The Feminization of the Family
Feminism is a radical movement. As such, it goes to the very root of the relationship between men and women and seeks to alter the societal and institutional structures that are perceived to be in conflict with the ideas and goals of feminism. Janet Richards declares that “Feminism is in its nature radical . . . . It is the social institutions of which we complain primarily . . . . If you consider the past there is no doubt at all that the whole structure of society was designed to keep women entirely in the power of men.” As a radical ideology, feminism’s goal is revolution. Gloria Steinem speaks for feminists when she says: “We’re talking about a revolution, not just reform. It’s the deepest possible change there is.” Feminists want to create a “new society” where the restrictive social conditions of the past have been forever removed. How successful have feminists been in promoting their agenda of social revolution? Davidson says: “Today, feminism is the gender ideology of our society. From the universities to the public schools to the media to the military, feminism decides the issues, sets the terms of debate, and intimidates potential opponents into abashed silence.”
The social institution that feminists have targeted as one of the most repressive to women is the traditional family. By “traditional family” we mean the family structure that developed in Western society under the direct influence of Christianity and the Bible. In the traditional family, the man is the head of the home and the one responsible for providing those things necessary for the sustenance of life. The woman is a “keeper at home,” and the one primarily responsible for the care of the children. The traditional family thus defined is in line with the biblical plan for the home. Feminists hate the family that is patterned after the Word of God because it is contrary to all that they accept as true. Thus, their goal is the total destruction of the traditional family. Feminist Roxanne Dunbar said it plainly: “Ultimately, we want to destroy the three pillars of class and caste [i.e., sexist] society — the family, private property, and the state.” Feminists seek the overthrow of the traditional family, and in its place they look for a radically different social institution that is shaped by feminist dogma.
When we consider the radical nature of feminism and it agenda to overthrow the family that is structured after the biblical model, we would be wise to pause and ponder how successful the feminists have been in remaking the family according to their own design. The fact is that, in Western society, feminism has been enormously successful in destroying the traditional family. The feminization of the family has already taken place! By the “feminization of the family” we mean the remaking of the family according to the beliefs and goals of feminism. This feminization has occurred in the last thirty years and with little opposition from men. Men have fallen away in fear at feminist charges of sexism, repression, tyranny, and exploitation, as a coward would wither before the charge of a determined enemy on the battlefield. Nothing seems to have terrified men more than the angry glare and words of feminist ideologues.
Now, when we say that the feminization of the family has already taken place, we do not intend to imply that the feminists have fully reached their goals in regard to the family. We mean, rather, that a revolution in family life that is due to feminist influence and in accord with feminist ideology has already come to pass in Western society. Today, the social institution of the family is far more in line with the vision of Betty Friedan than with the teaching of the Apostle Paul. This represents a triumph (at least a partial one) for the feminist’s radical vision of social revolution.
The feminization of the family is seen in at least six areas. First, marriage has been destabilized, and divorce is rampant. Feminism’s “diabolization of marriage” has made divorce “socially and psychologically more acceptable by the idea that it is a reasonable response to a defective and dying institution.” The biblical teaching that marriage is a divine and covenantal institution that binds a man and woman together for life by a sacred vow (Gen. 2:18-24; Matt. 19:3-9) has been repudiated by modern society. The biblical concept has been replaced with the notion that marriage is a mere human institution, an imperfect one at that, and that divorce is a reasonable way to deal with any misery associated with it.
Second, male headship in the family has been replaced by an “egalitarian” arrangement where the husband and wife “share” in the leadership responsibilities of the family. The scriptural idea that the man is head of the family (1 Cor. 11:3-12; Eph. 5:22-23) and lord of his household (1 Pet. 3:5-6) is considered by feminists to be both tyrannical and barbaric, a vestige of primitive man and his ability to physically dominate his spouse. In our day, the overwhelming majority of both men and women scoff at the notion that the wife should submit to her husband’s authority.
Third, the man as provider has been rejected for a new model of joint economic responsibility. The view of our time is that the man is no more responsible than the woman to provide for the financial needs of the family. Feminists believe that the scriptural teaching the man is the family provider (1 Tim. 5:9) is part of a male conspiracy to hold women down by making them economically dependent on men.
Fourth, the women as a full-time homemaker is scorned, and the working woman who seeks fulfillment and independence in employment outside of her home is now a cultural norm. The biblical mandate that a woman be a “keeper at home” (Titus 2:4-5) is either unknown or unheeded. Feminist-minded folks consider it to be a demeaning thing for a woman to stay at home and confine her work to the sphere of her house and her family. A career is considered more suitable and meaningful for today’s wife and mother.
Fifth, the biblical norm of a woman as a nurturer of children has been replaced by the feminist ideal of a working mother who places her children in “daycare” so that she can pursue other important matters. The responsibility of motherhood is seen in far different terms than it was in the past. The biblical call to the mother to be with her children, to love, train, teach, and protect them (1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14) is rejected for the feminist vision of the woman who is freed from such constraints on her individuality and own fulfillment.
Sixth, the idea that a large family is a “blessing” is rejected for notion that a small family of one or two children (and for some, no children at all) is far better. The concept of “family planning” geared at reducing the number of children in the home is advocated by nearly all. The biblical teaching that a large family is due to God’s blessing and sovereignty (Ps. 127; 128) is despised by modern families, even those claiming to be Christian. The feminist’s view that we determine the number of children we will have, that we are sovereign over such matters is now accepted with hardly a question. Of course, this supposed sovereignty over life and birth leads to a justification of abortion, the ultimate birth control.
Yes, the feminization of the family has taken place in America and in the West! The Christian concept of the family has been replaced by the feminist idea of the family: easy divorce has replaced a covenantal view of marriage; egalitarianism has replaced male headship; man and woman as joint providers has replaced man as provider; the wife and mother working outside of the home has replaced the woman as a keeper at home; the mother as an employee has replaced the mother as the nurturer of her children; “family planning” and “birth control” has replaced the large family.
Two factors have greatly contributed to the success of feminists in overthrowing the family structure and practice that is based on the Bible. The first factor is the cowardice of men; yes, even Christian men. To a degree it is understandable (though still shameful) that non-Christian men have cowered before the feminists, and their attacks on them and the traditional family. But that Christian men who have the truth of the Word of God should have likewise capitulated is a sorry fact indeed. God has called men to defend His truth in the world and to live out its precepts. Yet, a look at the average evangelical Christian home will reveal that it too has been feminized to a large degree. Radical, Christ-hating feminist have transformed our homes, and Christian men have hardly objected to this or contested for the holy ground of a biblically patterned family. Furthermore, Christian husbands and fathers have also shown cowardice in their failure to lead and take up the responsibilities that God has given to them. They have been more than willing to shuck the full burden of leading and providing for their families; they have been more than to happy to share (or unload) these burdens with (or on) their wife. The family has been feminized because Christian men retreated from their duty.
The second factor is the silence and passivity of the church. The feminization of the family has taken place in large measure because the church has mostly been silent on the matter. The church has not met the assault of feminism head on with the sword of the Word of God. Rather, and shamefully, the church has retreated at the feminist onslaught, and has actually bought into many of the alien ideas of feminism. The church has been guilty of teaching such things as egalitarian marriage, “family planning,” and of supporting the idea of a career woman and working mother. Much of the blame must be laid at the feet of preachers and elders who are either deceived or too afraid to preach or stand for the truth concerning the family as God had revealed it in His Holy Word. The feminists have been successful in altering the family because the church has failed to live and teach the positive scriptural doctrine of the family and has not exposed, denounced, and answered the lies of the feminists.
What should our response be as Christians to the feminization of the family? Our response begins with the recognition that it has happened. Denial will not do us any good. Then, we must take up the task of the de-feminization of the family and the re-Christianization of the family. This task is the work of every individual Christian family; but it is primarily the work of Christian husbands and fathers who have been appointed by God as leaders in the home. Men must lead by precept and example in eradicating all aspects of feminist influence from the life and structure of their family and restore it to a biblical pattern. Men must prove themselves men and shoulder the full load of responsibility given to them by God. Men must stop being intimidated by feminist rhetoric and radicals and fearlessly promote God’s order for the family.
The task of reconstructing the family according to God’s Word will also require the church to faithfully teach what the Bible says concerning the family, and, in many cases, to alter the structure of their church and ministry (which has also been feminized) to support the family rather than to undermine it. It will require pastors and elders who respect the covenantal institution of the family, and who will stop lording it over the family and persecuting the man who seeks to de-feminize his own family. It will demand pastors and elders who are an example to the flock by de-feminizing their own homes. And it will take teachers and preachers with the courage and conviction of John Knox and John Calvin to expose the poisonous lies of feminist dogma and to declare and defend the biblical pattern for the family from the pulpit.
Note: This is a revised version of an article that originally appeared in the February 1998 edition of the Chalcedon Report. It is printed here by permission of the author.