Unseduced and Unshaken: A Book Review

 

 

 

The following is a book review of Rosalie de Rosset’s book, Unseduced and Unshaken: The Place of Dignity in a Young Woman’s Choices. I’ve been given a copy of the book to give to one of my readers, so if you’re interested in a free book, leave a comment! 

 

When I first began reading Unseduced and Unshaken (which one of my twitter followers joked sounded like what you’d get when you played a James Bond film backwards), though there were a few aspects of it that made me uneasy, I wanted to like it. I really did. The author made several points that stood out from typical Christian jargon and I wanted to embrace those points and write a review about how I was “pleasantly surprised.” The main idea of the book is the idea that women should be “dignified.” That word made me cringe right from the start, but the author’s initial definition of dignity actual had me nodding my head in agreement. According to Rosset, a dignified woman is strong, demands respect, has found her voice and uses it, and boldly speaks the truth. Rosset encourages women to educate themselves, study theology on their own (in opposition to asking their husbands at home, a point which made me particularly happy), and to reject the world’s attempts to sexualize and commodify women. These are all things that I want to do and be as a feminist woman.

 

However, despite the good, I couldn’t get over my unease at the idea of demanding that women be “dignified.” I was too much of a skeptic to embrace the author’s positive points. Women speaking and being bold and thinking for themselves? I just had a feeling that what I was reading was too good to be true. This is a Christian book. There has to be a catch.

 

I was right about that. The book quickly decelerated until  the last few chapters where it got so bad I wanted to throw the book across the room. Even before that point, however, there were hints as to where the book was headed.

 

One positive thing I will say about the book is that it meets its intended purpose. In the introduction,the author states, “I pray that this book will begin significant  conversations, lead to further reading, discussion, and even disagreement.” Oh, there was disagreement. But that disagreement led to discussions, with Abe and with friends on Twitter. Through these discussions, I realized that many of the points made in this book are commonly made in Christian culture, and that these points can have unhealthy, even disastrous, effects on women.

 

I’m going to list and briefly discuss a few of these points below, and I, like Rosset, hope that they lead to significant conversations. A few of these points may even merit their own blog post in the future.

 

  • Be rational!: The book consistently makes a point to demonize emotions. Emotions are usually equated with sin, and women are told to foster rational thinking so that we can combat the feelings that are leading us to sin. Rational thinking is good and important, and it’s refreshing to hear someone encourage women (and Christian women at that!) to use it. But when rational thinking is contrasted with emotion, it sets up a false dichotomy of thinking and feeling. The message many take away from that false dichotomy is “Don’t trust your feelings and don’t express them too much.”
  • God fixes eating disorders: In one chapter, the author explains how vicious society is toward women. She’s right, of course, but rather than turning her critique toward society, she critiques the women who are affected by society. She describes women who don’t feel adequate because of societal pressures as having a “pathetic greed.” She also states in another chapter that eating disorders and depression are caused, not by a society that constantly tears down women, but by women not fulfilling their longings with God.
  • Respect or sex? You can only choose one: The author states that many women “open themselves up to disrespect” by “getting physically involved too soon and going too far.” The author also tells women that they are to dress modestly so that they “are taken seriously…not objectified and don’t attract the wrong kind of man.” She then says that once we overcome sexual sin, we can return to our “self-respect.”
  • Lesbians are pathological and clingy: The author lists “same-sex attraction” as an addiction. In one of the most rage-inducing parts of the entire book, she describes lesbian relationships as mere friendships that include “attachment that is marked by emotional immaturities, crippling dependency, exclusivity, and insecurity.” She sees lesbian relationships has having some “elements of genuine affection,” but as mostly being “problems of idealization and unresolved childhood attachment that create a barrier to healthy adult mutuality.” She ignorantly suggests that lesbians are unable to “emotionally receive the presence of another without a loss of self or a dependent consumption of the other.”
  • Masturbation is evil:  According to this book, masturbation will make it hard for you to have a relationship with someone because you’ll be satisfied with satisfying yourself. I’ve heard this argument many times from Christians. I have no idea where they get it from. I’ve never heard of anyone (besides maybe John Mayer) who just couldn’t relate to a sexual partner because of masturbation. The author defends her idea that masturbation is a sin by stating that people feel guilty for doing it. This kind of contradicts her whole “don’t trust your feelings and use logic” point. Her reasoning here just baffles me. She doesn’t address Christian culture that makes people ashamed of all sexual expression, nor does she address society that shames women who are able to find fulfillment outside of men. She simply concludes that since people feel guilty for masturbating, it must be a sin.
  • Modesty. Be ashamed. Be very ashamed: The book tries to make a point for modesty outside of the tired, old “don’t cause your brothers to stumble” line. The author believes in this line, of course, so I couldn’t even celebrate her choice not to focus on it for too long. But the author thinks that our idea of modesty should come from theology, specifically the theology that states how worthless we are without God. Using the story of Adam and Eve as a reference point, the author states, “clothing confesses that humans are ‘without.’ We are…untrustworthy, vulnerable to one another, and lacking faith in the benevolence of God.” We are to dress modestly to “confess who [we] are in Christ by showing who [we] are without Him–naked and ashamed.” With this idea, the author lifts all pretense from the modesty discussion and states what it is really about–being ashamed of our bodies, ourselves.
  • Civilize the menfolk! Later in the book, another reason for modesty is given: it “changed men from uncivilized males who ran after as many sexual partners as they could get to men who really wanted to stick by one woman.”
  • “One of the most precious gifts in life is innocence,” the book states. Yet innocence is stolen from us by things like sex education and sexual abuse (yes, the author really puts those two things in the same sentence as thieves of innocence). The author praises the Lord–who protected her from ever having been touched sexually or jeered at inappropriately–for protecting her innocence, which hit a nerve for me since the Lord apparently chose not to protect my innocence when I was abused at a young age.

 

When I discussed these points with Abe, his response was, “Well, that just sounds like every other Christian self-help book for women. Why do we need to hear all that again?” He’s right. You’re probably not surprised by the above points if you’ve spent any time at all in evangelical culture. For many of us, these points have shaped, and may even continue to shape, our worldview. I’d like to spend some more time dissecting these points in the comments. Let me know if you’re interested in a free copy of the book so you can dissect it more thoroughly!

 

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  • http://www.heretichusband.com Heretic Husband

    Right, because no Christian has EVER had an eating disorder…and I’m sure the author has done extensive research on lesbian relationships, and is qualified to make judgments on them.

    It makes me furious to think there are women who will read this book and take it seriously.

    • http://twitter.com/lindsholifield Lindsay (@lindsholifield)

      The eating disorder stuff was told to me over and over and it was one reason why it took me so long to accept help. I was just “in rebellion” and couldn’t “let go of my sin.”

  • http://twitter.com/CarisAdel Caris Adel (@CarisAdel)

    The amazon review has Carolyn Custis James praising it, which makes me really interested in reading it. I’m on a reading fast though, so I wouldn’t be able to read it for another month…..sigh.

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

    Interesting analysis, and exactly what I’ve come to respect from these Christian self-help-type books geared toward women. Disappointing, but expected.

  • kelliewilder

    The point that shows Rossett’s ignorance the most to me is when she states that women should be rational and apparently not use their emotions especially in decision making. “How We Decide,” by Jonah Lehrer is a book that proves our feelings come from our brain. “Emotions, he says, can be a great source of intuition. Sometimes, your brain is able to connect the dots of the information it receives in a way that is so subtle it’s actually not even understandable by the conscious brain. The brain can see patterns we aren’t even aware of. Often, this information is translated into a “feeling.” Women are notorious for being brilliant with intuition! I personally think it is a skill and those who don’t have it are just jealous.

  • KellyMarie

    I’m loving your blog, and I enjoyed your critic of the book! It’s nice to see another christian verbalizing some of the things ive thought for years, but admittedly havn’t always had the guts/motivation to say anything about it to large groups (my poor hubby hears it ALL though, lol). Im not
    enitely sure what the author meant by “education” ruining innocense BUT I can see how that can potentially be true in some cases. For example, evangelicals reading books while just buying into everything that is said about God, how we are suppose to live and think of others. If we are “educated” by absorbing what other humans believe without critically thinking for ourselves then we can “loose innocense” in a way. With the recent “chick-fil-a appreciation day” i can’t imagine how many people just went along with it because that’s what they learned was “right”.

    • KellyMarie

      That might be “false education” though. however, I’ve also seen christians grow more self-rigteous and judgmental with the more biblical knowledge they gain. That’s not to say we shouldnt be educated, but to be careful no don’t grow less loving and more prideful in to process.

      .

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com Sarah Moon

      that’s a really interesting spin on her idea! rosset’s point was that sex ed is bad because it will teach kids about sex and open women to sexual harassment….as if sexual harassment won’t happen to them anyway. but I like your twist on that idea!

      • KellyMarie

        oh, haha. I must have read too fast. So shes saying to shelter women? Dislike. I think there can be a type of “sexual education” that can encourage dangerous behaviors to adolescent women who are not yet ready. I had a friend in hs who wasnt even thinking about sex but when her mom had a “talk” with her, she felt “ready” all of a sudden. However, Its important to know what’s out there as to not be shocked or judgmental toward society, but to remain confident that Gods best for us isnt always what society says is best. I liked your point that countered Rosset’s when she referred to her innocents being “protected by God”. Though you were a victim of a terrible situation, its clear that God is helping you rise above it and beome an even stronger woman in the process. I also think people who have been through struggles like yours are often much more compassionate, empathetic, and undertsnading compared to those who were seemingly “protected”. Thanks again for your blogs! Love them!

  • Jim Fisher

    It sounds like yet another book on “right” behavior. In Biblical times there were those, you know, self-appointed gatekeepers of “right” behavior and “right” belief. What did Jesus call them? *sigh*

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Wow I like how you summarized each of those points from the book- those are ideas that definitely exist in Christian culture, but they are subtle- good job pointing them out and putting them into words. Specifically “Respect or sex- you can only choose one”… I have DEFINITELY heard that as a reason girls shouldn’t have sex with their boyfriend. As if that’s just the way it is- of course no one would respect a woman who is having sex.

  • http://roadkillsrus.wordpress.com roadkillsrus

    I love to read, but if you sent me that book, I would barf and then toss it in the trash. I’m not nornmally a book burner. I’ve burned a books for personal reasons; I needed to burn it for my own freedom. But I have thrown several away because they were just too crappy to pass on to anyone. Most Christian self-help books fall into this categiry, IMO.

  • Pingback: So, who IS this man? (a book review) « Sarah Over the Moon


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