Feminism

Introduction to the Review Series: "Lies Women Believe"

[update on me: I know it’s been quiet around here for a couple weeks– between period week and an IBS flare-up, I’ve been sort of miserable. I have been developing some ideas for blog posts, though, and I think we should have some interesting conversations over the next little while. I’ve also been watching Parks and Rec and reading David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, and both have been highly entertaining. The Honor of the Queen was especially interesting to read– the main plot revolves around a complementarian and benevolently sexist-patriarchal society where the fact that they have to deal with a woman in command throws them all into a tizzy.

Anyway, we’ll be leaving on vacation next week, and then it’s period week again, so I’m not sure how regular posts will be. My goal is to write a bunch this week and schedule them to go up, but I’m trying to go easy on my body, so we’ll see.]

~~~~~~~~~

How to Win Over Depression and Redeeming Love were neck-and-neck in the last poll I did, but since my friend Dani Kelley is doing a review of Redeeming Love, I decided that my next review series would be the runner-up: Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets them Free. In the comments, a lot of you mentioned how toxic this book was for you both personally and in your marriages. I received it as a gift when I was still at Pensacola Christian, and I remember feeling vaguely uneasy about it, although at the time I chalked up that reaction to “being convicted.”

In fact, as I flipped through it today, I discovered sections I’d highlighted, and it made my stomach sink all over again. The first time I read this was after I’d become engaged to my abuser and rapist, and the fact that I needed to mark “Every married couple is incompatible” (156) and that submission is a “gift we voluntarily give” (151) is disturbing in retrospect. I will continue screaming this until the cows come home: books that command “submission” from wives keep women in abusive relationships. End of story.

It’s a fairly popular book– the cover I have shouts “OVER ONE-HALF MILLION SOLD”– and over 70% of the people who reviewed it on Goodreads gave it 4 or 5 stars. Reviews generally follow along these lines:

This is one book that I will always go back to for a right and true perspective on God and His ways for me. Nancy’s insight gives genuine hope for all of us women who need perspective that is true and holy… some of it is not easy to hear but often what is best. November 2007

This book challenged me from the first word to the very end. So many of us don’t realize how many of Satan’s lies we are believing and acting upon day after day. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is candid, to the point, and unapologetic as she writes truths and supports them with scripture. I believe that every Christian woman could benefit from reading this book. August 2012

This is an excellent book for those women who actually care what the Bible says, and want to renew their minds to think more Biblically. Eve’s diary entries at the beginning of each chapter were really thought provoking and helped me to see the differences between what God’s plan was and what we fallen humans now have to live with. I went through this with the ladies Bible study at my church and I value it so much that I’m going to be facilitating a study using this book with college-age girls who want to live their lives in line with a Biblical worldview. I highly recommend it, and I even bought 2 more copies to give to my sister and my best friend! December 2014

This is one of the best books that I have read regarding women in the church. DeMoss makes no apologies for telling it like it is, and she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. Some of the issues she addresses have been accepted practice within many churches, and though some may have a problem with what she says, she is right- on. I recommend this book to my Christian women friends often. June 2004

~~~~~~~~~

As you can tell, one of the most common reactions to this book is that it is eminently biblical and should be received as God’s Own Truth. Even the title contributes to that notion, which claims that this book contains the truth that will set you free. It seems as though many of the women who read that took it at least somewhat literally– the hundreds of reviews I skimmed over echoed the idea that Nancy has repackaged The Truth in an accessible format, and that if you reacted poorly to this book, it’s only because you’ve accepted Satan’s dirty feminist lies.

Many reviews contained kernels like “hard to swallow,” or “she pulls no punches,” or “unapologetic,” and I find that response oh-so-interesting, because they tended to attribute this not to her writing style or voicing, but to the veracity of her content. These women had the same reaction to this book I did in college– we assumed any negative reaction we had was ultimately due to her being right. If we found something “hard to swallow,” it wasn’t because we thought something was illogical or unhealthy, it was because we were being convicted. God was using Nancy to tell us how wrong we were to believe things like “I get to have a say in the course of my life.” I think this is going to be an interesting dynamic to explore as we move through the series.

There’s twelve sections to the book, but some are significantly longer than others– and I think some sections (like chapter six, “About Marriage”) might take us even longer to get through. I’m going to do my best to keep this down to three months, although that all depends on things like how angry I feel like being on any given Monday. I’ll be working with the original version published in 2001, although I believe it’s been slightly updated since then.

As always, if you have a copy of the book on hand and would like to read through it with me and and your thoughts in the comments, please feel free! The best part about doing these series is hearing from y’all.

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  • This is going to be fascinating. And, I suspect, appalling. I wonder just how many women this book has pushed into self-abnegation.

    Take care of yourself first and foremost, Samantha. I hope you and Handsome enjoy your vacation.

  • I have a feeling I’m going to be cringing every time this one comes up. Good luck, and I hope you feel better!

  • I am very interested to hear your thoughts. I remember reading the companion/prequel to this, “Lies Young Women Believe”, with my middle school girls Bible class. I only remember vague emotions. Mostly feeling “convicted” and completely justified in my stuck up self-righteousness. I looked at myself as different than the other girls in my class, as more pure and justified in looking down on them. I was horrible, but I didn’t really know any better, and I suspect books like this helped reinforce that. I would be curious to go back now and re-read it, and see what she said. Just from looking at the chapter titles and the free preview, I am not enthusiastic about my reaction. Thank you for doing this.

  • Stashing away plenty of wine bottles in preparation for these reviews. My college bible study friends were sort of obsessed with this book, but it seemed I was the only one who felt traumatized by it. Thanks for picking this one.

  • Samantha, just a quick note about your health (and I know you’re an adult, and can take care of yourself): Have you ever had any tests for Crohn’s or UC? Both have symptoms similar to IBS (which in theory is a diagnosis that should be given only after everything else is ruled out) and often cause more symptoms around women’s menstrual cycles (and also can cause extreme fatigue). As a Crohn’s patient, I was shocked at how much a good treatment plan improved my quality of life.

    • I’ve had some tests that didn’t seem to indicate either– I don’t typically have diarrhea and never bloody stools, all my white cell counts have always been normal, and there’s no obvious signs of inflammation. Compared to most of the people I know with Chron’s, my symptoms are fairly mild and irregular. A low-fodmap, low-residue, low-dairy diet usually does it for me, and I’ve gotten to the point where it’s usually manageable.

      • Crystal

        First off, hi, Samantha. I’m so sorry to hear the pain assaulting your femininity is acting up on you again. It hurts my heart to read about your PCOS because periods should not ever be like that. I hope you don’t mind if I share some tips with you that help me and others.

        Have you ever tried cranberry juice? It helps with the cramps and it might work on you I think. Taking Depo might be another option you might want to check out because that could reduce your discomfort significantly. Also eliminating caffeine out of your diet, if you have not already done so, might help.

        Another thing I have found is that parabens in products encourage inflammation of periods, contributing to negative PMS and either swelling of or inflaming the womb, I’m not totally sure which. They are also very toxic. If you ingested a certain amount you would DIE. Yet they put this stuff in women’s products and it’s disgusting. Checking your bathroom products such as lotions and hair-washers for parabens, such as methylparaben or propylparaben, might help somewhat too.

        Now for this book: for me, I was more interested in “Lies Young Women Believe” personally. I saw good things in it, like no woman is required to perform sexually for a man. However, the only sentence I could agree with in Lies Women Believe as I took a flick through it (I have never read the book!) is that homemaking and motherhood is a good choice and that it is undervalued in our society. Other than that, I am very interested in reading your reviews on it.

        • Cranberry juice: I’m allergic.
          Depo: tried it, didn’t suppress PCOS enough.
          Caffeine: need to drink a cup of tea each day to manage my IBS.
          I don’t really use lotions or hair products, but the ones I do use don’t have parabens.

          • Crystal

            HUGS.

            Please know I love you, and any other way I can think of to help you, let me know and I will tell you. I’m so sorry! It makes me cry inside to think of you suffering from negative PMS when no woman should ever have to suffer with her periods. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it now and I hope you heal in this area. I believe there is always hope on that level. I had painless periods in the past and I know what they are (such BEAUTIFUL things, I am trying to get them back!), and I’m sorry about all the horrible mess things are with yours.

            I think you must be very staunch to go back and read such things as must make your hair crawl and your stomach lurch at times. I know how it feels because I’ve read and heard samplings of their anti-feminist opinions and much of it is confounded bs. I struggle and grit my teeth and groan and have to listen to music sometimes. Sometimes, in the midst of it all, I exclaim aloud in shock and vexation at what I just heard. It’s worse when women do it, I think, because they’ve been co-opted to betray!

            So many thoughts but very busy.

            Healing be with you in every way – emotionally, psychologically, feminine-wise, physically, etc. My heart is with you. Love you heaps.

  • Yay. I love these. You are one of the very first bloggers I started following who opened up the world of women and feminist writing about faith and the Bible and Christianity. At a time when I was feeling very detached from any faith community and burned out from the evangelical church. And all because you liked one of my posts about Iceland I think. So, thanks for writing! People like you are opening up the doors to a new church that allows real debate and discussion and honors women’s voices.

  • This ought to be rich. A member of my family gave this book to my poor wife as (presumably) a last attempt to convert her back to the Patriarchy lifestyle. (This after years of drama about the fact that my wife worked outside of the home.) I skimmed it just enough to realize what it was – a big pile of shit. One of the last straws for my wife in that relationship.

  • Oh boy! This is about to get bumpy. Let me buckle up…

  • Lately I’ve been thinking about Gal. 3:28
    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” If even Paul says the gospel means all religious distinctions between men and women are erased, why do we have such trouble with equality? Paul was no innovator, but even he says the gospel has changed things forever.

    • Crystal

      Because it can NEVER negate roles, and egalitarians twist verses to suit themselves / s from my side, taken from biblicalgenderroles.com

      That man is SO SHOCKING 🙁

      Confound the fellow! He outright advocates for abusing wives who don’t feel they owe their hubbies THE SEX.

      I could go on and on but prefer to keep things on topic, so …

  • CynicMom

    Honor Harrington is so much fun! Yes, the books are cheesy as hell but for whatever reason I’ve found myself returning to the books every so often for years. It’s my guilty pleasure.

    Just wanted to mention that the entire series is available for free online (including ebooks and some audiobooks, I think) at the Baen Free Library at the authors request.

    http://web.allensmith.net/SciFi/Weber_David/Honor_Harrington.htm

    • Oh man, thank you for that link! I’ve heard good things about those books, and wanted to read them for years, but I live in Belgium, and they’re not really available here, so thank you!

  • CynicMom

    I am really looking forward to following Dani’s takedown of Redeeming Love as well. When you mention her name would you mind linking to her web page or blog in addition to her Instagram? That way I won’t have to google her every time I want to check for updates.

    Sorry for the tiny nitpick. I love your blog and can’t wait to hate-read along with you!

  • LJ

    I remember reading “Lies Young Women Believe” back when I was in high school – or at least, I read part of it. (I suddenly want to look back through it, as I remember having at least some form of mixed feelings on it even back then.) Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to this series!

  • Sadie

    Very pleased you decided to go with this one, as it was the one on the list that I had already read. I recall being uneasy about it, like you describe, but I can’t remember if the rest of my impressions were actually from this or from Captivating. Anyway, looking forward to reading your thoughts!

  • acarcich

    Would love to hear your thoughts on “Created to Be His Help Meet” by Debi Pearl. I used to read it and think it’s the best book on Biblical womanhood, but I have such different views now, and would love to hear your thoughts.

    • Libby Anne at her blog “Love Joy Feminism” has a really awesome breakdown on Debi’s book– she’s where I got the idea to do this sort of extended review series.

  • Geisthander

    Wait. Eve’s Diaries?

    That can’t be Biblical on its face. You’d have to make up a whole bunch of stuff (like the idea that Eve could read and write) that is massively not in the Bible in order to have that.

  • Tim

    Regarding “The Honor of the Queen” your description reminded me of the Change of Command ceremony last year at the organization I’m part of where our first lesbian commander took command. We’re an Air Force Wing equivalent (about 3000 personnel) and the Wing King is more or less imbued with the broad powers of a medieval monarch over the members of the organization, so the change of command ceremony is this big deal where about 350 active duty military personnel stand in formation and a similar number of the civilian leadership gaggle up and there are speeches by the upper echelon command, by the out-going commander and the in-coming commander and the org flag is ceremoniously passed to the new commander. All very boring.

    Command tours are a two-year gig, as a general rule, and this was our third female commander in the past decade, so that was nothing new, but there was a very little subdued buzz prior to the ceremony about her being our first lesbian commander. However, when she introduced her wife during the ceremony, there was this noticeable slight ripple throughout the uniformed ranks of heads that were supposed to be staring straight forward turning toward the podium to spot the Wing King’s new spouse. New. As in, she had gotten married two weeks before assuming command and almost no one had gotten the scoop on that. Just a small ripple, and then eyes front. So, yeah, her wife is the new head of the key spouse program, and she comes to the Dining Outs, and Military Balls, etc. I would say there’s very little tizzy going on that I’ve observed, but I’m a few layers removed from the inner command circle.

  • Yay!! Excited to hear your thoughts.

  • noirceuil

    Hi! Just wanted to chime in with my love for the HH series. It’s weird, they are terribly cheese, but in a good way. I actually enjoy the first books more, because it’s just Honor and her ship, vs Admiral Lady Dame Honor Harrington later in the series.

    One thing that I did not enjoy, however, or rather thought was too on the nose, was all the “Kingdom of Manticore: free market and bootstraps for everybody, f#&k yeah!” That’d be an aspect of the series interesting to deconstruct. Have you ever thought about starting a side blog on all things geeky? I bet you have a lot of interesting things to say.

    I look forward to your next book review. Make sure to throw the book at the wall as many times necessary for your peace of mind.

    • Sarah S

      “I look forward to your next book review. Make sure to throw the book at the wall as many times necessary for your peace of mind.”

      Lol! Yes!

      • Maria

        I’ve skimmed it. The wall is going to take one heck of a pounding. This book is vile.

  • Sarah S

    Sorry to hear you’re feeling poorly Samantha. Hoping your vacation goes well!

    “I will continue screaming this until the cows come home: books that command “submission” from wives keep women in abusive relationships. End of story.”

    This a THOUSAND times!

    Looking forward to the rest of the review.

  • Stef

    I haven’t even read the post yet, but my reaction when I saw it was: yes, yes yes. You just made my day. I loved this book and i devoured it. (But even then there were some things in the book where i was like what? (Probably bc my family isn’t christian and I became a fundamentalist all on my own, but I guess some stuff stuck from my secular upbringing, I was never big on victim blaming) i even still have notes on the side of the book. I will be reading along and I just can’t wait to see your take on things. So excited

  • Thank you for being so frank about “period week”. Mine are disabling too, despite the Pill. I never met another woman who had this problem, got a lot of shaming about it (from other women “friends” and family) and felt awful about myself for years. Your blog is a source of healing. Take good care of yourself and keep shining a light.

    • Crystal

      Yeah, it’s the shaming that’s always the problem. For my part, I have had to struggle with being told lies like “pain is part of the process always, it’s always normal, just suck it up and suffer, etc.” The problem for me is, every single thing will get treated – toothache, stomach ache, because if there’s a problem it should be FIXED but when it comes to little old periods, nope, not a chance, you will never get over it. God, I want to grit my teeth in intense RAGE just thinking about it! It’s so unfair! My desires for painlessness have almost never been shown any kind of support or affirmation. I might have a long painful road ahead of me before I get it right (I hope NOT!), but I WILL – someday.

      • Honestly, I don’t think it’s possible for your uterus to contract or your cervix to dilate (both things that happen during periods) without any pain ever. Many women only experience a mild discomfort easily dealt with by Midol, but contractions just hurt.

        • Crystal

          I understand what you are saying, Samantha. I do. It’s just that I have been lucky enough to experience both sides of the spectrum. I had painless ones – straight – for THREE YEARS, which I alternatively accepted, LOVED, and was curious about the other side (this was not a good reaction on my part). Yes, they do exist, they are a phenomenon. I was under a lot of stress spiritually and emotionally when my body switched over and I have been wrestling with myself ever since.

  • picklefactory

    You’re reading Weber, huh? Excellent! I’ll be very curious to see what you make of the series. I hope you’ve read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books! I think they’re even better.