The History Of Feminism And The Church -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 03:4 (Winter 1998)
Article: The History Of Feminism And The Church
Author: Anonymous

The History Of Feminism And The Church

An Excerpt And Summary From The Feminist Gospel, By Mary Kassian

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt and summary of Mary Kassian’s book, The Feminist Gospel: The Movement to Unite Feminism with the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 1992). God willing, we hope to include further excerpts from Mary’s work in upcoming issues of JBMW.

Early Feminism

In the 1790s and early 1800s, a flurry of books on the rights of women and the equality of the sexes signaled the beginning of the “first wave” of feminism. Then, in 1848 one hundred American women gathered at a convention in Seneca Falls, New York to ratify a “Declaration of Sentiments” regarding the basic natural rights of women. The “Declaration”, drafted primarily by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, catalogued 15 grievances. Stanton, catalogued 15 grievances. They complained that women did not have the right to vote, were barred from “profitable employment”, were excluded from universities and the professions of theology, medicine and law, and were obligated to obey their husbands.

The women’s movement gained momentum over the next few decades. Doors opened to higher education and many professions. Laws were passed which protected the economic and property-owning rights of married women. In 1920 American women obtained the right to vote. By 1930, they were entering the work force in greater numbers.

But then, for reasons that are difficult to pinpoint, the movement stalled. Perhaps it was because of the war, perhaps it was because the dream attained did not bring the satisfaction it promised, but within one generation, many women ceased to pursue the professional ends they had previously sought and returned home. The fervor of the 1920s and 30s was lost. The public cry for women’s equality became dormant.

Breaking The Silence

French philosopher Simone deBeauvoir broke the silence about women’s issues and began the rejuvenation of the movement. Her book, The Second Sex, was published in 1949 and translated into English in 1953. She was trained in philosophy and was the companion of Jean-Paul Sartre. They shared a common philosophy known today as existentialism. It is based on the concept that the individual is entirely free, and must therefore accept commitment and full responsibility for his acts and decisions in an uncertain and purposeless world. Her model for male-female interaction is based upon this existentialist philosophy.

Her primary thesis was that women are second-class citizens in today’s world. Man is the measure of woman. He is the absolute, the essential. “She is the incidental, the inessential … the other.” This inequality was found in every area of society: Economics, industry,...

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