Women's 'Liberation' Through Submission: An Evangelical Anti-Feminism Is Born
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DeMoss’ fellow speakers shared her faith. Striding to the stage to the soundtrack of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” Mary Kassian riffed on a common biblical womanhood theme: that the queasy unhealthiness of the vintage Virginia Slims slogan, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” was representative of feminism’s unhealthy promises to women: appealing to women’s desire for independence, but selling a dangerous product. Kassian’s premise -- that feminism took women a “long way” in the wrong direction -- echoed that of Mary Pride, submission and headship advocate and author of the homeschooling mother’s cult classic book, The Way Home: Away from Feminism, Back to Reality, published some twenty years earlier.
Pride made the case in the late ’80s for submission as a revolutionary calling, and Kassian’s evocation of Reddy’s old feminist fight song was as deliberate a declaration that the “True Woman” movement was as revolutionary as feminism had been. “I’m praying that God is going to raise up a counterrevolution of women,” she told the crowd, “women who hold the knowledge of our times in one hand and the truth and the clarity and the charity of the Word of God the other; women whose hearts are broken over the gender confusion and the spiritual and emotional and relational carnage of our day and who, like those men of old, know what to do.”
DeMoss has collaborated with a number of her fellow speakers before. In 2002, she edited a compilation of essays on submission and headship entitled Biblical Womanhood in the Home, which drew contributions from Kassian, Hunt, and other complementarian matriarchs, such as Dorothy Kelley Patterson, who with her husband, Paige Patterson, created the homemaking degree and curriculum introduced at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2007 and P. Bunny Wilson, author of anti-feminist Christian books such as Liberated Through Submission. In her introduction to the collection, DeMoss wrote of her culture-transforming ambitions:
I began to wonder what might happen in our day if even a small number of devoted, intentional women would begin to pray and believe God for a revolution of a different kind -- a counterrevolution -- within the evangelical world… Unlike most revolutions, this counterrevolution does not require that we march in the streets or send letters to Congress or join yet another organization. It does not require us to leave our homes; in fact, for many women, it calls them back into their homes. It requires only that we humble ourselves, that we learn, affirm, and live out the biblical pattern of womanhood, and that we teach the ways of God to the next generation.
To that end, DeMoss has worked with the CBMW, Campus Crusade for Christ’s Family Life, the Moody media empire, Moms In Touch International, and other organizations -- pushing not just the familiar list of Christian right demands, but a more subtle, and more thorough, transformation of Christian family life and structure, from which to wage a more effective culture war.
The imperative of such a return to “biblical” gender roles is even farther- reaching though, as Kassian explained. Feminism, she argued, in a paraphrase of the argument in her book The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture, is a multistage process that begins with feminism’s insistence on self-definition and self-determination, and ends with feminism’s declaration that women can interpret and decide for themselves who or what God is: a statement of theological relativity that threatens to undermine biblical literalism completely. In The Feminist Mistake, Kassian explained this slide more thoroughly:
Feminism begins with a deconstruction of a Judeo-Christian view of womanhood (the right to name self); progressed to the deconstruction of manhood, gender relationships, family/societal structures, and a Judeo-Christian worldview (the right to name the world); and concluded with the concept of a metaphysical pluralism, self-deification, and the rejection of the Judeo-Christian deity (the right to name God).