Since mankind’s fall into sin, all of humanity has suffered under sin’s curse. Women, in particular, have been under the curse of male dominion. (Gen. 3:16c) For this cause, women have sought more equitable treatment. The liberation movement, during its origin, can and should be viewed as an expression of a woman’s desire to see God’s original plan for men and women reinstated.
“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union…. Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less” – Susan B. Anthony
The strength and success of the women’s movement is incontrovertibly attested to in the historical record. It reportedly began in 1820 and became a full-fledged national movement by 1848. The movement has had many names, but was known as the Women’s Suffrage Movement during its infancy. It the early days, the focus was upon giving women the right to vote as well as their own political identity. By 1920, the state by state battles had all been won and the 72 year-long war had finally reached fruition. Finally, all American women had the right to vote. This was a good thing and led to other good things to follow for women.
The Liberation Movement originally focused on uniting women in order for them to learn how to gain control over their own lives. The movement, as most women understood it, was to emancipate women from their male oppressors. They sought to have a voice against brutality and social injustice and thereby achieve equality under the law. So, I agree that women have historically been oppressed. We were unable to vote our own way, to work in fields not considered appropriate for women, or have our own voice in politics. So, the women’s movement did in fact help women achieve freedom throughout the years. However, things later went wrong.
The next phase of women’s liberation revealed itself during the political upheaval of the 1960’s. At this point, we see the movement being hijacked by radicals as it now bore the taint of socialism. The movement soon became splintered into small groups of women from various social demographics and organized groups became hard to find. Radical feminists initially failed to build much of a movement and what they did have was poorly organized. They underestimated the opposition they would encounter from groups who held different values. However, there was some common ground between the groups. They all sought to free women from the oppression of male dominance in the home and inequity in the workplace. Yet there was more to the movement. In its most sensible form, it was also intended to focus on the emancipation of women and bring their degradation to light. The exploitative sexism in commercials and the behavior of leering men was now being progressively and effectively challenged. So, the movement in and of itself was not bad. There was a benefit to bringing equality to the home and to the workforce.
Nonetheless, there were problems. One of the problems was twofold. While many women failed to admit that they were oppressed, others misunderstood the purpose of the movement. It was either viewed as radical or as ridiculous, and failed to bring women together. Some women were happy with their home life and the idea of change was not what they wanted. A major misstep for radicals was to disenfranchise middle class traditionalist women. Failing to focus upon the common ground and choosing to lambaste willing homemakers, hurt their cause. Moreover, they began to embrace extremist policies as though they’d fail to make progress unless they did. Soon support for the women liberation movement began to collapse under the weight of the errors made by extremists. They took the movement from a valid pursuit of equal treatment to a liberal agenda driven pursuit of things like abortion on demand and the validation of the homosexual lifestyle. Women were now being told that, being equal to men wasn’t sufficient. Now they had to hate men and seek punitive measures to make modern men accountable for the oppression of their ancestors.
A book is born
Betty Friedan’s 1966 book “The Feminine Mystique” brought to light the dullness and emptiness some middle class housewives experienced. Her views brought balance to the landscape and many women agreed that she was spot on. That is, their feelings mirrored hers, but Friedan’s book focused on all female roles, not just the housewife. Her book emphasized the importance of being valued and equal as a human being.
It is important to note that Feidan was not responsible for the Women’s Movement. She did establish N.O.W. (National Organization Of Women) which she was the leader but the women’s movement began a few years before her book hit the shelves. Friedan’s book was mostly a personal account or her own life and how choices she made frustrated her and her views about women and women’s rights. Once her book hit the shelves, it rallied women all over to the Liberation Movement. Friedan never took the femininity of women away with the issues she raised, unlike the radical feminists.
So, what have we gained so far?
Now, let’s examine the accomplishments and effects of the movement as manifested in the aforementioned period. Firstly, many women were no longer happy being required only to tend home and hearth. Additionally, the movement was almost solely responsible for eliminating wage disparity. Sadly, many women felt that the message of the movement meant they shouldn’t be happy at home under any conditions, as if being a homemaker lacked intelligence or skill. As a result, they felt they should seek satisfaction elsewhere at all costs. And, by the 1970’s, divorce was on the rise.
In more rural settings, what women did was of great value. The tenets of home economics governed how the money of the bread winner was utilized. Not to mention, many rural families did a certain amount to farming to bridge the gaps. With children in school and a husband at work, women had their day taken up with chores. Without the hard work and thrifty, ingenious efforts of housewives, rural families would not have been nearly so well cared for. In the urban setting however, family needs changed thereby affecting the role of the housewife. The advent of modern conveniences, the modern housewife now had more time on her hands. This fact, coupled with the clamor of radical voices telling housewives how they should feel, brought discord.
The radicals even became so ridiculous as to suggest that women had the potential to match men in physical strength. While this notion is laughable and not to be taken seriously, it speaks to very real threats we face when we lend our ears to liars and extremists. The physiological differences between men and women are to be revered, not revised, celebrated, not erased. Equality, in the mind of radicals, became synonymous with conquest. They failed to understand the point of the movement. The movement’s founders sought to have women shown the respect that comes with conceding that they are of equal value and nothing more. Additionally, the movement was never intended to question women’s choices. It was intended to give them freedom.
Chivalry is dead and radical feminism killed it
Personally, I like it when a man opens a door for me and exhibits courteous behavior. I see nothing wrong with that. I agree it is a two-way street, but I have no desire to be a man. I was gifted by God to be a woman. But, we do need to appreciate the benefits of the movement. I cannot deny that throughout our history women have been oppressed and men having superiority over a woman. But let’s also not lose sight of the fact that women have always stood up for women’s rights and had success without losing their femininity which is what the movement of the 1960’s seemed to accomplish.
Lest we overlook it, all of humanity needs liberating
Feminists seem to believe that men were already liberated, already have it made which is a big misconception. Do we really believe that men are happy being tied down to a job with a one of two week vacation to look forward to? Men are pressured to financially providing for their families and the success or failure of the family rests squarely on their shoulders. So ‘no’, there is no true liberation for men either. And the feminists have tried to use this misconception to gain leverage. But men did gain some benefits from the movement. Now men had the ability to leave their jobs to deal with family emergencies which was once only acceptable for females. Additionally, men can now enter into fields traditionally held by women, for example teachers and nursing. For the woman entering the workforce, the radical minds within the movement sought to step inside a man’s shoes and walk the path he walked. Many women dressed as men, in slacks and tailored shirts. Another error of feminist mentality was in assuming you had to emulate the male instead of finding your own place.
“I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet.” – Susan B. Anthony
I personally worked in an industry that was heavily staffed by women, but with men in positions of great power. I had to prove myself and felt I had to know more about my job then my male counterpart. Was that reality or just pressure I put on myself to prove my ability? I found success when I realized I had a unique perspective in the workplace. I was a female with qualities that my male counterparts did not possess.
Once I accepted that my feminine abilities were valuable to my success I began to have the success I worked to achieve and is what I believe the movement failed to teach women. The movement failed to teach women how to learn to make their own way in life and use their qualities to succeed and to achieve happiness and fulfillment, even if they decided to remain in the home as care takers. What the movement did not account for was the mass groups of women and social classes. There are women in lower, middle, and upper classes that see their needs differently from each other. But I do believe all women agree they want to be viewed as human beings not as sexual objects. True liberation means that women will not have to lose their femininity and will not be seen as weak but as equal human beings to their male partners.
“The book of Genesis contains a parable about creation. It says that when God first created people He made them male and female, so that both together were God’s image and likeness. At that time He provided that the two should be “one flesh.” There is no hint that God intended in the beginning for either male or female to have superiority.’ Genesis 1:27. — So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
As a Christian, I hold fast to the belief that God created man and woman and that is how we should be. We need each other to be complete and whole. Women do have an uphill battle, there is no denying that however, I cannot say I am in agreement with a radical movement to achieve equality. A movement which includes a woman’s right to an abortion or living a lesbian lifestyle. The radical movement for abortion rights for women was later argued in a letter to Bill Clinton that Abortions help control the poor, and unhealthy from having babies. This was a way for the government to control population. That is not achieving equality but also a subject for another article. We look to have equality as human beings and I do believe that can be achieved. We see husbands and wives now working side by side inside and outside of the home both recognizing strengths in each other and that for me is true liberation. But will there be true success as equals in the workplace and in politics, I think that is still a work in progress. It is still a man’s world but I do believe that we as women standing up for our rights can achieve some level of success and without the radical extremist movement.
While the historical events of the Suffrage Movement are very interesting, there is a much more interesting point that we may all miss. God’s original plan for Men and Women was one of gender equality. Prior to Genesis 3:16c, we see no indication that the man dominated the woman. Both of their lives were to be lived out in type a of paradise until the Original Sin took it from them and their descendants. Since this time, women and men have both had an innate hunger for a return of God’s original plan.
In Christ’s name – Karen J Roche Ragland
Books – The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, Successful Women Think Differently: 9 Habits to Make You Happier, Healthier, and More Resilient by Valorie Burton, The Women’s Liberation Movement, 1960-1990 by Terry Catasús Jennings
Acknowledgement: Thanks to my loving husband C David Ragland Jr. for his help in editing and proofreading. Your input is always valuable and very much appreciated.