I took my son to the library to return books & movies and pick out a few for the next week. We went late, we were rushed, and the library was about to close, but in we went anyway 🙂 against all odds. We got his new books picked out along with some cartoons, and turned to get Mommy a book for herself. With my 4 year old starting to tantrum, whining that he couldn’t stay longer (they were about to kick us out), I quickly grabbed the first book that looked interesting to me – A History of the Wife – not even completely aware of what genre I was in.
The best things come about when you’re not looking for them – or when you ironically grab a book you would’ve never chosen to read. After getting home, eating dinner, and putting my little one to bed, I got to relax and curl up with my book – a little excited that I didn’t know quite what it was that I grabbed. When I read some of the beginning, I could easily tell this was a book written by a feminist. She looked down upon the Proverbs 31 woman as a ridiculous model for a good wife, looked down on the biblical theology of Eve coming after Adam, the biblical notion of women submitting to their husbands, etc. Even though I disagreed with her take on Christianity, I welcomed this chance to read what a feminist really thinks about the role of a wife – how she views history, even biblical history – to help me understand that point of view.
As a whole, her book truly reminded me of why feminism, at one point in time, was very needed and necessary in order to obtain equal rights for women. However, all throughout history, especially within the last 200 years, I was also reminded of how the feminist ideology is so backwards and often times, overboard with its claims and demands. It was very intriguing to learn about the very first feminists, their lives, how they viewed their role as a mother or wife, how they treated their children or husband due to their “modern woman” thinking.
These first feminists sometimes left their husbands (or lived apart for years, refusing their husbands’ attempts to get them to live together, in what the author described as a “modern marriage”), they often had children only to resent the responsibility of them, or go as far as to leave them with aunts to raise so that they could focus on their careers (can you believe it – even feminists today usually don’t go so far). They resented “motherhood,” were adamant in calling even a good marriage “slavery.” They dominated their husbands (yuck!), purposefully marrying weak men who would let them have their way, and focused solely on their happiness versus any happiness of their husband or children. It was eye-opening to take in the fact that this isn’t something new in our current society… this “view” of womanhood was brewing 200 years ago from women who were discontent and extremely selfish in their pursuits of marriage and children.
I had always thought that the ideas of “modern thinking” or “modern marriages” really were modern, created recently with the 1970’s… now I understand, from reading many accounts in this book, that true feminism is nothing “modern,” as its been around a couple of centuries, unless you count for the fact that the “modern” view that was different from the centuries before placed aggressive selfishness to be the center-point of what should drive women (not men, only women mind you) in all their decisions of work, life, and family.
Wow! Talk about an eye-opening book experience for me. I will write more in the next few weeks on the various of topics that the author reveals. The first that was striking to me was the clear revelation of when sex and marriage became twisted in Christianity. Many cultures before had a general understanding of sex in a marriage, however, once Catholicism came onto the scene, an unbiblical model of sexuality was introduced, and created some of the very first “feminists” who rejected their role as wife and mother in order to remain “pure” and sexless.
Virginity was idolized, literally, with the Catholic church setting up Mary as the Queen of Heaven to be worshipped and prayed to, and later on in the 1950’s ascribed to be an Immaculate Conception – claiming that Mary herself, was born without sin (and stayed pure because she was a virgin). To be fair, this was not found at the very beginning of Catholicism. In the fourth century, Jovinian and Saint John Chrysostome defended marriage and claimed that a wife wasn’t an “obstacle to salvation, but an aid,” claiming that married life was just as worthy (and holy) as celibate life. It was later that Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine embraced and put forth the ideas that marriage was merely a necessary evil, and a hindrance to a person’s spiritual life.
Later, I’ll write on the personal stories and examples from past times that explain in depth what these women were going through, and what influenced their decisions to reject traditional marriage. Its been an interesting journey looking into feminism at its roots, and educating people on where it came from, and how it affected sex & marriage back then (and how we’re still affected today), is going to be hopefully enlightening for anyone interested in these topics.
Thank you for reading!