Written by Whitney Dixon
Women in the world today, particularly Christian women, face the confusing task of determining the role their gender plays in the world and how they should relate to the opposite sex. In the secular world, feminism — the advocacy for the equality of women — appears to be the prevalent school of thought, encompassing a spectrum of everything from women who simply earn a living in the workforce to women who adamantly hate men, and everything in between.
Seemingly all women hold some belief in attaining independence for themselves. Yet society simultaneously conveys the message to women that their value comes from the attention they receive from men. One look at any romantic comedy or TV sitcom will likely depict women who are either involved in some sort of relationship, or bemoaning their lack of one. This duel desire for both independence and romance seems to suggest a worldly standard that women should pursue relationships, but maintain the upper hand.
On the other side of the spectrum is the biblical plan for the woman’s role, which calls for a very different form of conduct. In 1 Peter 3, Peter calls women to submit to their husbands, and refers to them as the “weaker vessel.” Not exactly the statement of empowerment that women like to hear. The problem lies in determining how to integrate the desire for independence and equality with the seemingly diminished role women are called by the Bible to bear. How are Christian women to reconcile these differences? Can a woman be both a Christian and a feminist?
At first glance, it would appear that feminism and Christianity simply aren’t compatible; surely a woman can’t remain independent while playing the role of the submissive wife. Yet the biblical calling does not demean women with a subservient position. In fact, the case is quite the opposite: if both men and women fulfill their God-given roles, the relationships they develop will embody a Godly equality, making the biblical prescription for gender roles the most fulfilling form of feminism a woman could ever hope to experience.
Secular feminists would likely laugh at the idea of the biblical plan’s being in any way feministic in nature. What they fail to realize is how degrading their version of feminism has actually become. Today, women dress immodestly, disrespect men, and advocate unrestricted abortions (not to mention obtain them for themselves), all in the name of independence. But unwittingly, when women partake of these behaviors in an attempt to demand respect and equality, they in fact lower the likelihood that men will actually treat them honorably. Immodesty merely invites objectification, disrespect plants the seed for disrespect in return, and having an abortion eliminates any call for responsibility on the part of the man. Surely feminists do not equate such debasing treatment with the so-called equal rights that women deserve!
Perhaps a feminist would respond that by asserting herself she reveals strength, rather than appearing spineless and accommodating; no matter what a man thinks of her, at least she makes it clear through her actions that he will not dominate, and she will not submit.
Many people fail to realize, however, that submission does not demean women. Immediately after calling wives submit to their husbands, Paul calls husbands to honor their wives, and Ephesians 5 commands husbands to love their wives as they would love themselves and as “Christ loved the church.” Love like that is worth submission.
Moreover, submission simply implies that God created male and female to play distinctive roles in the relationship; it doesn’t denote inequality. First Peter 3:7 calls male and female “joint heirs” to the kingdom of God, and Galatians 3:28 says, “… there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t get more equal than that!
Essentially, the concept of feminism is not erroneous in nature; God values the female sex just as much as He values the male sex. However, one should not to lose sight of the innate differences between the sexes—the differences that God intended and made beautiful—in an effort to make sure that men recognize the value of women. Rather than partake in rebellious independence, Christian women should cultivate their relationship with Christ and encourage their Christian brothers to do the same. Only through a relationship with God can any human, male or female, be made complete. Only when we are seeking God with our entire being can our earthly relationships become the fulfilling combination of love and equality that God intended.