[In this two-part series, Samantha offers her thoughts on a Focus on the Family radio interview with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian, authors of True Woman 101: Divine Design.]
Yesterday I went over the first half of Jim Daly and John Fuller’s interview with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian over at Focus on the Family’s daily radio program. DeMoss and Kassian are promoting their new book, True Woman 101: Divine Design, an eight-week course in “biblical womanhood.”
The title of the program was “Feminism and the Gender Blur,” but the material they covered barely seemed to scratch the surface of gender identity—instead, they discuss how women are straying outside their view of what God’s plan is for women, and they focus most of their attention on the evils of feminism. Their basic argument throughout the first half of the broadcast was to show that feminism is behind raunch culture, rape culture, and suicidal depression in women.
Jim Daly and John Fuller direct the conversation with loaded, inflammatory questions, and they open Part Two of their broadcast with another one:
Daly: How has feminism spilled into church culture . . . and what is biblical about gender roles? DeMoss: There is something unique and beautiful between the differences in women and men, and God intended that to reflect his nature.
Fuller: My wife really struggled initially . . .as a mind that had interest in other things [outside of having children]. She was a professor, and hearing her talk about her work went over my head.
Kassian: Feminism says that “Women can have it all, all at one time.” What human being doesn’t want that, in our selfish nature? But it just doesn’t work.
I wish I could write out the entire transcript so that you could read the breadth of what they claim throughout this broadcast. Over and over again each of them claims that gender essentialism (which they finally define in a bit) is a reflection of God. A full articulation of this idea is in their book, but what they seem to think is that men and women represent two “sides” of God—a chick and a dude version of God, if you will, like a Christian imagining of yin and yang, almost. And yes—there are difficulties and obstacles to being both a professional and a mother. Kassian and DeMoss are painting an extremely inaccurate rendering of modern feminism here. Feminists do not ignore these problems—but their solutions (like requiring maternity and paternity leave, moving our economy toward more flexible work schedules) are different than what Kassian and DeMoss present as the only biblical option.
A large part of this opening discussion is Daly and Fuller talking about their wives and how they were initially torn about giving up their professional careers, but eventually realized it was the only biblical thing to do. Kassian, especially, reinforces this idea—using words like “selfish” and “self-focused” to describe a woman who tries to raise a family and have a career:
Fuller: Why do women in particular struggle with “switching” from being a professional to being a mother? Why does depression creep in?
DeMoss: Our feminist culture does not value children, and I’m talking about Christian feminists here . . . taking care of children isn’t really that important . . . but God has placed a nurturing heart in a woman. The mindset of women today is that of an ostrich that tramples their children . . . They don’t ask how to glorify God.
Kassian: Women come to me, saying “I want to have a ministry, I want to help others,” and I just look at them, and I wonder—don’t you have children? Don’t you realize how important that is? How much more wise would it be to invest in your children’s lives than try to fix a Humpty Dumpty situation when they’re teenagers?
First, Fuller assumes that if you try to be a working mother, you’re going to become depressed (which has already been established as “soul sickness”). This threat is all over this broadcast. Don’t do what they tell you, and you’re going to face consequences for going against God’s plan for your life.
And then DeMoss targets Christian feminists—which seem to be a surprising reality to her –and accuses them of “trampling children.” She is referencing Job 39:17-17 and Lamentations 4:3 here. She is saying that feminism “hardens” us “against our young ones, as though they are not ours. . . because God has deprived us of our wisdom.” She quotes the Lamentations passage directly, saying “the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.” First off, that is some horrendously bad hermeneutics happening there, and she is ripping that passage away from any context that makes sense. Second—this is an insulting depiction of feminism. Feminism is cruel to children?
Kassian completes this threat when she starts talking about Humpty Dumpty—women, stay at home, pour out your life into your children, or you’re going to be dealing with smashed, trampled, broken teenagers. Not only that, but she offers yet another baffling reason for why women shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the church, or direct a ministry. If you try to have a ministry, your children will not receive everything they need from you. Being a mother is a 24/7 job, and if you even try to do anything else, they will suffer for it. Kassian and DeMoss are using any tool at their disposal—guilt, shame, threats.
The only time they discuss “gender blurring” appears here:
Kassian: There’s so much gender confusion today, girls and boys don’t even know what gender they are . . . the homosexuality movement is the fruit of these lines being blurred, of losing these distinctions.
Just… ugh. Talk about reductionism. And a complete lack of understanding of pretty much anyone in the LGBTQ community. At least Kassian seems to be aware of more than just gay and lesbians here, as this statement seems to acknowledge transgender people and the acceptance of gender fluidity in LGBTQ communities. But then she blames it on moms and dads not enforcing gender essentialism from the get-go, as if homosexuality is something that could be prevented and fixed.
Daly: When you’re speaking to women who want to live a life that’s fruitful in her marriage, what do you tell her?
DeMoss: I take her back to Genesis and start unpacking God’s amazing plan for gender . . . The root word for woman is tied up in softness, pliability, receivability—but the root word for man is strength, provision and protection.
Here, DeMoss is using the same vocabulary and rhetoric that Doug Wilson used when he said that “a woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” Many writers, thinkers, and leaders were horrified by the language in Wilson’s argument, but this language appears everywhere when complementarians insist that gender essentialism is the only biblical view of gender identity.
Kassian: Don’t make decisions based on practicality. You may have a job where you earn more money than your husband, and it may be practical for you to go out and earn the money and for him to stay home. But there’s something in terms of identity that you’re going against when you do that. God created men to draw their identity from work . . . God created woman to draw identity from relationships and networking . . . Women have a unique and specific responsibility for the home in a way that men do not have.
I’m not sure, but it seems to be that Kassian has just point-blank said that to follow God’s role for women, you have to leave common sense at the door. She also makes her opinion of “stay at home dads” pretty clear here—they’ve been told by feminism that it’s ok for them to surrender their identity that they can supposedly only find in work. Aren’t we supposed to find our identity in Christ? I swear I’ve heard something along those lines . . .
Fuller: There’s that age-old issue of relinquishing control . . . We’re clutching, not willing to trust God to take care of us. . . . In this area of gender confusion, it’s so obvious, that if we let go of our selfishness . . . it would be such a freeing thing.
Daly: Again, sociology shows that women are not happier, by and large.
There Daly goes again, with his sociology talk about feminism making women miserable. And Fuller, here, is telling us that feminism is selfish, and that it creates traps and boundaries for women. Feminists are not “free.” But oh, wait—DeMoss responds, and it gets so . . . ugly, at this point.
DeMoss: We need to be sensitive to the occasions where women have a background of abuse—but we can’t say that the solution for abuse is for women to “cling to their rights.” Christ laid down his rights . . . We are the most like Christ when we are serving, and when we’re not “the end thereof is the way of death.” Feminism is the “forbidden fruit,” and the world’s ways are attractive, but when we bit into it we get a mouthful of worms . . . When you lay down your “rights,” then you find God leads you to pleasant paths . . . We live in a broken world, no one has a perfect marriage . . . we have to wait for eternity to find happiness.
I’m trying to remind myself that these women are working from a perspective where women can only be fulfilled and happy if they follow what they say is God’s plan, but I’m having a really hard time not becoming furious. Women who are abused shouldn’t “cling to their rights”? Women who are abused should “just continue serving”? Feminism, which advocates for the rights of abused women, is “the way of death”? And, as a matter of fact, you should just give up on being happy right now and thinking you deserve a marriage where your husband doesn’t abuse you, because the only place you’ll be happy is in heaven after you die.
By all that is just and good in this world . . . this is why feminists look at this type of complementarianism and wonder how in the world a sane person can think this. This type of rhetoric is dangerous and vile. It’s also pervasive and woven into nearly every single discussion on “biblical womanhood.” According to these women, being a woman God’s way means surrendering your right not to be abused. I want to stop right here and weep for every woman who has ever been told this hideous lie and believed it, but there’s more.
Fuller: The feminist culture stokes these flames, telling women that “she can be more than this, she can do more than this.” She’s pummeled by all these myths that tell her she lacks power [when she follows God’s plan] . . . Somehow, as a woman, you have to get a hold of yourself and say “I don’t believe that” . . . How do you not believe these lies?
Kassian’s response is that we cannot “take wholesale the lies of feminism” and still “expect to think in ways that are godly.” She describes Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly, from Proverbs, and puts feminists squarely into the camp of Lady Folly, who again, “are the ways of death.” The next few minutes of conversation are a plea from DeMoss and Kassian for men to “step up.” They say, “men, we need you to be our heroes.” They tell men that this must be a very difficult thing to do, because there’s so many feminists out there, and warn women that if they take up the “mantle of leadership,” they are not being the woman God wants.
Daly: Find God’s way—don’t find your own way, like feminism’s solution. The feminists didn’t stop to think.
DeMoss: They didn’t think this, but there way is the way of bitterness, anger, conflict, rancor. You’ll never cross the finish line this way. God’s way is humility servanthood . . . as we follow God’s way, there’s joy, goodness, and beauty.
Those were the last words of the broadcast, and DeMoss and Kassian wrapped up the argument against feminism by resort to the good ol’ standby: feminists are a bunch of bitter, angry, man-hating hags. They’re arrogant and selfish, and incapable of finding “joy and beauty.”
I was glad when it was finally over—I don’t think I could have handled much more of their disparaging depictions of feminism or their subtle blame-shifting. There’s so much here that tells me that they are aware of what feminists have been showing for the past few months especially. They know that we are out here, showing how patriarchy is a culture of domination and oppression; that the complementarian culture depends on threats, especially the threat of rape. But instead of opening their eyes and realizing the damage their teachings can cause, they are stuffing their fingers in their ears. They are digging their trenches even deeper. They accuse feminism and the advocacy for women’s rights of perpetuating rape and raunch cultures. They point the finger at feminism and say that it is “the way of death,” and they threaten any woman that might follow us with destroyed marriages, destroyed children, and despair.
Samantha grew up in an independent fundamental Baptist cult-church in the deep South that taught Quiverfull and patriocentricity, was homeschooled, went to Pensacola Christian for college, and eventually realized that it was all completely nuts. She blogs about her slow, sometimes painful journey out of a fundamentalist indoctrination at Defeating the Dragons.