A Response to “Free to Be Feminist?” by Dr. McGowan
The following post (of which I am providing only excerpts) reminds me of this last one I did, “The Shifting Goal Posts of Complementarianism Show How Bankrupt It Is.“
When complementarians begin losing the debate, they move the goal posts, and they’ve done this several times over the years.
In their post, “Free to Be Feminist?,” Bill and Sue Trollinger rightly point out how fundamentalist/evangelical rhetoric regarding female subjugation changed in the 1960s and 70s following the inroads made by second-wave feminism.
Rather than argue women are subservient to men as a result of the Fall (per Gen. 3:16), evangelicals began to argue that female subservience was rooted in God’s original design for creation. If male headship is rooted in God’s design, then feminism is a rejection of and rebellion against that divine design.
[The author discusses how, over time, Christians have changed their justifications for “male headship” and complementarianism generally]
…But there’s additional insight to be gained about fundamentalist rhetoric by considering it in an even broader historical framework. The fact of the matter is that, until the mid-20th Century, the argument for patriarchy within Christianity was predicated upon the assumption that women were, in their very nature, deficient.
That is, compared to men, women lacked intelligence, were emotionally unstable, and were more subject to temptation. As a result of this fundamental deficiency, women should be subject to men—in the home, in the church, and in the world.
[Snip many examples cited by the author of early church fathers that say that women are inferior to men]
….These [sexist quotes by early church fathers] are but a few examples of the near-universal agreement of Christian teachers through the centuries that women are biologically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually inferior to men—what Witt calls “an inherent ontological incapacity.”
That is to say, until the mid-20th Century, the standard reasoning about the relation of the sexes was that women are subject to men due to their natural inferiority.
Of course, for many reasons such reasoning ceases to be viable today.
So, the Christian “traditionalists”, including fundamentalists/evangelicals, have shifted their rhetoric. Now women’s subjection is rooted in the order of creation, the language of a couple of Pauline epistles, and, for some, the Trinity itself.
You can read more of that here