B.F. (Before Feminism)

(Sexism) was a fact of life I simply had to accept. Men felt threatened and mistrustful of women who had good ideas, and one had to employ immense tact when dealing with directors and producers. – Olivia de Haviland, 100 year old actress

What really burns me up,” Gertrude Legendre wrote in October 1941, “is the unbelievable lack of confidence in a woman’s ability. It positively enrages me. Men cannot bear to have their world encroached upon by more efficient women. They hate to give way [to women], they hate to admit they are good, they hate to give them the power. It fairly drives me nuts. Gee I would love to speak my mind on that subject every now and again.

It’s difficult for me to imagine a world where women couldn’t open up a bank account without the permission of a male relative, or take out a loan without the countersignature of a male relative, where dress codes for ladies were blouses and skirts only, worn with sensible heels and no jewellery, where women couldn’t serve on jury duty and women being tried for crimes wouldn’t have a woman serving on their jury, where women who had passed the test to be lawyers could still be denied the right to represent their client, where birth control pills were illegal, where pregnant women would often loose their jobs because maternity leave hadn’t been created yet, where elite schools and universities were men only, where women couldn’t participate in the Boston Marathon, where women could only get so far and no further, and where women were expected to be less intelligent, less capable, and less important and often treated as such.

In a lot of ways, feminism has irreversibly changed our world. Some would say that it’s not for the better and they can easily come up with lists of things about what feminism has made worse; family usually tops the list. “Why, if it weren’t for feminism, divorce wouldn’t be so rampant and there would be fewer fatherless homes.” Is a lament I often hear; but one must give some credit to men who, now that there is far less societal pressure to be fathers, choose to do so anyway not because they’re supposed to or they have to, but they truly want to be fathers – and good ones, too. One would think it would make for a happier home and family.

I was reading a blog where the author was talking about how feminists wouldn’t like a particular interpretation of the Bible. It got me to thinking; it wasn’t so long ago that the verse would have had an entirely different interpretation Before Feminism. Feminism challenged old assumptions about Scriptures, in the process, it’s opponents created new interpretations to reinforce ancient ideas about the roles of men and women. I’ve lived my whole life in a world changed by Feminism, reading a Bible that might be the same as it was Before Feminism, but will never be understood the same way as it was Before Feminism.

I think half the reason why the internet sometimes gives feminism a bad reputation is because we have less access to the chorus of elderly women who remember what it was like to live in a time before feminism, what changes were going on when feminism began to challenge the status quo. Some are now at rest; others aren’t exactly tech savvy. It really is our loss if we don’t ask how things were like before feminism because once an entire generation dies; they take their memories with them unless they had written them down. I sure hope they do write them down; that they lessons they learned get passed down so we can learn from them ourselves and teach others; and hopefully avoid being doomed to repeat a history they worked so hard to change.

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7 thoughts on “B.F. (Before Feminism)

  1. I feel that the conversation regarding Christianity and Feminism is one that will be on-going. Feminism is a movement and an ideology. Feminism has brought a lot of good to the world, as you pointed out. Further more, I’d add that feminism has shed light on very serious issues like domestic violence. Women no longer have to hide in their house if they have bruises from their husband. (That was the standard procedure just a few decades ago, my grandma can tell you all about it).

    Yes, there are elements of feminism that don’t really align with a Biblical world view (another conversation for another day, perhaps). But, I remind people that in 2017, the term “feminist” is a very large umbrella term under which a variety of beliefs fall. Of course, there are going to be nipple-freeing, vagina hat-wearing, man-hating extremeist, but the church has those too (Looking at you, WBC)

    As far as Scripture goes, all I would like to say is that I believe we should be careful when reading Scripture that we don’t we don’t allow our world view to alter Scripture. Far too often we crack open the Bible with the intent of proving our stance or disproving someone else’s. I don’t believe the Bible was intended to help us win political arguments. While we can find answers to some of the tough questions, the Bible should never divide believers.

    Almost done…lastly, as I’ve said, I am a complementarian. I’m going to assume you are not (lol). Moons ago, when I first embraced complementarian theology, I was super annoyed by egalitarians, to a point where I would call them heretics. I’ve since reeled it in a bit. Both comp and egalitarian theology can be backed with Scripture (same goes with Calvinism/Arminianism/Molonism). If we aren’t altering the nature of God and we aren’t changing the Gospel, I think it’s okay to disagree and debate these issue.

    As always, good post. Happy holy week!

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    1. The verses in question had to do with 1 Corinthians 11’s first half of verses; back in your grandmother’s day, odds are she always wore a hat to church. Since the time of the feminist movement; that tradition has – with some exceptions – not been widespread of late. Before feminism; ideas like gender confusion wouldn’t have been a topic preached on at any given Sunday. But you’re right that feminism called attention to domestic violence; an area where Christians sometimes lack an appropriate response. I remember watching a documentary where a wife who fled her abusive husband had to apologize to the congregation for her failed marriage before the elders would allow her to participate in the church life of her denomination.

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      1. Sorry it took me so long to reply. WP spazzed on me for a minute lol. It is interesting that men usually remove their hats to pray, but women don’t cover their heads. That has always been interesting to me.

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      2. That’s assuming a guy is wearing a hat, at most that’s what, two or three? I don’t see it often. Not like it was back in the day. I once saw a hundred year old picture of times square and absolutely everybody was wearing one.

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      3. When I talked with my grandmother about head coverings; she just said that they were the fashion of the time and that they didn’t have any meaning; but she never really liked them in the first place and was glad that they were gone because they were more hassle than they were worth. My other grandmother passed on years ago and I never really had the chance to ask her; but I remember her closet had these weird round boxes that were hat boxes that we weren’t supposed to touch. From what research I’ve done; they represented a serious investment.

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  2. Balanced post on a very tricky subject! Nicely written. 😊
    I remember coming across head coverings in the bible and getting really stressed out about it because I obviously wanted to please God. I was much younger then but now realise it was more of a culture thing, similar to the reason why your grandmother would’ve worn one. I’m glad that I feel a great sense of freedom, as a woman in this day and age and its definitely something to be thankful for.
    Hayley 😊

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