The Meliorist – It takes you…

{June 27, 2007}   Confronting the “androgynous impulse”…

In one of my many newsfeeds today, I came across this article and just had to write something on it.  It is important to realize that it was published in The Christian Post, but the research it is reporting on is from an Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of VA, W. Bradford Wilcox.  It seems that his research has found that feminism is bad for us because of its “androgynous impulse.”  In this article, this impulse is equated to the expectation of fathers to participate equally in the responsibilities of raising children and the expectation of mothers to have both a career and a family.  Following are a few choice quotes from the article:

Wilcox traces this “androgynous impulse” to international bodies associated with the United Nations. He documents the role played by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW]. “This committee has called on countries like Armenia and Belarus to end public policies and practices that support distinctive maternal roles for women, such as Mother’s Day and maternal leave policies,” Wilcox reports. “Instead, it and other proponents of this type of feminist agenda would like to see public policies that promote an androgynous parenting ethic where fathers and mothers devote equal amounts of time to parenting, and parent with essentially the same style of parent-child interaction.”

In Great Britain, this is currently a matter of hot controversy. The British government is considering legislation that would equalize parental leave policies for men and women – and would encourage men to stay at home with their young children so that their wives can re-enter the workplace. Similarly, the current government in Spain has argued for making paternal leave mandatory in order to equalize male and female roles.

Now, I can figure out from the tone of these passages and the context in which they are delivered that they are viewed as some kind of affront to society and families.  Again, his conclusion is clear, equality of male and female roles is bad, but I’m not sure of his reasoning.

But fathers also play an important role in the raising of girls. The research indicates that fathers fulfill a very important function in minimizing the likelihood that their daughters will be sexually active prior to marriage. As Wilcox explains, “Fathers also protect their daughters from premarital sexual activity by setting clear disciplinary lines for their daughters, monitoring their whereabouts, and by signaling to young men that sexual activity will not be tolerated.”

It was difficult for me to figure out exactly what Wilcox’s argument was behind these conclusions.  Why can’t a mother be assertive enough to discipline a child effectively or protect their daughters by knowing their whereabouts?  It all seems rather specious to me.  So, I did some research. 

First off, I think that there needs to be more feminist reaction to this research.  In a proquest database search for Wilcox and feminism, only one source popped up:  a book review by Darren Sherkat in Social Forces, which definitely had a critical view of the text.  Shocking. I also did some google searches without much result.  Then I came across a very interesting blog.  The CBE Scroll.  Subtitle: Blog Voices from Christians for Biblical Equality.  A post from September 26, 2006 discusses an article by Sally Gallegher, “The marginalization of Evangelical Feminism,” and indicts views attacking the link between evangelical feminism and androgyny as representative of the fear in the evangelical church.  Fear of losing their evangelical identity and fear of critically thinking about scripture and its relationship to culture.  The entry ends with the following:

Evangelicals talk a lot about being “set apart” from the world. But that distinction often seems to be based in fear—a strict definition of what we are not rather than what we are. When discussing the evangelical identity as set apart from the broader culture, Sally Gallagher suggests that evangelicals could accept mutuality and still be distinguished from the “secular” world if:

“…they were demonstratively more egalitarian than the broader culture in sharing responsibility for, and not just helping each other with, paid and unpaid family labor.”

What if the church was about radical equality—where Christians practice mutual submission characterized by love, humility, and selflessness, where Christians’ gifts are used for the glory of God, and where gender is neither blurred or stereotyped, but celebrated? This sounds like the example of the early church. It also sounds like a way that evangelicals can set themselves apart from the rest of society—a way that evangelicals can still be evangelicals.

I like this idea of “radical equality”.  Whether driven by religious belief or simply feminist ideals, what if more couples were to embrace “radical equality”?  The reaction from the greater evangelical movement to this is obviously a big N-O.  If you do a google search for “radical equality” most of the entries fall into two distinct categories: (1) historical reference and (2) conservative christians lambasting anyone who holds this belief. 

Much of why I have been unable to embrace institutionalized religion falls in this area.  There are very few churches that seem to embrace this idea of “oneness in Christ,” with no one serving a more important role than any other person.  I have never been anti-religion persay, but institutionalized religion and much of what passes itself off as “preaching” or “sharing God” comes across to me as exclusionary and demeaning at times.  I just never really wanted to have a view of God that reduced what I had always saw as a powerful force for good to a humanized patriarchal, hierarchical and exclusionary force. 

I still pray.  I even read the bible sometimes.  I have nothing against religion itself, but I do resent the way it is weilded as a tool to dominate, to oppress, and to excuse unacceptable behavior.  I’ve read A Woman’s Journey to God and really felt like I connected with her message.  And of course there is The Woman’s Bible: A Classic Feminist Perspective by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

So, although at first glance, Wilcox’s findings and the Christian Post’s praise of it may make me feel like turning away from any religious beliefs, I almost feel like a rebel to be able to say, your God may not be my God, but I have access to God all the same.  I feel like to be fair and just in my criticism, I should go and read the book written by Wilcox instead of others writing about the book.  Perhaps I will see if I can get a copy of it and update this post after I have read it, in his words, so-to-speak. 

This relates back to my earlier “Are you a Feminist?” post and the discussion that happened.  I have a feeling that Veiled Glory is a big believer in confronting the androgynous impulse…and then destroying it.  I for one, say bring the androgynous impulse on, confront it, take what is good from it (more equality in both home and work life, “radical equality”, a better understanding of who we are as individuals rather than as social constructions) and move on. 


bk2nocal says:

Interesting article related to this subject:,,2106996,00.html

cbrunette says:

Thank you for the link. I thought I’d fill you in on a little of my background and current situation before you have passed a complete judgment on my belief system or actions.

My mother is an ardent egalitarian and card-carrying member of the CBE. I’ve preached a Sunday sermon, modestly-dressed and head-covered, at an egalitarian church within the last year. My husband and I are rather mutually submissive in comparison to many ladies who decide to try this mode of dress. I even graduated from a southern all-women’s university, which is non-sectarian and very feminist.

Things may not always be as they appear from the outside.


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