Restoring Eve in the Face of Feminist Furies
The inaugural annual Women's March took place on January 21, 2017, with at least two political scientists pronouncing it possibly the largest protest in U.S. history. Attendance estimates for the first year hovered around four million, for the second, around two million, and for the third, well, nobody seems to be saying. With factional infighting among organizers, 2019 turnout ended up being reported in terms like "smaller," "a huge drop from previous years," and "definitely not the turnout I was looking for." Numbers aside, videos and photos from all three years reveal a hodgepodge of scattershot political sloganeering. To be charitable, some people seemed to be well-meaning, and some appeared to have gone out just for fun. But many were recklessly angry, and a large lot seemed just plain clueless.
Perhaps the Women's March is emblematic of how the larger feminist movement has gone awry. According to its website, this "raw energy of the people . . . building power" is about "an expansive understanding of intersectionality" and being a "bulwark against the rising tide of authoritarianism, misogyny, white nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, ableism, classism, and ageism."
That veritable litany of ideological bellyaching does raise a few questions, though. Is this the best these women think they can do when it comes to wielding power? Is this even "power" in the first place? And, more basically, what do all those grievances have to do with being a woman, anyway?
First-wave feminists held rallies for women's suffrage. Second-wave feminists marched for Prohibition, then jobs, then abortion. What do third-wave feminists stand for? In the words of author Rebekah Merkle, "Nobody's quite sure what."
Grit, Glory & Moxie
In Eve in Exile and the Restoration of Femininity, Merkle, an entrepreneur and mother of five, steps into the rubble of our cultural moment with a refreshing reflection on what it means to be created female.
First, she notes two errors that women are falling into, to the detriment of all. The first, born of a wistful but ill-founded nostalgia, can be seen in communities where women wear ankle-length skirts or attempt to devise a resurgence of some idealized past. It's not that there's anything wrong with long skirts. The problem is the cowardly escapism of it. God has not called us to run away from the world and hide in some kind of Pretendyville.
Far more prevalent, though, is the other error, the do-what-makes-you-happy pursuit of personal fulfillment. This can take a variety of forms, but the common driving theme is you doing you. Not just freely being yourself but choosing yourself. "Follow your dreams," the paean goes. "Do what makes you happy. You deserve it!" This is the logic of our era. Shrewd people will recognize it also as the seducing logic of sellers who want you to buy their wares.
More important but not unrelated, the logic of the gospel will always be the other way around. To illustrate, consider three aspects of God's nature that women reflect in the world in unique ways: fruitfulness, glory, and moxie.
Fruitfulness. God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to fill the earth and subdue it. This is sometimes called the creation mandate or the cultural mandate. But neither Adam nor Eve could do this alone. "Adam alone is just Adam. Adam with Eve . . . becomes the human race." It's glaringly obvious that the female body is uniquely suited for knitting together little humans (which is no small feat, thank you), but what she's talking about is a far cry from any shallow slam about women only being good for prettiness and pregnancy.
The task Adam and Eve were given was nothing less than cultivating and taming a planet. That's kind of a big deal. The gospel mandate given by Christ to make disciples of all nations didn't nullify it, but only sharpened its focus. Christ will yet see his wildly beautiful though fallen planet brought to its fullest and most glorious potential, and the humans, male and female, are to be his movers and shakers and objects of primary concern.
Women should be charging at the world, says Merkle, and working like crazy at that filling, taming, and cultivating thing. Angry feminists probably won't get it, but this involves profound manifestations of power. Women take things in seed form and develop them into rich results that preach the goodness of God in tangible ways. For centuries, that included turning raw seeds into life-giving food, turning plants and animal shearings into warm and beautiful apparel, and turning creative ideas into generative, often profitable, enterprises. And despite all the scientific advancements to date, no one else has ever turned sperm into people. An entrepreneur, teacher, and mother of five, I think it's safe to say she's practicing what she preaches.
Glory. Here's a heavy concept—heavy in a good way, that is. Glory is associated with brilliance and radiance, but to add to the, well, glory of glory, the Hebrew word for it comes from the same root for heavy—heavy as in weighty or deeply significant. And here, Merkle turns the feminists' take on gender relations on its head. St. Paul wrote that man is the image and glory of God and that woman is the glory of man. We should read this, she says, as we would classic Hebrew superlative expressions such as Song of Songs or Holy of Holies. "If Adam is the crown of creation, then Eve is the crown of the crown. Women are the glory of the glory." She goes so far as to call Eve Adam's amplifier.
But the inescapable nature of glory is that it fades when we turn inward and try to magnify ourselves. This brings us to the third aspect of womanhood.
Mama Bear Moxie. Merkle didn't use this term, but I think it fittingly captures something about feminine power. Feminism wants a woman to be loyal to her people, but feminists want to redraw the lines of who our people are. "The way the feminists want to draw tribal lines insists on splitting each and every family in half. Of course we should have a deep loyalty to our people—but our people are the husbands we promised to love until the grave takes us, and the little faces staring up at us, depending on us, loving us, needing us—not a nameless blob of humans who lack a Y chromosome." Seriously, does anybody really want to debate this point?
The biblical ideal of the Proverbs 31 woman is impressive. She's hard-working, high-achieving, and highly respected. But notice that all her industry is aimed at her people—her husband and family and, beyond them, her household and community. She is not looking around and asking, How can I be fulfilled? Instead, she asks, Whom can I serve? Whom can I bless? and starts with the people in closest proximity to her.
Re-tapping the Original Fount of Fulfillment
The home is deeply fundamental, and our generation desperately needs to recover a sense of the importance of it as the place where life happens and of women as life-givers who are present and invested in serving people. Investing in people involves so much more than "making memories" with them. Continuing with the metaphor of cultivation, Merkle writes, "If theology is a river, women dig the canals that bring the water into every part of the garden." This is labor. This is love. This is life-giving work.
The wares of feminism have long passed their expiration date, but the calls of the cultural and gospel mandate are as fresh as the morning sun and remain open to all. In the Caller and in those calls are where women will find their power and fulfillment.Terrell Clemmons is a freelance writer and blogger on apologetics and matters of faith. This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #49, Summer 2019 Copyright © 2020 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo49/mama-of-mamas