Kate Orson’s formative views on female liberation changed after she looked into the history of early feminism. Now she is asking God what he thinks.


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I grew up in a family of two generations of feminists. My grandmother was a headteacher before she retired, and when I was an adult she told me the story of how, when I was very young, she’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’d told her I wanted to be a mummy and have a baby like my mummy. For a family who strongly believed in women working and doing everything men could do, this wasn’t quite the right answer!

I remember being told that the reason my grandmother was happy was because her husband had died when she was in her fifties and so she could be ‘independent.’

I can remember as a child hearing the phrase, ‘a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle.’ I remember being told that the reason my grandmother was happy was because her husband had died when she was in her fifties and so she could be ‘independent.’ I think perhaps my child’s brain misconstrued some conversations, but there were some ideas floating around about how women didn’t really need men, and could do everything for themselves.

Meanwhile, all the pop songs on the radio were about love. In my teens and twenties, I loved men, perhaps too much. I couldn’t see anything wrong with wanting or needing a man. It seemed quite natural to me.

Two years ago when I became a Christian I felt confused. Wives were meant to submit to their husbands?

Two years ago when I became a Christian I felt confused. Wives were meant to submit to their husbands? They were meant to be silent in church, and take care of the home? New Christian friends online were posting about the traditional gender roles, and I found myself feeling triggered. I’d dealt with chronic fatigue all my life, and my husband had always done more than his fair share of cooking and cleaning. I also worked as a writer, so it wasn’t like I could just forget everything and dedicate myself to the home. Traditional gender roles are all well and good I thought, but when one wage isn’t enough to support a family, then it’s just not feasible.

When I looked into the history of early feminism I discovered that many activists were spiritualists or theosophists. The theosophical society and the work of Madame Blavatsky are the ideas that form the basis of the modern new age movement of yoga, meditation, and a smorgasbord of spiritual practises that don’t involve the Christian God.  For example Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) was a medium, and clairvoyant who was both president of the American Association of Spiritualists and a well-known figure in the American suffragette movement. Annie Besant (1847-1933) became the head of the Theosophical society in India, and also campaigned for women’s empowerment.

It seems to me that there is no doubt there was a spiritual influence to the inception of the feminism movement. I can’t help but wonder how that plays out in our modern lives. For example, in the 1950’s one wage would have supported a family. As women have embraced their right to be educated and work, we no longer have the choice to prioritise family and home, because it’s not just financially feasible anymore.

I think of the way that ‘Satan masquerades as an angel of light,’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), and how some aspects of the world’s version of equality are different to biblical equality.

In a world where women are encouraged to ‘have it all,’ we struggle to ‘do it all.’ Cooking and cleaning are often treated as an afterthought, something to fit around full time jobs. Yet Paul placed importance on women looking after the children and the home; for example, Titus 2:4-5, ‘And so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.’

What does God think? As a freelancer, my days have no set pattern and so each moment I have a choice. Shall I write that article now, or unload the dishwasher? Shall I walk the dog, or try and reach that deadline? Sometimes I get caught in confusion. I feel guilty if I just tidy up because I’m not doing paid work, and then I feel guilty about the state of the house when I’m busy with work.

Thankfully God, is helping me put my days in order. Two times recently when I’ve prayed for guidance the answer has been; ‘’clean.’’ I notice myself feeling a bit angry, I and think, ‘’I’m not going to clean! I have got important work to do.’’

But who am I to disobey God? Especially when he’s giving me very clear answers to my requests.

Is God telling me to clean, because I should take care of the home, or because he knows I need to step away from the page, and clear my mind so I can work more effectively? I’m not sure. But one thing is certain, that by praying, and listening to God, I can keep an open mind, about my role as a woman and the path he has laid out for me. I trust that whatever direction he will lead me in it will be the right one.

My physical energy levels have improved since I came to Christ, and God is helping me to put my life in order. Before my identity was about work, my achievements, and constantly striving for more. Now I see my true identity is in Christ, I can close my laptop and see there is great value in taking care of the home.

Learning about the equal but different value of men and women is an ongoing journey for me, and I wouldn’t want to come to any firm conclusions. But I sense God is leading me away from worldly views on gender, towards the Bible.