You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!
In the late 1960s, the Philip Morris Tobacco Company introduced Virginia Slims as a “women’s only” cigarette, launching it with the now well-known slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” The print ads were marked by staged, old-fashioned, black-and-white photos picturing the miserable state of women in the 1900s, prior to the first women’s movement, juxtaposed against full-color photos of far happier, modern women demonstrating their emancipation from male dominance . . . by smoking Virginia Slims.
Women truly have come a long way in the past fifty years. But a long way isn’t necessarily a good way or the right way.
Up until the middle of the last century, Western culture as a whole generally embraced a Judeo-Christian perspective on gender and sexuality as well as the purpose and structure of the family. Heterosexual marriage, marital fidelity, and the bearing and nurturing of children in an intact family unit were highly valued concepts—the norm of societal practice. Differences between male and female were accepted and seldom questioned.
By the late 1960s, the image of June Cleaver [Leave It to Beaver] being happy at home in her role as a wife and mother had fallen by the wayside, replaced by the 1970s Mary Tyler Moore image of a perky single woman in her thirties, pursuing a career at a television station. The show’s theme song proudly alluded to her autonomy, her independence, and her ability to survive just fine without a man.
In the 1980s, television introduced us to Murphy Brown, an investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional TV newsmagazine. In contrast to the gentle sweetness of Mary Tyler Moore’s character, Murphy Brown was loud-mouthed, brash, driven, self-assured, self-absorbed, and highly opinionated. She was a divorcée and a proud atheist.
In the mid-nineties, enter Ellen—a woman who owned her own independent bookstore. Ellen lived with a man, but their relationship was merely platonic. Gradually, however, we discovered that Ellen wasn’t attracted to men at all. She was a lesbian.
We’ve now been thoroughly indoctrinated with the message that when it comes to relationships, women can make their own rules. The epitome of this mind-set is reflected in a recent popular sitcom for and about women: Sex and the City. Selfhood and sisterhood are what it’s all about. As long as women are loyal to themselves and to their female buddies, they’re on the right track. In the new worldview, men are whiny, needy, not too bright, and totally unreliable. They are marginalized and emasculated.
The Feminist Revolution
Feminism is a distinct philosophy that shook the underpinnings of society in the early 1960s—an “ism” like atheism, humanism, Marxism, existentialism, or postmodernism—a particular philosophical theory, a doctrine, a system of principles and ideas.
Geopolitically, the world of the 1950s was witnessing an era of revolution. A female French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, proposed that modern society was also in need of a revolution in gender roles. De Beauvoir argued that in the relationship between male and female, men were the ruling class, and women were the lower “second sex.” She believed that in order for women to live as full human beings, they needed to demand their rights, collectively rebel against men, and overthrow all the societal structures that men had constructed to keep women in a state of servitude . . . to get out of the home and intentionally deconstruct Judeo- Christian ideas about marriage, motherhood, and morality.
In the late 1950s, American political activist and journalist Betty Friedan constructed a questionnaire for the fifteen-year reunion of her graduating class, asking her college-educated female colleagues about the level of happiness and fulfillment they experienced in their marriages and their roles as wives and mothers.
In the following months she interviewed dozens of other women. In her resulting book, published in 1963, Friedan argued that women were trying to conform to a religious, male-dictated image of womanhood—the Leave It to Beaver ideal she called the “feminine mystique”—but that doing so left them with vague feelings of emptiness, yearning, and wanting something more.
Friedan suggested that in order to find fulfillment, American women should begin to question, challenge, and rebel against the accepted role of wife and mother and traditional thoughts about morality. According to feminism, the only hope for woman’s happiness and self-fulfillment lay in rejecting a male-defined, Judeo-Christian worldview and convincing herself to define her own truth.
In the late 1960s, feminist author Kate Millett used the term “patriarchy”—understood as the “rule of the father.” Patriarchy was used to describe both the dominance of the male as well as the inferiority and subservience of the female. Only the demise and redefinition of all patriarchal structures would lead to her freedom. Only in breaking free from traditional Judeo-Christian roles and rules would woman find meaning and self-fulfillment.
In the first phase of feminism, women claimed the right to name themselves, to redefine their own existence. Their goal was to become more like men and to shed the differences that made them weak and vulnerable to exploitation. Women began to dress like men; to smoke, drink, and swear like men; to claim sexual freedom and participation in the work force on the same basis as men; and to control the biological functions that made them different from men.
Newly established feminist groups, such as NOW (the National Organization for Women), began lobbying and demonstrating publicly in order to further the feminist agenda, which consisted of five main tenets: 1) full self-determination, 2) freedom from biological distinctions, 3) economic independence, 4) total and equal integration into the workforce, and 5) sexual freedom.
Feminists in New York discovered that if they gathered women together in small groups, and got those women talking about their personal hurts and grievances against men, then all the women in the group would begin to get upset and bitter against men. Kathie Sarachild, a feminist activistin New York, learned that this new technique was called “consciousness raising”—a political technique that had been used by the revolutionary army of Mao Tse-tung.
The feminist revolutionaries had incited the women to speak bitterness. As a result, the women grew angry and rebellious. They went home and demanded personal and political change.
Only about two hundred women attended the first national women’s conference in Chicago in 1968. But with the help of consciousness raising, incessant media coverage, and generous government funding, women all across the continent caught the revolutionary fervor and began to claim the right to name and define themselves. By 1970, twenty thousand women marched proudly down New York’s Fifth Avenue, identifying themselves as part of the women’s liberation movement.
Whereas the first phase of the movement viewed women’s differences as weaknesses, the second phase viewed women’s differences as a source of pride and confidence. Feminists began to believe that not only were women “just as good as” men. They were in fact “better” than men.
Feminists needed to reeducate all people to think according to the new feminist paradigm.
Their leaders embarked on an intensive strategy of feminist research and education they called “Woman-Centered Analysis” and “Women’s Studies.” College courses sprang up across the country exploring the rights of women, their status in society, the discrimination they experienced in public roles and private lives, as well as the male gender bias prevalent in culture, literature, and learning.
The values and beliefs of feminism began to be presented in newspapers, periodicals, newscasts, and television programming. By the end of the 1970s, it was difficult to find any medium of communication uninfluenced by feminist thought.
As the eighties dawned, many women had claimed the feminist right to name themselves and their world. And a few, both in secular and religious circles, had started to claim another right: the right to name God.
When Helen Reddy accepted the Grammy award for her “I Am Woman” song, she proudly proclaimed, “I’d like to thank God because She made everything possible.” Feminists argued that the “male” God of the Bible was bad for women. They argued that religion and the God of the Bible were the primary tools men had used throughout history to keep themselves in a position of power, and women in a position of servitude.
But if the God of the Bible is unacceptable to women, then who or what is god? According to feminism, women get to decide—which ultimately means that they themselves are god. The feminist metaphysic teaches that each woman contains divinity within her own being. New Age philosophy, Wicca, and goddess worship are all expressions of the feminist spirituality that arose in the 1980s and 1990s.
Feminism teaches that women ought not to bow down and submit to any external power.
But that’s not the message of the Bible.
The Biblical Perspective
God created us. And He created us male and female. This fact is not inconsequential. It means something.
The Bible informs us that there was an essential difference in the manner and purpose behind the creation of the two sexes. The New Testament reiterates that there are basic differences between men and women that are to be honored as part of God’s design. It is God who made the earth and created mankind upon it, and we do not have the right to question the wisdom of His directives for our lives (Isaiah 45:9, 11b–12a; Romans 9:20–21; 1 Corinthians 11:8–9, 11–12 niv).
Our identity as male and female also has an important symbolic aspect. It teaches us about the relationship between ourselves as God’s people (the church) and God. It also teaches us something of the relationships within the Godhead itself.
As Christians, we must allow God to name Himself, to name His world, and to name male and female. This belief contains the only hope for getting life right. The only hope for discovering our true identity and purpose. The only hope for untangling the gnarled, knotted mess that sin has made of gender and relationships.
There is no man on the face of this earth who can completely fulfill the desires of a woman’s heart, and the longings of our hearts will not be met when we look to careers and sex and self-determination for fulfillment. We need to turn to the One for whom we were created and to whom all our yearnings point—the Lord Jesus Christ—and say “yes!” to Him.
The time is ripe for a new movement—a seismic, holy quake of countercultural Christian women who dare to take God at His Word, who have the courage to stand against the popular tide, choosing to believe and delight in God’s plan for male and female.
Article taken from Voices of the True Woman Movement, edited by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2010). Excerpt from Chapter 3, “You’ve come a Long Way, Baby!” by Mary A. Kassian. Used by permission.