The Feminist Influence

"They [women] will improve not only their own status, but will alter the structure of politics and government, and thereby change the structure of society," (Clout -- Woman Power and Politics; eds. Susan and Martin Tolchin) 247. We, in the church of our Lord, are generally well-aware of a woman's role in the church. However, in my estimation, many of us are unaware of the influence that the feminist movement is exerting in the world, on our congregations, and on us individually.

This article is written to provide information for those who may not have the time, or seen the need, to do the research themselves. Material ABOUT the feminist movement was NOT used. All research has been from feminist writings, written by feminists, for feminists. I leave the interpretation of the feminist's influence on the brotherhood to those more knowledgeable in this area.

In Feminist Quotations, a research source for feminist leaders, Elizabeth Oakes Smith is quoted as having told a Women's Rights Convention in 1852 that their aim was "nothing less than an entire subversion of the present order of society" 243. In the same book, Shulamith Firestone is quoted as saying in the 1970's that feminists have to question all of Western culture, the organization of culture itself, and even the very organization of nature, 247.

"Androgyny" and "patriarchy" are terms frequently encountered in feminists' writings. The former means having the sexual characteristics of both male and female. Jill Johnson says, "Any bioanalytically oriented person knows we were originally one sex" [FQ] 52. Alison M. Jaggar thinks androgyny will be physically possible in the future (Feminist Politics and Human Nature) 132. In fairness, however, most use the term only in regard to psychological, cultural, and religious characteristics. "The becoming of androgynous human persons," writes Mary Daly, "implies a radical change in the fabric of human consciousness and in styles of human behavior" (Beyond God The Father) 15.

When feminists use the term "patriarchy" they are NOT referring to the ancient patriarchal system of the Hebrews. They are referring to ANY AUTHORITY of male over female, and almost all agree that such authority MUST be abolished in ALL AREAS of personal, religious, and public life.

Ruth Hubbard says that the Judaeo-Christian view is flawed in making man the namer and ruler of all life (Discovering Reality) 48. Susan Brownmiller considers sexual intercourse against a wife's will to be rape. She is referring to a wife being talked into intercourse after she has declined, not to forced intercourse (Against Our Will) 427-28. Some view marriage either as obsolete or an abnormality. Others promote unscriptural forms of "marriage."

Women are demanding the "right" to speak and teach in religious assemblies. Advocating a "full ministerial role" for women, Bernand P. Prusak says that the Genesis myth was written by men to exclude women "from any public role" so that men might assume and retain dominance over civil and religious society (Religion and Sexism) 106-07.

"Patriarchy," writes Jane Flax, "has permeated both our concept of knowledge and the concrete content of bodies of knowledge" [DR] 269. According to Sandra Harding in the same book, masculine perspectives have shaped the most fundamental and formal aspects of systematic thought in philosophy and in the social and the natural sciences. She calls for a more adequate epistemology, metaphysics, methodology, and philosophy of science [DR] Introd. ix-xi. "Beliefs and values that have held sway for thousands of years," writes Daly, "will be questioned as never before" [Beyond] 13-14.

According to former congresswoman Bella Abzug, the "ultimate goal" of women's liberation is "full participation as equal partners with men" in shaping public policy (Gender Gap) 212. This goal includes full control of women's own bodies and complete economic independence. And this goal is world-wide in scope. According to Maxine P. Fisher, the U.N. Conferences on Women have resulted in an organization of women that transcends national boundaries, including those of the Third World (Women in the Third World) 153.

There are many vehicles through which the feminist movement is working to obtain their ultimate goal. One is the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA was NOT the goal -- it was only one of many vehicles. Jo Freeman points out that "the specific legal consequences of the ERA itself are not really worth the effort that has been put into it" (The Politics of Women's Liberation) 240. Involving tens of thousands of women directly in politics, the ERA battle gave women a "respect for their own ability to change the course of history" [Clout] 134.

Neither is the abortion issue the primary goal. It, along with many other issues, is only a vehicle. According to Barbara Sichtemann, the abortion campaign mobilized many women not directly affected and influenced the higher echelons of politics. "But it was only one branch" of the real organizing force behind the women's movement (Femininity) 93.

According to Bella Abzug, once women prove that their vote can be decisive, they will win recognition for their views [Gap] 213-14. Realizing that they need the full support of other women to make their vote decisive, feminist leaders determine the concerns that are important to specific groups and legislate for these concerns. ANY issue of interest to women can serve as a vehicle to promote feminist interests.

In the process of legislating for these concerns, feminist leaders gather small groups of women together for discussion. This common meeting ground provides them opportunities to educate women in feminist thinking. This is not done in a direct manner. It is done in a very subtle manner -- so that the ones being influenced are unaware that they are being influenced. And they in turn influence others. This method of communicating feminist goals and gaining support is spoken of throughout Feminist writings.

These women are not the stereotyped "Women Libbers" that many of us may picture. They are the woman next door, the business persons we meet every day, our children's teachers, the responsible media journalist. Many are good women. Many are well-educated and articulate. Many of them, deservedly so, hold high public office. They are respected members of the community. And because they are to be respected, their influence can be devastating to our Christian beliefs and practices!

Sandra F. Cobble

Published in The Old Paths Archive