I just encountered an absurd new definition of egalitarianism. I do not know what group teaches it, but I do know members of that group will read my blog and completely misunderstand it. A commenter on this blog claimed:
“…egalitarianism places women’s equality and worth on our ability to function sexually and socially as males. The term to function sexually-socially here should be treated as a whole-not two separate entities.
Let me explain using simple biology: male sexuality itself is free from pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and raising children and this biological reality has always enabled men to be the ones to go outside of the home and have a career-even if it is plowing [sic] the fields. Once our society changed its primary desire of child raising for a desire for sensuality and materialism then the males ability to exchange child free sexual pleasure which allowed them to have a career and earn money was highly desired by both sexes. Therefore, a woman needs to absolutely sterilize herself during her childbearing years once she is sexually active in order to gain and have the same equality and functionality of a male which liberates her from children and the home.”
There are several strange assumptions in that quote:
Assumption 1: Being free from childbirth, pregnancy, and raising children is acting like men.
Many women do not have activities related to child rearing in their lives. These include young ones who are not married yet, newly married ones who have no children yet, the infertile, those who – for whatever reason – never married, and the ones whose children are out of the house.
My mother, for example, is 70 now. She had her share of pregnancy and child raising – I am the oldest of four siblings. Yet she had one or more children under 18 for only 26 of those 70 years. Has she acted like a man for the other 44 years? Preposterous. She acted like a woman who is not in a child-raising stage of life. I myself am single and childless, (I would have really wanted to be a mother), does that mean I act like a man? Ridiculous.
And the Bible itself calls bringing up children a manly duty (too):
Fathers*, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. – Eph. 6:4
* Fathers: The Greek word translated here could mean “fathers” or “parents”, but not “mothers” alone.
Assumption 2: Egalitarians advocate for women to be free from childbirth.
Christian egalitarians do not tell women to have no children1. Egalitarians are fine with women having 7 children, or 1, or 12, or 3 or none. Egalitarians say that, regardless of your amount of children, your gifts and input should matter.
There are 2 classes of things we are not fine with:
1) Women (regardless of how many children they have) being prevented from having speaking or leadership roles because they are female.
2) Women (regardless of how many children they have) having less say in the home because they are female. This particular point is even more important when they have children: The World Bank found that children and society benefit when women have authority over money:
“When women do well, everyone benefits. Giving women access to better jobs and financial security are keys to ending poverty. Gender gaps harm the entire economy. We know that when women control the finances, they tend to spend money on the things that matter most – essential food and water, school fees and health care for the family. (World Bank, 2017).”
Assumption 3: Egalitarianism is based on a desire for sensuality and materialism.
Christian egalitarianism is based on a desire for a counter-cultural society where all believers submit to one another (Eph 5:21), nobody lords it over one another (Matt 20:25-27), and all gifts are used.
Women do not desire to be preachers and elders (use all their gifts) in order to be rich, nor do they want to do it in order to get more sex.
Mutual submission/not lording it over others is not about materialism. (Lording it over others is a way to take people’s money, so that can be materialistic). But a society with more male-female equality tends to be richer. Being richer is good news not because of materialism, but because there are more poor people in the world than rich ones. Being richer, for most people in the world, is not the difference between a house without or with a swimming pool, but the difference between taking your child to the clinic when she needs medicine and not taking her as you can’t afford it. Fighting poverty does not equal promoting materialism.
Equality is not about a desire for sensuality either – the women who inspired me to speak up for equality never said anything like: “I wanted to have loads of fun sleeping around.” When they spoke of sex in a way that inspired my egalitarianism, they spoke of being forced (men believing they have a right to lord it over women), of painful sex, of being treated like objects and not people, of accepting bad treatment because women are supposed to submit. I did not have visions of women acting like men (forcing or pressuring unwilling partners, using sexually degrading names for men, causing pain, sleeping around, men being afraid of getting raped when alone and seeing a female stranger, etc.). I dreamed of women being free from male sexual (“sexual” as in intercourse-related) oppression.
Assumption 4: Women who desire sensuality has to stay childless for the desire to be fulfilled.
Why on earth can a woman with children not enjoy sex and sensuality? I am no expert on the topic, but this sounds very wrong!
Assumption 5: To be equal, women have to sterilize themselves.
By Christian egalitarianism, women do not have to do anything to be equal. If you know what “help meet for him/ helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18) means in the original Hebrew, it means women are equal. Christian egalitarians want that equality recognized in non-hierarchical relationships, in women’s voices counting – whether the woman has 10 children or none.
It is as simple as that.
1 This particular blog may have a few entries which oppose the way the Full Quiver movement uses the Bible. But those entries do not advocate for childlessness. Instead, it wants couples to leave false beliefs behind.