Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Recognizing Feminist Thought

Leslie Basham: When you understand both history and the Bible, it will affect your actions, according to Mary Kassian.

Mary Kassian: I’m praying that God is going to raise up a counter-revolution of women, women who hold the knowledge of our times in one hand and the truth and the clarity and the charity of the Word of God in the other.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, April 30.

For the last couple days, Nancy, Mary Kassian, and some friends have been discussing true beauty. That conversation was based on the workbook Nancy and Mary co-authored called True Woman 101: Divine Design. 

Mary’s back today to give us some background on some of the powerful influences that are affecting women’s view of themselves, of beauty and value, and of God. Here’s Nancy to introduce today’s message.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: At Revive Our Hearts we recognize that God is up to something big.  From around the world He’s stirring hearts and calling us to His Word to find out what it means to be a woman. 

Years ago, I began believing God for a counter-revolution of women who would choose to embrace His calling on their lives. That movement gained significant momentum in 2008, at the first True Woman conference. 

One of the key messages that God used that weekend was given by my friend, Mary Kassian. Mary is a wife, a mom, an author, a speaker. Since that time, we’ve co-authored the book True Woman 101 together. And right now, we’re working on a follow-up book—True Woman 201: Interior Design.

And Mary has been a big part of the movement that God has been building since 2008. I hope you’ll join Mary and me for True Woman '14 this October in Indianapolis. It’s a great opportunity for women who love the Lord to get together, to focus on Christ, and to seek Him for His calling on our lives.

At this conference you'll hear from some speakers who have been with us —Mary Kassian, Joni Eareckson Tada, Janet Parshall, Keith and Kristyn Getty—but you'll also hear from several new True Woman speakers—Angie Smith, Lauren Chandler, Jim Cymbala from the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and pastor's wife, Jani Ortlund. For the complete list of speakers and all the details, visit Revive Our Hearts.com.

Today we’ll hear one that keynote address that Mary Kassian gave at True Woman '08.

Mary Kassian: In the late 1960s, the Morris Tobacco Company introduced the slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” to launch Virginia Slims, their new “women’s only” cigarette. In the ads, staged black and white photos picturing the miserable state of women prior to the women’s movement were juxtaposed against other photos of far happier, modern women who demonstrated their emancipation from male dominance by smoking Virginia Slims.

In the ad on the left, there are three black and white scenes that depict an arrogant, overweight husband impatiently ringing a bell to have his wife bring him food, a newspaper, and slippers. The caption reads, “With this ring, I thee wed: ring for supper, ring for paper, ring for slippers.” The full-color, happy, modern, Virginia Slims woman pictured in the forefront rejects the male-defined institute of marriage. “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

The ad at the bottom states, “Back then, education taught men to run the world and woman to run the home.” It depicts miserable, bored women sitting at old-fashioned desks learning about home economics. The blackboard proclaims that there will be a laundry quiz on Tuesday and that their homework consists of several cooking and cleaning assignments.

The full-color, happy, modern, Virginia Slims woman on the adjoining page knows that running a house is a low-class, demeaning job for someone with a university education. She wants to get out of the house and do something really important, like run the world. “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

In the top ad, an old-fashioned, black and white scene depicts women working hard and their male boss holding his lapels, taking all the credit. The caption reads, “Virginia Slims looks back upon the self-made man and all the women who made it possible.” The smug Virginia Slims woman in the foreground holds lapels of her business suit in the same manner as the boastful, male boss, but there is no one propping her up. She is a self-made woman. She makes herself possible. “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

The final ad features a large, black and white photo of two policemen forcibly removing a woman from a public beach for wearing an immodest bathing suit. The woman is screaming, “You just wait! Someday, we’ll be able to wear any bathing suit we want! Someday, we’ll be able to vote! Someday, we’ll even have our own cigarette!” The policeman retorts, “That’ll be the day.”

But the happy, enlightened, Virginia Slims woman has the last word. “It will be the day,” when she has the right to set her own standards of sexual conduct, morality, and propriety. She’s aiming for the day when she dismantles all the rules. “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

In the past fifty years, women have come a long way, but a long way isn’t necessarily the right way or a good way. Up until the middle of the last century, Western culture as a whole generally embraced a Judeo-Christian standard, Judeo-Christian framework on gender and sexuality and the purpose and structure of the family.

Heterosexual marriage and marital fidelity were highly valued concepts and the norm of society’s practice. Most agreed that the primary responsibility of the male was to lead and to protect and to provide for his family while the primary responsibility of the female was to nurture and care for her children and her home.

Differences between male and female were accepted and seldom questioned, and for both man and woman, the sense of duty and responsibility to family was far greater than the quest for personal fulfillment. Though they may not have been able to identify the source of their values, individuals had a sense of what it meant to be a man or a woman and the appropriate outworking of gender roles and relationships.

The speed and magnitude with which all this has been deconstructed is absolutely phenomenal. It’s mind-boggling. Consider the image, the cultural image, of women back in the 1950s, represented by the popular TV sitcom, Leave It to Beaver. The Cleaver family exemplified the idealized, suburban family.

In the series, there are four things that are presented as requisites for happiness for both man and woman: marriage, children, education, and hard work. In typical late-1950s fashion, June worked hard at home all day taking care of the house and serving the community while her husband, Ward, worked hard outside of the house to financially support the family.

When Ward came in the door after work calling out, “I’m home,” June, wearing a pretty dress, greeted him with a smile and a kiss, a clean house, and a hot meal on the table for supper.

In the show, adults who didn’t follow this pattern of marriage were depicted as troubled or missing out. Life for women was very different fifty years ago, very, very different. Almost everyone got married. The average age for getting married was twenty years old for girls and twenty-two ears old for men.

  • Once married, a woman could normally count on her husband to financially support her and the children.
  • The divorce rate was very low.
  • Chastity and virginity were virtues.
  • Scarcely anyone lived common-law because it carried the stigma of living in sin. So few couples lived common-law at that time that statistics for this phenomena wasn’t even recorded. They didn’t even keep statistics.
  • Having a child outside of wedlock was also considered shameful. Now, one American child is born outside of marriage every twenty-five seconds; and tonight, more than forty percent of children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live.
  • Only thirty percent of women were employed outside the home in 1960. Very rarely was there a woman who had under school-age children who went out and worked outside of the home.
  • There was no birth-control pill.
  • Abortion was illegal.
  • Pornography and rape and homosexuality, sexual perversion, sexual addiction, sexually transmitted diseases were uncommon and rarely encountered.
  • Men regarded it as their responsibility to protect and provide and care for their families.

That was the world that I was born into, and it wasn’t all that long ago. We’ve come a long way, baby. Our ideas about what it means to be a woman have come a long way.

By the late 1960s, the image of June Cleaver being happy at home in her role as wife and mother had fallen by the wayside, replaced by the 1970s Mary Tyler Moore image of a pretty, single woman in her thirties pursuing a career at a television station. The show was lauded as a breakthrough because it had the first, independent, attractive career woman as the central character.

It discreetly implied that Mary was single, she was on the pill, and she was also sexually active. But the focus of the show was on her career, not on her association with men. She truly was on her own, without a recurring father or husband or boyfriend or anyone looking out for her. Every episode, the theme song proudly alluded to her autonomy. “You’re gonna make it after all.” Okay? A lot of you women remember that. You remember that. You’re shaking your heads.

In the 1980s, we’re introduced to Murphy Brown, an investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional TV news magazine. In contrast to the gentle sweetness of Mary Tyler Moore, this character, Murphy Brown, has a loud mouth, is brash, driven, self-assured, self-absorbed, and highly opinionated. She is a divorcee and a proud atheist.

During the course of the series, Murphy becomes pregnant but chooses not to marry her baby’s father. A man would cramp her style. She has the child nonetheless and leaves the baby in the care of a revolving door of nannies so she can pursue her career. The child is merely a side in the plot that revolves around Murphy’s self-actualization in the workplace.

In the mid-90s, enter Ellen, a woman who doesn’t work for someone else but who independently owns her own business, a bookstore. Ellen lives with a man, but the relationship is platonic. He’s just her roommate. She’s not sexually attracted to him, and gradually we discover that Ellen isn’t attracted to men at all. She’s a lesbian, a woman-identified woman. She has the right to define her own sexuality and her own morality, and no one has the right to judge her for it.

She’s out, and she’s in charge, as are virtually all the women portrayed in the media in the past decade. From children’s cartoons to television series to movies, women are portrayed as having an “in charge, don’t need a guy, I’m powerful, traditional marriage and family and morals are outdated, I have the right to rule, how dare you tell me what to do” mentality.

In the past decade, we’ve been inundated with the message that when it comes to relationships, women can hook up, be in a casual or long-term relationship, live common-law, get married or not, get married and then get divorced, get pregnant or abort the babies, sleep around, live with a guy or a girl, have sex with a guy or a girl, and participate in a whole assortment of immoral and perverted behavior as long as they are friends.

In other words, woman makes her own rules and sets her own standards, and as long as she is nice, it really doesn’t matter what she does. Who are you to judge?

The epitome of this is reflected in the most popular sitcom recently for and about women, Sex in the City. Nowadays, the epitome of empowered womanhood is to live a self-serving, self-righteous, neurotic, narcissistic, superficial, and adulteress life. The main character in Sex in the City series wraps it up well when she counsels women that, “The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.”

So in a few short decades in the span of my lifetime, the ideal of a happy, fulfilled woman has gone from one who serves and exalts her children, her husband, and her community to one who serves and exalts herself and has a very different type of commitment, very different type of idea towards men and women. This begs the question, how did this all happen? 

The factors are many and complex, but a very large piece of the puzzle is feminism. Feminism is a distinct philosophy that shook the underpinnings of society in the early 1960s like a tsunamic earthquake shaking the ocean’s floor. Feminism is a distinct worldview. It’s a distinct worldview with its very own thoughts, its ideologies, values, ways of thinking. Whether or not you would admit it, all of us in this room have been profoundly affected by feminist thought.

Now, some of you may think that what we’re doing this morning as an intellectual foray into past philosophy is an exercise in futility. But ladies, it’s the student of history who understands current culture and is equipped to envision a path for the future.

During a time of national turmoil, the nation of Israel was served by the men of Issacher, men, Scripture tells us, according to 1 Chronicles 12:32, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” So my purpose this morning is to help you understand the times.

I want you to understand the times so that you know what to do and you know how to live. I’m praying that God is going to raise up a counter-revolution of women, women who hold the knowledge of our times in one hand and the truth and the clarity and the charity of the Word of God in the other; women whose hearts are broken over the gender confusion and the spiritual and emotional and relational carnage of our day and who, like those men of old, know what to do.

Now I’m going to take you back to the 1950s and paint some broad brush strokes of how the philosophy of feminism developed and was integrated into culture, and then we’re going to end on Scripture. What do we do? What do we do about that?

First, geo-politically, the world was witnessing an era of revolution. The American Revolution, French Revolution, Russian Revolution had been based on the enlightenment idea that all people are equal and no one group has the right to rule over any other group.

The word revolution, from the Latin revolucion means “a turnaround.” It’s a fundamental change in power that takes place in a relatively short period of time.

Revolutionary fervor was in the air. The fight for rights was in the air, and it spread from political to social structures.

  • Workers demanded their rights and formed unions.
  • Students demanded their rights and marched against the oppressive educational structures.
  • Attention was drawn to racial inequality between blacks and whites. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, and the Civil Rights movement was born.
  • During the 1950s, there was a French philosopher, and her name was Simone de Beauvoir, and she proposed that a revolution in gender roles also needed to take place.

She argued that in the relationship between men and women, women were the second class and men were the ruling class. They got all the perks. They had the power. They had the authority, and they got to say what the world looked like.

De Beauvoir argued that in order for women to live as full human beings, they needed to demand their rights, collectively rebel against men, and overthrow all of the societal structures that men had constructed to keep women in a state of servitude. Most specifically, de Beauvoir encouraged women to get out of the home and deconstruct the Judeo-Christian ideas about marriage and motherhood and morality.

In the late 1950s, an American political activist and journalist, Betty Friedan, picked up on Simone de Beauvoir’s thinking. She constructed a questionnaire for the fifteen-year reunion of her college class. She asked her college-educated, female colleagues about the level of happiness and fulfillment they were experiencing in their marriages and in their roles as wives and mothers. Friedan noticed that there was a level of discontent and dissatisfaction present.

She interviewed dozens of other women and concluded that a discrepancy existed between what society told women would make them happy and fulfilled and how happy and fulfilled they actually felt.

In her resulting book, published in 1963, Friedan argued that women were trying to conform to a male-dictated image of womanhood, the feminine mystique, but that doing so left them with vague feelings of dissatisfaction and that yearning and emptiness and that feeling that there had to be something more to life.

She identified this as a common problem amongst women. It was a female problem, a problem without a name. She concluded that the dissatisfaction that women were experiencing in that time in their role was a problem with the role itself.

She suggested that in order to find fulfillment, American women should begin to question and challenge and rebel against being wives and mothers. A woman could only be fulfilled if she had a life plan for herself that included education, a career, and work that was of serious importance to society, and each woman needed to name herself and take control and take charge of her own life and develop a vision for her own future.

Here’s the underlying presupposition behind Betty Friedan’s ideas and the ideas of feminism as a whole. We women need and can trust no other authority than our own, personal truth. We need and can trust no other authority than our own, personal truth.

Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock called The Feminine Mystique the book that pulled the trigger on history. Indeed, once woman accepted this very basic premise of needing and trusting no other authority except her own, personal truth, she set her foot on a path that would take her, and ultimately the whole of society, in a direction diametrically opposed to the heart and the purposes and the ways of God.

Nancy: We're listening to Mary Kassian as she is describing the siesmic shift that has taken place in our culture over the last sixty years or so. We'll hear the second half of this message on tomorrow's Revive Our Hearts program.

Mary delivered this message at True Woman '08, the first national conference hosted by Revive Our Hearts. And Mary will be with us this October as we accelerate the movement among women that began at that first conference. I hope you’ll join Mary and me for True Woman '14. 

This is an opportunity to set aside all the hub-bub and busyness of our lives and focus on the Lord. We’re asking Him to help us find greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. At True Woman, you’ll go deep into God’s Word. You’ll have many opportunities to prayer together and worship together. And you’ll hear many practical examples of what it means to live out biblical womanhood in our day. 

Along with Mary and me, you’ll hear from speakers such as Joni Eareckson Tada, Janet Parshall, Lauren Chandler, Angie Smith, and many others. Most importantly, if you come expectantly, I know you’ll have an opportunity to meet with the Lord in a fresh way. 

True Woman '14 is coming to Indianapolis October 9–11. I hope you'll circle that date on your calendar, make plans now to attend, and ask the Lord who He might want you to bring with you. We're expecting to have thousands of women from every part of the country and from multiple countries around the world. For all the details and information how to register yourself or a group from your church, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Tomorrow we’ll hear part two of Mary Kassian’s message. She’ll talk about the one true way women can find happiness and fulfillment. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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