January 9, 2010 by Stacy McDonald

Are You Calling Me a Whitewashed Feminist?

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Occasionally, I receive questions from readers that warrant a public answer. The following questions have been presented to me on several occasions, and rather than answer them all individually, which I have done thus far, I decided to answer some of them here on my blog. (Some of these answers are copy and pastes from previous conversations with others.)

Who is a whitewashed feminist and where did this term come from?

Thank you for asking. Since writing Passionate Housewives Desperate for God a few years ago, Jennie and I have been amazed by how this term has spread. Whether or not that’s a good thing is still in question. But, for what it’s worth, here is where it started:

The term “whitewashed” means to gloss over or cover up something. So, “whitewashed feminism” is a term that reflects feminism that is hidden or deceptive in nature. Since I believe that feminism is unbiblical, it makes sense that I said this:

“It is possible to be a Christian feminist, but ironically there is no such thing as “Christian Feminism.” The Christian feminist is either herself deceived, or she is attempting to deceive us” (2 Peter 2:1-3). – Passionate Housewives

So, to me, a whitewashed feminist may be someone who is a feminist and doesn’t realize it, or it could be a woman who struggles with rebellious thoughts toward authority from time to time, and deceives herself into thinking things should be done her way (this would be me), rebelling against godly authority (notice I didn’t say ungodly authority):

“Even those of us who would recoil in horror at being thought of as a “feminist” battle the same old urge that Eve did: we, that is conservative Christian women, still struggle with the desire to be in control…” Passionate Housewives

Or a whitewashed feminist may also be an evangelical feminist who openly promotes an egalitarian position that is opposite to complementarian orthopraxy. To me this is secular feminism hidden behind Christian language, so it appeals to the Christian woman who is deceived by false teachings.

The real question may be: what is feminism? I have heard some say that feminism is the promotion of the fair treatment of women. But, I believe in the fair treatment of women and I’m not a feminist.

I believe that “fair treatment” may be a confusing term because it makes it seem like we’re talking about women who are beaten, raped, or treated like chattel. But what we’re really talking about are the issues regarding the roles of men and women.

What I try to do is expose feminism in the realm of the church and the home, and even in our own hearts. I believe that God, through the Bible, clearly decrees polities in both of these spheres where men are called to lead. This does not mean God is a misogynist.

It is clear in Scripture that men and women are gifted to serve in the home and in the church. It is also clear that both men and women are to have their own personal relationship with the triune God, and that women are worth just as much as men. But I am convinced that the feminist doctrine of equality in the home and in the church is opposed to the polity outlined in Scripture.

In the following quote I tried to differentiate between the evangelical feminist and what most of us think of when we hear the word “feminist” (the secular, militant feminist):

“First, there are “secular feminists.” These are women who reject Christianity outright and deny the authority of Scripture. Self-proclaimed feminists who fall into this category tend to be stridently pro-abortion and militantly demand equal status with men in the workplace, and beyond.

“Some of the most extreme “secular feminists” are lesbians and outright misandrists—women who hate men. This is the far end of the “secular feminist” spectrum which most of us picture when we hear the word feminist: the stereotypical, bra-burning radical who brazenly denounces men.

“While I have encountered a handful of professing Christians who take this radical posture, they are the exception, as most women who claim the name of Christ reject this brand of feminism as extreme.”

In regards to evangelical feminism:

“These feminists claim to hold Scripture in high regard, yet they do not accept the biblically defined role distinctions between men and women, and they reject male authority to varying degrees…”

“White-washed feminist” seems like a slur or a nasty jab, why use it?

I can appreciate this statement. Though that wasn’t our intention, I can now see how it could be taken that way. Remember, though, this word was not meant to be something we would “call” anyone; it was a word used in a book to make a point. I also used it on my blog during the time I was writing the chapter about feminism; but, I’ve never referred to anyone as a “whitewashed feminist.” Once the word was “out there” others reacted by multiplying and misrepresenting its usage, whether or not that was intentional.

I think that we’ve very often focused on the somewhat militant within a movement and forgotten the very reasonable people who are part of it.

Amen! I think this has happened on both sides of the gender debate. We tend to use the most extreme examples and lump all of our opponents in together (I know I’ve been guilty of this). But rather than make our point, often, we simply (and often unnecessarily) provoke the very souls we hope to reach. I think both sides have used sensationalism tactics and personal attacks at times and that’s a shame. The truth doesn’t need that.

But what if I, coming from a different place, reading the same Scriptures and seeking wise counsel, still came to different conclusions on male and female roles than you do?

What if you do? Can we not fellowship? Must we be enemies? Can our children play with the same Legos? Sometimes I think we are much more inclusive on the Internet than we are in real life. I have strong beliefs about a lot of things, but I have never shunned a friend for believing differently than I do. If we are sisters in Christ, we should practice that now. The whole “love thy neighbor” thing seems to be rather important to Jesus—and I think He wants it to be important to us too.

I am still pondering the usefulness of some of the simplistic terms we use and the way they are interpreted by others. Recently, I was part of a discussion where this was debated. In some ways, labels seem to have caused more harm and confusion than good. But terms have been defined and redefined throughout history. (Consider the term, “Calvinism”) Sometimes labels can be a good thing; but, too often they are galvanizing.

So, ultimately, the answer is “no;” I’m not calling you anything – unless you are a Christian, in which case, I am calling you, “sister.”

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)



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22 Responses to “Are You Calling Me a Whitewashed Feminist?”

  1. Civilla says:

    I thought the term "whitewashed femininsts" was a good one when I read it in your book. A lot of Christian women don't realize that they are whitewashed feminists. They are not that way deliberately, usually, but by default just from living in our present culture. Their "consciousness needs to be raised" to borrow a 60's term!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This was such a great post, leaving no "loose threads." I just had to link to it! Thanks. :-)

  3. joyfulhelpmeet says:

    Wow, thank you for this post. This was beautifully done and very articulate. I fully agree. I think i am often so quick to exclude people (at least in my mind) who are not complementarian and just assume that they dont know their bibles and they are rebellious, but you really made a GREAT point. It is possible that they came to a different conclusion after carefully reading the text and since it is not "heresy" (although i do disagree) there is no reason we cannot fellowship, practice hospitality and love on one another to excess!This was a real wake up…keep up the fabulous blog.

  4. Lindsey says:

    Stacey,

    Thank you so much for this post! I am always so blessed and encouraged by your blog, especially when you address issues of godly womanhood, such as this! I am currently reading through "Desperate Housewives.." for about the third or fourth time, and continue to be so blessed by it!

    I am a 27 year old wife, and I completely agree with your view of whitewashed feminism, as I used to be one. (However, like so many, I wasn't aware at the time that I was a feminist.) Despite the fact that I was blessed enough to attend a Christian high school, I still spent my high school and college years thinking that women needed "equality" in all things and agreed with the "whitewashed feminist" way of thinking. I was so blessed that as a young bride God got ahold of my heart and pointed out the error in my way… As I began learning about the Lord's will for a godly wife, I began to understand His desire for women in general. I praise the Lord that He gently pointed out my sin and gave me the opportunity to repent from my feminist ways.

    Since that time, my eyes have truly been opened as to how "alive" feminism is in our society… I personally am in a situation right now in which I encounter feminism daily. For the past two years I have worked for a non-profit organization (I won't say specifically which one it is, however, you will probably be able to guess right away.) When I first started my position (which is also when God started to convict me about feminism) I was very excited, as I was going to be working in an education-related field after having gone to school to be a teacher. Well, within a couple of months of working there, I started having reservations about the organization I was working for. At that time I sought out the advice of some godly "seasoned" women which I knew and greatly respected. My heart sank when their responses came back with exactly what I was feeling in my heart: this organization, in their opinions, was basically a radical feminist organization. (The organization I work for, I'm sorry to say, has ties with Planned Parenthood, openly accepts homosexuality, stand for the "empowerment" of females, and has changed the usage of "God" within their oath.) I spoke to my husband and we prayed about the situation. At that time he told me that he felt (especially for financial reasons) that I should stay put with my job until God led us differently. Thus, for the past two years I have been with my current employer (not without reservations, though.)

    This past fall, I have had a very hard time with my job. I have felt like the Lord has been telling me that it's time for me to leave this organization once and for all. My husand and I have been ferverently prayinging over this matter and we have decided that I need to find a new position. (My goal within the next few years is actually to get to the point where I can be a stay-at-home wife and mother; however, until that time, for finacial reasons, I need to work outside of the home.) Thus, I am currently seeking new employment. I am thankful to the Lord for His loving mercy and His perfect timing!

    To look at the world today, it just astounds me how "real" feminism is and how powerful it has become. What's even scarier is the fact that Christian women don't even always realize that they are indeed "whitewashed feminists."

    I'm sorry that my comment has gotten a bit long! I just wanted to share a little bit about my own experiences. Thank you again for this post! God bless you! :-)

    ~Lindsey

  5. Kamilla says:

    Excellent, Stacy!

    Incidentally, I am involved in a discussion elsewhere about whether or not the term "feminism" is redeemable at all. Oddly, the woman who wrote part of the blog post and I have corresponded about this and I have to say her post has convinced me that it is not, in any way, redeemable.

    In fact, I am coming to find it an insult – a putdown of women that we have to have our own philosophy, or our view of the world. It's like Virginia Woolf's whining about a "room of one's own" all over again.

    Kamilla

  6. Kerstin says:

    This was a blog suggested by a friend, and I read this entry with curiosity as well as conviction. I am one of those Christian women who is deceiving herself about this issue. I appreciate the forthright manner in which you wrote. It was a blessing to me and my husband as I read it to him. I look forward to reading more and I will look into getting your book. Praise the Lord for Facebook. I had simply posted that I was looking for a new devotional book for this year when my friend suggested this to me. :)

  7. Jennifer says:

    I've only heard patriarchals put down the desire to have one's own room as a silly "whine".

    "I am convinced that the feminist doctrine of equality in the home and in the church is opposed to the polity outlined in Scripture."

    I could not be more convinced otherwise. I don't believe gender has a thing to do with authority or that the Bible expounds on making rigid "roles" for men and women; in fact, I think the use of women in Scripture heavily disproves this. From what you say, it sounds very much like I fit your definition of whitewashed feminist. No matter what, I'll always believe the political feminist movement in its original form had a far more noble goal than those I have seen who pressure women to fear and fit into molds above all else. Thank you for your sweet words of sisterhood, Stacy; you explained your position well.

  8. Jennifer says:

    "A lot of Christian women don't realize that they are whitewashed feminists"

    An egalitarian is not a feminist, and only by a complimentarian are egal beliefs considered something dirty that need to be whitewashed. I know what I am and my consciousness has been very much raised by the discovery of Biblical doctrine.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for your kind and Christian words, Joyfulhelpmeet; ladies like you and Stacy are the ones who both remind me to guard my disagreement with others and to not fear treading the grounds of Christians different than me.

  10. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Stacy:
    The term “whitewashed” means to gloss over or cover up something. So, “whitewashed feminism” is a term that reflects feminism that is hidden or deceptive in nature.>>>>

    This is a very helpful post, Stacy, especially this brief explanation of what "whitewashed feminism" is.

    If even egalitarian Christians do not wish to be identified with feminism, then no one should be offended by the term "whitewashed feminism."

    The term is not meant as a means of judging others. It is more like a warning or an exhortation to examine ourselves so that we can avoid the errors of the world, – including the errors of feminism – no matter what group or groups we most identify with.

    Then, your statement reminded me that there must be some who are deliberately promoting what could be called "stealth feminism," or "stealth feminist theology" among Evangelical Christians. When you talk with them, they deny that they are feminists. When they are with other feminists, they freely use that term to describe themselves.

    I could give at least two examples of Christian feminist apologists who do this kind of thing. They have even said that they are NOT feminists, when in fact, they are and in other places, have not hesitated to say so. In fact, I have read an article at the EEWC website which tells Christian feminists to do this kind of thing.

    No, I am not talking about anyone posting on this blog! No, not at all! Everyone here seems pretty transparent.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Great points, Mrs. Webfoot.

  12. Stacy McDonald says:

    "I am convinced that the feminist doctrine of equality in the home and in the church is opposed to the polity outlined in Scripture." – PH

    Jennifer, if given the chance, I think I would reword this sentence to say, "I am convinced that the feminist version of equality in the home and in the church is opposed to the polity outlined in Scripture."

    I want to make it clear that men and women ARE indeed equal; that isn't the question. They are simply different in their roles – and yes, I do believe feminists wrongly reject the hierarchy presented in Scripture.

    "From what you say, it sounds very much like I fit your definition of whitewashed feminist."

    That could be – only you know that for sure. From what I've seen you write over the last few years, I do think you've been deceived by feminism to some degree. Just as I'm sure you think I've been deceived by Patriarchy. But I still love you, Jennifer. :-)

    "No matter what, I'll always believe the political feminist movement in its original form had a far more noble goal than those I have seen who pressure women to fear and fit into molds above all else."

    If you mean exactly what you say here, then I agree. But I suspect when you say "those who pressure women to fear and fit into molds…" the "those" you're referring to are complementarians, which is not what we believe at all. This is a misrepresentation of biblical patriarchy.

    "Despite the anti-Christian prejudice evident in much of the feminist movement, it is to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ that women owe most of their freedoms. The advent of Christianity raised the dignity, freedom and rights of women to levels never before known in any other culture or religion. Indeed, as one historian put it: 'The birth of Jesus was the turning point in the history of women.'" – Dr. Peter Hammond

  13. Stacy McDonald says:

    Kerstin – welcome to my blog! Thanks for writing. I look forward to getting to know you and hearing how God is working in your life.

    Elizabeth – thanks for the link!

    Joyfulhelpmeet – I like the way you worded "love one another to excess." That has stuck with me since you posted it!

    Lindsey – It's amazing to hear all God is doing in your life and how He is leading you. I just prayed for you, that God would give you and your husband the wisdom, boldness, and strength to stand for what is right.

    Kamilla – that would be a good subject to discuss. Hmmm…

  14. Stacy McDonald says:

    Also, check out my old post on the Real Women's Liberation Movement:

    http://yoursacredcalling.blogspot.com/2008/08/real-womens-liberation-movement.html

    and Kamilla posted her thoughts on why she thinks the word "feminism" isn't redeemable:

    http://bravelass.blogspot.com/2010/01/f-word.html

  15. Susan says:

    Stacy, Thank Jehovah you are so clear-headed, kind and brave.
    If some would just "TRY on" feminine Godliness, they would find it lovely and blessed.

  16. Jennifer says:

    For me, Stacy, it is about equality; the fact that women are always seen in secondary authority or are forbidden to do certain things that men do on gender alone does not speak of equality to me. And I have seen people try to pressure women into their own ideas and molds; "You can't do that, it's not your 'role' as a woman".. God had far less ideas of roles defined by gender alone in the Bible, I think. I've learned not to shun brother and sister complimentarians, though; some of the best authors who have taught me the most are complimentarians. As long as they are Christian and see Christ clearly, my impression of them is not that they are living in deception.

    I love you too Stacy :) You are a gracious sister and I've been very blessed by your writing. I love your books!

  17. Queen Beth says:

    I've read your book and agree 100% with everything written in it. In fact, I found this book at a time when God was asking me to shed my feminism and become a Biblical woman. I was a staunchy, pro-choice, hateful and bitter feminist. It was only when God gripped my heart and showed me where TRUE FREEDOM lies, I turned my back for good. God bless you as you continue to help other women see the lie that is feminism!! :)

  18. Christi L. says:

    "I have strong beliefs about a lot of things, but I have never shunned a friend for believing differently than I do."

    Just wanted to post that this is a true statement that the McDonald family lives out in real life and not just on the web.

    Thank you Stacy for the love your family shared with mine 7 years ago. We do hope someday to get to visit you in your new home.

  19. Lindsey says:

    Stacy,

    Thank you so much for praying for my husband and I! It was so sweet of you and it really means a lot to us! :-)

  20. Sarah says:

    Thank you for your wonderful posts! I'm printing them out, so I can refer back to them easily and be prepared when someone asks me questions!

  21. Jennifer says:

    Stacy, I don't think before now I saw just how excellently your post was really worded and how gracious you were. Thank you!

  22. Susan McVicker says:

    I actually liked your ‘white-washed feminism’ point. I’ve always been pro-husband, -children -home maker, -stay at home mom, -submission to husband’s authority. However, when it gets right down to the nitty gritty…something I REALLY have an opinion about, I’m amazed how that all changes. If I think MY opinion is right, than it’s the hardest thing in the world to keep myself under his authority…and in a respectful manner! I’m always surprised at myself when this happens. Disappointed as well. So, I definitely can see how we deceive ourselves. It seems to me that this attitude is the direct result of the Fall, and instead of continuing the ‘descent’ we should be focusing, with Christ’s help, to combat this ‘competitive spirit’ in regard to our husbands. We are definitely equal in God’s eyes and I think the whole idea of women working side by side with their husbands is so very beautiful. The harmony of it all, takes my breath away.
    Something else that I appreciated recently…From the film Return of the Daughters, one of the young ladies mentioned that she does not refer to herself as ‘single’ while she is unmarried. She recognizes that she is part of a Family. Families , as a group, go in One direction. Likewise, Husbands and Wives (who are not always considered a ‘family’ until they are joined by a child ) are both, supposed to be growing toward Christ…together.
    Little ways in which I have chosen to act this out is to #1 Use my right to vote by voting the same as my husband- unless it would be obviously against the Lord’s will. That makes our votes stronger. And trusting a husband’s instinct on certain people is a wonderful lesson which usually proves true, in my case. #2 Another thing I choose to do, is to NOT have an outside job. The reason for this is because I have never been ordered by God to have two bosses. One would generally conflict with the other, and of course, no one wants to lose a job, so they would tend to follow their boss’s lead instead of their husbands. #3 I consider it a privilege to be the one raising my own children instead of paying a stranger to do so.
    Living in this way is like that bundle of sticks that just can’t seem to be broken when tied together, unlike the separate 3 : Daddy this way, Mommy that way and the baby somewhere in between the two.
    We live in a great era. We CAN be biblical women who make a wonderful difference in our communities. We can stun the world with wise, biblical womanhood!

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