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.