Feminism

“Lies Women Believe” review: 115-134

I hope all my American readers had a happy Labor Day– mine was spent reading Robert Jordan’s Winter’s Heart from the Wheel of Time series instead of reading for the Lies Women Believe review. I appreciated putting it off by a few days. Thankfully, this chapter was short.

I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR EVERYTHING I’M SUPPOSED TO DO

I think this might be the only time Nancy and I come closest to actually agreeing on something, although the why behind it is, of course, drastically different. Here’s the crux of the section:

There is virtually never time in a twenty-four-hour day for me to do everything that is one everyone else’s “to do” list for me. There is seldom time to do everything on my own “to do” list. I cannot meet with every person who wants an appointment, call every person who wants to talk, counsel every person who has a need … It’s just not physically possible.

What a relief to know I don’t have to do all those things! (119)

Nancy goes on to explain that there is time in every day for us to do what God wants us to do, and we should prioritize the things God wants, not what we want or what other people want. This is where we differ– I agree with the premise that there’s more often more things to be done than I can accomplish in a day, especially on days like today when I’m having neck spasms so severe I’m having difficulty standing upright. I wanted to run errands and bake bread, but instead I spent most of today on muscle relaxers and heating pads. Not being able to do those things is totally fine, and I’ve learned to let them slide without guilt.

The problem I have with this section is that Nancy says “just do the things God wants you to do, and you’ll be fine!” without ever explaining how exactly we’re supposed to figure that out. I grew up having a problem with this, really– people were obsessed with “discovering God’s will for your life,” but it seemed mighty convenient how often “God’s will” perfectly aligned with “thing I feel passionately about” or “thing that will make me look good” or “thing that will make me powerful.”

I think, in general, that God’s will includes things like “drawing all peoples to themself” and “redeeming the world,” but when it comes down to the brass tacks of do I clean my apartment today or research my book, it seems a little ridiculous to expect God to have an opinion.

Realistically, I think we all order our priorities according to what we value and our ethics. I believe tackling this book is important, so it’s what I’m doing instead of laundry right now, and if I don’t have the energy to do laundry later tonight I’m ok with that. I believe that trying to do the will of God every day is important, but that’s summed up for me in love your neighbor as yourself, and I just try to operate by that principle.

I CAN MAKE IT WITHOUT CONSISTENT TIME IN THE WORD AND PRAYER

I hope those of you who had a different experience than me can chime in, because, honestly, I never understood all the fuss around “quiet times” or “devotions.” I read my Bible and prayed pretty consistently through my teen and early college years, but when my schedule filled up with 8a-6p classes, I stopped doing that regularly and never noticed the difference. I tried picking it up again a few times over the years, usually out of guilt, but it didn’t contribute meaningfully to my day so I’ve never gotten back into the habit.

Nancy tries to argue that people will be ineffectual and frustrated without this, but that just seems really Christian-centric to me, and easily disproved. Billions of people don’t read the Bible and pray to the Christian deity every day, and they seem to be doing just fine, while many Christians do have dedicated time for this and don’t seem to fit Nancy’s definition of success– they’ve been depressed, burnt out, worried, stressed, and all the rest of the things she says that devotions will prevent.

A CAREER OUTSIDE THE HOME IS MORE VALUABLE AND FULFILLING THAN BEING A WIFE AND MOTHER

The way she’s phrased this is extremely frustrating because it’s misleading. If she actually meant what those words say we might actually agree on this. I and many feminists believe that motherhood (and fatherhood! stay-at-home-dads are a reality!) can be just as fulfilling as a career– especially if a woman does not feel particularly fulfilled by her realistic career options. We might be troubled by societal patterns and the way stigmas contribute to women leaving the paid workforce, but most of the feminists I’m aware of fight for things like maternity leave and subsidized daycare in order to balance the demands on mothers. However, that’s not what Nancy actually means. Instead, she asserts that the “lie women believe” is that “a career outside the home is an option.”

Some feminists have denigrated those who choose stay-at-home-motherhood, or have written manifestos on why all women have an obligation to be in the paid workforce, but in my experience, those positions tend to be outliers.

However, those outliers are not who Nancy addresses; instead, she misrepresents feminist arguments about the unpaid labor involved in housework and childrearing by saying that feminists have “devalued homemaking to something less than that of a serf” (125). The reality that it’s mostly women who do the housework and childrearing and that this is essentially a form of slave labor–in that it’s culturally coerced and uncompensated–isn’t a statement about its ineffable value. In fact, most feminists have fought to equalize the distribution of household and childrearing tasks by forcing our culture to recognize how important these things are– so important, in fact, that they’re not beneath men doing them, too.

She spends a lot of time saying that it’s impossible for women to “have it all” in the sense of having a career and still shouldering all the demands of homemaking and mothering– and she’s right. The solution, however, isn’t to force all women out of the paid workforce, but to elevate these things to more than just “women’s work.” Men should leave work to take care of sick children just as often as women. Men should take off to get their kids to soccer games. Men should stay up half the night with the colicky baby. Men should learn to cook. Men should shoulder an even share of housework.

It is impossible for women to “have it all” as long as the definition for “having it all” is “be successful at work while still being maintaining a Norman Rockwell version of housewifery.”

She makes a few other frustrating comments, things like saying feminism has pushed our elderly into old folk’s homes without even bothering to acknowledge the extending life spans that make it impossibly difficult for those without medical training to monitor their care; or blaming the rise of the two-income household completely on feminism instead of being honest about the rising income disparities that are forcing middle-class families to take on more labor to maintain a middle-class position, but those are so wrong they’re not even worth the attention.

In short, once again it seems impossible for conservative evangelicals to attack feminism without being misleading, deceptive, and ignorant.

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  • Gloria

    You’ve only got about 5 more books before the series is finished! Congrats!

    • This is my second time reading through WoT, first time for Handsome. We just got to the part where Mat meets Tuon, and I started cackling cuz RJ started a joke he doesn’t give us the punchline to until the end of Crossroads of Twilight I think? (the whole repeating a certain phrase 3 times thing).

      Mostly I’m just really looking forward to The Gathering Storm . Had one of the best endings ever. I ESPECIALLY adore what happens to Elaida. It’s so competely perfect.

      • Gloria

        Elaida definitely reaps what she sowed. It seemed to be from good intentions, but definitely not good actions.

        I found Aviendha’s story in Towers of Midnight either hilarious or horrifying at the different points. Hilarious with the Aiel, horrifying at her experience in Rhuidean.

  • Helena Osborne

    It cracks me up when someone is upset that feminism “claims” an idea. I was talking to a fellow teacher about how I had a male Iraqi student who was a feminist–he professed that men and women are capable of holding the same kinds of jobs and should be treated as individuals both in the home and at work. The teacher, who I am pretty sure is a fundie, said, “Why does that have to be feminist? Why can’t it just be humanist?”

    • purpleprose78

      It is like “all lives matter.” It disregards the systemic struggles that women have that are greater than men.

      • Helena Osborne

        Right? Like those guys who hijack conversations about domestic abuse and rape with the refrain “but rape and DV happen to men too!”

        We know, little buddy, but a couple things: It doesn’t have to be about you all the time; we can acknowledge the struggles of others. Privileged people suffer too, and all suffering is bad, but there is a difference between isolated instances of bad things happening and systematic, culturally ingrained bad things. Proposed changes suggested by women and minority groups will affect even the privileged people who suffer from the harms being focused on (like when the FBI changed its definition of rape to be more inclusive and acknowledge that rape doesn’t require a penis or a female victim).

  • Anna

    I’ve never clicked well with devotional time either. I have a liturgical book of prayers and readings that I dip into occasionally, but it’s not a constant thing. The one time devotions seemed to make a difference was during my summer as a teacher at a Christian retreat centre. I’d go hide out down by the creek during my free time and pray and enjoy nature. I remember that being pretty good, but much of it was probably the need for solitude after chasing small children around for hours.

    • Stefanie Musser

      i just recently saw a buzzfeed video about meditation. I wonder if that is kind of like quiet time. It’s just a time were people relax and think about their problems maybe or find solutions for them. I enjoy quiet time every once in a while, but I don’t feel guilty anymore when I don’t do it.

  • Molly Dodd

    Thanks for doing this series. I hadn’t read this book before, and it sounds predictably terrible, but I think represents the perspectives of some of the people I grew up with. I also grew up hearing a lot about how we’re supposed to hear from God on all sorts of details that most of us realistically won’t be able to discern that way, and I spent a while wondering if I was defective, others were mistaking feelings for God, or what was going on.

    I wanted to put in a word about “quiet time.” Although I grew up evangelical and was constantly being told how important it was to talk to God every day, set aside “tea with God” time, or whatever else, I just couldn’t do it. I was just up in my head talking to myself and feeling kind of silly, when I even remembered to try. What I have found to be really helpful the past few years, though, has been saying the Jesus Prayer, a kind of meditation similar to centering prayer in other traditions. The main idea behind centering prayer is similar to some zen meditations: to move out of being constantly in thoughts swirling around the head, and into a stillness and warmth of heart. Eastern traditions often focus on breathing, and Christian traditions will focus on names of God (in mine it’s “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”), and sit with it in stillness for a while every day, maybe half an hour at a time.

    In my experience, it can be a really powerful practice for connection with God, and especially for disrupting those negative thoughts that have become automatic and take over all my mind space when I’m not being very intentional about how I approach life. I can tell the difference between a day when I’ve set aside some time to engage in meditative prayer, and when I haven’t. I’ll be more centered, often have kinder and better ordered thoughts, and generally be less neurotic/apathetic.

    • calvinandhobbesforever

      The Jesus prayer is wonderful, especially when combined with breathe control as in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

  • Guest

    I have heard it from more than one place that “quiet times and devotions” are mainly necessary when learning how to pray, with the ideal being living your entire life as a prayer, praying in everything you do and doing everything in prayer.

  • Melody

    I’ve enjoyed doing quiet time whenever I did it, usually for a while. I tried to do so daily, but it would soon be a few times a week, and finally stop altogether. What I found, and this is just me, is that although I enjoyed it, it also provided me with guilt if I missed a day or two. Whenever I had this rule in my head of having to do this daily, it would increase my guilt so much for not being able to. I’ve found this with some other things as well, the more rigid I would feel about it, the more guilt. So I tried and mostly succeeded in letting these ‘must-do’ rules go. Be more relaxed about it. Do it when there’s time and enthusiam, otherwise just do it another day. It worked for me and I lost some of that guilt, even though some people liked to instill that again…

    I’ve had similar experiences with other daily things, such as promising myself to go for a daily walk to lose some weight and get some air, or writing in my diary. All these endevours fizzled out in time: daily things just don’t work for me, I guess, it is simply too often. Unless I really, really want to do it, such as reading a favourite book 🙂

  • Stefanie Musser

    So I know that you don’t pay much attention to the journal entries, which is fine since there is so much more stuff to talk about. But one thing that kind of jumped out to me this time is how the journal entry for this chapter kind of sounds more like the entry of a fifties housewife. Sometimes I get confused about this do conservative Christians in the us believe that in the good old stone age the family was set up like in the 50s? I am pretty sure that if Adam and Eve really existed and if the boys were old enough to make a mess, they would all be out in the field working together during harvest time. I think I actually read somewhere that even in the middle ages there was not much separation between poor people in what women and men would do, because if you have to survive then you don’t have time to figure out wether a job is gender specific. I am not trying to say though that women were equal with men in those societies. .

  • calvinandhobbesforever

    I’d like to chime in about prayer. I don’t think that “having a quiet time” is necessarily helpful, especially if you’re trying to get some great emotional thing out of it (which leads to guilt when you don’t, yay). But – I would like to put in a good word for consistent, daily liturgical prayer. Prayer that happens when you can’t be arsed to feel all the spiritual feels, that happens even when you’re busy. By liturgical I mean reading a prayer or doing a set of prayers using beads, etc. This type of prayer has calming meditative effects too.

  • lupiter

    I’ve always taken that “quiet time” was meeting with God, learning about God, but without other people. So it could be daily readings, or journaling prayer if you find that helpful. But it could just as easily be singing while hanging out washing, or reading a (helpful) christian book, or liturgical/meditative prayer, or lectio divina, or walking and thinking.

    Whatever is helpful to you, when you need it (daily, weekly, when I feel down). *shrug*

  • J.B.

    As someone who has children and works (so perhaps I know a little bit about it, of course nothing like childless Nancy!) I sometimes feel like everything is under control and sometimes like the world gets away from me. However there is no way I could handle being a 50s housewife and I kind of feel that providing for my children is good for them in the long run and means I can save for my own retirement.

  • Timothy Swanson

    “The solution, however, isn’t to force all women out of the paid
    workforce, but to elevate these things to more than just “women’s work.”
    Men should leave work to take care of sick children just as often as
    women. Men should take off to get their kids to soccer games. Men should
    stay up half the night with the colicky baby. Men should learn to cook.
    Men should shoulder an even share of housework.”

    Let me chime in as a man and second this. Yes, yes, and yes. You want to remove the stigma of “women’s work”? Have men do it.

    And another one: “saying feminism has pushed our elderly into old folk’s homes without
    even bothering to acknowledge the extending life spans that make it
    impossibly difficult for those without medical training to monitor their
    care.”

    A significant part of my legal practice is assisting
    with public benefits for skilled nursing care, and I will say that Nancy
    is completely full of bullshit on this one. I do not see families just
    shuttling old folks off to the home. I see families that damage their
    own health trying to care for elderly relatives until they just can’t do
    it anymore if they want themselves or their elderly relatives to be
    safe. At some point, you need medical training, equipment, and a strong
    back.

    As a final comment, I mentioned at the beginning of this
    series that a relative gave my wife this book in essentially a
    last-ditch effort to convert her back to Christian Patriarchal ideals.
    My wife works (part time) out of the home, and this has been a *huge*
    source of contention. This book was one of the final straws that ended
    any chance of a good relationship – and that particular statement in the
    book was a main reason why.

  • Jackalope

    Sorry I’m a bit late, but I wanted to add about the career thing…. Not only do I think I would be awful as a stay-at-home mom/wife, but I truly enjoy my job. It’s not just adult interaction, but I feel a real sense of calling to what I do. While I don’t know if I’ll be here for the rest of my career or not, it’s been powerful validation that as a woman I am NOT called solely to housework and childcare. This is something many conservatives miss; just as men have a wide range of talents and gifts, so do women.