I remember the first time I became aware of the impact of feminism. My grandmother, a tiny, sweet, woman, told me about working in an office environment. She mentioned how it used to be that when she approached a door, especially if there were lots of people around, someone would always open and hold the door for her. It was just common courtesy. But by the time she was near retirement, this was no longer the case. Men were intimidated by women and had long since given up acts of chivalry. In fact, the only person she could think of who had held a door for her recently was a young, studded punk rocker with a huge pink mohawk. She blamed this on feminism.
She was probably correct in her assessment. The Feminist Mistake, by Mary Kassian traces the rise of feminism through the twentieth century. It shows how a movement at first designed to protect women’s rights, soon morphed into a movement of incredibly destructive power – a movement that has ultimately caused great harm to society and to the church. “Looking back over the past fifty years is a sobering exercise. Feminism was the dream that promised women happiness and fulfillment. But I suspect … we would find that women are unhappier and less fulfilled than ever. The feminist paradigm simply does not match the reality of who God created women and men to be. Hence it cannot deliver on its promise” (page 299).
Kassian traces feminism through three broad stages: naming self, naming the world and naming God. Feminism began as a movement to define and protect the rights of women. Women were naming themselves. As it progressed women demanded the right to name the world, to redefine much more than their own roles. And in the final stage, women have demanded the right to redefine God within the framework of their feminist philosophy.
The book seems to have three goals. The first is to trace feminism through modern history. As someone who has always been fascinated by history and who studied it through college, this had great appeal and I found it very interesting. It was particularly fascinating to see the movement stray farther and farther away from the biblical and societal norms.
The second goal is to prove that Christian feminism and secular feminism are really no different. Kassian shows that what is radical in one generation is mainstream in the next, and then works its way into the church shortly thereafter. At this point in history, feminism has gone mainstream so that most women are feminists without being aware of it. And this includes Christian feminists. The author writes, for example, that in the evangelical church, “the biblical pattern of complementarity is no longer the standard. Whereas in the past, complementarity could generally be “caught,” the new cultural milieu dictates that it must now be “taught.” The default belief of the average churchgoer has changed” (page 288). Christian feminism, at its heart is pluralistic, ecumenical, anti-authority and pro-deviance. The chapter about feminist hermeneutics was startling; showing how feminists hold nothing sacred in their desire to oust any theology they feel contradicts their feminist presuppositions.
Finally, Kassian suggests what the church needs to do and to recover in order to guard against feminism. Unfortunately this constitutes the shortest section in the book, which is a pity since what is there is fascinating.
Kassian concludes that “Feminism has failed miserably, and ironically it has exacerbated the very problem it set out to resolve. Instead of promoting a healthy self-identity for women or contributing to the greater harmony between the sexes, it has resulted in increased gender confusion, increased conflict, and a profound destruction of morality and family” (page 299). Those are strong words, but they are well-proven. While it is simple enough to trace the history of feminism, it is far more difficult to see how what has been lost can be reclaimed. But the book ends optimistically, calling for a new generation to embrace the Gospel and to take God at His word.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is willing to embark on what is sometimes a difficult read. To truly understand feminism, it is necessary to see it in its historical context both within and outside of the church. Having defined and having come to a greater understanding of it, we will be equipped to guard against it.
The book is more historical than theological. But what theology there is seems sound.
It is not the easiest book you’ll read, but that is due to content more than style.
There is much more written from theh opposite perspective.
This is an important book if you want to understand the rise and influence of feminism in the church.
Recommended for pastors, church leaders and others who are interested in the subject matter.