The Accidental Feminist [Book review]

Bought a few books on biblical womanhood from Shalom Christian Media in December, and thought I’d write reviews on 3 of them.  Like all good reads, they have opened my mind up to much learning and reflection. Especially with the Woman’s March very much in the media this week, it was apt that I was in the middle of The Accidental Feminist by Courtney Reissig.

 

The Accidental Feminist resonated deeply with me. Courtney Reissig writes about how the current generation of adult females have grown up in a culture of third-wave feminism. In the first wave, feminists fought for the right to vote, the right to own property, and other rights of ‘equality’.

However, Reissig makes it clear that for the bible-believing woman, equality does not mean sameness, and there is much to be celebrated in the distinctness of a woman in her make-up and role.

I soon realised that I had similarly grown up in the “anything you can do, I can do better” culture, which was firmly inculcated in the schools I attended. Even now, I still do think that men and women both need to pull their weight in equal partnership when it comes to parenting (albeit in varying roles), and that some women do need to “lean in”, so as to give our daughters a choice about whether they would like to lean in or step out. I also had views on women ‘having it all’.

As such, I was just as much of an accidental feminist and opinionated female as Reissig confesses to being. Yet, as a seminary graduate’s and now pastor’s wife, she is above all a serious, committed Christian. Thus, I deeply appreciated her book and her take on how we need to adjust the lenses through which we perceive ourselves as women, and thus live lives that are consistent with our calling, even as we are in the world (but not of it). It is not easy, and I realised that it needs to be a conscious daily swimming against the tide of self and of the world.

An excerpt from the Introduction to her book gives a flavour of its purpose.

It was good to be challenged to alter my thoughts, my conversation and my behaviour from one that is less overtly ‘girl-power’, and more to walk the talk of biblical womanhood. Reissig makes it clear that being of a ‘gentle and quiet spirit’ was less about personality (it’s nice that she admits that she is by no means gentle and quiet in personality) and more about being rooted in trusting God and his promises. I love her anecdote about wondering aloud to a godly mentor on whether she was too opinionated. The wise reply was that she had conviction, and godly women need to have conviction.

Ultimately, the question is about what we root our identity in.

Through the book, I also realised that I have been a complementarian rather than an egalitarian ever since my teenage years, since the churches I attended had no women preachers or elders, though some had female deacons. So it was not difficult for me to accept the biblical injunctions by Paul on women not teaching from the pulpit.

I thought Reissig put it aptly when she wrote ‘What we do in the church has nothing to do with our rights and everything to do with God’s glory. Feminism, at its core, is about rights and authority.’ Nonetheless, I personally think that this is not a “bullet-issue” (as Michael Card put it – “Is this a doctrinal issue you would take a bullet for?”) unlike the divinity of Christ, for instance. So I think it’s okay if some churches invite women preachers (my current church does) or have female ordained ministers (as my current denomination does).

Reissig makes it clear that her stance doesn’t mean that a woman need not study deep theology. Reissig went to seminary herself, and maintains that women need to study and master all of Scripture, and not just be well versed in matters of biblical womanhood.

Overall, I found that the book tackles difficult topics and handles them well, as Reissig writes with firmness of conviction and humble grace. Being an English major, she also writes breezily, and her style of prose is clear and fluid. More importantly, pertinent issues for our day and age are addressed – from ‘submission’ to ‘working mothers’, ‘a woman’s role in the church’ to ‘modesty’.

Whilst I couldn’t wholeheartedly agree with one or two points in the book, I think the book should be read by every woman seeking to live as God ordained, as it really challenges us to reflect about important biblical truths.

Reissig writes like a friend, never condemning, and always inclusive as she shows clear understanding that there are women in very different circumstances. Throughout the book, she regularly and distinctly addresses single women, women with kids, married women without kids, etc, each in turn.

She shares much from her own life, revealing personal grief (she writes about her struggles through 2 miscarriages) and vulnerability. It takes true courage to share so honestly, and l am glad that there are sisters amongst us who step up to the arduous and thankless task of writing difficult books, books that challenge ideologies that are subconsciously (and thus all the more insidiously) held by bible-believing Christian women in this day and age.

This paragraph near the end of the book sums it up nicely.

Hope this encourages you and inspires you to get further equipped in the Word!

Stay tuned for the next 2 reviews on books written by Rosaria Butterfield, who is a truly amazing lady. Those books have a very different starting premise, but have also challenged me in many ways.

 

 

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