is the work of every individual Christian family but is primarily the work of husbands and fathers who have been appointed by God as leaders in the home. Men must lead by precept and example in eradicating all aspects of feminist influence from the life and structure of their family and restore it to a Biblical pattern.
Men must prove themselves men and shoulder the full load of responsibility given to them by God. Men must stop being intimidated by feminist rhetoric and radicals and fearlessly promote God's order for the family. The task of reconstructing the family according to God's law-word will also require the church to faithfully teach what the Bible says concerning the family. It will require preachers of the courage and conviction of John Knox and John Calvin to expose the lies of feminist dogma and preach the Biblical pattern for the family.
1. As cited by Michael Levin in Feminism and Freedom (New Brunswick, 1988), 19.
4. Nicholas Davidson, "Preface," in Gender Sanity, ed., Nicholas Davidson (New York, 1989), vi.
5. As cited by Rita Kramer in "The Establishment of Feminism," Gender Sanity, 12, emphasis added.
6. Levin, Feminism and Freedom, 277.
- William O. Einwechter
William O. Einwechter serves as a teaching elder at Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. He is also the vice president of the National Reform Association and the editor of The Christian Statesman. He can be contacted at [email protected].