Monday, October 17, 2011

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Men aren’t the problem

In each chapter McCulley addresses different aspects of women’s lives and how competing definitions of womanhood have shaped them.

In this chapter she shows how feminism came to view men as the chief problem of women, by profiling 3 leading feminists, their attitudes towards men and how their ideas contributed to the rise of feminism.

  1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton embodied the first wave of feminism (mid-late 1800s). She fought for women’s suffrage and marriage reform, in the midst of what seems to have been an unhappy marriage. She was also anti-Christian and had a very patriarchal view of Scripture which impacted her negatively.
  2. Simone de Beauvoir headed up the second wave of feminism in Europe (1920s-1980s). Her book, The Second Sex (1949) is the seminal work of modern feminism. She argued women were imprisoned by the roles of wife, mother and sweetheart. She had a life-long relationship with Jean-Paul Satre that influenced the entire concept of modern marriage – they decided not to marry, but rather have an open, non-monogamous union with complete transparency. McCulley shows how de Beauvoir is a paradox, claiming women were oppressed by men, yet continuing to live in a relationship with a man who seduced women and treated them with contempt.
  3. In the US, the second wave of feminism really arrived by Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique (1963). In it she articulates a feminine dream that suburban housewives try to live up to but cannot and therefore find themselves trapped, bored and depressed. She transformed the women’s movement. Friedan was also unhappily married, although later softened her stance against marriage.
These two waves of feminism are well noted, there is a third wave which started in the 1990’s which many of us have grown up with and our daughters will do so as well. We’ll comeback to that in chapter 7.

Sin is the problem

McCulley acknowledges that Stanton, Beauvoir and Friedan were bright, articulate women. However, she asks “were they good at comprehending their situations?”
There is real tension…the reason is sin. Our sinful actions, thoughts, attitudes, and words are the reasons for the chasm between God and human beings. Sin also separates us from one another… Being male and female is not the problem. In fact, when God created man and women, He called it very good... (p45)

women do have a problem. But it’s not men. It’s sin. Sin warps everything, including the good that God has designed in being a man or a woman. Women sin against men and men sin against women, and everyone sins against God… Sin is the reason men have oppressed women and women have usurped men….

As a movement, feminism arose because women were being sinned against. I think that is a fair argument. But feminism also arose because women were sinning in response. That’s a classic human problem: Sinners tend to sin in response to being sinned against. (p46-7)

After each chapter, McCulley includes a personal story of a woman who has worked through the issue she has presented. They add a personal touch to each issue and help us to see a way forward as the gospel impacts people’s lives.

Some things to think about:
  • Do you agree with McCulley’s assessment that men are not the problem, but rather sin is?
  • What do you think of McCulley’s statement that feminism arose as a sinful response to a sinful problem?

Next week: Chapter 3: Did God really say?


arthurandtamie said...

I think McCulley's points are true on a basic level but it sounds like she uses the whole 'sin is the real problem' thing to dismiss feminism.

Every human movement is sinful, from feminism to the the pro-life movement. It sinfulness doesn't necessary discount it from being useful or having useful things to contribute. I wonder whether McCulley will get to discussing what is helpful about feminism?

Wendy said...

Thanks Tamie,

I summarised the chapter for the sake of space. I thought that as she went through it, she pointed out some of the positive things feminism has brought, particuarly in the earlier waves, which included contributing to women getting the vote, etc.

I don't think she discounts some of the useful aspects feminism has brought, but yes, she does critique it more than commend it.