Reviewed by Ruth Burrough
Courtney Ressig, Crossway, 2015
If we take a moment to consider feminism, it becomes clear just how much it has become ingrained in our culture. Sometimes it seems absurd to think any differently. Our TV shows, our movies, books, billboards and androgynous models all point to the feminist assertion that ‘equality equals sameness’ and that we are our own authority. Our identity is whatever we want it to be. While some of the results of feminism have been positive for our society, its overarching message is quite damaging. Yes, men and women have been created equally in God’s own image, but this does not mean we are the same.
We will need to intentionally turn from this view in order to properly understand God’s good design for us. This is the premise of Reissig’s book “The Accidental Feminist” and she brings to our attention things that should have been glaringly obvious.
So where do we find our identity? Is our body ours to do whatever we like with it? Is our identity found in our sexuality? Our racial or cultural heritage? Our favourite sports team? Our career? Am I (and Reissig) going to suggest your identity should be found in being a stay-at-home wife and mother? Far from it. We should instead return to the beginning and ask how, what and who we were created for.
Reissig gently and adeptly guides the reader through the creation account in Genesis. Being created in the image of God is not something to be bemoaned, but rather celebrated. When we live in the way for which we were created, we reflect the glory of the Creator for the rest of the watching world.
In the following chapters she takes those concepts further to the practical implications they have in our real lives. If we as women are designed to be helpers, how can we encourage, strengthen and comfort those around us in both our families and our wider community? Reissig takes care to address women in all walks of life – this isn’t just a book for married women.
However Reissig’s look at the image of God extended past the role of ‘helper’ and suggested that Adam’s personal naming of Eve as the ‘giver of life’ should apply to all women. We should see ourselves as created in the image of God to be life-givers, both literally and spiritually ‘breathing life’ into those around us. This seems to be a stretch in interpretation, reading too much into the text. Women are indeed often adept at many of the life-giving activities she describes, but a large number of them (except mothering or actually giving birth) should be required of all Christians, male and female. We are all called to model Christ and share the life-giving news of the Gospel with those who will listen. We read about Spiritual Mothering in Titus 2, but it seems a long stretch to draw an image-driven, life-giving role from the passages in Genesis.
This reading came into play again in later chapters, but I felt her arguments could just as easily have been made using a wider understanding of ‘helper’.
Perhaps Reissig’s strongest chapter was her last, entitled ‘Restoration is Possible’. It was similar to the beautiful and peaceful resolution of a tangled and distorted love story. She looks at our future restoration, acknowledging that we will never be perfect examples of women in this life – which is why the gospel is so important.
“The Accidental Feminist” prompted me to take a serious look at how I view womanhood and how the Bible shapes (or should shape) that view. For the most part I agreed with Reissig, and her book is a timely prompt for all of us in a culture so saturated in feminism.