Orthodoxy and Feminism

“They look at me as a traitor to the cause of feminism, all because I choose to work willingly for the people who love me, rather than to work for money for people who don’t. Well, those gals can all fight it out among themselves. I reject the feminist paradigm.” 
Editor’s note: Debates normally present the impassioned views of people on both sides of a given subject. But in most cases, a third group of people is left without a voice: What about those people who don’t want to participate in the debate? What are these people thinking, and why? For this article, we sought the perspective of Susan Blazek, a faithful Orthodox Christian wife and mother of seven, who is well educated, and who generally doesn’t bother with debating or blogging. We asked her to emerge from her domestic paradise for just a few minutes, so she could write this article and share her sane and peaceful perspective with others. 
Several recent articles and comment threads regarding feminism, Orthodoxy, and the modern mindset have led me to ponder this one question: can I just be quiet? 
I attended an academically rigorous Catholic all-girls high school in the 80s, and feminism was in the very air we breathed. We were encouraged to try to “have it all,” to forge new ground for women, and not to worry about things like marriage or family. “We could do better,” we were all told. Career and achievement were viewed as the highest goal. As the valedictorian, I was expected to lead the charge, to do something great, to make a difference. Looking back 28 years later, I like to think I have indeed made a difference — but in a completely opposite way from what was expected. 
Fast forward to today: my husband and I have 7 children, and we homeschool. Our lives center around our Orthodox church, the liturgical cycle, educating our kids, and helping to care for our aging parents. My day is filled with a mixture of laundry, Curious George, the Prologue of Ohrid, geometry proofs, and proofing bread dough. It’s busy and crazy, and also deeply soul-nourishing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 
Except possibly in one way: Am I allowed to just be quiet? In Facebook discussions and the blog-o-sphere, everyone is clamoring to make themselves heard, to express their opinion and to say their piece. To have the last word and to definitively speak out. Feminism would dictate that I participate in this fray; that I be strident and out-spoken, upholding the Female Voice, and never backing down. However, I often want to choose a different path: that of just not arguing. It doesn’t mean that I lack an active interior life, or that 10 pregnancies have turned my brain into Mommy Mush; I just don’t feel the need to be strident anymore.
Some people accuse me of “wasting my education.” They look at me as a traitor to the cause of feminism, all because I choose to work willingly for the people who love me, rather than to work for money for people who don’t. Well, those gals can all fight it out among themselves. I reject the feminist paradigm. I’ll take my quiet Orthodox life any day over what the world has to offer. 
The world is not entitled to know, nor indeed does it benefit from knowing, my every thought on every subject. Especially as I grow in Orthodoxy, I think about saints who stayed silent in the face of accusation, who withdrew into silence and meditation, who stayed so humble and peace-seeking that they would even flee from visitors. There’s no need to argue
anymore with strangers on the Internet. I just want to be small and still. 
The world doesn’t want me to be small. It wants me, as a woman, to seek to enlarge my sphere of influence, to argue and strive and add to the clamor.
But as an Orthodox wife and mother, I just want to lead a quiet life. I want to focus on my soul, my marriage, my family, my home, my church, and my church family. A quiet corner, a patch of green garden, an icon corner to pray before, an apron to wipe my flour-covered hands on, and a rocker in which to read great books to my children: that’s all I need. That’s about it. A quiet life. That’s enough for me. Why can’t it be enough for the rest of the world? 
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  1. Quite frankly, I think this idea that one can't be an Orthodox Christian and a feminist is ridiculous! I am both, and who is someone else to judge? This idea that there is some virtue in hiding in some comfortable, soft, domestic bubble being submissive, non-questioning and "quiet" (meaning not using the talent God gave you nor waging spiritual warfare as it says we're supposed to in Scripture). That is an insult to the many women saints who were not Suzy Homemakers. What about women like St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Kassiani (who famously wrote I hate silence when it is time for speaking) or St. Mary of Paris? NONE of those women resembled some 1950s ideal of a housewife. They didn't hold back their opinions or talents…and thank the Lord they didn't! How about Mary of Bethany who preferred to be at the feet of Christ learning vs bustling about with domestic chores like her sister Martha? Let's we forget, Christ took her side over Martha. At any rate, feminism was a positive thing in many ways. Without feminism, women wouldn't have been able to get an education to learn to read and write, to have careers, to know when they're being treated unfairly. I cherish my right to vote, to have the job of my choice and be paid same as a man, to marry the man of my choice vs entering an arranged marriage. I also cherish the right to be able leave a job that is bad, to leave an abusive marriage, and yes, to decide whether or not to have children (meaning contraceptives, not abortion,I am pro-life.) But in the old days women had no say whatsoever in their lives and men took big-time advantage of it. As for this stuff re: feminists being loud and overly opinionated, what about the conservative women like Sarah Palin or Ann Coulter who are just as loud and opinionated? Is it ok for them to have an opinion because they're right of center vs left?

  2. The problem, my beloved anon, is that you look at the current paradigm from a non-historical and generally marxist lens, one of "the answer to everything is a power struggle", when in fact, it is not. Our survival as humans is predicated on what worked, and failed, in the past. And I will absolutely judge what worked and what didn't, and understand why, in a time in which everyone has forgot, again, what works and what is dangerous. There is no such thing as "feminism" or all the other "isms" they are all politically created terms for emotional manipulation and virtue signalling. Why? there is not one human who at one time or another, who doesn't consider such things as a matter of thought, or careful pondering of the world. Yet these terms are only used in a unidirectional way, that is, the very people using these terms do not apply them equally or with the same standard, thereby causing them to be fraudulent.

    The reason why shallow political ideas of power struggles and modern marxist movements that all involve egalitarianism are dangerous is because they deny any knowledge or reality of biology or history. We see that in the spinoff movements of LGBQT etc madness, which are a doubling down of silly-ness of the same flavor. These are the slippery slope of a godless society in which there is too much time to drive oneself crazy because he does not need to worry about survival, which of course won't last. How many women have been hurt by the suggestion that they can have it all, or lied to that they have a very finite biological window, only to wake up post 30s and find that the rapidly closing window might bring a life of a rocking chair with lots of cats at your side? That men would rather not work too, but do it for their purpose of being protectors, providers and leaders of their families, which all modern "feminist" movements want to destroy? They fail to see that by hurting men, they hurt women — big time. And for what? So they can have experiences in promiscuity while their value as mothers is at its highest? So they can give their chastity to men who don't want to stick around as proper fathers? Yes, the decision is theirs, they are the gatekeeper to this biological reality. Instead, they are shielded by society and governments to this day to NOT be accountable for their sexuality (medical technology, welfare programs diverting predominantly taxpayer money [read: taking men's money] to support a single mom, divorce as an easy way to get paid on the way out, when you don't like marriage anymore). This is the reason the society is in shambles.

    Before what you call "feminism" came along, and contrary to your point, men employed chivalry and deference to women and children because of the biological realities that were admitted by both sides: men are expendable and women and children valuable, which describes why each sex acts and reacts the way it does. They also (European cultures) educated their daughters, but with wisdom and a role in life. These women were treated better and did better than so many women do now, but you won't hear about it because it doesn't fit the narrative. Nor will you hear about how hard the average to lower tier man's life is — one of jailing, poverty, street begging, high risk work, homelessness, etc. No, feminists only focus on the upper 10% of men, those that "run the world," denying how awful life is for the rest of men, who have been forgotten. How convenient that women have the government and education helping them all the way, preferring them in many cases over the raised male youth. But anyone mentions that reality? Oh, forget about those losers, they are measly men. "Man up" to them!

  3. [continued]

    There are many nuances to the modern, shifty realities that the western world now entertains, but from an Orthodox perspective, if we are not careful and honest to our men and women, your girls and boys, about the truth of life, biology and history (salvation history and all) we are putting them down a perilous path.

    We have created a society with lots of weak men. Many of these weak men have been taught to have male characteristics but have XX chromosomes. A real "feminist" would strive for a harmonious life and promote feminine qualities, which have rapidly vanished in the modern world, not masculine ones for females.

    God made them male and female, not male and weak male.

    We can like it or not, but we have survived to this day precisely because the "patriarchy" works. We would do well to remind people that God is OUR FATHER, the husband is the leader and head of the family, and the realities of human life in terms of history and biology should be continually taught, NOT substituted by modern political movements. If we don't, more and more the world will change us (such as homosexuals and women trying via politics to enter clergy) to something non-Orthodox, as we have already seen around us in other "Christian" churches.

    The right understanding of orthodox is not coercive, not pro-male, or "anti-woman" or anything of the sort. It is the understanding of right practice and right teaching. "Feminism" or any such other modern political/subversive teaching has no place in our orthodox churches or life if we at least want to try to remain faithful.

    I am firm in my post here because so few ever are. It is necessary to combat the madness of (post)modernism.

  4. Thank you, First Anonymous. I have a brain. I like using it. And the historical reality is that until recently the way women were treated was, in a word, poor. I frankly enjoy not being chattel. I can not be chattel quietly, however. And I often am. The stereotype of the feminist as strident is pervasive. Sometiems just standing there, in my faith and unmoving, is enough.

  5. Thank you, Susan, for speaking when asked for this article. You have voiced my choices as well. I am a well-educated mother of five. My children are grown and I am very active in my community, but I don't want to argue about it. I want to live my life the way I believe I need to, try to be a blessing to those around me, and hope and pray that my life shouts louder than my words. God is love! That is the message I want to shout with my life, and that applies to the lives of women, children, black people, men, feminists, traditionalists, democrats, republicans … ALL people. I don't want to be an "…ist" I just want to be fully human and let God work through me as He wills.

  6. I thought for over a week about how I would make my post here, or if I even would do so. But, I felt should.

    I too, like others in the comment section, thank Susan for her insights in the article. I am grateful also to the faithful who run this blog and has the insight to share this article. It is so very important to our Orthodox community and the world to be able to see our healthy and spiritually thoughtful response to the chaotic and soul-damaging ideologies of the fallen world and culture.

    I too, like the author, reject the feminist paradigm; the worldly division and fractured sense of humanity that the world has to offer. I join my voice with a few of the commenters here, who like Susan, refuse to be part of those ideologies, mindsets, and way of life. We are Orthodox, our sole identity is Christ!

    I was mainly just saddened by the authority a few (anonymous) commenters have given to feminism in there own lives. I am saddened that the way of the world is more important than the anthropology of the Church. Its sad that politics would be allowed to define an Orthodox Christian's mindset or worldview. I'm saddened that secularism is imbedded in those mindsets.

    Feminism, as put forth today, isn't really compatible with Christianity at all. In the first, it is touted that the aim is for women to be equal with men. Yet, the hodgepodge ideology strains to explain this. What does equality mean? Having the same opportunities as men? This is a confusion with pure democracy. To be granted equality means making laws and voting. None of this has to do with virtue. Being a Feminist won't keep you from adultery. It's not against fornication. Birth control is a sin and yet Feminism demands this, a woman's body, a woman's choice. The grave massacre genocide of abortion is a "human right" according to feminism. This woman is sovereign over her body. Feminism doesn't demand a woman to be a good mother to her children. If the child is inconvenient, the woman should put her own needs and desires first, like a career or vacations and funtime. Feminism says "you should take care of you first, pamper yourself, take care of your own desires."

    When it comes down to it, feminism is a secular minded ideology that espouses the pov that women consider themselves first in order to grant the ability to create the situation in the world that they would have the same exact opportunities in all things as men.

    Its not ridiculous to eschew Feminism as an Orthodox Christian. In fact, it is good, very good to reject feminism as an Orthodox Christian. You cannot serve God and mammon. Political ideologies are mammon. We have our own way, following Christ! We are to be in the world, not of the world. I love the beautiful words of the poster above "Unknown": "I just want to be fully human and let God work through me as He wills."

    This is that quiet way that Susan spoke of, this is the Orthodox Way. Like others, I too say, this is enough for me!

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