This book review was written by Kristen Meyers and Erika Phelan, members of Veritas Church.
Eve in Exile
And the Restoration of Femininity
By Rebekah Merkle
Timely, Tough, Transforming
The Wilson family has a reputation for painfully hard, and immensely helpful words. Eve in Exile: And the Restoration of Femininity, by oldest daughter Rebekah Merkle, is no different. If you are a woman interested in studying through the historical roots of our modern day feminism, this is a must read.
Released in a tempestuous political climate and on the heels of feminist protests such as the recent “Women’s March on Washington,” Eve in Exile takes an informed and intelligent look at feminism’s long and colorful roots, and its effects on modern day America.
Merkle writes, “The place where we are standing right now, in a country that says Bruce Jenner is the best woman there is, a country that demands grown men must be allowed to walk into little girls’ locker rooms alongside of them, a country that is slaughtering the next generation by the millions, a country that thinks two men is pretty much the same thing as a man and a woman- this is what a country looks like when selfish women have won every single battle they have fought.”
The Recent Feminist Farce
In a quote from their event page on Eventbrite, the Women’s March calls American women together in protest: “The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us women…” They go on to list other “minority” groups who they feel are also threatened by our current political climate. Their answer to their feeling of oppression (though not representative of every woman at every march around the country) was to dress up in vulgar costumes, or undress, and loudly march around. They carried signs with obscene and perverse language, some women with their daughters in tow. They demanded to be shown respect and given the continued right to “reproductive freedom.” I wonder if any child present found the irony in holding mom’s right hand while her left hand held up the Planned Parenthood rhetoric? Their stated battle cry is “Freedom & Equality” but the subtext is “abort and abandon.”
Women do not need to adopt a feminist viewpoint to achieve equality with men, because we are already equal. God said so. Equality and sameness do not always co-exist. Look at the sun and the moon. God made us equal. We have the Bible to prove it, so we needn’t look elsewhere.
Feminine: Fierce, Not Foul, Never Fragile.
Somewhere along the way, a large number of women in America have decided that their opinion on things represents all of us. Merkle writes, “The swooning ladies of the Victorian Age and the suburban housewives of the 1950’s genuinely needed to be liberated. That much is indisputable.” We would agree with the feminists on that point. However, the answer as to what women need to be liberated to is where the Christian and the feminist must part ways. And, if you are among those who have taken to calling yourself both a Christian AND a feminist, then I fear you are insufficiently informed as to the meaning of one or the other.
Eve in Exile poignantly reminds Christian women that contrary to popular national belief, real strength doesn’t actually lie in domination and abandonment, or in brashness and vulgarity. Real strength and true liberation may lie in just doing exactly what we were lovingly created to do. But for women to love and embrace God’s beautiful design, they first must understand what that design is and what it is not. This is where Merkle’s writing is brilliant. Eve in Exile is both an accurate picture of feminism and biblical femininity. Many have often been duped (or have duped themselves) into thinking that God’s design for women is as simple as “shut up, wear long skirts, have babies, and bake bread.” Which incidentally would put me in an awkward spot at the moment, as I sit here writing, wearing jeans and eating my delicious gluten free protein bar. Merkle also doesn’t make the mistake of over-application. Nowhere does she say, “this is an exact picture of what a Christian woman looks like: here is what she wears, this is her swimsuit, this is what she cooks, this is what time she applies lipstick before her husband comes home, these are her hobbies (which of course include only sewing and nothing masculine that involves the outdoors, lifting weights or studying theology).” God’s distinct, freeing, and beautiful design for women is laid out in Merkle’s writing and because she trusts that the women reading are every bit as intelligent, strong, and creative as she is, she leaves it to the reader to trust the Lord and study the Scriptures to learn how to express His perfect design in her own life.
The Hypocrisy of the Feminist Idolization of Man
As Merkle wisely points out, at the heart of feminism lies discontent. Somewhere along the line, feminist women decided it was more valuable to be male than female. They are literally at war with their own biology. “Feminists are feminine like cannibals are chefs,” says Christian writer Peter Kreeft. They destroy their own.
Several weeks ago a female journalist made the comment that “Women should not have to be inconvenienced by their biology as a result of sex because men are not biologically inconvenienced by sex.” But, as a wise doctor once told me, “The world’s not fair. Women are the ones who have the babies and that’s just how it is!” For a woman to hate her own body to the point of murdering her offspring simply because she thinks she should be able to live the same life a man can live is not noble, it’s an insane lie. A woman will never be able to live the same as a man, think the same as a man, or speak the same as a man – because she simply is not a man.
The chaos resulting from our gender-confused culture has actually been diagnosed as a mental disorder. Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital said that transgenderism is a “mental disorder” requiring treatment and that sex change is “biologically impossible.” The suicide rate for people who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery is 20 times higher than the suicide rate of non-transgender people. While some claim the suicide rate must be a result of the discrimination transgendered individuals must endure, 70-80% of people who undergo reassignment surgery “spontaneously lost those feelings” after surgery. To fight against your own biology is self-destructive.
What Are You Fighting For?
Eve in Exile presents a beautiful challenge to Christian women to love their distinctly female biology and to vigorously defend it because in doing so, we are defending humanity. G.K. Chesterton said “The true warrior fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
In the first portion of her book, Merkle lays out the sad details of the lives of pioneering feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Affairs, suicide, loveless relationships, illegitimate children… The story is heartbreaking. And it begs the question: Why all the fighting? What are we fighting for? The “right” to have a one-night stand and not get judged for it the way we think a man doesn’t? The “right” to cohabitate and then (if we’re lucky enough to convince the man we’re with to marry us) enjoy a 60% divorce rate? The “right of biological sameness” has caused women to put themselves in loveless relationships purely for a man’s sexual use, only to be discarded over and over. It’s hard to see the “liberation” in any of it.
If you are a Christian woman, there are certainly things to be angry about as we look around at the wasteland that is our culture. We ought to be angry about the slaughter of millions of precious baby girls and boys. We ought to be angry at the destructive lies that are being fed to our sisters and daughters under the guise of “reproductive rights”. You can even be angry that the boss said that holding down a 9-5 was more challenging or worthwhile than helping to shape a tiny human life. But the response is not to start painting venomous signs, or even attacking the people who believe all these things. The challenge that Merkle gives is: be fiercely female.
Feminist Lies & their Fruit in the Home
Before we had our first child, I worked as a legal secretary. I had a wonderful boss and was very thankful for my time there, but when I left my job to have my baby, he sent me a letter. In it he wrote “I can’t wait to see what you take on in the future and I do expect you to take on a more challenging role than the one you are currently planning for.” More challenging than the nurturing of a human being? More challenging than being responsible for the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical state of another – all while you’re sleep deprived? Although my boss meant well, he was sorely misinformed by our feminist culture that the life of a stay at home mom is an unchallenging one. It’s true that it is the job that can become mundane, as any job can. But any job can also be done well or poorly. It can be done with all the love, creativity, intellect and energy that can be poured into the most exciting career. Or caring for children and a home can be done in a way that communicates, “I am just trying to survive and I don’t care much about what I am doing at all.”
This is where Merkle’s writing can be transformative. She dissects the primary reasons homemakers have fallen into depression, laziness and purposelessness in their work. (And here’s a hint: it isn’t because they’ve been biologically doomed to a life of misery and boredom.) As society advanced and it wasn’t necessary to go pluck a chicken’s feathers and then fry it up for dinner, women began to feel less and less valuable. Here enters the feminist with the false remedy: “You’re bored because your work here at home is never going to be as challenging or fulfilling or intellectually stimulating as becoming a secretary or as going to school to become a dental hygienist.” The truth was this: Women were being fed the lie (sometimes even from within the church) that they exist to please men. This led to extreme despair. The statistics Merkle gives on depression medications taken by homemakers is heartbreaking. Man does not make a good god.
We exist for the glory of God. Merkle boldly challenges women to embrace that truth, love their calling and excel in it.
Merkle writes, “There are women who technically get stuff done but they aren’t really working hard either. Maybe they’re moms at home and their day is spent on Facebook in their sweats, putting some stuff in the dishwasher, dropping dinner in the crockpot, going to the park and chatting with friends for a couple hours, home for naps and more Facebook, fold some laundry, end of story. Stuff got done, yes. But not exactly challenging, difficult, fulfilling work.” Instead, we must see that we are in the same boat spiritually with the men. We have been entrusted with much and we are expected to get a return on our investment. “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).
Causing us to see through spiritual eyes what it is we are actually doing each day, Eve in Exile emboldens women to serve the Lord with joy and to run hard. “Imagine a woman who aims to get through all her housekeeping jobs as fast as possible so that she can enjoy her afternoons at the gym or on Facebook or whatever. That’s a woman who will be looking for every corner she can possibly cut – from what recipes she picks to the kind of furniture she buys. She is acting like an employee fulfilling the duties that were prescribed by another – and as long as she tags the bases, no one can complain or ding her on her performance evaluation. Now imagine another woman who is owning her job as a housewife, who is convinced that it is a culturally transformative work, and who sees the scope of her work as absolutely vast. Those are two women who are approaching nearly every task completely differently, and they will achieve very different things.”
She tells us to own our jobs and to stop acting like a victim. This is truly liberating!
In conclusion, read this book! If you are a Christian, you need to know how to discuss feminism with your friend at the liberal college campus. If you are a mom, you need encouragement that your work is yours, given to you by a good God who is with you to help you. If you are single, you need to see the glory of God in being distinctly female. Are you feeling oppressed, insignificant, or hopeless even, and you believe things would be different if you had been given a different biology? Grab a Bible. Read the creation account. Then order yourself a copy of Eve in Exile. You will thank God for making you beautifully and wonderfully in His image and fiercely female.