Watch This Introduction from Julie Roys
“The happiest day of my life was when they said, ‘It’s a boy!’” That one comment, uttered by her father in front of a group at church, altered the course of Janet’s* life. Today Janet is a friend and colleague at Moody Radio. But at the time her father made that statement she was just twelve years old and desperate to win her father’s love and attention, which her younger brother, Skip, seemed to enjoy.
When he was angry with her, her father would yank her hair, slap her face, or play a sadistic game where he’d push her little finger into her hand until she was writhing on the floor. Yet Janet learned at an early age that performance could sometimes win her the attention she craved. She became an extremely high achiever, scoring at the top of her class and winning school competitions. But her father’s comment that day dashed her hopes of ever truly winning his unconditional love and affirmation.
“What has Skip done?” she recalled thinking. “I make A’s. I’ve won art contests. [I play] the flute. I’ve done all this stuff… Just because he’s a boy?” In that moment, Janet said she realized that no matter what grades she achieved or awards she accumulated, her father would always value her less because she was female. And from that day forward,
she saw her femininity as a vice, not a virtue.
When Janet told me her story, I felt deep compassion for her. I was blessed to have a father who loved and affirmed me, and never made me feel inferior or despised because I was a woman. But Janet was a victim of a very cruel and vicious misogyny – a hatred directed at her by someone close simply because of her gender.
We hear a lot about misogyny today, which literally means hatred of woman. Often those using the term are feminists speaking out against male oppression of women — decrying things like sexual assault, domestic abuse, or gender-based job discrimination. Yet misogyny exists in a form that’s much more stealth, and therefore often goes undetected. This is a hatred of the feminine, and shockingly, its perpetrators are not only men – but frequently women.
For Janet, this misogyny took the form of a rejection of motherhood – something her father regularly degraded – and an embrace of careerism, which he highly esteemed. Janet also cut herself off from the feeling and emotional part of her being. “If I could have been Vulcan,” she told me, “I would have chosen that.”
What Janet, and many other women like her do is internalize the misogyny they have received and actually begin despising and devaluing their feminine selves. Dr. Larry Crabb explains how this can happen in his book, Men and Women: Enjoying the Difference: “A common solution to the problem of inescapable pain in our masculine and feminine souls is to anesthetize the part of our being that has been most deeply hurt. We therefore cut off from our own awareness what is most thoroughly male or female about us. By ceasing to exist as a man or woman and reducing ourselves to the safer existence of neutered personhood, we are able to face life as intact persons less threatened and more confident.”
Few go so far as to actually become “neutered persons,” at least physically. But I have found in the past three decades of ministry that many women struggle to fully embrace their womanhood because someone close to them devalued, cursed, or even abused them because they were women.
For others, though, this rejection of the feminine can simply the result of internalizing the misogynistic values prevalent in our culture. When I was a child, for example, it was okay for a young girl to dream of becoming a wife and stay-at-home mom. Many of us wanted to get educations and pursue career goals, but putting those on hold for a family was socially acceptable. Now the reverse is true. Girls are conditioned to want careers above all else. Having a husband and family is okay, but not at the expense of one’s career.
Similarly girls today are encouraged to be strong — to fight for themselves rather than to wait for a knight in shining armor. I’m somewhat amused by fight scenes common in movies and TV today, featuring women beating up on men.
Clearly power is a desirable virtue in our culture; meekness and gentleness are not.
Three decades ago, feminist icon Gloria Steinem gushed about the advances feminism has made, proudly proclaiming, “We are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” Steinem was right. Today women comprise just under half of the total workforce and more than half of those in professional and technical jobs. Less than 30 percent of mothers stay at home, and women are entering jobs that used to be exclusively for men, even combat roles in the military. They also can compete in traditionally male sports, including Olympic weightlifting, wrestling, and boxing. And girl gymnasts now sport six-pack abs that can rival just about any male athlete.
But is this really progress? Certainly if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we women have greatly flattered men while simultaneously insulting ourselves. Why is that we women want to be like men? If we truly loved and valued ourselves, wouldn’t we be clamoring for society to value us as women – to respect and honor motherhood and traditionally feminine virtues like compassion and nurture? Or could it be that our newfound androgyny is simply a manifestation of rampant misogyny?
I remember when I first entertained this thought. I was enrolled in a nine-month healing course and discovering that though I had never been abused like Janet, I still harbored diseased notions about my own gender. Somehow I had equated femininity with weakness, so if I wanted to avoid being dominated, I’d better be like a man.
God created me a woman.
And by rejecting aspects of womanhood, I was essentially rebelling against His design. I repented of my misogyny and asked God to change my attitudes about femininity – and over time, He did.
Janet’s healing, however, was much more dramatic. I tell the full, amazing and redemptive story in chapter five of my new book, Redeeming the Feminine Soul.
Watch the Video for Redeeming the Feminine Soul
*Not her real name.
Original editorial by Julie Roys for Faith.Full featuring her new book Redeeming the Feminine Soul, copyright Julie Roys.
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Have you ever thought that it would be better to be like a man and pushed aside your feminine qualities because of your life circumstances, hurt caused by another in your history, or to gain approval. God made us women, sisters! We reflect Him and His Person when we are fully female. Come share your thoughts with us on the godliness of femininity on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full