The Liberated Woman

I remember the time I first heard the phrase “liberated woman.” I had just graduated high school. I was on a trip to Kansas City, MO with my classmates and my speech coaches to compete in a national speech and debate tournament. We had made a stop in St. Louis to visit the Arch.

There were four girls on the team. Two of them were best friends (still are), and they were the Debaters with a capital D. Both analytical. Both brilliant. Both fiercely independent. I remember my coach, a burly little man with a voice like a foghorn, holding up his camera for a group photo. The two girls put their hands on their hips, stuck out their chins, and smiled into the sunlight.

“There they are!” my coach jibed, “The liberated women!”

I was not included in the group of liberated women. And I wondered why. I wasn’t even sure what it meant, but I knew that these girls and I were not alike. They had high academic aspirations and were absolutely fearless. My personal goals have always been a bit quieter. And in that group, I was quite possibly the quietest of them all, writing short stories in the back seat of the travel van while the others debated politics in the front.

I went on to college and learned quite a bit more about what the world thinks of “liberation.” I discovered feminist theory. I read feminist works. Because I attended a Christian liberal arts university, I also took a course on Biblical womanhood, which taught about feminist theory while examining closely God’s writings on women.

Up until half way through college, I believed (as many people do) that a “liberated” woman was the sort of woman who chased after a career and never married. The sort of woman who chose to marry and raise a family, abandoning a career, wasn’t liberated–she was stuck in the dark ages.

But half way through college, I realized that the above is a false dichotomy.

The trouble is, I cannot yet explain to you clearly why it is a false dichotomy.

Resources on this subject targeted towards a Christian audience are not always helpful. There was a notorious section at our university library (where I worked for five years) simply known as “that 248.84 section.” All the books were pink, flowery, paperback, and unsatisfyingly thin. They were the “Christian women’s spiritual self-help” books. Their titles are all vaguely similar but can be summed up as How to Attract a Godly Man, How to Keep Your Godly Husband Happy, How to be Happy If Your Husband is Not Godly, and How to be Happy if You’re Still Single. Now, all of these books were written by good women who love God and their husbands, and I’ll never fault them for that, nor will I downplay the amount of good they’ve done for searching women. But few, if any, of these books delved deep into doctrine, into the difficult passages involving women in the Bible, or into the “whys” and “hows” of God’s care for women.

Of course, resources on the subject written by die-hard feminists aren’t helpful, either. I found the writings of Woolfe, Gilbert, Gubar, Cixous, Butler, etc. to be well-intentioned, maybe, but did more to perpetuate a victim mentality than right the wrongs of centuries of oppression. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that women have been suppressed and subjugated throughout history, that Anonymous was often a woman, that most of the world’s cultures have at one time or another treated women like second-class citizens or of less worth than cattle, and that misogynistic bias is still alive and well in the world. But I don’t think marginalizing men will fix that problem, I don’t blame the men of the world for my problems, and I’m not at all convinced that gender is fluid, thank you very much.

What troubled me the most during my studies of feminist writings was that if there was one thing these authoresses and essayists had in common, it was their condemnation of religion, specifically Christianity, as the root cause of misogyny. This thinking permeates most feminist rhetoric today–Google “misogyny and religion” and Google will overload and burst into flames.

This discovery troubled me. Deeply. I believe in the loving, merciful, powerful God. I believe in the God who died so that I could live forever. He didn’t die so just men could live forever, or just women could live forever. He loves all of us, male or female, Jew or gentile, black or white or whatever else. I have never found anything in scripture that made me less in God’s eyes because of my gender.

But I also know that there is a long history of Christian men and women who have twisted scripture. There are men and women who have used the words of God against people to control them. People who have misconceptions about what God means by “submission,” “fear,” and even “love.” There are those who have used God’s words to cripple women. The results have been culturally and spiritually tragic.

So I have decided to go back to the truth. I have decided to throw away my conceptions of what God expects of women and start from scratch. I have decided to go back to the Bible and rebuild my views on what God thinks of me and my purpose in the world as a woman. More specifically, I want to know God’s view of what He thinks of me. Straight from His mouth.

I am not entirely certain where I’ll end up.

I’m inviting you to come along with me. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know your background. I don’t know if you believe in God or if you think He’s an elaborately structured myth. But I do know that if you’re here, if you’ve read all the way to the bottom of this long-winded post–you’re probably searching. So come search with me.

I intend to do my research. I intend to read a lot. I intend to pray a lot.

I will also start with this premise:

I am a liberated woman because Christ has set me free.

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14 comments

  1. Miss Risabella Rambler · August 27, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Risible Rambler and commented:

    The new blog has arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. alicianewk10 · August 27, 2015

    YES. Looking forward to following you on your journey! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hannah Rael · August 27, 2015

    Wow!! Amazing!! Let’s connect!! I too am rebuilding my foundations a bit. 🙂 🙂 Goint on a journey many people in our circles might call crazy. What you said here, I resonate with so much!! Thanks for posting!
    Looking forward,
    – Hannah

    Liked by 1 person

    • E.A. Stephens · August 27, 2015

      Welcome!! Good to hear from you, and PLEASE let me know how your journey goes.

      Like

  4. Brittany C · August 27, 2015

    It’s funny. I was in the exact same circles (in fact, I may or may not have checked out a book during your shift from section 248.84…). Reading your post reminded me of a similar time in college at a Bible study. The teacher brought up Proverbs 31:25, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” My limited view of femininity was shaken by the Bible. I couldn’t discount what God said, but I could forget what I heard. Enter your premise: “I am a liberated woman because Christ has set me free.” I believe you’re on the right track, and since you’ve invited me into the journey, I’ll pass along some of my musings. Forgive me if I ramble slightly. 😉

    I believe the keys to your search lie in the questions “From what has Christ set me free?” and “To what has Christ set me free?” We know that Christ bears the name Jesus “for he shall save his people from their sins.” Even the category of “their sins” is rather broad; therefore, let’s narrow down to sins that we as women most often fight. Taking Proverbs 31:25 as a guide, let’s examine “strength”, “dignity”, and “laughs at the time to come”.

    I’ll start with “laughs at the time to come” because I’ve been thinking about that category a lot lately. What do we see that Christ sets us free from? Worry and fear have no place in a truly liberated woman. Worry and fear ask, “What if?” and believes that they must work out all of the problems we face. The liberated woman casts all her cares on God and trusts Him to carry them for her (1 Pet 5:6-7; Phil 4:6-7; Is 46:1-4).

    As for the other categories, I will give you the skeleton of what I have and let you flesh out the ideas. “Strength” apart from Christ looks like pride. It pronounces that it can do anything and do it perfectly. I believe that those liberated in Christ will humbly rest (a topic that I want to study soon). Worldly “dignity” is a shaky “self-esteem” that spills out into envy. It compares itself to others and often comes up short. Truly liberated women know their identity in Christ and consistently meditate on and rejoice in that reality.

    I hope this gives tinder to your thoughts. So glad you want to know what God thinks. Happy journeying! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mom · August 27, 2015

    Yaay! Wonderful beginning to what will be an amazing blogging journey! Love the main premise and looking forward to all that God will teach you, and your readers through you, as you continue! I love you ever so much and am thankful for and challenged by your heart to know God and His thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jay E. · August 27, 2015

    The new blog looks good and you chose a wonderful inaugural topic. Methinks I attended the same university as you, albeit at different times. Good luck and best wishes on all the exciting new things in your life!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Adele · August 29, 2015

    Hey, I read this blog once in a blue moon and when I saw “The Liberated Woman” in my inbox notifications, I was worried you might be about to condemn all feminist ideals and confirm a lot of the mere traditional understandings of femininity, just because that’s what I’ve seen Christians do a lot. But thaNK YOU. This was perfect. Really perfect. I’ll be keeping a closer watch on this blog. I’m right in between angry feminist and confused child from highly conservative background. Send help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • E.A. Stephens · August 29, 2015

      I cannot express how glad I am you found this blog. I’ll do everything I can to help. Sending love your way.

      Like

  8. TypewriterError · August 31, 2015

    I’m excited to see where God leads you with this. I too have been questioning in this area since my first year of college and especially now after. I’ll be praying for you and that God will use you to help your sisters (and possibly some brothers too!) in Christ.

    Like

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