The following article is the senior thesis from RCA student Addisyn Eggar.
The word “feminism” is a loaded term. Some people see the image of a woman with armpit hair burning undergarments. Many envision a brave and confident woman strolling into the workplace. Feminism, however, is much more than the images people see when the word is heard. Feminism on a philosophical level has morphed from the first time it became a movement to the present. Its definition has changed from one wave to the next, and now varies depending upon the person defining it. Despite the differing opinions on the matter and its ambiguous meaning in today’s time, feminism should not simply call to mind an image, but a philosophy. Feminism is a way of life containing inherent beliefs that dictate how the feminist should live. The philosophy supporting the idea and movement of feminism has shifted drastically from its first appearance in the world. While feminism was once a movement supporting the equality of human value, it has now fragmented into a movement fighting for the equality of human function.
It must be made clear at the beginning that this thesis and the research involved does not deal with feminism in countries besides that of the United States unless it is a movement that affected American feminism. It must also be stated that this thesis means third and fourth wave feminism when the title of third wave feminism is used. Fourth wave feminism uses social media to focus on justice for women who have been sexually harassed. Third wave feminism speaks to sexual harassment as well, but it is not the sole concern and social media is not as prominent a reason for its growth. This thesis is concerned solely with the way American feminism has forwarded individualism in American communities.
I. A Brief History of American Feminism
Most experts in the field of feminism agree that the first wave of feminism occurred from its first official promotion in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention to the ratification of the nineteenth amendment on August 18, 1920. Mary Kassian in her book The Feminist Mistake charts American first wave feminism from the 1848 convention to the 1930s, when women took advantage of the rights they had won over the years of the first wave (Kassian 18). Many feminist treatises and debates occurred before the convention, but mainly outside of America and free of a defined movement. The first wave of feminism primarily championed the cause of equal opportunity for both men and women. The women of the first wave such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony knew and worked with one another to accomplish clear and common goals: the right to vote, have custody of one’s own children, and establish bills such as the one Illinois passed in 1872, stating no one is to be excluded from a career on the basis of sex. These goals were the clearly defined political aims of the first wave. The first wave was a united and defined force, and because of its unity, it accomplished its goals and acquired the equality women needed. The wave ended with the United States government recognizing women’s right to vote, which was always one of the primary goals of the movement. Women in this time took enormous steps toward gender equality in terms of inherent human value through defined political aims. There were additional aims of first wave feminism as well, such as the ability to own land, acquire the right in any state to work and make a living, and to file for divorce. Some of those goals were accomplished over the official time of the first wave, but they also continued to be at the center of political discussions and accomplished bit by bit into the mid-1900s.
From the 1960s to the early 1990s, the second wave of feminism surged, using the momentum left from the first wave and the growing popularity of the Civil Rights Movement to fashion a distinctive new ideology for the late twentieth century. This wave, however, used the banner of feminism to champion not only equal opportunity and value but equality of function as well. The beginning of the second wave, during the fifties and sixties, was not as much about equality of function as it was about critiquing the stereotypical image of the happy housewife. During this time, there was the problem of abusive husbands who could continue with their abuse simply because women were unlikely to have a divorce approved, and even if they did, would most likely be unable to make a living due to their sex. While the first wave of feminism did achieve laws that helped women to gain custody of their children and be in the workforce, the laws were not on the national level. Therefore, the average housewife was still dependent on her husband for a living. Housewives were surveyed in this time and Betty Friedan, a famous second wave feminist author, concluded from the survey that the image of women’s lives and the reality of women’s lives were two different things (Kassian 23). The billboard wife of the sixties was not necessarily the reality of many homes, and the growing contingent of feminists sought to rectify the discrepancy.
Because the Civil Rights Movement was occurring at the same time as the results of Betty Friedan’s research, and the reality about women’s daily life came to light, second-wave feminism grew in popularity. However, its goals were not as clear as those of the first wave because it was woven into the larger Civil Rights Movement. So, while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sex, it was not something achieved by the second wave on its own merits. The act was accomplished by the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. The act not only covered gender discrimination, but race, religion, and national origin. Sue Thornham writes, “…the origins of the Women’s Liberation Movement in America lay in the civil rights, anti-Vietnam War and student movements of the 1960s” (Thornham 30). The second wave of feminism was not distinctive, but dependent on and contained in the movements surrounding it. The wave did solve problems of unequal opportunity and it did raise awareness of the unhealthy situations women could be trapped in, but the movement was less defined and its leaders less united in the pursuit of specific feminist goals. The actual accomplishments and goals of the second wave are wrapped up in the Civil Rights Movement, making the wave more fragmented and its proponents less united. Not only was it less defined, but the philosophy behind the second wave began to change.
The French author Simone De Beauvoir was one of the first feminist philosophers of the second wave. Her book The Second Sex, was translated into English and became influential in the United States. De Beauvoir’s problem with modern 20th century social structures was that women were born into a world where they had a second-class status. De Beauvoir’s belief was that women being “second class” was not because of the corruption of their roles as wives, mothers, or single women, by abusive husbands or a misogynistic culture, but because the roles women filled were in themselves limiting and oppressive. De Beauvoir writes that an equal world would be one where women are “trained exactly like men” to perform the same functions for the same wages (qtd in Kassian 22). Second wave feminism benefited women who were oppressed by husbands they could not escape, and who were at a disadvantage in a male favoring workforce, but at the cost of accepting a philosophy that disregarded the differences in the function of men and women.
When the philosophy behind a movement changes, there will automatically be ruptures among what was previously a united group. Not every woman of the second wave agreed with Simone De Beauvoir’s idea of being trained as men. Not all women agreed with De Beauvoir’s idea of a feminist utopia being one where females obtained equality of function with men along with equal opportunities and rights. One commentator on second wave feminism writes, “…despite a unity around ‘sisterhood’ forged within activism, theoretical differences and political exclusions were always in evidence” (Thornham 41). Unfortunately, the second wave largely followed in De Beauvoir’s tacks. It is because her philosophy was accepted, spread, and further developed, that the equality of function became the primary cause of feminism, and the motivation of third wave feminism in the late 20th and early 21st century, elaborated on a new definition of gender equality.
Third wave feminism is De Beauvoir’s philosophy carried to the extreme without any of the valid causes that sparked the second wave in which it originated. Mary Kassian, pinpointing the individualistic nature of third wave feminism, defines feminism as the finding of “happiness and meaning through the pursuit of personal authority, autonomy, and freedom” (Kassian 7). The philosophy behind third wave feminism is not one that has been strictly applied to women, but can and has been used to encourage any human being to search for happiness and meaning through personal or individual power.
In the words of Rebecca Walker, whom many call the founder of the third wave, being a third wave feminist “is to integrate an ideology of equality and female empowerment into the very fiber of [my] life. It is…to join in sisterhood with women when often we are divided, to understand power structures with the intention of challenging them” (Walker 2). Walker entreats her readers to join in sisterhood even with those who do not share the same values or beliefs, simply because they are women. She paints the picture of sisterhood and female bonds, yet those sisters do not agree on everything, and especially do not support one another simply on the basis of their shared femininity. While it may seem as if third wave feminism unites women, the reality of the matter is that according to a poll done by the Washington Post , 32% of American women are either not a feminist or anti-feminist. The poll was done in 2016, and though that is 24 years after Walker wrote her article, one can see that the ideal of sisterhood her third wave called for was not achieved. While it is certainly not an even split, 32% is a vast amount of women. According to the poll, even amongst those who identify as feminists there is a divide between those who are simply feminists and those who are “strong feminists.” Strong bonds of sisterhood are not fortified when a third of women in the united states stand in direct contradiction of the other two thirds.
Third wave feminism has one clear political goal and that is a woman’s right to abortion. Even this goal however, is not agreed on or supported by all feminists and the point at which it should be legal in pregnancy is hotly contested. Other issues that are addressed by the movement, such as awareness of sexual assault, female empowerment, and the gender wage gap, are all issues that cannot be resolved by laws. Raising awareness and empowering women are two actions that must be accomplished through change in individual’s ways of thinking, notthrough laws. While the gender wage gap is something that seems fixable by law, many people debate what it is, how it should be addressed, and even whether or not it exists. It is also already in place through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that difference in pay is illegal if it is based on sex. With these laws already in place, the desired accomplishments of third wave feminism are much less able to be concretely achieved due to their ambiguity and dependence on the cultural norm. Changing laws and changing a society’s way of thinking are disparate in terms of feasibility and enforcement. Seeking to enforce a certain way of thinking on individual’s will not always result in unity, but sometimes rebellion.
It is not just women, but the American community as a whole that is divided by the third wave. Because of its focus on “personal clarity” (Walker 2), the movement is not aimed at the reconciliation of this division. The movement is rooted not in community, but in individuality. In comparison to the clear and defined goal of the first wave, and even the obvious accomplishments of the second wave, third wave feminism is not a clear reflection of women’s goals, but fragments of a mirror casting starkly dissimilar images.
Women in the first wave of feminism fought as a united force with the defined goal of women voting and acquiring rights to what should have been their rights already, such as custody of their children, the ability to vote, and the right to own land. First wave feminism, though it is not perfect, did not march for a woman’s right to act like a man, but for a woman’s right to participate in the places of society that she could improve through her natural talents. Second wave feminism, though less unified about women’s goals, still helped established a woman’s right to participate equally in the workforce. Third wave feminism however, though it does seek to honor the brave women of the first wave who spoke out against the inequality of their time, does not reflect its heritage. Women of the first wave, such as Sojourner Truth, would not see today’s feminism as a worthy cause. Truth said, “Let nature, like individuals, make the most of what God has given them, have their neighbors to do the same, and then do all they can to serve each other. There is no use in one man, or one nation, to try to do or be everything. It is a good thing to be dependent on each other for something, it makes us civil and peaceable” (qtd in Stanton). Truth and the feminists she represents would never align themselves or support the individualistic culture of third wave feminism. Where first wave feminists were fighting for the right to have custody of their own children, women are now fighting for the right to kill their own children. Feminism today cannot honor the feminism of the late 1800s and early 1900s when it supports only the woman and not her community; it fights for the female and not the community, not the family in which she exists. The relationship between men and women, and therefore human community, is damaged by the individualistic nature of the third wave.
The first wave of feminism forwarded a necessary reform, a vital social change that began to establish the equality in the value of men and women. While the second wave that followed it corrected some remaining issues such as employment discrimination, it did so out of a motivation to escape men in favor of “woman,” strong and independent, separate and self-sufficient, capable of doing all a man can. The philosophy behind the second wave was flawed because the movement was not as unified as its predecessor. Still, as time continued, the third wave, taking its cue from the second, added to the idea of “women are capable of doing all a man can,” the ending of “and more.” Individualism is the cry of modern American feminism pursuing “personal authority, autonomy, and freedom” regardless of familial relationships and commitments. Community, the natural state of humanity, is no longer the norm due to the roles of men and women becoming tangled and faded in light of the sameness that equality of function brings. Third wave feminism, with all its history and present connotations, is a centrifugal force emerging from the philosophy of individualism overtaking America.
II: The Individual vs. Community
It is necessary to consider again Sojourner Truth’s quote alongside the ideology of individualism. She says, “Let nature, like individuals, make the most of what God has given them, have their neighbors to do the same, and then do all they can to serve each other. There is no use in one man, or one nation, to try to do or be everything. It is a good thing to be dependent on each other for something, it makes us civil and peaceable.” She entreats all individuals stay not simply individuals, but serve one another and depend on one another, and in that way find community. Individuals are not to stay singular, but are to find wholeness and fulfillment, that is, peace, through community (other individuals). Community then, should be the goal of all individuals, and serving and dependence the means and maintenance of it.
Community is defined by the Oxford Living Dictionary as, “the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common”. Community is the natural state of human beings, one can see the natural state clearly in the Christian creation account. When God surveyed His creation and saw Adam was alone, he declared that He did not create man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). If man is made in the image of God, he cannot be individualistic because God is not individualistic. God is constantly in community through his triune nature. Theologians call this communion perichoresis, the divine dance. Man is not an independent creature but a dependent creature, in need of community with his own kind. It is obvious how natural this need is in the way people react to someone who is not in community. When one encounters another who closes himself off to the world, it is not considered normal. In fact, when people have relatives who act in a reclusive manner, the relatives grow concerned and encourage their loved one to find a friend, to leave the house, or to seek help. Because man is not made to be alone, he possesses an inherent need for other human beings from the beginning of his life.
Adherents to the doctrine of individualism do not openly state that individualism is a way of life that separates human beings from one another, but individualism is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount.” Rene Descartes, the famous seventeenth century philosopher is largely responsible for the philosophy of individualism. Descartes retreated from the world and found solitude in his own doubt, concluding that, “I am thinking, therefore I exist” (Descartes 15). Further, if existence is determined and confirmed by thought, then the way in which one goes about existing should also be determined by thought. However, thought is subjective, experienced only by the person thinking the thoughts. As a result of such philosophy, a realm of subjective morals and rules determine lifestyle. The individual determines his existence by his own thought, and therefore his own morals and interests. Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher who published the complete works of Sartre in eight volumes, writes:
With this, the absolutely central place of the “I” in the world-whole is at least recognized in the area of cognitive methodology. Man determines the how of his knowledge of the world according to the how of his knowledge of himself, and no longer asks for any outer being to justify this how. Man does not want to think in the way a god prescribes knowing activity to be, but rather in the way he determines this for himself. From now on, with respect to the world, man draws the power of his wisdom from himself (Steiner). Naturally, the need for community to achieve self-knowledge quickly disintegrates in the face of such a claim. Self-knowledge can only be affirmed by the self, making any outside community unnecessary for individual growth, affirmation, or discovery. Jean-Paul Sartre furthered the claims of Descartes through his own existentialist works and influence over the second wave feminist Simone de Beauvoir. De Beauvoir quotes Sarte and used him for inspiration in forming her own philosophy, which she applied specifically to women. While it may seem like an easy and pleasing way to live, the reality of individualism is not one of happiness, but one that promotes isolation and loneliness. The individual who determines his own existence simply by thinking it will not consider another’s different method of thought as valid when applied to anyone outside of that individual’s own person. Celeste Harvey, professor of philosophy at the College of St. Mary, argues :
If there is nothing that universally benefits human beings because human beings are so varied in their natures that one individual may be psychologically harmed by a character trait that is benign or even psychologically helpful for another, then there can be no universally valid moral prescriptions about which traits we ought to recommend and which we ought to condemn. (Harvey)
Harvey speaks to the individuality of human beings separating them so much from one another that there can be no universal morals. Something that might seem appalling to one person may seem kind or helpful to another. It follows that individuals who ascribe to the philosophy of individualism will regard personal cognitive ideas as determinate and infallible, making personal morals and interests “ethically paramount,” that is, above other individual’s morals and interests.
A person who puts their personal morals and interests above all else, which include obligation, others’ interests, and other people, results in a person who is willing to reject friends and loved ones for the sake of themselves. Not only would the individual be willing to reject people, but they would also be willing to reject obligation or prior engagement. Imagine that the doctrine of individualism is the one that every human being abides by. The consequences of the doctrine are that those who do not have an “interest” in going to work today, do not go to work today. When parents do not have an interest in taking care of their children, what becomes of the children? When mothers do not have an interest in their family, what becomes of the family? When women do not have an interest in family, what becomes of the human race? Individuals who live based on their interests will separate themselves from others because a choice always must be made. Interests are fleeting, here one day and gone the next. No one is interested in the same thing every day with the same amount of vigor and passion. What can come of relationships then but a temporary pleasure that is transferred to the next interest the moment it presents itself? Community cannot thrive in individualism, only division and separation can result.
Wendell Berry, in his essay, “Men and Women in Search of Common Ground” speaks to the deficient nature of individualism. He argues:
Involved in our humanity also is the warning that we can escape only into loneliness and meaninglessness. Our choice may be between a small, human-sized meaning and a vast meaninglessness, or between the freedom of our virtues and the freedom of our vices. It is only in these bonds that our individuality has a use and a worth; it is only to the people who know us, love us, and depend on us that we are indispensable as the persons we uniquely are (Berry 10).
Berry is pointing to the fact that human meaning is found only in human community. However, if the definition of community is “the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common”, the definition of individualism is in direct opposition to it. Community is sharing certain interests in common. Common interests provide community, but personal interests placed above common ones do not cooperate with that idea. Common interests cannot be maintained when personal interests are paramount. The doctrine of individualism then, is in blatant contrast to community. Since community is the natural state of humanity, individualism is also in direct contrast to human nature.
The establishment of the contrast between community and individualism opens another door into the effects and philosophy of feminism as it applies to human beings. Feminism, in every article written on it from the earliest writers of the second wave to the most recent third wave feminist blogger, is concerned with the individual. Sarah Gamble, affirming the individualistic nature of modern feminism writes, “because [modern feminism] is skewed in favor of liberal humanism, it embraces a flexible ideology which can be adapted to suit individual needs and desires” (Gamble 44). Feminism is about personal freedom, personal autonomy, and personal authority. In short, feminism is individualism for women. Simone De Beauvoir wrote, “For women to have full identity and freedom, they must have economic independence” (qtd in Kassian 26). Betty Friedan similarly wrote, “[A woman’s] solo flight to find her own identity was forgotten in the rush for the security of togetherness” (qtd. Kassian 24). Both prominent second wave feminists mourn an individual lost in a world of dependence and “togetherness.” De Beauvoir aims for women to have identity and freedom in their independence, and Friedan rues the loss of the woman who favored togetherness over a “solo flight to find her own identity.” Neither believe that identity is found only within community.
No one can know themselves without others who know and inform them of character strengths and weaknesses. No one can improve without guidance and support from friends and family. Yet third wave feminists favor going solo over togetherness, and believe that freedom can only be found in economic independence. The interests of women are to be favored over all, just as the individual’s interests are to be favored over all. Community cannot survive in an environment that claims freedom and self can only be discovered through the individual. Humanity cannot survive in an environment claiming identity is found outside of man’s natural state. Third wave feminism, through its fragmentation, individualism, and unclear aims does not foster community and therefore healthy humanity. Feminism works to set women free by removing females from community to pursue personal persuasions free of the inhibitors previously present. Inhibitors such as prior engagements with family, a husband, or children. While feminists may not realize their effects, they are nonetheless destructive. Feminism as a form of individualism assumes its characteristics. This means that feminism is opposed to community, and consequently incompatible with the natural state of humanity. Feminism’s detrimental result then, is a separation and rift between men and women. Feminism cannot bring any healing to the relationship between the sexes if it is in opposition to community. Men and women will not have healthy relationships if their ideology is one that always puts personal interests first.
One of feminists’ primary arguments is that women feel unfulfilled and less valued in their societal role. In the 1960s a survey was done that found some women experienced feelings of “dissatisfaction, of yearning, and of emptiness. It became known as the ‘trapped housewife syndrome’” (qtd in Kassian 23). While it can be understood why the cause many women jumped to was the cyclical and serving nature of the housewife, it must be pointed out that all human beings experience feelings of dissatisfaction, yearning, and emptiness. No human being is perfectly content in this life, so it is to be expected that many women experience these feelings. Many men do as well. The feelings that diagnose “trapped housewife syndrome” are not unique to women but are common in many people. The same feelings are used to diagnose a mid-life crisis. The dissatisfaction that humanity feels is not to be solved by personal autonomy and perusal of personal interests, but to be solved and healed by a loving community that understands and gives individuality “a use and a worth” as Berry says. The individual finds meaning, satisfaction, and wholeness within community, not outside it. Third wave feminism cannot heal “trapped housewife syndrome” because those natural human feelings are made to be solved by human beings who give the afflicted meaning. Men and women will never attain amiable relations through feminism, which drives community apart, but through the embracing of their differences and support of one another.
III. Feminism as a Reconciliatory Movement
Women are important, necessary, and strong components of society. Community cannot
survive without females who uphold it by participating correctly in it. Unfortunately, many women can and have in recent years lived individualistically, turning the importance, necessity, and strength of their role into a tax upon healthy human community. Feminists, in order to restore the importance and benefits of their place and influence within a community must redeem modern American feminism through a historically grounded, biblically based, and community-oriented form of feminism.
The first wave of feminism brought about equal opportunity for men and women. Many brilliant feminists arose from that wave and continue to be known and celebrated today. However, modern feminists could take some cues from the actual goals and views held by those honorable first wave feminists. The first wave was about equal opportunity and women’s ability to enjoy certain rights men had that allowed them to make a living. Third wave feminism surpasses an aim for equal opportunity and aims for sameness between the sexes.
The aim for sameness amongst feminists exhibits itself in many ways. For example, pro-choice arguments for abortion assert that women should have the right to control what happens to their bodies and not remain inescapably responsible for an accidental pregnancy. At the same time, the #MeToo movement affirms that men should be obligated to take responsibility for their actions in the event that they are the biological father of an unintended pregnancy. The feminist position on both abortion and the #MeToo movement is contradictory: in seeking the ability to kill the babies inside of them, women seek the same ability the #MeToo movement is against– i.e., sex without consequences. Instead of reform and responsibility, women seek to equate themselves with men in acquiring the very attitude many women hate many men for having toward the consequences of sex. The defining qualities of a woman, that is, her biological makeup, are no longer assets, but impediments to self-fulfillment. In contrast to third and fourth wave feminist views on reproductive rights, first wave feminism allowed women who were not married to have a life and livelihood, and because of the women who started the campaign for equal opportunity and basic human rights, women whose families needed money could have two household incomes. First wave feminism does not, on the other hand, encourage women to chase a career instead of community, or mothers to follow personal interests over their family. Rather, the first wave opened a door to a life outside of parents and husband that unmarried or divorced women could inhabit as happily and find as much opportunity in, as a man. It was never about securing equality of function or affording women the same freedom from the consequences of sexual intercourse. Instead, first wave feminism attempted to build a society that accepted, appreciated, and cared for women as women. In light of first wave feminism’s original purpose, one can move toward an idea of redeemed feminism that does not strain the relationship between men and women or women and their families.
Using a biblical view of humanity will lead feminists to a redeemed ideology that restores community and in doing so, restores women and their relationships. Biblically speaking, women are as valuable, crucial, and important as men. However, in order to have stable marriages, families, and societies, the Bible does show that males and females do not function in the same way. Women are not made as the head of the family in Ephesians, nor are women in the roles of elders in the New Testament. However, simply because women do not fill the roles of men does not mean that they are of lesser social value or importance. The prophetess Deborah who judged and saved Israel from Jabin, the king of Canaan (Judges 4), Lydia whose heart was opened by the Lord to make her one of the key founders of the Macedonian church (Acts 16), and the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, are all vital women that the Bible honors. The Bible honors women by depicting the many important deeds they accomplished in the roles appointed to them, but it never confuses or equates them with men.
The Bible has specific instances in which it addresses the interactions between men and women. For example, in Philippians, St. Paul addresses the disagreement between two women in the church, Euodia and Syntyche, “to agree in the Lord” ( ESV Phil. 4:2). When instructing the church on how to deal with the matter, he asks them to “help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers” (ESV Phil 4:3). The women are not treated as ridiculous, and St. Paul, Clement, and the other “fellow workers,” many of whom were likely males, labor “side by side” with them. The men do not condescend to settle a disagreement between women, but are their equals in value and God’s eyes, helping fellow sisters through disagreement by way of the gospel. St. Paul’s exhortation to Euodia and Syntyche is the perfect example of how men and women are to interact with one another.
The Bible also provides insight to how the relationship between husbands and wives should work. In Ephesians, St. Paul outlines the proper relationship between husbands and wives:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies… let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (ESV Eph. 5:22-28, 33).
The relationship between a husband and wife is to be one that reflects Christ and His Church and is defined by respect not just of wives for their husbands, but husbands for their wives. Men are to treat their wives “as their own bodies,” loving them as much as they love themselves. One commentator on the passage writes, “The climax of this is the way in which believers not only ‘fit in’ with Christ but learn to ‘fit in’ with one another, willingly submitting to each other…Each member regards others as more important than himself or herself” (Ferguson 147). Marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His Church, which implies that marriage should always represent and point to divine love. In other words, husbands and wives are to point those who know and see them, and one another, toward the divine love of the Trinity. The love that Christ has for the Church is characterized by his willingness to put the Church before himself. It is this love that marriage is to reflect, and therefore these roles that marriage is to imitate. Perfect divine love should shape the relationship of husbands and wives. This kind of relationship then, shows deep respect and love, which always leads to self-sacrifice for the good of the other. A wife is to sacrifice for her husband, and a husband is to sacrifice for his wife.
The relationship between the sexes will always be flawed in the sinful world that humanity inhabits. Even before the first wave of feminism ever started, writers claimed one sex to be superior to another. Jane Anger wrote in the 1500s that, “God, making woman of man’s flesh that she might be purer than he, doth evidently show how far we women are more excellent than men” (qtd in Hodgson-Wright 6). The world is broken, and so are relationships, but thankfully there is a solution to strained relationships between men and women. Mutual submission to Christ, and respect for one another will result in peace and health in humanity. Sacrifice always points to Christ, on whom all healthy relationships must focus.
What must be done to redeem feminism and make it a unifying ideology is the abandonment of the belief that claims personal interest is paramount. Community does not survive when its members are selfish. The restoration of feminists means the giving up of individualism. Human relationships, be they friendly or familial, must take precedence over the individual. The doctrine of individualism does not allow for groups outside the individual to take precedence. Individualism does not allow for the selfless love of another. There is not room for sacrifice in the philosophy, but community does not allow for its absence. There is no room in the philosophy for love, but community does not exist without it. Good feminism means sacrifice, not just on the part of women, but on the part of all humanity. Sacrifice means a denial of self for the greater good of humanity, sacrifice requires love, and that is what redeems feminism. Good feminism is about the valor of women who are willing to sacrifice their personal desires for their family, or sacrifice their aims for the good of a human relationship. Community cannot exist without sacrifice, and it cannot survive without good feminists. Good feminism must be sacrificial, just as Christ is sacrificial.
A sacrificial feminism is never simply about women, but about restoring human relationships and cultivating community. Healthy community implies respect and Christ-likeness. Modern feminism is unable to do this because it operates under the philosophy of individualism, which is not conducive to the cultivation and maintenance community. The pursuit of personal freedom, autonomy, and authority is a pursuit that will never fulfill a woman, a man, or any human being. Good feminism recognizes the necessity of equal opportunity and equal attainment of basic human rights in maintaining respect and health in the relationship of men and women. Good feminism sees a woman for who she is: a female human being created in the image of God. Good feminism redeems women and their relationship with men by respecting the different functions of the two different genders, embracing them, and living them out to the glory of Christ.