Christianity, Feminism, and the Paradox of Female Happiness
Lynne Marie Kohm, Diane J. Chandler, and Doris Gomez, Christianity, Feminism, and the Paradox of Female Happiness, 17 TRINITY L. REV. 191 (2011).
47 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2012 Last revised: 10 Jul 2013
Date Written: February 8, 2012
In many places around the globe women enter professions of choice and enjoy nearly equal rights as men, yet many women are not happy. This seeming contradiction is becoming quite apparent. A 2009 report, for example, by two economists entitled 'The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness' documented some surprising facts. Since 1970 women’s self-reported happiness has fallen, relative to that of men, according to the study. This seems paradoxical, given the tremendous strides made by the women’s movement. In November 2009, the cover story for Time Magazine described “The State of the American Woman: A new poll shows why they are more powerful – but less happy.” Furthermore, a piece in the New York Times also discussed this unhappiness phenomenon in that “women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier,” and asked the salient question “Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women?”
Has feminism resulted in unhappiness among women? And what may account for this seeming contradiction? Can Christian scholarship offer any insight? This article discusses the influences that both feminism and the Christian religion have had on gender equality and considers the failure of each on behalf of women and men. It will also address the genuine need for transformation toward gender equality, both in culture and religion, and proscribe the ultimate solution for women’s unhappiness.
Convinced this honest struggle is an essential part of recapturing the intellectual life of Christianity, we believe that the transformative power of Jesus Christ alone will bring about authentic gender equality. Further, we argue that feminists and women leaders ought to seriously consider the Christian foundations of any claim to gender equality and the resulting implications of personal faith upon genuine happiness and personal fulfillment.
Section I critically assesses the successes and failures of religious Christianity in promoting gender equality. Section II considers the successes and failures of feminist philosophy in gender equality. Section III then examines the success and failures in contemporary women’s leadership. Challenging both religion and feminism as the basis for women’s genuine happiness and equality. Section IV then argues for a personal, rather than religious, Christ-centered approach to gender equality as the ultimate means to achieving women’s happiness.
This article proffers that neither religion nor feminism has brought about gender equality. We argue simultaneously that gender equality must have a strong Biblical foundation to a genuine Christ-centered approach. Such an approach must be implemented universally, involving an unadulterated application of the transformative power of Jesus Christ. We argue that true Christianity is the missing element without which feminism fails, while simultaneously emphasizing that Christians must tender authentic gender equality.
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