Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Some questions about the feminine calling

Replying to a few assorted questions I received by email...

"Do you think God’s only calling for young women is homemaking?"

Most women are called to marriage, and of the married women, most will become mothers. It always baffles me when people say that "a young woman might, or might not get married", as if the odds of the two possibilities are anywhere near the same! Unless you are one of the extremely rare women who do not desire marriage at all, most likely you are called to marriage as well. And of course, once God gives us husbands and children and homes, He expects us to tend to those precious treasures He gave us. All other pursuits come next, and it must be considered whether they are compatible with our primary call as wives, mothers, and guards and guides of the home.

Of course, it also depends on the season of life a woman is currently in. A daughter, a wife who doesn't have children, or a woman whose children are grown will probably find more time and energy for pursuits outside the home, if she wishes, than a mother of young children. The key here that the home and family come first, and not just in words to appease one's conscience, but also in deeds. Many can be excellent teachers and doctors, but only you can be a wife to your husband and mother to your children.

"Do you think it is God’s calling for every woman to have children?"

God doesn't bless every woman with children. Some are unable to bear children (because of a health problem they or their husbands may have), and may or may not feel called to adopt. But in general, God told us to "be fruitful and multiply". If a woman is married and has no fertility problems, she doesn't have to question whether she is "fulfilling God's calling" by having children. She doesn't even have to do anything - just allow God to bless her with children, which will naturally happen in the course of a marriage.

"Do you think that, even though I'm reluctant, I should have children? I feel that some women are naturally more maternal than others and better cut out for motherhood."

Just a bit of background: before I had Shira, I was not what you'd call the maternal type. I didn't have too many opportunities to spend time around babies. When I did spend time with babies, I was afraid to hold them because I had no idea how to handle them. When I found out I'm pregnant, I spent long months wondering how on earth I'm going to take care of a baby 24/7, and what I'm actually supposed to do with a baby. But when she was placed in my arms for the first time it was natural and wonderful. Having a child is a change of your entire life, and you might not imagine how you will ever be able to pull it off, but it doesn't mean you should put off having children. On the contrary, I think it's often easier for a young mother to adapt, both physically and emotionally. I think motherhood is unique in the sense that we often don't realize how much we're called to it until we're already there.

"Is it possible to enjoy some of the benefits of feminism while avoiding the pitfalls?"

Now that's an interesting question. Feminism, indeed, gave women some opportunities they didn't have before, such as the right to vote and broader possibilities of higher education (there were always educated women, and there were also colleges for women before feminism, but certainly some professions were off-limits for women). However, can we actually call these opportunities "benefits"? I suppose it depends how you look at it. For example, a woman who got out and got herself a prestigious degree can say this is a "benefit" of feminsim, but a few years down the road, when she wants to stay home with her children but her husband is pressuring her to go work outside the home because he doesn't want to waste her potential for earning money, she might actually come to regard her degree as a pitfall. Overall, if I had to choose whether I want to live in a world with or without feminsim, I'd definitely choose the latter. I think feminism did much more harm than good.

24 comments:

Front Porch Society said...

I am one of those non-married, career women who cannot have children you mentioned. :) I have learned to accept my place in this world as it is apparent this is what God has for me.

Gothelittle Rose said...

I'm one of those non-maternal types who has no interest in babies whatsoever....

...unless they are mine.

It's completely different when you've had your own. They're part of you. There are also some very hefty doses of bonding hormones involved, and that helps.. :) I'm not the only one, either, I know several other women who have no interest in babies except their own, and they make wonderful mothers.

Persuaded said...

Anna, I really appreciate the way you framed this. I agree that there are occasional times when a woman is *not* going to be called to be a wife, mother and keeper at home. As you so aptly pointed out though, women in these situations/callings are truly rare. They are exceptions to the rule... and the scarcity of exceptions almost *proves* the rule, does it not?
Blessings to you and yours this morning my dear♥

Deborah said...

I am so relieved to "hear" you say that you didn't know what to do with babies before you had one! I don't have children yet, but I very much want them. I do get nervous thinking about it, though, because I have very little experience with children. I want to one day be a mother much like the mother you are to Shira, and it is so reassuring to know that you were uncomfortable with babies before you had her. Thank you for the encouragement!

Pom Pom said...

The sweetest places to serve lie in marriage and motherhood. The other pursuits, while pleasurable, don't hold a candle to the intimacy of family and the character building that results from this active and true love.

Mrs W said...

The only babies that really interest me are my own. I can't stand other people's kids, but I sure love mine. I've never been able to stand other peoples kids, and so I was nervous about having kids but mine are different haha.

Bethany Hudson said...

I agree with everything you wrote to the first few responses, Anna. The one thing I would disagree with (and I'm not criticizing--just offering my own thoughts on the matter) is that I do think that there are benefits of feminism. The greatest benefits, to me, actually have nothing to do with the public sphere: voting, employment and so on. I could do without those things, if I had to, and could be perfectly content. What I could not live without is the widespread acknowledgement by men that women are equally as mentally/intellectually capable as men and that our emotional nature is not an indication that we are irrational, stupid, or unstable. If you read much of the literature of older times (think Ante-Bellum era, if you're American--sorry, I'm most familiar with American and British lit), women were thought to be fragile to the point of being incapble of understanding basic sums, being able to even comprehend politics or science, and doctors replaced midwives in the birthing room because women "went insane" during labor according to medical literature at the time. There was also the view that women were either chaste and pure to the point of having no sexual impulses or they were Jezebels waiting in the dark for any unsuspecting man to seduce him from his virtue (he, naturally, could not resist, being male...whatever). These sorts of pervasive attitudes, to me, truly demean women; they deny that we are coheirs of God's Kingdom and that we are made equally in His image. Certainly, not all men treated women this way before feminism, but it was, as I said, the pervasive attitude. Once women stepped into the public sphere, men were forced into recognizing that they had misjudged woman's potential, and I think that recognition a very good thing, indeed, even if I wish it could have come about some other way.

Anyway, just some thoughts on that.

Blessings,
Bethany

Anonymous said...

Living in Israel, you may well be faced with a norm regarding marriage that is exactly what you describe; for those of us living elsewhere, the idea that one will not be married is not remote at all--and it's not negative or bad. Those who feel that marriage and motherhood are the highest calling experience it that way, I hope; but many of us do not. Some are called to marriage and motherhood; some are called to childless companionate marriage; some are called to go out in the world and do other things. Feminism has, thank God--yes, thank God--made this range of options more evident and viable. I have no children and am supremely happy that way. God sent me a challenging spouse who requires more care than I could give him if I had children. The world is shaped by Him in many different ways. We do well to remember that.

Anonymous said...

When my first was born, they wanted to hand him to me to hold... and I thought (as I lay on my back, on a bed that felt like it was five feet off the floor) "I don't want to hold that thing! It looks all wet and slippery, and I'll probably drop it coz I don't have a clue how to hold it!" In a flash of inspiration I said, "Could you give him to his dad?" My husband has a brother 15 years younger than him, so he knew all about babies, thankfully.
Once we got home, I found that the baby was lovely and snuggly and cute and cuddly - especially after he started to smile. Babies are remarkably resiliant though, and survive a lot of well meant, clumsy attempts at mothering as we learn the ropes.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Bethany, from reading books I'm familiar with the attitude towards women you describe (being weak of body and mind, etc). Certainly this was NOT the right viewpoint, but I don't believe we needed specifically feminism to fix it. The idea of woman as "weak and incapable" is totally, absolutely unbiblical. Everyone are familiar with Proverbs 31. Certainly that's not a woman who couldn't do sums or who was weak enough to faint while working in the garden! She was strong in mind, body and spirit.

By the way I think that lopsided view of women you described was never true for Jews. Jewish women were always seen as strong, and we never had the ambivalent attitude about sexuality (women as either completely chaste or completely perverse).

BettySue said...

"Overall, if I had to choose whether I want to live in a world with or without feminsim, I'd definitely choose the latter. I think feminism did much more harm than good."

All I acan say is "Aman."

(Oh, and I like my children much more than anyone elses too)

Bethany Hudson said...

Anna- I do think you are correct that the view of women was different in Jewish society that in Western Christianity (particularly here in America). I also agree that feminism was not required to alter that viewpoint. Perhaps I should have been more explicit. I think the alteration COULD have come about without feminism (indeed, it should have come about simply due to good theology), but at least here in the US, it DID come about because of feminism; that's just what history shows us. And, for it, I am thankful, though I do not believe the ends necessarily justify the means.

And just for clarification: I certainly know that you never have felt this way about women or supported those who have thought that way, and I'm certain that you know it to be an unbiblical viewpoint. Just wanted to point it out, as I said, as a matter of the course of history.

~Bethany

A Dose of Joy said...

Anna,

You dealt with this subject gently while expressing your thoughts so well, which I always admire about you. The aspect that stuck out to me was how you described how natural and joyous it felt to hold and nurture Shira, even though you did not consider yourself the maternal type before her birth. I love children, but I too find myself a bit nervous for the day BG and I have children and I must figure out how to "handle a baby," as you describe. It's a blessing to hear that God equipped you well when she was born.

Prayers,
C

Sylvia said...

Anna,
I think feminism has it's benefits. I am American now but I come from a country where women were not educated some generations ago. Even rich women. At all. Especially among the poor. They could not even read or write or count money. They were thus cheated a lot. Due to 'westernization' that changed. I think feminism is a part of it. Now certainly, most women go to school. And learn to read and write and count money. There is also something called dowry which is a bride price which many men insist on even if the woman is educated and employed. Several years ago, women, even educated women used to be burnt by their in-laws and even their husbands because of insufficient dowry or because they were greedy and wanted to kill the girl so the son could remarry even if there were children. Used to be called Dowry Death. It was a scourge. But now, due to feminism and women's rights these women stand up and say no to dowry. Before they get married. It has drastically reduced now. My only condition for marriage was a man who would not ask for dowry. I somehow felt I was like a cow or something if my parents gave someone money to marry me. It is not tradition. Just greed.
I believe feminism gives us choices. And let's us define them for us. Certainly without feminism I would not be educated. But my culture and my mom taught and emphasized me on learning how to keep a home, cook etc from a young age. I think there needs to be a balance. And I will forever thank feminism for the right to vote.
Hope I put my views as kindly as you Anna.

And here's hoping you are pregnant soon.

God bless you,
Lydia

Mrs. Anna T said...

Bethany, you worded just what I wanted to say: yes, feminism changed how women were viewed, and now women are seen as more capable, but at a terrible price which didn't have to happen at all.

Lydia, I do wonder which country you come from... but I don't think barbaric practices against women mean that we need feminism. People who are capable of killing innocents for greed are clearly without God in their lives.

Anonymous said...

You are all correct in that it is not necessarily feminism that is needed to stop barbaric practices against women. But who is most vocal, who protests these practices in this day and age? The feminists. The feminists brought things like female 'circumcision' and 'honor' killings to the spotlight. Not enough is being done, of course, but issues like these would largely be ignored even today were it not for the feminists.

I know rape is a controversial issue on this blog, and it has often been mentioned that a woman can accuse an innocent man and automatically be believed. That is a tragedy, but not long ago we were at the other extreme. A woman who was raped was blamed. She would not dare tell a soul she had been raped or her good name would be ruined forever. A woman's good name was intertwined with her sexual purity, and it didn't matter one whit whether that purity was compromised by choice or by force.

And yes, women were considered far inferior intellectually. Just read Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin's 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' from the 18th century to see how bad our situation was.

These are just a few examples of the good feminism has done. As Bethany put it so well, 'alteration COULD have come about without feminism (indeed, it should have come about simply due to good theology), but... it DID come about because of feminism'.

As for Jewish women...it's true that the dichotomy of pure Madonna and femme fetale never really existed in Judaism, and women were always recognized as having healthy sexual needs. BUT....feminism has caused huge changes in the religious Jewish world too. Once women were shooed away from any intellectual learning (see Streisand's 'Yentle') and only taught practical things (ironically, in Eastern Europe, often the women knew the local tongue and business much better than the men....earning money was certainly one of their tasks). Today, in many ultra-orthodox circles, women are encouraged to study the ancient texts in depth. They no longer study just the basics in order to know how to keep a home (Judaism has many laws a woman must know), but the reasoning, the history, the sages, etc.....and they contribute to this body of knowledge themselves, writing books, teaching, becoming dayanot (similiar to a lawyer in a religious court). Why, only a decade ago a woman getting a divorce in a religious court had no choice but to use a male dayan. I have heard first hand how frustrating that can be.
My, how times change.
Tammy

Buffy said...

I agree, but with one proviso.

Often the number of women in society exceed the number of men, so it simply isn't possible for all of them to marry. If these women are then not encouraged to fill other important funtions within society (such as being a doctor or a teacher) they can end up feeling rather worthless or like "hangers on" of their family's charity. So the options should be there IF that's what they want.

Rebecca Grider said...

I have read, on this blog and others, a repudiation of feminism many times over and I must stop and ask the question: "How do you define feminism?"

Feminism is, to me, simply the recognition that women are equal to men in mental ability. Women are viable members of society with their own individuality. They are capable, responsible and able to make their own decisions about their lives. Feminism is about choice: the choice to be a stay at home mother or a woman with a career. Women should have the opportunity to education and jobs on the same level as men. Feminism states that women should be judged on the same basis as men, never judged, automatically, as somehow inferior to men.

I understand that Judaism has not historically held that view: that women are inferior. But secular society has. That's the truth of the world. In many parts of the world women are still seen as property to be bought and sold in marriage, their own desires ignored. In America women still make less money than men, even when they have the same credentials and the same position.

To hold one group of people as superior to another based on nothing more than sex is wrong. It is a harmful stereotype. You would not support someone who said the Civil Rights Movement in America was a mistake, a movement that offered equal protection under the law to a group that had been discriminated against based on race. Why say that a movement based on the premise that a person's sex should offer them second class citizenship is wrong?

Feminism also allowed women to speak up against rapists and be able to prosecute instead of being seen as the temptress who brought it upon herself. Feminism allowed me to own property, to vote, to be educated, to decide who I marry, to be whatever I want to be.

A Joyful Chaos said...

I just found your blog and have been enjoying it very much! I agree with your views of feminism.

Anonymous said...

I am late to this discussion, but it seems to me, Anna, that you tend to define feminism to exclude as much as possible any aspect that you might think is positive. For example, you mentioned that there was higher education available for women "before feminism." But I would say that the people advocating education for women in the face of beliefs that women were not suited for it WERE feminist by definition.

I am not sure there is any such thing as "before feminism." Certainly, feminism has been around since at least the eighteenth century when famous Enlightenment thinker Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her Vindication of the Rights of Women.

-- Pendragon

Mrs. Anna T said...

Pendragon, you're right. Feminism has always been around. I should have said "before feminism took over" :o)

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I have a quick question and I hope you have time to answer it....

I am almost 40 years old with two daughters 15 and 12.

I have been praying for the last 5 years for another child. My husband did not want another and we were dealing with his fathers death at the time.

I prayed to God and told Him I was now leaving this up to Him and that I would except that two children was all that I was going to have....that would be fine.

Just this past week my husband has now decided that he would like to have more children. Remember I will 40 in a few monthes and we will have a 16 and 13 old soon:)

I am so confused why have a been praying for 5 years for adding to our family and now that I have excepted my family size my husband changes things?

I now just want to move forward with our two children.

Do you have any advice to a very confused mom?

Renee

Mrs. Anna T said...

Renee,

I can only imagine your confusion over this situation. I will offer you what popped into my head as I read your note: you prayed for another child, and God answered by changing your husband's heart about this. Not when you wanted, not on your terms, but on *His* terms. I think this is a time for faith and trust in God and in your husband's leadership. What I am certain of, is that if God does give you the gift of a baby, you will be so blessed, because **each child** is a blessing. If you have a baby, there is NO way you'll look at his or her sweet face five years later, and say, "I wish this child had never been born". But if you miss out on having a baby, there's a pretty good chance you might regret it later on. Those are my thoughts.

Analytical Adam said...

Well here is my male take on this.

ON the second question of a women wanting to be at home and being a wife and mother all I can say is women that claim that marriage is not needed tend to be very jealous of woman that want to get married and jealous other people's children and sometimes are involved in taking other people's children on trumped up charges and brag about taking children away from their parents and into foster care. Other women in teaching jobs seem to think they know what is better for the children then their biological parents.

Involving the third question of feminism giving women MORE OPPORTUNITY, Yes, more opportunity for unqualified women. That does not breed respect.

IN the 1950's women WHO NEVER GOT MARRIED OUTEARNED MEN which shows if a woman has a skill in the workplace they would hire the woman. Big Gov't only helps unqualified woman and lowers wages of men. That is all it does. Their opportunity is from other people's tax dollars. This is not progress for females.

The other thing is that before there was technology MOST MEN HAD MENIAL JOBS AS WELL.

The only thing women can do today they may have not been able to do in the past is vote but the reason for that was that the male leaders many times abuse lesser connected men. The founding fathers in America were concerned about giving too much power to the executive branch in declaring war because leaders tend to send other men into unneccesary wars for their own ego. Which, my G-d, in the last 200 years so many men have died or been maimed in wars some needed (although ignoring the threat ealier led to more dying) but some that clearly were not needed and served no purpose.

If you ask me I THINK WOMEN TODAY ARE MUCH LESS INTELLIGENT THEN THEY LIKELY WERE IN THE PAST WHEN YOU TAKE THEIR SKILLS IN MANY DIFFERENT AREA'S. If women think they are smart because of their job then that shows their real religion is feminism. Many women today I really feel they get their job because of affirmative skills as most of their skills are very limited.