Posted By Jennie Chancey on March 20, 2010
where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” ~ Jeremiah 6:16a
There are a plethora of neo-Victorian ladies’ societies, tea groups, discussion forums, and more both on the internet and off. Many of them are doing wonderful work to expose the glaringly ugly results of a century of egalitarianism. Many of them espouse excellent virtues of the past, including the lost arts of homemaking, sewing, cooking, feminine dress and more. But while all these things are praiseworthy, we must seek to go further if we hope to pass on a vision of womanhood that does more than decorate the snorting pig of equality with ribbons, rings and bows. We must not lack discretion; rather we must seek to understand Who defines womanhood and how that definition can be applied to our lives on a daily basis–not just at occasional tea parties or costume balls.
Ladies Against Feminism has no interest in promoting unbiblical and, therefore, untruthful forms of womanhood, even if they may appear right and proper at first blush. By this token, we are not here to advocate a return to a mythical “Victorian” or “olden days” ideal of womanhood – except where that ideal is in line with the unchanging Standard of God’s Word (the “old paths”). Where the Victorians (or others) were correct and praiseworthy in their application of Truth, we will applaud them and promote their work. But where they fell short or deviated from the Standard, we will not shrink from pointing out their inconsistencies.
Elevating the past (the “Good Old Days”) does not help us achieve true reform in the present. The Great Preacher in Ecclesiastes writes, “Say not thou, ‘What is the cause that the former days were better than these?’ for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this” (chapter 7, verse 10). There is no era of perfection upon which we can look back with sighs of longing and regret unless we do so in ignorance. Every era has its evils and its triumphs. While we might wish for the civility and deferential behavior of the Victorian gentleman, can we honestly say we would trade places with a 19th-century woman if we could? Personally, I am thankful for my automatic washing machine, sanitary restrooms, laptop, and other conveniences that make my work as a woman easier! We can and should learn from our sisters in history’s pages and glean the wisdom they won after a lifetime’s work and dedication. But we must not simplemindedly adopt their views without submitting them to the rigorous scrutiny of God’s Standard.
“Why pick on the Victorians?” you might ask. After all, they were the ones who elevated motherhood and home to such a lofty pedestal. “And what about Harriet Nelson and June Cleaver? Are you going to tell us that the 1950’s homemaker isn’t something to imitate?” Well, on the surface, it would seem that these are lofty examples indeed, but the seeds of feminism were often planted by the very women (and men) who enthroned feminine qualities and feminine duties. When the feminine is extolled as the highest and best of types, you soon find that men are urged to become effeminate and the Church to water down its “harsher” teachings. Consider, for example, this oft-repeated Victorian phrase: “Men must become more like women and women more like angels.” The whole idea of the woman as angel permeates much of the sentimental 19th-century literature. Angelic wives and daughters pine away, suffer and die beautiful deaths in books from this period. In The Pearl of Orr’s Island, the heroine’s chief end in life is to buy and wear pretty clothes and look angelic without doing much of anything else.* The wife in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, My Wife and I, finds her supreme usefulness in shopping, but she is helpless in the face of housework. And Harriet and June? While they may have looked dreamy in their high heels and pearls, for the most part, their perfectly televised lives were incredibly empty of any greater purpose than attending civic club meetings, gossiping over the back fence and informing dear old dad of Junior’s latest exploits. Good for a canned laugh track, but hardly the stuff of real living.
The idea of woman as angelic being or immaculately garbed suburban matron may seem flattering at first, but it does not square with Judeo-Christian Truth. It requires detachment from reality, and, more importantly, the rejection of the woman’s full-orbed role as the Bible defines it. The Real Woman is a worker at home, a thinker, a planner, a teacher of generations, a companion, a lover–in short, a very fleshy being who does things. She is not a passive recipient of admiration or a pretty ornament to be gazed upon*. She is a force — for good or ill — as she labors to make her husband successful and her children worthy citizens.
Our goal should not be to return to some idealized version of the past, but to press on, to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1b). Where our forebears held fast to the Standard and endured to the end, let us strive to emulate them. But where they fell short or turned aside to other paths (no matter how pretty or enticing those side roads may appear), let us learn and press forward with renewed strength and a perfect contentment in our God-ordained role as woman–she who was “taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23b).
Now, that said, let no one be deceived into thinking that LAF promotes any form of “quasi-feminism.” Our object is to unmask all forms of feminism. To be a woman is to be a woman on God’s terms, and, as we will seek to demonstrate, those terms are glorious, fulfilling, enriching, enlivening and beautiful. And where we find beauty and wholeness in times past–whether medieval, Victorian or what-have-you–we will strive to emulate the qualities that made those times lovely. But while we seek to be more feminine and womanly, we must stress that the biblical vision of manhood is most assuredly male, and insisting that men “become more like women” is just as false as the feministic view of making women more like men. We hope you will take the time to read, think and reflect as you peruse our pages.
In Christ Our King,
* Understand, please, that I am not condemning beauty, adornment, or well-deserved admiration. Far from it! But my point here is to stress that there is more to womanhood than being an object. A good article to read in this vein is R.J. Rushdoony’s article, “The Woman’s Place.”
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