How Feminism Harms Families

Has the women’s liberation movement, so proudly praised for serving women, done a disservice to the family?
From the December 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

Feminism is under fire. Feminist philosophy has been reigning—the “queen” unchallenged—since the end of the early 1980s (at that time, Phyllis Schlafly led the opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment). But now biologists, educators, law enforcement officials and thinking women are objecting to and rejecting some long-held feminist doctrines. The throne’s foundation has cracks! Many of the radical feminist’s sacred truths are now recognized for what they are—myth and lie.

Although there exists some sound opposition against the feminist fortress, we should not expect the feminist movement to topple any time soon. But is there truth in the criticism? Has the feminist movement, so proudly praised for servicing women, done a disservice to the family?

Woman Suffrage to NOW

Feminists claim the woman suffrage movement as the beginnings of modern feminism. The suffrage movement originated in the United States during the 19th century. Some famous early suffragists were Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone. Originally, woman suffrage sought to give women equal political rights with men—the right to vote in elections and referendums and to hold political office. We must remember that these political rights had only been given to the majority of the male population as a result of the democratic revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. The women suffrage movement claimed its victory shortly after World War I with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on August 18, 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote in state and federal elections.

In the 1960s, the women’s liberation movement was organized and became active. Betty Friedan is credited as one of the founders of modern feminism. Her book, The Feminine Mystique (1963), challenged the traditional value that women could find fulfillment only as wives and mothers. She believed and taught that the idealization of the traditional female role of wife and mother was a well-organized conspiracy by males to prevent women from competing with men.

In 1966, Friedan founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) to fight for equal rights for women. She served as NOW’s president until 1970. At that time, the women’s movement sought to liberate women from the tedious humdrum of babies, bottles, diapers, cleaning and cooking. Women’s movement leaders sought freedom from their prison at home. The key to freedom was equal opportunity with men, which meant equal jobs and equal pay.

The women’s movement aligned itself with the civil rights movement. A clear message was being sent: Blacks had to fight white racism; enslaved women had to fight male sexism. Women everywhere had to be made aware of their oppression and oppressors. The women’s movement borrowed heavily from the attention-getting strategies of the civil rights movement. Rallies, demonstrations and marches were skillfully employed to trumpet the women’s cause. Besides politicians and media, targeted in the struggle were young, impressionable college-aged women. What began as a tiny rumble soon roared into major discontent. Many angry, frustrated women joined the cause. The energy released by the women’s liberation movement was enormous. Old traditions were torn down.

Now we have nearly 30 years of feminist history to look at. What do we see?

More than any other social movement in our time, feminism has changed the warp and weave of our society. Feminist philosophy has made major inroads into politics, the work place, education, medical research and the building block of society—the family. Very few have questioned the changes. Many who balk at some feminist notions will heartily embrace others.

Wisdom tells us not all change is good. Not all change is growth. Some bitter fruits are now being harvested from feminism in the personal lives of many women and especially in the family. Who will take the blame?

For decades, feminists have been condemning men for everything. Supposedly, our patriarchal society is the root cause of everything wrong. Some men should be condemned for their mistreatment of women. But what has feminism brought us? Is life really better for women? Are families better off? Is society stronger?

Attack on Motherhood

The fact that so many women identified with the liberation movement shows that there were real problems within the American home. The movement greatly publicized the dissatisfaction and despair of housewives. Many American wives were indeed unhappy. But what was the cause of all the unhappiness?

Leaders of the women’s liberation movement theorized that the real cause of women’s sorrow was the role of wife and mother. Many asked, shouldn’t we women find fulfillment in a career, like a man? Those who wanted to hold a career supposedly had been made to feel guilty about it by oppressive males. Many women began to feel their real potential was being denied them. The proposed solution to the problem was that women seek real fulfillment outside of the home—without guilt.

Women fought hard for the right to choose a career outside the home. Yet the true facts about a woman’s choice to work were contradictory. Labor statistics at that time show that a large number of women had already entered the work force. Could the cause of unhappiness have been wrongly identified? Was a wrong solution given? Caught up in the movement, few seemed to ask these all-important questions in the ’60s and ’70s.

Today, many women have come to understand that feminism really did not offer a choice in the ’60s. In fact, it demanded that women could only find fulfillment through a career—outside of the home. Though it has taken several decades to recognize it, in reality, feminism has led a vicious attack on motherhood—one of two major underpinnings of strong families.

Christine Davidson writes in her book, Staying Home Instead (1998), “Contemporary culture communicates a message that few of us miss: It’s not all right for an intelligent woman to stay home.

“The women’s movement of the 1960s was about women having the freedom to make choices and to feel confident and well adjusted, whatever those choices were. But somewhere along the line, this idea got distorted so that 30 years later there is apparently only one choice for any self-respecting, well-educated, interesting woman: to work outside the home. Current distortions of feminism dictate that this is the only place ‘real work’ is done” (p. 8). The ’60s woman complained that she was made to feel guilty for not desiring to stay home. Isn’t it ironic today that a woman who desires to stay home to be a wife and mother is made to feel guilty?

Young women are made to feel that education should be directed toward career advancement only and not to be used to teach and train their own young children. Stable families with educated, stay-at-home mothers would solve a large portion of our current social troubles. We must learn to defend and praise the women who stay at home. Motherhood is noble and fulfilling, real work!

Mothers as Non-Persons

Today, a stay-at-home mother is viewed as a kind of second-class woman. In fact, feminists do not even view stay-at-home mothers as persons. This derogatory view began with Betty Friedan. Referring to a lecture given at University of New Hampshire in 1982, Christine Davidson writes: “It was initially Betty Friedan who told us in the 1960s that being at home was boring, and those of us who’d never had children or run a busy household believed her. She is still telling people how it is and was. I once heard her speak to a large group of impressionable young college students and at first was impressed with her…. Then she began to speak, and she lost me. She described what being an American woman was like before she and the modern women’s movement came on the scene: ‘Women couldn’t call themselves people…. There was one definition for a woman—somebody’s wife or mother…. A woman was never a person….

“The friend I went to this lecture with was in her early thirties, and we both looked at each other and tried to relate to Friedan’s 1950s early-1960s nonperson to our own mothers. We couldn’t….

“And yet, as an ambitious and naïve college student reading The Feminine Mystique for the first time more than 30 years ago, I accepted a lot of what Friedan and other angry woman said” (ibid., pp. 9-10). Since being a wife and mother was supposedly glorified in the 1950s, the women’s movement fought to demote that role to the lowest levels possible. As Davidson states, many impressionable young women wholeheartedly believed this 1960s feminist philosophy.

Unfortunately, this feminist teaching has sunk deep roots in the consciousness of American women. The feminist tree has blossomed. Today, it has become a great shame to be a wife and mother—only. In fact, being a wife and mother is synonymous with the meaningless life of a lower, uneducated class of people. Now let’s ask, what are the ’90s fruits of this philosophy?

Families in Crisis

The fight for women’s rights has actually turned into a fight against the family. Even the mothers of modern feminism admit that radical feminists have worked hard to repudiate the family. Robert Sheaffer writes, “In no other countries has politically correct feminism gained such power as in the Anglo-American world, especially in the U.S. and Canada (which is itself interesting: Why have European women largely declined to fight in the War Against Men?). As a consequence, we have here what is almost certainly the highest divorce rate in the world, a crumbling educational system, and a seemingly unstoppable spiral of rising crime and related social pathology. Recent studies demonstrate a powerful correlation between this social pathology and the children of fatherless families…. It remains to be seen whether any society can remain intact without viable families in which to raise psychologically healthy children; history provides no such examples. One can try to argue that the U.S. family died of natural causes at precisely the same time feminists began shooting at it, but after examining the depth and ferocity of the feminist attack against women’s roles as wives and mothers, such an argument fails to convince.” (Feminism, the Noble Lie, p. 5). Let’s own up to it. Feminism has caused some tragic results for the family.

If we are going to fix our social problems, we must recognize that feminism has led our Western families into serious crisis. Here is how it happened. Although many young women answered the call to pursue a career, they could not deny their natural desire for a husband and children. Many then opted to have a husband, children and a career. Realizing that certain feminine desires could not be denied, a new movement slogan was quickly pushed into public view—“having it all.” (This slogan lives on.) But it ignored a hard reality for many working mothers. Having it all also means handling it all. Working career mothers were forced into a high-stress rat race. Having it all was supposed to be fulfilling, but it was not. Now, almost three decades later, women find they are not any closer to finding true, satisfying fulfillment. For some, “having it all” has meant losing it all.

Christine Davidson also writes, “To those who still insist that we can have it all, I now say, Yes, indeed, all of it: midnight laundry loads, weekend catch-up headaches, an early heart attack. There is nothing fulfilling about fatigue. Although Friedan and other influential feminists led us to believe that being at home was a consignment to boredom, they didn’t remember that there are many cures for boredom, but few for the harried life of a working mother” (ibid., p. 12). The truth is, working mothers suffer. The children of working mothers always suffer. And should we forget—the husband suffers too.

Severe fatigue plagues many working mothers. Balancing career, marriage and child care is an impossible task. Few can actually do it all. To do it all, corners have to be cut. Unfortunately, because of feminist peer pressure, the marriage and family are sacrificed before career. Many two-career marriages have crumbled. Children have been left at home alone. Can we begin to see the harm working motherhood has done to families?

Absentee Mothers

Our society of working mothers is a disaster. Experts agree that the industrial revolution produced families with absentee fathers. Now feminism has given us families with absentee mothers. So what does this mean? Essentially our children are growing up alone.

It is estimated that as many as 57 percent of American children do not have full-time parental supervision. Think about it. If there is a two-parent home, generally both adults are working. The children are home alone. If the family is run by a single parent, again, that parent (whether male or female) is working. Again, the children are home alone. This means our youth are growing up with an ever increasing lack of parental love, nurturing and supervision. Statistics show that the average latchkey child (a child returning home after school with no parent to greet them) is alone three hours per day. Some of these children are as young as 8; most are in their teens. And when we think about parents arriving home after a difficult day at the office, we can logically surmise that there is not much quality time left for the child.

The fundamental needs of all children and teens include teaching, acceptance, praise and discipline. Children need to be taught right from wrong. Children need to learn how to be successful. This requires experience and activities. These needs are best met by parents. If these needs are not met at home, children are left with no other choice than to look elsewhere. This makes our children frustrated, angry and vulnerable to many dangers.

Unfortunately, many children and teens are falling prey to unscrupulous adults and other youth who lead in the wrong direction. For example, law enforcement officials recognize that gang membership is up. The sale of illegal drugs to elementary and middle school children is also on the rise.

One proverb states, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 29:15). Because of the lack of parental supervision, our youth have become after-school outlaws. Juvenile violent crime is up across America. There are a high number of juveniles being arrested for murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Current figures are expected to double by the year 2010. Our home-alone kids are getting into much trouble. And many parents are being brought to shame.

Many adults are shocked by today’s headlines about youth crime. But is anybody doing anything about it? Experts are looking for causes and solutions. It is a proven fact that children and youth living under the loving attention of parents do not get involved with crime. Most experts now agree that to fix our social problems, the family has to be restored. But how?

God’s Purpose for Women

The solution to restoring families can only be found by understanding God’s intended purpose for men and women. Herbert Armstrong taught for many years that if you start from a wrong hypothesis then the solution will be in error and the problem will grow worse. Isn’t that exactly what we are seeing today? When it was discovered that so many American women were unhappy, the women’s liberation movement assumed that the role of wife and mother was the cause of all the unhappiness. The women’s movement’s solution to the problem was to have women reject the role of wife and mother. Did this solution produce the desired result? Today, many women admit they have not found true fulfillment in careers, and our social problems have increased. As Mr. Armstrong illustrated, the problem has grown worse.

What is the cause of women’s unhappiness? We must look to the Bible for our answer. Recognize that the cause for women’s unhappiness and frustration predates even the woman suffrage movement of the 1900s. For millennia, women (and men for that matter) have not understood the God-intended purpose for women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton stated this about the Bible, “I know of no other books that so fully teach the subjection and degradation of women.” I am sure many of today’s feminists would agree with Elizabeth Stanton. Her comments reveal that there has been a total lack of understanding of a woman’s true purpose in life—of what true womanhood is and how to achieve it—on the part of both men and women. Yet, the Bible’s purpose for women (and men), when fully understood, reveals a potential so incredible it is nearly unbelievable. Write for your free copy of Mystery of the Ages, by Herbert Armstrong, for an eye-opening explanation of God’s purpose for all mankind.

The Bible shows that God created women to be wives and mothers. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). This one verse reveals that man by himself was not complete. God designed a woman to be his perfect counterpart. A woman was not created to be a man’s slave, but his co-regent (Gen. 1:28). Neither could achieve success in life without the other.

To be successful and happy in life, each would have to fulfill their respective role created for them. Simply put, the man was to be a loving leader and provider; the woman was to help, share and inspire the man. She was also given the exalted responsibility to bear and train children. Men and women were created to work together to build a happy society that fostered growth and success. All of this on earth was intended as a preparation for a future, more permanent afterlife. God intended that men and women share equally the opportunity to obtain eternal life (I Pet. 3:7). When men and women work together to achieve their designed purpose, they will experience satisfying fulfillment.

So how do we restore families? What about putting fathers back in charge of families and having mothers stay at home. To many, this solution may seem oversimplified, yet it is the only solution that will work. As long as men and women forsake the position in life God intended for them, unhappiness, frustration and catastrophe will be the result.

Our first parents, Adam and Eve, rejected what God taught them. They rejected their intended roles and they produced a child delinquent. Remember, Cain killed Abel (Gen. 4). Sounds thoroughly modern, doesn’t it?

Will society fix our family problems? The answer is no. But if you seriously consider this article, you can change your family situation.

It’s All Me

The problems in our society and families go much deeper than feminism. What is the real problem? Feminism is a symptom of a deeper human sickness. After 30 years of history, it is clear now that feminism’s agenda has always been to seize power and change society to suit its own purpose. Feminists have been selfish and self-centered. Little thought has been given to the impact on others. Many now recognize that in the ’90s, feminists have grown excessively selfish. The movement is now best defined, not as we, but ME! Time magazine ran a feature story on feminism’s downward spiral in their June 29 edition titled, “It’s All About Me!” This article showed that even the founding mothers of modern feminism are concerned about the new selfish focus in the movement.

Are women more selfish than men? That is not what I am saying. The current trends in feminism are a sign of our times. It is typical of a human problem that has existed since Adam and Eve. Men, women and children have all become extremely selfish. The apostle Paul prophesied this sickness in our society nearly 2,000 years ago. He wrote to Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men [and women and children] shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Tim. 3:1-5). If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can easily recognize that this verse perfectly describes our time—now.

We are living in dangerous times. Why? Remember, there is a cause for every effect. As Herbert Armstrong said so many times, all human beings are living the way of get! Everyone is selfishly seeking only what is good for himself. What are the results? Isaiah gives us the answer. Referring to our time, he wrote, “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable” (Isa. 3:5). When human beings live only for self, everyone eventually suffers. The Bible shows us that the worst time of human suffering is just ahead of us (Matt. 24:15-21). Mankind, which includes men, women and children, is bringing this suffering upon itself.

But there is hope. Although the Bible shows us there are some very serious times just ahead, afterward there will be the best of times. Jesus Christ will return. He will restore the family. Women’s high calling as wife and mother will be reestablished. Fathers will be taught how to lovingly guide their family. Peace, success and abundance will break out worldwide.