Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Recognizing the True Problem

Leslie Basham: Advertisers like to tell you that they have a solution to your problem, but sometimes they first have to convince you that you have a problem. Decades ago feminists started doing the same thing. Here’s Mary Kassian.

Mary Kassian: They saw that women had a problem, but that women themselves did not recognize how poor their condition really was.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So they had to convince the American women that, “You’ve got a problem you don’t know you have?”

Mary: That’s right. They wanted to convince the women that their source, those yearnings, the longings that every woman feels, the longings within women’s hearts was because of this oppression, this patriarchy, rule of men, rule of the father, and that women need to fight against that and overcome that in order to feel fulfilled.

Leslie Basham: It’s Tuesday, September 13th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I was born in 1958, just really at the outset of the modern day feminist movement, so I’m a little young to remember some of the origins and how that movement came about. It was really taking place while I was a little girl.

Our guest this week is Mary Kassian. She has done a lot of study on how this movement came about and is helping us to understand some of its development. Mary, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Mary Kassian: Thanks, Nancy. It’s good to be here.

Nancy: Mary is a wife. She’s a mom of three teenage sons. Her background is actually in rehab medicine, so she has a professional background. But as a young woman she became interested in how the development of feminism in a modern day sense had come about, and she’s done quite a bit of research. She’s written a book called The Feminist Mistake.

Now, I have to say that this book, which has had a profound influence on my own thinking, is not easy reading. It’s a challenging read, but it has been so helpful to me in my own thinking.

Mary, you shared with me that you remember an incident that took place when you were eight years-old that really was a defining moment in the whole movement that came to be known as women’s lib. Tell us about that incident.

Mary: That’s right. It was actually an incident that turned into a huge media spectacle. It took place at the Miss America Pageant. There were a number of women who identified themselves as "women libers" who floated down a huge bed sheet from the second floor, tossed it down. The cameras caught it and it said, “Women’s Liberation” on it.

Nancy: This is during the actual pageant as it was being televised?

Mary: This was during the pageant. Other things took place right around that time. Such as in and about the pageant a woman brought out a pig and had its felt-penned off into sections and said that’s how women were being treated—as pieces of meat being paraded around. Women also had a freedom trash can where they were throwing in their bras. That’s actually where the term, “burn the bra” movement came from.

It all was to draw attention, draw the public’s attention, the media’s attention to a problem these women saw. The problem was that they believed that women needed liberation, that women were oppressed, that men had kept women in a state of servitude and kept women barefoot and pregnant and in the home and that women were unfulfilled as a result and women were searching and yearning for something more.

And until they got out of the home and until they were able to have degrees and professions, they would not be fulfilled. They were really regarded as oddities. Now, women at that time were able to get professional degrees. They were able to go out, and the avenues for education were open to them. They had the right to vote. That had been won in the 1930s.

However, the women chose to stay at home. The men came home from the war. They began to have children and families, and the women chose to stay at home. So this media spectacle took place with the white sheet and the burn the bra type things.

A lot of women just didn’t get it. They couldn’t understand what these women were talking about. They couldn’t understand why there was such an issue here because they accepted their role as being in the home and as being nurturers of the next generation. They accepted that role so they didn’t think or see things any differently.

Nancy: So some of these early feminist leaders really took it on the chin. They were ridiculed and not well accepted by the American masses in those early days.

Mary: That’s right. They saw that women had a problem but that women themselves did not recognize how poor their condition really was.

Nancy: So they had to convince the American women that, “You’ve got a problem you don’t know you have?”

Mary: That’s right. They wanted to convince the women that their source, those yearnings and the longings that every woman feels, the longings within women’s hearts really was because of this oppression, because of this patriarchy, because of the rule of men, rule of the father, and that women need to fight against that and overcome that in order to feel fulfilled.

So it was really interesting. It was a very small group of women, small group of radicals. They came up with a technique in order to convince women of their oppressed condition. The technique they came up with was called consciousness raising, CR. They started consciousness raising groups.

This is a really, really interesting technique because it’s based on the revolutionary armies of Mao Tse-tung in the 1940s. He went into northern Chinese villages and wanted to rid those villages of Japanese and Kuomingtang control.

What he did was he had what was called “speak bitterness meetings, speak bitterness meetings.” He would call together all the women of the village and have them come together in a group and speak bitterness. In other words, he would ask them, “How have you been treated poorly by the men in your life? Tell me stories of how you have suffered abuse at the hands of your husband?”

So these women would come together and tell their stories of their life experiences as women. As they spoke they found that the bitterness began to rise up in the women, and they began to become angry.

They would then go back to their homes, and when the family was destabilized Mao Tse-tung was able to take over the villages really with very little resistance after the family had been destabilized through the anger and bitterness of women.

Nancy: How did the early feminists use that technique to get their thinking into the mainstream of women’s lives?

Mary: Feminist women used that same technique. They began having consciousness raising meetings, which were really just “rap sessions” is what they were called at that time.

Nancy: These were small groups?

Mary: Small groups.

Nancy: In women’s living rooms basically.

Mary: In women’s living rooms, in neighborhoods, in community centers, in every place they could imagine to host them.

Nancy: And mostly these women were not radicals, they were not feminists, but there would be one leader who would begin to ask questions.

Mary: She would begin to ask questions. Why do you dress the way you do? Don’t you dress the way that you do in order to please men? Who in your home cleans the toilet? Now is that fair? Who brings the money home? Do you have money to spend as readily as your husband does? Has your husband ever demeaned you? Do you think that women have their proper place in society?

And through these discussion groups it began to be a speaking of bitterness and a speaking of pain and a speaking of the experiences that women had gone through as women. They began to identify with one another. The whole purpose of these groups was to take something that was personal, personal experience, and turn it into something political. In other words, take your personal experience, your hurts and your pain . . .

Nancy: . . . and your anger

Mary: . . .and your anger, and see that other women also have hurts and pain and anger and then together we can go out and change the world. Together we can become politically active, and we can fight for change that will bring about our fulfillment.

Nancy: So it became a collective bitterness and anger and ultimately a strong political movement?

Mary: That’s right. Because we talked about patriarchy, saying that the problem is the rule of the male, so the political movement came out of this idea that if we are able to be involved in our society, if we are able to have power, if we are able to have jobs just the same as men have them, then we will find fulfillment.

So they began to push for things like affirmative action. In other words, that every job needs to be filled with fifty percent men and fifty percent women. There were quotas—women needed to fill in jobs. So for instance, the police force would need to be women recruited equally together with men.

It became a political activism that was born out of these groups. So much so that really within ten years of the very beginning of the women’s lib movement it just seemed to be a few radicals that were looking at that or defining themselves as women’s libers, but at the end of ten years there were twenty thousand women that marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue under the banner of women’s liberation. It became a very strong and very popular movement.

Nancy: You know, Mary, as I first read in some of your writings about these consciousness raising groups and realized how the leaders of the early feminist movement had intentionally stirred up discontent, bitterness, and anger in the hearts of women and how that had become such an effective political club that transformed the whole culture, not just women’s lives but men, children, schools, government, churches, everything, my heart began to almost pound.

As I realized that in our day there could be such enormous potential, if we would begin in small groups of women in our living rooms to begin to think God’s way. Instead of stirring up bitterness and discontent and anger, if we could begin to provoke one another to love and to good deeds and to a spirit of gratitude and hospitality and serving one another and love in our homes, marriages, with children, in our churches.

To think that those small groups of women praying for their men, praying for our culture, for our communities, for our churches, for our homes and beginning to really encourage one another to understand what it means to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives as women.

My mind’s eye began to imagine what it would be like maybe ten years from now if we as Christian women could begin through those godly means to influence and permeate and penetrate our culture with the fragrance and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So what was and has been in many senses a very powerful and in a lot of ways a negative influence starting with those early radicals and extremists, what if a few of us today for the sake of Christ were willing to be considered radical and extreme, different and outside of the mainstream, what if we were willing to take a stand and be intentional as those early feminists were to see the power and the potential of God raising up a whole new generation of women who think His way, who love His way, who have His heart and reflect that heart in our generation?

Those thoughts really became the seeds of what today is the ministry of Revive Our Hearts and what we’re trusting and praying and believing God to do in the hearts of Christian women throughout this nation.

Leslie Basham: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss offering a godly alternative to feminism. If you want to learn more about the counter-revolution that Nancy’s been talking about, I hope you’ll visit Nancy’s written several books and articles that can help you learn more and you can get a lot of good information on our website. is also where you can go to order our guest’s book. The Feminist Mistake will help you understand the origins of feminism in our culture and in the church. You’ll have an above average understanding of this issue after reading this book. To order by phone ask for The Feminist Mistake when you call 1-800-569-5959.

We live in a world shaped by feminism so much so that you might not even recognize it. Mary Kassian will open our eyes tomorrow. 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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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.