Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Accidental Feminist

I’ve read quite a few books like this one…or so I thought. Books on practical womanhood have always appealed to me but frequently they leave me feeling rather ambivalent at best. So many of them fall to one extreme or another. Some are hyper-conservative, patriarchal-focused, legalistic to-do lists that boil down to submitting to a man, any man or else you are not a complete woman because you are a rib that has not ‘returned to Adam’s side’ (don’t laugh – that’s a real example). Others are very liberal, contemporary, and ‘hip,’ using the most modern best-friend language to encourage you to be ‘fierce and mighty.’ The Accidental Feminist is like neither of these.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of amazing ones. I have some of them on my shelves. But that doesn’t change the fact that, like any other genre, there’s an awful lot of garbage mixed in with the gold. And because a woman’s role is such a hot-button topic, there seems to be more garbage than in most other genres.

When Carrie over at Reading to Know said this was in her to-read pile, the title instantly grabbed me, and I couldn’t wait until she wrote up a review. After reading her two-part review I did something I almost never do – I purchased it without having read it first. My Mom was also interested in reading it, and as I was in the middle of something else she read it first. My mother is a pastor’s wife. She has read countless books like this one. I’ve watched her read some, read others with her, and I can honestly say that when she finished reading this, it was the first time I ever saw her so excited about one. She urged me to set aside my other book and move this to the top of my pile. And I did. And this is the first time I have ever been excited about a book in this category.

The Accidental Feminist is not what you expect. It is not excusing Christian feminism, or defensively trying to support anti-feminism. It is simply addressing the struggles women go through as they ask questions about their purpose and role. It does not dismiss those questions, nor does it provide cutesy, popular slogans to help you feel better about them. Instead, Reissig openly addresses them, and answers them from facts, Truth, and a biblical worldview.

It’s also not what I expected in terms of the audience she’s addressing. It’s not written for either married women or single women. Rather, it’s for both. She specifically addresses women in all spheres of life. Married women with children, others with empty nests, childless wives, women who don’t want children, happily single women, unhappily single women, feminists, anti-feminists, Christian and non-Christian. And she addresses all of these in such a way that I can say, no matter where you are in life, as a woman this book is for you.

Reissig is encouraging, open with her own life and struggles, and always seeks to provide answers for our deepest questions, and help for our hardest battles. If there was one book I could encourage all women to read, it would be this one. At worst, it doesn’t do much for you and you move on. But it did so much more for me.

Reissig takes old familiar truths and opens them up in ways I had never thought of before. For an example, I had never before realized that a ‘gentle and quiet spirit’ is not a personality type. The woman with a ‘gentle and quiet spirit’ is not necessarily the meek and dimunitive woman. As Reissig says:

…the spirit Peter refers to is not a personality. It is a disposition toward God. Sarah ‘s spirit was praised because she hoped in God, not because she checked off a personality trait in a box.

…Emma, with her outgoing and talkative personality, is just as able to possess a gentle and quiet spirit as her quiet and reserved sister, Abigail, because a gentle and quiet spirit is rooted in trusting God, not personality.

Reissig is far from being one of the women who says all women must be one hundred percent in the home all time, submitting to a man (whether they’re married or not) to find fulfillment. She does not think the be-all and end-all of womanhood is keeping a perfect home and cooking gourmet meals. But neither does she simply dismiss the Proverbs 31 woman. Instead she treats such a woman as what she was intended to be – an ideal model woman…something we will never be, but something set before us show us certain traits lived out.

She speaks to all women about the purpose of who they are what they do. The childless woman or empty-nester can be just as valuable, godly, and virtuous as the married woman raising a slew of children. The married woman with the slew of children has just as important a ministry as the ‘unencumbered’ single woman living a life of ministry. And in the long run, isn’t that what the real ideal is? A body of members, all with important tasks, all different, but all equal, and all working together.

If there is only ever one book I review on Close to Heart & Home that you add to your to-read list, I hope this is the one.

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