G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Feminists are, as their name implies, opposed to anything feminine.” We are now seeing this come to its most poignant fulfillment, as “women’s equality” has reached the point of the US government putting them in full military combat roles. Many conservative Christians are outraged, but this shouldn’t be seen as anything new. Women have already been in mostly non-combat positions in the military, and women firefighters and policepersons are commonplace. Women are taught from the earliest ages that they should do anything that they desire, no matter the perceived restrictions. We could trace this development back much further, of course, as it goes back at least to the middle of the 19th century. We are simply at the logical end of all of that. The women’s movement would say that they are finally winning “the war on women,” but I would suggest that the sides have been misnamed. It is true that there is a war against women. It’s just that the feminists are the ones waging it, and they’ve nearly won.
Christians attempting to respond to this latest development typically point to their bibles, particularly Deut. 22:5. I do happen to think that that verse works perfectly well as an answer, but we can’t be terribly surprised when most people think we’re just pulling the old fundy card on this one. They’re so used to explaining away all of the Old Testament (if they even feel the need to explain at all) as peculiar to that time in history. Others just shrug and say that we don’t keep very many of those rules anyway, so what’s the big deal? The most sophisticated will misinterpret and thus misapply Galatians 3:28. But really, most won’t care and won’t try. They’ll just laugh us off.
Now, Deut. 22:5 actually is not just an arbitrary rule against women wearing blue jeans nor is it about anything particularly ceremonial. It refers to a basic external distinction in decorum between males and females, and included in the keli geber is the gear of a warrior. Josephus points this out as a basic inference of the law in his Antiquities of the Jews I.4.8.43. It was never disputed historically, because the larger context of having clear distinctions between the sexes makes it obvious. But again, we shouldn’t treat this as a proof-text, as if were it not for this verse then we wouldn’t know the answer. No, this ought to be a “Duh” sort of question. Women shouldn’t go off to war because it is unbecoming, undignified, and unseemly. It is contrary to nature. But why can’t people see that today?
It’s because of that long-standing war against women.
You see, a reaction against true misogyny which has existed in the past has combined with a certain sort of covetousness on the part of some women to get us to the point where there can be no more public recognition of women as women. Forget about opening doors or pulling out chairs for women, I have actually been reprimanded for calling an older woman “ma’am.” Women can now be in combat because women can now be bishops, breadwinners, and bridegrooms. In short, women can be men, and it is becoming more and more clear that the preference is that they do so.
Now, surely I’m just being provocative. I’m either being snarky or cute, but I can’t be serious. Actually, I am quite. I understand, of course, that no one is calling for all females to try to actually ontologically transform into males (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that…” we can anticipate hearing) but the fact remains that it is no longer acceptable for women to possess a symbolic difference from men, nor can they be said to have an appropriate “role” as pertains to their sex. No individual can be constrained by their sex any more, and any neanderthal who tries to point to the logic of connectors and fasteners, birds and bees, or the caprice of nature in causing only a certain subset of humanity to ovulate, is begging for the rack.
We can’t have “women’s jobs” because we can’t have women’s roles, and that means that we can’t have women, not in public at least. If you want to personally believe that women exist, then you are free to do so in the privacy of your own bedroom. But for the rest of life, Chesterton was right after all. The feminists have killed the feminine.
It’s important to know that this isn’t only because of uppity women. In large part this is the fault of the men. They were the ones who told the women that the men’s place was the best. They were the ones who said that the women’s roles were demeaning and less important. They stigmatized the feminine and the girly as undesirable. And after a long while, the women finally gave in! Now even the women believe that a mother and homemaker needs to “get a real job.” Little girls need to do something with their lives and to make something of themselves. They can prepare for motherhood after about 35, if they want, but before then they need to get out there and compete in “the real world.”
We need to make this message plain: Feminism is chauvinism. It shares the belief that traditional “women’s roles” are undesirable and second best. As such, it seeks to make women as much like men as possible. The irony in all of this is that it is almost always a step down. Another great Chesterton quote comes to mind, “What is called the economic independence of women is the same as what is called the economic wage-slavery of men.” Whereas a woman could be a philosopher-king at home, mastering domestic arts and having dominion over souls, she is instead encouraged to go out and get a 9-to-5, working in a mostly impersonal and exploitative workplace. At some points in history, she was forced to make this sacrifice out of necessity. Now, however, she has been taught that it is a virtuous decision for her own empowerment. It’s rather strange how easy it has been to convince women that genderification is gentrification.
It should also be obvious that this means a net loss for humanity. Whereas we previously had more, man and woman, we now have less, man and man-aping woman. I suspect we’ll retain certain objects of lust forever, and thus there will be plenty of boobs (artificial, of course), but I’m less optimistic about the future of the feminine mystique, womanly elegance, and a wife’s wit. I suspect that each of those will be considered prejudices of a dark age long past.
Again, let us not miss the fact that the presence of women in the military did not start with conscription. No, we’re not quite to the point where women can be drafted, if you can believe our abiding primitive condition. The dark irony is that women actually want to go into combat. They are demanding it. It’s no good being mad at the government. Be mad at the people. Be mad at us. We didn’t love our women while we had them. Now they’re leaving us.
To get back to the question at hand though, how should Christians respond to the question of women in combat? Well the obvious answer is that Christians must be opposed to it. Christian women should not sign up for the military, and Christian men should not encourage women to enter the military nor let them do so without lovingly trying to discourage the decision. But I really don’t think this is where the battle should be fought. All of that talk about chivalry and men “not letting” their women “fight for them” can only make things worse, playing right into the hands of the feminists.
Instead, men need to talk about the glories of womanhood. They need to compliment femininity, motherhood, and beauty. Men need to tell women how much better life is because women exist. We need to praise beauty, comfort, and nurture. Woman is the glory of man. We should exalt her name.
If femininity were seen as desirable, the majority of our problems in this regard would disappear. There would always be rebels, of course, but women have a natural desire to be women. Just think if they had a social incentive to match! The battle would done, the warfare ended. But we can’t even conceive of such a situation, not even among the “conservatives,” because we are ourselves beholden to many modern assumptions about individualism and economy.
The home used to be a center of agriculture, economic affairs, and education. For the woman to be a “homemaker” was to be an executive over the central nervous system of society. It was to be a master of arts. It was to be a farmer. It was to be a maker. It was to be a temple, a sacrament, a superlative. Perhaps I’m idealizing things a bit, as the past could indeed be quite dull and gloomy for all genders. Still, I don’t think I’m saying anything that Dorothy Sayers didn’t already say. The home used to be the place of oikonomia. As it lost that function, the notion that anyone would be stuck there became torment. To combat self-alienation, we’ve got to recover a true sense of “the home.” In what ways can it be that place of central affairs today, or perhaps more importantly, what analogous locations (and vocations) can we emphasize as especially important for “home” life?
We need to also stress female education. They need to be well-grounded in the humanities, which means the classics. Why? For starters, because we want them to be expert educators. Every mother should be a professor. But more than this, we want women to understand people, to understand humanity. And in doing that, they will understand themselves as well. We want powerful women, after all, it’s just that, in contrast to feminism, we want powerful women.
To win the war against women, we have to prioritize women. Gone are the days when things can be decided by force. In fact, now the feminists make use of force (through technology) to further subjugate women. We have to do it a different way. We must persuade. Indeed, we must woo.
Do we still have it in us?
I have added a follow-up here.