Every Tuesday we’ll post something to do with strengthening marriages. Hope it helps.
The Feminine Mistake
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique a landmark book which shaped and propelled the modern feminist movement. Today some of Friedan’s ideas would seem pretty tame, even to social conservatives like myself who see nothing wrong with women working, or opting not to marry, or choosing and pursuing careers. Nor have I ever found the idea of equal pay to be anything but reasonable and decent. That alone would have put me in the feminist category in the 1960’s, I suppose, though I never have and never will see abortion as anything less than murder, I believe fathers have an assigned leadership role in the home, and I’ll not denigrate the God-given differences between the sexes. Equal does not mean the same, as a dear friend from my high school days used to say, nor does difference mean deficiency. So no, I could never be a true blue feminist. Equality between the sexes? Sure. Blurring the distinctions between men and women? Never.
But watching my beautiful wife sipping her coffee while reading a chapter from her Beth Moore book this morning, I started pondering. I think a lot of guys ponder when they watch their wives, especially when the wife has no idea she’s being watched. Women are, I find, especially beautiful when they don’t know they’re being observed, and mine is such a case in point. Big brown eyes perusing her favorite author’s insights, pretty head tilted slightly right, totally absorbed and thoughtful, she was a portrait, and gazing at the portrait I was struck by the obvious: she could have done better.
Now, that’s not false modesty. She tells me over and over that I’ve made her happy, and I believe her. And, truth to tell, I think I’m a somewhat OK guy, so it’s not as if she was sentenced to hard labor when she said “I Do.” Still, there are richer men who could have put her in a better house; smarter men who could have stimulated her intellect far more than I do, men who are stronger, handsomer, wittier, handier around the house. I’m very aware such men exist, much as I despise them, and Renee could have married any of them.
Or she could have forgone marriage altogether and enjoyed a full and unfettered single life, thus proving Friedan’s point that family is not a woman’s only legitimate option, nor should it be her only form of definition. Renee’s smart, good with money, and in fact runs a small business that doesn’t require too much of her time. She could have run a larger one without husband and kids tagging along, and she’d have run it well. She’s also highly talented musically, writing songs in the Carol King style and singing them with a Patsy Cline voice. Single, she could have gone for it if she wanted to. Instead, married with children, she sings primarily at home, and even then, only when we beg.
Some feminists, especially the more radical early ones, would dismiss her decision as a needless sellout. They’d see the energy she pours into husband, husband’s work, children, and household needs, as a waste; a feminine mistake; a needless sacrifice of intelligence and talent made by a strong, smart woman who could have done better.
But if feminism really is about choice, than the choice to invest her primary energies into a family is one Renee should be honored for rather than criticized. Her creative talent, business mind, and eye for detail have upped the quality of my work beyond measure, for which she deserves credit. Our home has levels of beauty and order to it that I could never have provided, for which she gets props. And my two sons and I are far, far better men for having her as wife and mother, and some of our best qualities exist because she does. If she could have done better, it doesn’t logically follow that she thereby made a mistake when investing in us. She made a choice, we get the benefit, and I pray daily that she doesn’t regret it.
She says she doesn’t. She says she made no mistake in joining herself to me, nor in raising our sons, or keeping our home. And she seems, generally, happy and content. So while the culture celebrates a woman who challenged the traditional concepts of womanhood, I celebrate the woman who embodies as much strength as the most ardent feminist, and who chose to pour that strength into this blessed man and his family. I wonder why anyone would look down on that, as I wonder why anyone would see Biblical womanhood as anything but mysterious, powerful, and liberated in the truest sense.
And I wonder, not for the first time, how I wound up with such a perfect example of what God meant when He said, “I will make a helper fit for him.”
If you liked today’s post, you might also like these other posts on marriage:
- How Do I Know He’s Getting Better? Five Things to Look for When a Man Says He’s Repentant
- Freely Forgiven
- To Love, Honor and Heal