Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Motherhood Triumphs in the Face of Feminism

Ideologies, for better or for worse, are lived out on the pages of a life story. Testimonies often give us helpful glimpses into people’s lives and allow us to see them in their own words. In a recent article in United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Rebecca Walker, daughter of The Color Purple author Alice Walker, speaks out against her mother’s feminism. Whether her mother approves or not, Rebecca’s experience as a daughter of feminism sheds considerable light on the trajectory of this movement that now has spanned many decades.

While her tone in speaking about her upbringing is harsh and can’t be condoned, the outcome of her life is telling. After all, she was raised by a mother who believed that “motherhood was the worst thing that could happen to a woman” and “children are millstones around your neck.” The younger Walker does not share this view. Rather she says that “having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Far from ‘enslaving’ me, three-and-a-half-year-old Tenzin has opened my world. My only regret is that I discovered the joys of motherhood so late—I have been trying for a second child for two years, but so far with no luck.”

In fact, the lie of feminism was apparent to her even early on. As the child of divorced parents she was sent to her father’s house sometimes for two years at a time. It was in these time periods that she was exposed to a step-mother who doted on her own children—which caused Walker to long for a mother that was non-existent in her own life. She knew in her heart that something was missing.

Who told Ms. Walker that she should feel the desire to be a mother? Her inclination towards motherhood is not a result of social conditioning. If it was, then she would have followed the path of her own strong mother. Instead she rejected what she was taught, following an unknown path that led to great joy. From the very beginning God created women to be givers of life. Eve was named the “mother of all living” (Genesis 3:15). The fact that Rebecca Walker rejected the only path that she has ever known reveals that God has bestowed common grace on her to still desire to be, even in some small measure, a woman.

Rebecca Walker is not the only one moving away from her upbringing. Sarah Odell, a junior at Wellesley, recently wrote an article in the Washington Post responding to the lack of interest in Hillary Clinton’s campaign among her fellow peers. She likens it to the fact that her generation is far more conservative than their parents generation. Young women, who have been raised by feminist mothers, have come of age wanting something more than what they were dealt as children. Many of them are finding that fulfillment in bearing children—the very antitheses of what their mothers were trying to accomplish. The stories of these young women tell us something that is far more profound than simply conditioning, peer pressure, and perceived low expectations.

When women completely deny their God-given right and ability to bear children we are seeing a complete giving over to the desires of the flesh (Romans 1). To see children as a burden to be thrown off is a reversal of the created order and a sinful repression of the desire that probably once burned bright. It should make us weep for them.

Rebecca Walker’s story, though very sad, reveals something that no movement can ever squelch—God has created women to be givers of life. While we continue to discuss the hurdles that we face in the gender debate, we can see hope in the fact that God will not allow his design for womanhood to be completely effaced by sin. We can read with hope, but also read with sadness knowing that there are hundreds of young women out there who are just as confused about what it means to be a woman. And we should continue to give them the answer.

*This post orginally appeared here


Maggie Ainsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie Ainsworth said...


I am an SBTS grad and was turned on to your blog through the CMBW site. Very helpful post. I especially appreciate the reminder that we should be moved to sadness in the face of women denying their womanhood. Too often, my heart is self-righteous instead of sad.

Again, helpful thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

cdt said...

Thank you for commenting, Maggie. You are so right about being moved to self-righteousness instead of sadness. I do the same thing all too often.

Thank you for reading!


Melissa said...

Hey Courtney,

I stumbled across your blog because of your most recent post on egalitarianism. I've been reading it now for the last couple of days and am now finally responding.

I feel like it's a bit reductionistic to think that feminism's only contribution has been to discourage women from having children. Actually I disagree with that premise outright. While some feminists may have gone to the extreme, ultimately the hope is to give women the option-the option to have children or the option to marry. If the choice is neither, feminism's hope is that the woman not be judged by those who believe that marriage and children are her true and only calling.

Furthermore, it isn't always sad when a woman decides not to have a child. In fact, to believe so only limits the other talents and skills that she may have.

This is becoming a bit of a rambling response, but I must add one more note. Without feminism, women wouldn't be able to vote, go to college, direct a children's group in church, write books, own land, and the list just goes on and on.

I might not agree with you, but I appreciate the opportunity for reflection!

Melissa said...

Hey Courtney,

I found this positive perspective regarding mothers and feminism written by a male feminist. Thought you might find it interesting. :)



cdt said...


Forgive me for taking so long in my response. Considering that I wrote the post nearly 2 years ago, I wanted to think through my response to your comments. I appreciate your thoughts, even though we do not agree. It makes me think!

I will check out the link you sent me.

In response to your thoughts. First, I am glad that I can vote. I am glad that I can own property and was able to go to college and graduate school. Those are good benefits. But at the same time, they are benefits of a movement that was born out of a rebellion to authority. Feminism's main premise is to defy authority, namely male authority. We must be careful, especially as Christians, that we do not see benefits of a movement as the approval of the movement.

I do not think a woman's true and only calling is to be a wife and mother. But I do think it is her highest calling. God created women to be mother's even if they never birth children. We are called to be "mother's of all living" as descendants of Eve. This looks different in many lives, but we are given the great task of cultivating and nurturing life. Feminism would see this as abandoning the team, as less than worthy of honor. What the world deems honorable and what God deems honorable are often too very different things.

Feminism might have given us many "choices" but are choices really always the best thing for us?

Anyway, the point I wanted to make in the post, and something I have been seeing with young women for a while now, is that despite the movement of feminism among our mother's and even peers, the strong pull and desire to be a mother cannot be ignored even in the most secular woman. God created us to be this way. There comes a point in a woman's life when she denies this for so long that she no longer wants it, but I think it was there at some point regardless.

I appreciate your dialogue. Thanks for making me think!


cdt said...


One more thing.

Two very helpful books on this topic are Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World and The Feminist Mistake.



Melissa said...

Hey Courtney,

I've been intending to respond to this for what...over a month now? After I first read your response, I had so many thoughts swimming in my head I felt I couldn't respond cogently. Then after putting it off, I completely forgot about it, that is, until now. :)

I'm not sure that I'm any more clear now, but ah well, here is 1 point for your consideration:

You say, "We must be careful, especially as Christians, that we do not see benefits of a movement as the approval of the movement."

Does that mean you do not condone any form of civil disobedience? What would you say regarding the civil rights movement? That was an act of "rebellion to authority" as well, which also reaped benefits not only for African Americans and other people of color but for society as a whole.

Yes, the feminist movement isn't perfect. I'm certain you can name certain negative individuals within the group to become the representative ugly face of feminism, just as I can name the abusive man that believes in complementarianism. In either case, we must remember that within every group there are individual differences and outliers. If you continue to preach the evils of feminism while embracing its benefits, I'm afraid you will alienate those Christians that want to believe in equal rights for women and men.

Have a great week!