The Feminist Mistake: A Review, Part 3

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This is part three of what I was expecting to be a four-part review of Mary Kassian's The Feminist Mistake. I have decided to post what I've written of part three and then not continue, primarily because I have not been reading any more of this book for quite some time, and I need to limit my reading list down to something much more manageable given that I would like to finish my dissertation by the end of next summer. So I've decided not to finish this book in the foreseeable future. Here, then, is the last part of my series of reviews on this book, covering a few chapters into the third section.

The first two sections of this book cover what Kassian calls Naming Self and Naming the World, taking her cue from feminists' own language. The third section of the book turns to Naming God. The first chapter of the section starts off with a bang, detailing how feminists in the 70s and 80s insisted that all language about God that even reminded people of masculinity needed to go. This is one of the first places in the book where Kassian offers some criticism of the ideas she's been discussing. She rightly points out that much of the biblical imagery they wanted to remove reveals crucial elements of how God relates to humanity.

Her overall presentation of the views of those who favor inclusive language about God seems to me to be fair and accurate, as with previous chapters, and she supports her statements about what they say with plentiful quotations from the people she's discussing. It's more her evaluation that I find lacking. It's not that I disagree with her. I agree to some extent with her comments on how this sort of inclusive language robs the Trinity of its crucial elements and Christ of some fundamental features of his redeeming acts. I'm glad she's more critical here than she is in any of the previous chapters. I've been looking for more criticism the whole time. It's just that she didn't say much against some of the main premises of the argument for inclusive language about God. It's one thing to say what you think is wrong with a conclusion, but when you've just presented some arguments for that conclusion it's pretty strange to give a motivation why you wouldn't want that conclusion to be true without actually saying what's wrong with the arguments you just presented. She never does that.

Those arguments had assumed that people ought to derive their importance from whether their gender's pronouns are the ones used of God, a patently ridiculous notion for a theist. To a theist, people derive their importance from the creator's intent in creating them and from the intrinsic worth that derives from that instance of creation. They had assumed that male language for God requires the view that only males are created in God's image, something the very biblical texts in question refuse to allow. Genesis 1 says they were created in God's image, male and female, but the biblical pronouns for God are masculine. They had assumed that masculine language about God ever meant that God was himself masculine. They had assumed that Jesus couldn't have saved women if he hadn't been female as much as he had been male. It seems strange to me to challenge two results of this feminist strategy without challenging their foundation. It comes across as mere pragmatism if the only reason you oppose something is its results rather than the basic principles the arguments are based on.

That completes what I had written on the portion of the book I have read. Unfortunately for this series, I will not be writing more any time soon or perhaps at all. But I hope it gives a good enough sense of what this book is like.

Update: I found another paragraph I had written on this. It was going to be the introduction to my comments on the next few chapters in the book, only one of which I have so far read Here is what I wrote on the one chapter I did read:

Ch.13 reverts to the original format of simply presenting what feminists said about the topic, with no criticism. It depicts the origins of a women's spirituality movement tied to the political goals of feminism, deriving largely from Wiccan roots but welcoming any kind of spirituality not deemed patriarchal. This led not just to an abandonment of male language for God but a complete rejection of a personal God. Feminists said they conceived of 'God' as a verb rather than a noun, the process by which good comes about. The making of God into a mere impersonal force was not to remove gender from God, since this force was deliberately conceived as female. The ultimate destination of this feminist spirituality was self-worship. Women were told to keep mirrors in a spot in their home reserved for worship, where they could be reminded that they themselves are God, which means it wasn't really an impersonal divinity after all.

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