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Am I a Feminist?

am I a feminist, via lagarfias.com

Over a month has passed since I wrote a negative review of a book on “feminine loveliness for mothers and daughters” that caused such a tempest in a teapot. It wasn’t the controversy itself that surprised me – I knew there would be some that agreed with me, and many that wouldn’t.

What surprised me was the un-lovely way in which they responded.

But be that as it may, I still can’t get the entire issue off my mind. Not because I regret the review. On the contrary, I stand behind every word. My husband, too, who “approves this message” whenever I write on something controversial. He actually had some stronger words that *giggle* would have really bunched up some lace.

And as an aside, if the straw-man argument from the author is really such an issue, it is an easy one to clear up, really. Because, patriocentricity, like anything else (legalism, Pharisaicalism, religious humanism, or any judgement that, yes, Scripturally we are called upon to make) is often “in the eye of the beholder.” And it is a word that means something. Patrio – father. Centricity – centered. Father-centered, another form of man-centered religiosity in which religion, relationships (human and spiritual), and activities are centered around the father. Readers can decide for themselves by reading pages 155-175 of the book and making up their own minds.

But, alas, that wasn’t the real issue of the book (notice it was only one word in my entire review. The 482 other words I wrote were spent expressing my real concern: the unbalance in the book’s portrayal of feminine virtue.

Out of 20 chapters:

  • One each are for the introductory and concluding thoughts
  • Four chapters deal with modesty and dress
  • Four chapters deal with courtship, flirting, and guy/girl relationships
  • Three chapters deal with contentment and biblical self-esteem issues
  • Two chapters deal with sibling bickering and tongue issues
  • One chapter is devoted to bathing and smelling nice
  • Two chapters are morality tales
  • One chapter relates to homemaking

It just seemed so unbalanced. As strong, virtuous women today – or any day in history! – we will be judged by so much more than how we dress (anyone recall what Miriam was wearing when she crossed the Red Sea?) or how we smell (had Mary taken a bath the day Gabriel appeared?) or *gasp!* whether we hold advanced degrees or work in or outside the home (ever heard of Lydia? or Priscilla?). Hebrews 11 holds a much different standard of faith, even for the women there- they “received strength” from God (vs 11), they hid spies ( the harlot! vs 31), they received their dead (vs 35) and are now part of the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on in our race of faith (12:1).

Now, lest I be mis-quoted again as saying modesty doesn’t matter, that is not the message at all. Modesty matters. There. I said it. BUT THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO TEACH MY DAUGHTER! And what she wears, how she takes a bath, and how she thinks about boys (that’s easy. don’t.) should not take up the bulk of what I am teaching her feminine virtue is comprised of.

My husband says I need to write about what biblical womanhood really means now. Clearly, it is beyond the scope of this short post. Perhaps a series will come soon.

In the meantime my daughter, like her mother, has a lot of work to do. My prayer for her is not only that she learns that “favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”

I want to push her forward, farther, harder. To go deeper in her spiritual life, farther in her studies, more passionately after her husband, more long-suffering with her children, and more boldly with her God-given talents than she imagines.

Then, I pray God will

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.

 – Proverbs 31: 31

6 Comments

  1. Love this! As I watch my daughters (15 and 13) grow up, the more I realize how teachings like this leave us wanting. My 15 yo was talking to me last night about her passion for the persecuted church, and her desire to use her artistic skills with special needs people, perhaps pursuing a degree in “art therapy”. I am so thankful God delivered me from the camp of focusing on outward behavior, and they are concerned with more than the length of their hemline or hair. I want SO MUCH MORE for them.

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  2. THANK YOU! I feel the exact same way about this book. I’ve tried over and over again to read books like this with my daughter. I want her to be a virtuous woman. I WANT to be a virtuous, meek, and mild woman. But every time we try to read a book like this I wind up setting it aside because it feels so focused on superficial stuff. I’m amazed at how a book can say the inward heart is most important and then spend so many chapters on the outward appearance. It sends a double message.

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  3. I’ve been pondering what it really means to be a godly woman. When I think of that, I end up thinking of my grandmothers and my Mom in particular. Mom was not perfect, and she would have been the first to admit that! But she was a woman of faith. She wanted more than anything to walk with God.

    Mom did dress modestly. She was kind. She was a homemaker. She was a homeschooling Mom. But these things did not MAKE her a godly woman, rather she did these things because she WAS a godly woman. She taught me plenty in these areas, but more importantly, she taught me what it mean to have faith. And not just a superficial faith, but a bone-deep faith that was so real that it affected every area of her life.

    When someone came for coffee, they didn’t come because of her shining, perfectly matched tea service and elegant dining room. She poured the boiling water from the teakettle on her stove into miss-matched coffee mugs from her cupboard. Her kitchen table didn’t have a fancy tablecloth or flower arrangement, and usually had some stray paperwork or mail on it. People came because sitting down with my Mom for coffee meant being genuinely encouraged and ministered to. When she asked, “How have you been?”, she meant it. She didn’t just offhandedly say “I’ll pray for you!” She said, “Let’s pray right now.”

    I’ve not read the book Lea Ann, and perhaps I’ll get to it at some point, but I think you have a VERY valid concern. If we focus too much on the appearance of biblical womanhood, and emphasize what a godly woman should DO, then we can miss out on the greater issue of what a godly woman should BE. (I look forward to your series!)

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  4. Pingback: Toward Biblical Womanhood, Part 1 | Whatever State I Am

  5. Pingback: Toward Biblical Womanhood, Part 2 | Lea Ann Garfias

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