The Accidental Feminist

by Jasmine Patton

Young children are frequently asked what they want to be when they grow up. The eyes of the children usually widen in excitement as they contemplate this question and joyfully give answers such as “a doctor,” “a fireman” or “an architect.” Parents are often quick to respond to their children with thrilled affirmations and encouraging remarks. But how would we react if a ten-year-old girl were to answer, “I want to be a wife and a mother?”

As Christians, we all desire to live a life committed and obedient to our God. We strive to obey His commandments, share the truth of the gospel with our family and friends, and use our spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. We dig into God’s Word to behold the glory of the One we are serving and learn the ways to serve Him best. But, if we were honest with ourselves, how often are we thinking and acting in a way that reflects our world rather than our Creator?

Courtney Reissig’s The Accidental Feminist addresses this pertinent question as it relates to the concept of womanhood. Providing a comprehensive overview of the feminist movement, Reissig presses her readers to search their hearts and consider the influences that have painted their image of what it means to be a woman. The world and the Scriptures, she explains, give very different answers. Throughout her book, Reissig tackles various controversial topics, including the roles of women in the church, submission, issues of modesty, beauty, and homemaking. She discusses how the God-designed identity and roles of women have been tainted by the influences of feminism. Additionally, she speaks to women in all different phases of life and provides encouraging wisdom on how these women can fulfill their calling as biblical women.

In her endeavor to recover God’s true calling for women, Reissig urges women to consider how their lives are a reflection of what they believe about God. If we believe that God’s Word is true and the gospel is sufficient, then how we dress, how we view our role at home, how we submit to our husbands, and how we love our children should reflect these convictions. Reissig explains, “God calls us women—created in his image, valuable in his economy, and given a great singular purpose—to display his glory in [our] specific season, whatever it might be.”  Rather than being defined by the world, she defines a biblical woman as one that loves to study Scripture, hopes in God alone, and has a “gentle and quiet spirit.”

Reissig also discusses the relevant, yet often misinterpreted concept of submission in marriage—an issue that can elicit cringes, even from Christian women.  Much of our society believes that “submission” turns women into “doormats,” kills their personalities, and subjugates them to abuse. Reissig meticulously examines and overturns these popular misinterpretations of the Word and, instead, argues that Biblical submission is an “opportunity to daily die to ourselves and trust God for the outcome” (85). When we submit to our husbands, she explains, we are first submitting to God, exhibiting hope in Him alone and serving as a light to the watching world. We submit because we desire to fulfill the roles He has created within marriage. We submit because we trust and love our Lord. We submit because we know that all things work together for our good and His glory.

A second noteworthy topic is the discussion of biblical modesty. In a world that trains women to use their bodies to seek male attention and to gain power, it is easy to become confused on what it means to be beautiful and modest. Reissig provides two guiding principles concerning God’s view on the subject: (1) true beauty is defined by beholding and reflecting the beauty of God, not by sexuality; and (2) how we dress reflects our relationship with God. As women made in the image of God and living for His glory, we are to strive to mirror our Creator in our attitude toward modesty and “respect what we have been given and [protect] what God has deemed private,” (96-97). In our walk, we have to remember that ultimately everything we do should be for the Lord, not for ourselves. If we think in these terms, our conception of beauty will naturally conform to the Lord’s definition.

Finally, I think a brief remark on Reissig’s discussion of God’s design for the home is needed. In chapter 5, she unpacks the negative societal influences on women’s understanding of work, God’s definition and purpose of the home, and the importance of hospitality. While she does stress the importance of the home in the lives of women, Reissig fails to discuss the unique role God has given women as “workers at home” (Titus 2:5). Not only should women treat the home as important; they should prioritize it. Even though Reissig’s argument that women are ultimately supposed to be working to glorify the Lord in their work is true, her failure to illustrate God’s specific design for women as homemakers is problematic.

Nevertheless, The Accidental Feminist is a convicting, eye-opening book that is applicable to women of all ages and walks of life. If you are a woman who desires to further conform your mind to Scripture and not the world, this book is for you.

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