True Woman 101: Part 6: Hear Me RoarHave You Been Affected?
Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.” That was the catch-phrase of a song that topped the pop charts during the women’s movement in the seventies. Whether you realize it or not, women’s lib and feminism have radically changed the way that culture views gender—manhood and womanhood.
Feminist ideas have seeped into our systems like an intravenous drug dripping into the veins of an unconscious patient. Nowadays, it’s normal for girls to have the mindset, “I am woman; hear me roar.” Or in the case of younger women, “Girls rule; boys drool.”
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, February 13.
Women are growing up in a world shaped by feminism. It’s hard to recognize it, because it’s everywhere.
Nancy and her co-author, Mary Kassian, have written about the background and effects of this movement in their workbook True Woman 101: Divine Design. They got together with a group of women to talk about what God’s Word has to say to us as women. They’re contrasting a lot of the ideas that are popular today with biblical thinking on womanhood.
Nancy and Mary are joined by Dannah Gresh, Carolyn McCulley, and Kim Wagner.
Nancy: Now those who are over fifty today, roughly, we have some memory of how this movement came about; how it changed things. But the women today who are under forty, for the most part, cannot remember a world that was any different than it is today. They don’t realize how very different things were for their mother’s generation.
I’ve learned a lot from you ladies, especially Mary and Carolyn. You’ve both written books on some of the historical perspectives of feminism. I think it’s important that we get educated on how we got where we are and how things have changed within just several decades.
It’s not just because we want to go back and re-hash old times—50s, 60s, and 70s. But we realize how much of what took place in those decades impacts and influences our world today. And not just outside the church, but even within the church. We have very much been made a product of that cultural revolution. So we’re going to get a little history lesson today.
I want to just start by saying to those who can remember to think back to the 60s and 70s when the feminist movement was really coming to maturity. What kind of memories do you have of that era? Do you remember any events or any songs or cultural moments?
Kim Wagner: I remember the first grade girls on the playground. We would all wear our white go-go boots to school.
Mary Kassian: Go-go boots. There you go. They’re coming back in, you know.
Kim: They were white patent leather. We would get together in a group and sing at the top of our lungs to the boys the song "These Boots Are Made for Walking," "and that’s just what they’re going to do, these boots are going to walk right over you."
Mary: Yes, "right over you."
Nancy: Where did you learn this song?
Kim: It was on the radio, I’m sure. It was just in the air. It was a popular song. But we loved that feeling of power and aggression as we would sing that song and we would grind our little boot heels into the dirt. We were showing the guys, “We’re grinding you into powder.”
Mary: It was very similar for me. It wasn’t that particular song, but it was the song “I am woman hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore.” And then, of course, "I am strong. I am invincible."
Dannah Gresh: I am invincible. I remember singing that.
Mary: The final line, "I am woman!"
Dannah: My dad loved Helen Reddy. I remember driving the summer that came out in 1972. We were driving around and listening to those words not realizing that they were having an impact in what I believed.
Mary: I remember middle school, linked arm in arm down the hallway. “I am strong. I am invincible, I . . .” When you examine the words of that song . . . I mean talking about my brothers, "I’m going to make them understand." I’m gonna roar, and I’m gonna become everything that I can be because my brother, the male, has kept me down for all these years, and it’s time for me to take charge.
Kim: And what’s sad is, I think God created us to be strong women, but that was a perversion of what God created us to be. We were relishing in our own strength rather than what He’s placed within us.
Carolyn McCulley: I was such a wee little girl that I have no memories directly of the 60s, but I do remember . . .
Mary: That wasn’t the 60s, that was the 70s—we’re talking the 70s.
Kim: And it’s been re-released, the twenty year-olds now have heard it.
Carolyn: Really? See, I couldn’t sing along with you all, but what I do remember is coming of age in the 70s and realizing, “This has already been done.” I was aware of it being beaten to death in the media and “we’ve achieved it.” I mean, we have Title 9, we have this, and we have that, so move on.
For me my experience was in college. I was going to study journalism, and I was so excited to be a freshman. I was like, “I’m big and bad! I’m on the college campus.” And everybody’s like, “Pfft, freshman!”
They were all taking these women’s studies courses, and I didn’t know anything about it. But it seemed like it would be so much easier than science or math or something, so I took them, and I just got sucked in. It wasn’t until years later when I read your book, Mary, that I realized that I was a guinea pig.
It was a very intentional experiment to expand this into the next generation and to reach young women in college, and I ate it up hook, line, and sinker. I was completely uncritical and I participated in things like take back the night marches. I just remember we’d go around campus yelling, “Take back the night,” like night’s not going to happen again? We knew what our point was, but we were mad about a lot of things.
Mary: You were mad about it.
Dannah: I think that was the point.
Carolyn: And so there I am trying to connect the dots of the social life. I’m all angry yelling, “Take back the night!” I’m like, “So where are those dinner dates?” You (Mary) really helped me to understand that, so my burden in writing my book was speaking to women in their twenties.
You have no idea the change in my life alone, and I’m a witness to this. What you all accept as normal in your sexual identity, in your sexual relationships, in what you expect of commitment and intimacy, and everything else has been just completely transformed, and so fast.
Mary: Well, let me just tell you, just that one decade . . . In 1969 they came up with the idea to have a women’s studies class.
Nancy: Can I just back up even further than that to say, again for our younger women, at that point these women were a small number. They were considered radical. They were considered fringe. They were considered extreme, way out there. They were not mainstream at all back in the 50s and early 60s, so how did that within, ten, fifteen, twenty years it become a movement? So mainstream. There was an agenda, and a small number of women set out to accomplish something. How did they do it? Kind of walk us through that.
Mary: Well, let me just give you a peek into the enormity of what they did. You had zero . . . no one had ever heard of women’s studies in 1969. The New York Radical Women’s group came up with this idea: “Oh, we can catch the next generation by going into the colleges and having women’s studies courses and educating them in terms of a feminist viewpoint.”
So there were none in 1969. By the end of the decade, so ten years, just one decade, there were over, I think it was, twenty-five or thirty thousand women’s studies courses. You could get a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a doctoral degree, a terminal degree in women’s studies. Women’s studies had been integrated not only as women’s studies courses, but into every discipline.
You would get a women’s studies course if you went to school. And then the professors were being educated in women’s studies. So when I hit university, which was in the late 70s and early 80s, this was kind of at the pinnacle of the influence of feminism.
And not only, then, did it influence the women’s studies there; it influenced textbooks. Children’s textbooks and grade school textbooks were re-visited and re-formulated. I just don’t think younger women have any idea as to how radically, and how quickly, and how intentionally the ideology changed in culture.
So how did it all start? It started (certainly Carolyn can back up in a moment and talk about the first wave of feminism), but the second wave—really the wave we’re talking about right now—started in 1963 when Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. She identified this problem, that women aren’t happy.
There was this cultural role for women—the happy housewife, the white picket fence, suburbia, Leave It to Beaver. How many of you grew up that way? She’s all happy, vacuuming in her pearls, making cookies. That was the ideal that was upheld for women, and yet women weren’t happy in that ideal.
She published the book. A group of twenty-eight women got together and formed the National Organization for Women (NOW) and started lobbying the government for funding, saying, “This is not fair. Women are downtrodden. We need equal representation with men, we need to be treated the same as men because there’s this inequality.”
We’ve talked about the battle of the sexes and how it is a reality, and that there were many things that were identified that were problematic.
Nancy: Twenty-eight women?
Mary: Twenty-eight women.
Nancy: In a hotel room?
Mary: In a hotel room.
Nancy: And how did that mushroom?
Mary: Well, a brain-child of the feminist movement at that time was the whole idea that you could start a revolution through this process called consciousness raising.
Nancy: Dannah, you’re nodding your head.
Dannah: Yes, what I remember reading about it was that it wasn’t new to the feminist movement. It was actually something that Mao Tse-tung had used in China to further the development of Communism (the revolution). They’re really hatred meetings. It’s sitting around and discussing all the things you hate about XYZ. And, in the case of the feminist movement, it was, “What do we hate about men?”
Nancy: Speaking bitterness.
Dannah: Yes, but what was interesting about it was that even in those meetings, it was the women they called together. It was the women who really formed the basis of the Cultural Revolution in China. So there’s something that happens when a bunch of girlfriends sit around and start complaining and start speaking bitterness and start complaining about ways they’ve been hurt.
Carolyn: I haven’t studied the feminist movement as broadly as you guys have, but I have studied the impact of it on sexuality. I’ve followed the work of Margaret Sanger, who really started in the 20s. I bring this up because you talk about the root of bitterness. Margaret Sanger was the real driver behind the pill, the birth control pill.
Mary: Which was what? 1961?
Carolyn: Yes, and by 1965 there were 6.5 million women prescribing to it, so it was very rapid once it was developed. She started the development of it in the 30s—20s and 30s. But what fueled her was bitterness. She was the sixth daughter, I think, of a mother who’d had eighteen pregnancies, resulting in eleven children. She believed that her mother was worn out and ruined and ultimately died because of being worn out from childbirth.
She had a bitterness about motherhood; she had a bitterness about childbirth. That was the fuel for this movement. In my opinion, the pill is not positive. I think it’s resulted in more sexually transmitted diseases, it’s resulted in more infertility, it’s resulted in less satisfaction and less ability to live up to God’s call to create, to procreate. But it was out of bitterness. These are the kinds of stories that the women brought into the 60s. They had real, literal tragedies. They had a seed of pain in their lives that led them to these meetings.
Nancy: In some cases, though, and this is not an area where I’m an expert, but I remember a little bit about it. In some cases it wasn’t intense pain, it was fomenting discontent. Your husband’s out there working; he’s getting an income. You’re here working in your home, but you’re not getting an income. So it was creating grievances at some level as well. And, boy, that’s not hard to do with our human hearts being what they are.
Carolyn: Margaret Sanger’s a great example of something. God has given all his creatures the ability to make a general observation. You can usually walk into a situation and see man hitting woman and say, “Man is hitting woman.” But it’s your worldview that gives you the interpretation of that problem and then drives your solution.
Margaret Sanger would work in these slums and these impoverished areas as a public health nurse in the 1914–1918 time period. She would go in and she would see women who were being neglected and abused, who were living in poverty, whose husbands were being hired out by extremely self-centered corporations that did nothing for their workers.
They were living in slums. Their husbands were drinking up their funds, and she saw all this misery. Instead of walking in and saying, “Oh, look at this picture of sin,” she looked at this woman surrounded by children and said, “What’s the problem here? It’s the children!” And that became her campaign.
So her interpretation, her worldview, driven by her bitterness, was what led her to this solution to say, “Okay, we’re going to have this birth control movement, this voluntary motherhood.” Margaret Sanger was a huge proponent of eugenics. Most people don’t even understand this, but eugenics was the cornerstone of Nazi philosophy. It was the idea that you could improve humanity by only allowing a certain kind of person to breed.
And certainly, if you’re African-American and going through this study, you need to know her views on this, because there were only a select number of people she thought were worthy of breeding. She promoted this eugenics idea of “only certain people should be allowed to survive.” She promoted it through her ideology of “voluntary motherhood.” She published all this information about heterosexual birth control in a newsletter, underneath a banner of “No gods, no masters,” and that was really revealing of her views.
They were tied to, also, the idea that women should have no inhibition, whatsoever, when it came to their sexual freedom. She certainly practiced this. Her euphemism was “a woman’s hidden energies.” So a lot of people think the 1960s were the real radical decade, but they actually stemmed from movements that came out in the 1910s and 1920s, when there was a profound change.
In fact, one newspaper called 1914 “the year when it was sex o’clock in America.”
Mary: That slogan, “No gods, no masters,” that’s really the issue. That is, at heart, the issue not only of the first wave of feminism, but also of the second, and really of the third wave as well.
Nancy: And of every issue in humanity from Genesis 3 to the current day.
Mary: I think it’s really important that women who are listening . . . They think of the good parts or real valid issues that feminism has addressed, but you need to understand that feminism is an “ism,” a philosophy. It's a distinct philosophy that says, “No gods, no masters."
It says what’s more, for women, “Men have been our gods and masters. We’re overthrowing that, and we’re setting ourselves up as our own authority. We have the right to dictate the meaning of our lives. We have the right to look at our world and dictate the meaning of what’s going around in our world.”
If you have the right to define your world, than ultimately you also have the right to define your god, and that’s where feminism has gone. That’s the root, “No gods, no masters.” That’s fascinating, because that so encapsulates the ideology that women have cut their teeth on—“You have the right to decide. It’s your body; it’s your choice.” It comes down to that in every area.
Nancy: “It’s your own personal truth,” as Betty Friedan said. “You don’t have to submit to any other authority, other than your own personal truth.” And isn’t that what the first woman’s sin was all about? “It’s my own personal truth that I can submit myself to.”
Carolyn: That’s important. Whenever I speak on the subject, I want people to understand I’m not speaking as though people who hold to the ideology of feminism are our enemy, because they’re not. They’re flesh and blood. Our enemy is this idea that is right there from the Garden on—“God’s holding out on you,” and “Has God really said?” "Is His authority really true and good?"
We have to recognize that the seeds of feminism, as we are discussing, are actually just sin, and they’re resident in all of our hearts. So apart from the saving work of the gospel, we all want our own way whenever we want, and we always are blame shifting to other people. But it is fascinating culturally to look at how fast it went from that into . . . There I was in the early 80s. We were in a women’s studies class, and we didn’t spell women like w-o-m-e-n because we didn’t even want to the word “men” in there. So it was “myn.” That really dates you when you can remember that.
Mary: It’s fascinating, because this movement that really started with these twenty-eight women kind of lulled didn’t it? You had this first wave, and then you had the World War, and that kind of put a damper on a lot of things.
Carolyn: And then World War II and the Great Depression, and so we look back on the 50s, and what we see is this really patronizing time period. But what I look back and I see is the fact that people have been hurt by so much devastation for three decades.
They wanted a sense of normalcy, and everybody wanted to promote this sense of normalcy and a happy home. But now we had mass media, now we had the ability to mass market and produce things which we didn’t have before. So what Betty Friedan really reacted to, in part, was consumerism. There is this message that “stuff” is going to fulfill your soul.
Advertising showed all these women in a dress and pearls delighted with “my oven. Woohoo!”
Mary: There was a huge shift in technology. Right after the war, instead of making bombs, they started making appliances. I remember my mom getting her first electric washer. “Glory hallelujah!” It was party time in the Thomas household because that old wringer washer was going to the dump.
Mary: How old is that? We were behind the times.
You had this message, this advertising, and you had the need of these big companies to sell these appliances, so the new consumer, the new ideal was, “women are going to be happy when they have their new oven, their vacuum cleaner, when they have their stuff, when they have their polyester that they don’t need to iron.” Oh, what were we thinking? That was the definition of womanhood, “When you have all this stuff, you will be fulfilled as a woman.” That’s really what she was reacting against.
So the question that she asked, and the whole question that the second wave of feminism played into was, “What’s going to bring women happiness and fulfillment?”
Kim: It was a good question. They just had the wrong answer.
Carolyn: Even in Betty Friedan’s life you can see the regrets. Shortly before she died—what, around 2003, 2005?—the Washington Post did an article with her and asked her what her main regret in life was. Do you know what she said? She said it was the ending of her marriage. She was so happy that her own children had gotten married and had children themselves.
She was extolling the values of family. I thought that had to be a really bitter place to look back and think, I broke up my marriage, and I broke up a lot of other women’s marriages, and I told them they would be better off without it. And then, with the wisdom that is granted to a lot of people at the end of their lives, maybe not so much.
Leslie: That’s Carolyn McCulley, talking about the origins of the feminist movement with our guests Kim Wagner, Dannah Gresh, Mary Kassian, and our host, Nancy Leigh DeMoss. That group got together to discuss a chapter in the workbook by Nancy and Mary called True Woman 101: Divine Design. They were discussing chapter six, called "Hear Me Roar."
Maybe you’ve been intrigued by today’s conversation. Maybe you’ve never thought about feminism’s influence on you. When you go through the workbook, True Woman 101, by yourself or with a group, you’ll see what the Bible has to say about what it means to be a woman. You’ll discover ways to live out biblical femininity in your day-to-day life.
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