Radical WomanhoodCarolyn McCulley was a successful professional in her early thirties when she first met Jesus. She was a staunch feminist, a position founded on roots reaching much deeper than the more recent challenges of being a professional woman in the corporate world. Her defense of woman was one that began in the schoolyard, goaded by a sense of righteous indignation at playground taunts. Phrases such as ‘you throw like a girl!’, obviously meant to offend, suggested that being a girl is somehow a bad thing – a misfortune, even. McCulley soon came to the conclusion that while there were some bad things about being a girl, those bad things were wholly and solely the fault of men. Men were the problem, and they were a problem women were going to have to fight against – and hard.

When God became a reality in her life, McCulley started engaging with church and Christians and scripture. Soon, she began to bump up against some unsettling concepts, including apparently politically incorrect conceptions of gender roles, ideas such as complementarianism, and ‘unfair’ doctrines like submission. But as McCulley engaged with these topics and her spiritual walk developed, so, too, did her concerns with feminism.

Radical Womanhood is the outcome of McCulley’s shift in thinking. It is a thoughtful primer which explores the history of feminism by looking at the various waves of the feminist movement and the ripples felt as a result of this ‘seismic cultural change’. It is a change which has reverberated both within and without the church, and has repercussions on how we think about and live out concepts of ‘womanhood, sexuality, marriage, family, and children.’ McCulley looks at the major movers and shakers of the feminist movement as well as its most influential texts, and examines feminism’s development and validity from a biblical worldview. Her assessment is measured and thoughtful, neither condemnatory nor condoning. In fact, McCulley agrees that feminism arose out of a natural response to the subjugation and mistreatment of women:

‘The kicker is that feminism is partially right. Men do sin. They can diminish women’s accomplishments and limit women’s freedoms for self-centred reasons. Some men sexually assault women. Some men abuse their wives and children. Many men degrade women through pornography. Feminism didn’t rise up because of fabricated offenses… it is understandable, humanly speaking, why this movement did emerge.’ (p. 26)

Feminism, however, provided only a partial answer to these problems – and at what cost? ‘My concern,’ McCulley continues, ‘is what we’ve absorbed from our culture about being women. Feminism (like most other “isms”) points a finger at other people for the problems of life. But… Scripture tells us that other people are not the real problem.’ (p. 27)

McCulley brings humility and grace into the discussion, engaging in an often contentious topic with Christ-focussed intellectual appeals rather than incensed emotional arguments. The chapters are interspersed with true-life stories of women who looked at feminism for answers and found it wanting. These testimonies, from those who ‘found God to be true to His word’, provide a practical follow-up to the nitty gritty examination of a biblical complementarian view. These personal stories are not drenched in anti-men bitterness. Rather, they uphold marriage and the biblical picture of gender roles, offering a sense of hope instead of anger or resentment.

As Christian women, we should be informed and engaged with the issues which are integral to our society, measuring the validity of any movement in light of biblical truth. Feminism is one such powerful force in our culture, and Carolyn McCulley’s Radical Womanhood is an ideal book to inform and engage in the discussion with wisdom and grace.

YLCF is giving away a copy of Radical WomanhoodTo enter the giveaway, comment and share about someone who has been a role model to you of “radical womanhood” in a feminist world.  (Giveaway ends March 26.  Congratulations to Kandace, commenter #14, for winning a copy!)

19 Comments

  1. Oh, and another–Elisabeth Elliot (now Elisabeth Gren)!

  2. I would say my Great-Grandmother is a wonderful example! She is going on 98 yrs. and I’m so grateful for her example. She embraced godly womanhood and has always striven to be a woman of virtue and will leave a wonderful legacy behind! My mom tells stories of her and my Great-Grandfather getting up early every morning and sharing a quiet time with the Lord.
    My mom also, as she is a wonderful help-meet for my dad. They compliment each other well and make up for each others weaknesses in order that they may serve the Lord better. “The two shall become one…”

  3. My mother is my role model. She amazes me more and more each day. I believe she is the definition of a true woman of the Lord. Her faithful prayers, her cheerful spirit, her devotion to God and to caring for others all testify to that. What speaks most to me about her everyday life is how she never lets a day go by without sitting at the feet of Jesus. I <3 her!

  4. Samantha R says:

    I’ve heard good things about Carolyn’s books!

    As far as role models go… definitely my Mom! my ‘adopted’ grandma and then I have a friend in WA who has been a huge role model in my life. Biblical femininity is quite evident in her life. She is a beautiful woman, inside and out and always points me back to Scripture and the individual roles that God gave us. She is a true Proverbs 31 woman.

  5. My greatest model of true Feminity is the author, Leslie Ludy. She had such an amazing life and always was a great inspiration to me. Her books spoke to me and I always learn something new when I reread them.

  6. My friend Lauren taught me a lot about being strong yet gentle, a fighter against evil without losing losing femininity. I admire her energy and passion about family, faith, and living out her beliefs.

  7. I’d have to say for myself that my Mother is the best example anyone can be. She gives herself sacrificially so that our wants/needs will be fulfilled. Other than her, I have one other feminine example that really stands out in my mind–my good friend Brianne. She came to help use for a week after my 5th brother was born, and showed herself to be a sweet, Godly young woman. I loved her for that, and although I haven’t seen her in over 2 years, she’s still my role model. I’m so far short of ever being like her, but if I had the chance (and I pray I will) I’d try to be like her in everything. Of course, Jesus is the best role model any woman can have.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    My college RA would be the person that has modeled true femininity to me. She has taught me many things over the past three years. Like how to be a lady, by letting guys be a gentleman to me and also in other areas. As well as teaching me by her example to turn towards God in all of my struggles and in what ever situation I may be in to rely on God’s strength and not my own. I really admire her and praise God for her example.

  9. My example of radical womanhood would have to be my mother . (I know I won’t be the only one with that answer, but I will have to follow the crowd here. 🙂 Besides, I am so blessed to get to say my mom is an example! I am certain there are lots of others who wish they could say that.) My mom was saved when I was about four so I have had the front-row view of of her spiritual journey out of a culture of staunch feminism and into grace for over twenty years.

    The other person is Becky, one of my dearset friends despite being close to thirty years older than myself. I wish I could introduce her to you all because I know my words won’t be enough to describe her character. I guess you will have to meet her in heaven! She is the one who I think of when I feel myself rebeling against the role of a woman. She is anything but stifled in her role as she disciples others, runs her own business, assists her husband in his, serves in ministry after ministry to the women and children in our body, as well as supporting her husband in his role as church elder. I have never known her to do anything half-way. I have said many times that I want to be Becky when I grow up and I am so thankful that she is a part of my life.

  10. Lydia Borengasser says:

    Praise the Lord, I have had many examples of “‘radical womanhood’ in a feminist world”….my mother, grandmother, aunt, best friend Megan…Mrs. Duggar is definitely that to me…Elisabeth Elliot was the first name that came to mind….just to name a few…

  11. I think of a good friend, who I love going to visit, just because of seeing her great example, she is a wonderful wife, and a great mom. I always come home striving to be a better wife, and praying that I will be as great a mom as her to my little man.

  12. This issue is so critical in our society today! I had the treat to hear Carolyn speak on her book prior to it’s publishing, a few years back. Her work in this resource is of stellar quality, and could be easily considered for a college level course. Though I don’t know her personally, she herself, can be considered a role model leading the way!!!

  13. My mom is my biggest example of godly womanhood. She gave up a successful Navy career to mentor and disciple young women, later becoming a godly pastor’s wife, and the very best of mothers.

  14. I know several, but one stands out more brilliantly than the others. She’s a highly motivated woman. She speaks German fluently, graduated from the Air Force Academy, and married another Academy grad. She could have done well as a career Air Force officer. But while studying God’s Word, she became convicted that her first calling was to her husband and children. She left the career to better fulfill these roles, becoming in the meantime a higher mathematics tutor, a Douala, a foster and later adoptive parent, a NANC counselor and a homeschool mom. Most beautiful is the way she takes each relationship with other homeschool moms, with dentists, with doctors, with church friends as a context for living Christianly and verbally sharing God’s truth.

  15. My Mum stayed at home and looked after all of us. Although highly educated she never felt that it was a lesser ‘job’ but rather was the highest of callings.

  16. True femininity is a life abandoned to Jesus. No earthly beauty can compare to radiance like that. I always think of Mary, Jesus’ mother, when I think of true beauty…the way she lived for God and her servant’s heart are a mark of true beauty. She is my feminine example of a godly life, and I admire her so greatly.

  17. My mother has been a great role model as well as the mother of one of my homeschool friends.

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