From the time I was three or four years old, I wanted to be a wife and mother. I put pillows under my shirt to make it look like I was pregnant and wandered around the house, asking my family members if they wanted to “feel the baby kick.” I dressed up almost every day in the wedding gown that came with my favorite life-sized doll and my mom would film me traipsing around the house, humming the bridal march.
This was endearing as a child, but as I grew up I became more and more aware that people expected something different of me.
In eras past, if a woman wanted to advance her career or get an education, the general consensus of society around her was that she resign herself to perpetual motherhood or housewifery instead. Now, the situation has flipped. Women are encouraged more and more to either put off or completely reject a life spent in service to the home; and instead climb the professional ladder, see how far she can go in the academic world, or relish in a life of singleness and fierce independence.
Proponents of feminism stress that the movement is about the equality of the sexes and promoting the fact that women are just as capable and valuable as men (even though many of them also believe gender is only a social construct, but that’s a post for another day). They say feminism is bent on liberating women from chains of systematic oppression so they can choose whatever path of life their hearts desire. And I don’t disagree that these goals aren’t good and important ones. I just think that many professed feminists are under the false impression that these are truly the goals and ends of contemporary feminism.
I wish my reluctance toward feminism wouldn’t lead to people automatically assuming the worst of me, but that’s a high hope, so I’ll offer a disclaimer: Of course there have been some good things accomplished through the movement as a whole. Of course I am grateful for the rights I have that women in my country didn’t use to have – or rights that women in other countries are still exempt from. Of course I don’t think the only thing women are good for is procreation and folding laundry.
That’s exactly the problem, though. As a woman, I am supposedly indebted to the system of feminism, and to question or deviate from it is to wholly betray my womanhood and invoke the wrath of the matriarchy. In the eyes of feminism, I am indebted to the women – past and present – who supposedly fight for my freedoms. If I choose to live a life that runs contrary to their narrative of what women in the twenty-first century are supposed to be like, then my successes cease to be celebrated and my thoughts or proposals cease to be legitimate.
Feminism perceives itself to be the savior of all the women who appear to be “liberated,” and thus it declares that I owe it my allegiance. It claims my professional and educational successes as its own. It demands I trod its well-marked path for fear that my missteps will prove its standard for “well-spent womanhood” to be false.
If this were not true, I would not have been told by countless professed feminists throughout my life that I’m wasting my time and talents by prescribing to myself a life of “early” wife- and mother-hood. I would not have been told that I should be ashamed to call myself a woman because I do not call myself a feminist.
What I began to realize is that my deviation from the order of feminism was being taken personally; their objections had the same air as a mother does when she reminds an unruly child of their indebtedness to her labor. “I brought you into this world – and I can surely take you out.”
And as long as the feminist movement is upheld in this way as the savior of my livelihood as a woman, I will feel no shame in refusing to bow at its altar.
The gospel of Christ is where I find all that I need to rescue me and redeem the world from its sorry state of affairs. I don’t need feminism to save me from oppression, give me hope for the future outcomes of my efforts, or guide me down the right path in life. I have enough guidance from Scripture to tell me what it looks like to waste (or effectively use) my time and talents. I have a perspective of both love and sin that reminds me to seek the good of others rather than demand my own victories are heralded.
I don’t need my femininity to be validated. I don’t need the obstacles to my personal happiness removed. I don’t need feminism.
What I do desperately need is for my identity as a woman to be consumed by the gospel of Christ.