Is American femininity dying?

by John Holbrook Jr.
A Biblical View, posted March 20, 2017

Since femininity is a somewhat ephemeral term, I should start by defining what I mean by it. It is a blend of ingredients like comeliness, compassion, delicacy, dignity, generosity, gentleness, girlishness, grace, humility, modesty, mystery, poise, reticence, sensitivity, and strength of character. I know it when I see it. I know when I don’t see it. I didn’t see much of it on January 21, 2017.

Like many Americans on the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the U.S.A., I turned on the TV to observe millions of women marching in cities and towns across the country to preserve women’s rights, which they felt were somehow imperiled by the failure of Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election.[1] As I watched, I noted that the crowds in these demonstrations consisted mostly of middle and upper class women – certainly the most privileged group of women in the history of planet Earth. Wearing hats, coats, slacks, and boots to protect themselves from inclement weather and standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, they watched, listened to, and applauded prominent women in the movement accusing, blathering, complaining, cursing, defaming, insulting, and screaming,[2] all the while gesticulating to drive home their points. I was appalled by the incivility and ugliness on display and I realized that I was witnessing the death throes of femininity in America.

I suddenly remembered a  rather wonderful, contrasting event that occurred over 80 years earlier – in an era in which femininity still flourished (although disturbing signs had already appeared on the horizon). The person involved was Miss Catherine Wood (1914-1983), a twenty year old young woman in her junior year at Agnes Scott College. The occasion was a prohibition rally in a little town near Atlanta, Georgia.  The rally featured three speakers: Miss Wood, a young man from Emory College, and the Rev. Dr. Peter Marshall (1902-1949), a local minister of Scottish descent who was becoming known for the quality of his preaching, whom Catherine would marry in 1936, not long after her graduation from college, and who would eventually become the famous Pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. and Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. The audience at the rally consisted mostly of local farming families, but also included some young men and women in their late teens and early twenties.

In her 1951 book, A Man Called Peter,[3] Mrs. Catherine Wood Marshall referred to the rally, but she omitted the text of the speech which she delivered that day. She probably gave it extemporaneously and never wrote it down. In the 1955 movie, “A Man Called Peter,” however, which starred Richard Todd as the Rev. Dr. Marshall and Jean Peters as Miss Wood, the prohibition rally is portrayed in some detail. What follows is the text of the speech which Miss Peters delivered at the rally. Since Mrs. Marshall was a consultant to the producers and director of the movie, it probably gives a reasonably accurate indication of the tenor of her remarks. Here is what she said.

<As she climbed onto the back of a truck, clothed in a modest, but pretty dress, she was greeted with whistles and cat-calls from the boys>

 If that’s because I’m a girl, thank you boys.

 And now, if you’ll let me, I’d like to talk, as a girl, to the girls here this afternoon. I know, if you boys will listen, they’ll listen too. And I’m just as sure that the only reason they’ve been just as rude and silly as you’ve been is because they have the mistaken idea that you wanted them to be.

 I never thought much about being a girl until two years ago, when I learned from a man [4] what a wonderful thing it is to be a woman. Until that Sunday morning, I considered myself lucky to be living in the twentieth century, the century of progress and emancipation, the century when supposedly we women came into our own. But I’d forgotten that the emancipation of woman really began with Christianity, when a girl, a very young girl, received the greatest honor in history. She was chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the world. And when her son grew up and began to teach His way of life, He ushered woman into a new place in human relations. He accorded her a dignity she’d never known before and crowned her with such glory that down through the ages she was revered, protected, and loved. Men wanted to think of her as different from themselves – better, made of finer, more delicate clay.

 It remained for the twentieth century, the century of progress, to pull her down from her throne. She wanted equality. For nineteen hundred years, she had not been equal. She had been superior. To stand equal with men, naturally she had to step down. Now, being equal with men, she has won all their rights and privileges: the right to get drunk; the right to swear; the right to smoke; the right to work like a man, to think like a man, to act like a man. We won all this, but how can we feel so triumphant when men no longer feel as romantic about us as they did about our grandmothers, when we’ve lost something sweet and mysterious, something as hard to describe as the haunting, wistful fragrance of violets.

 Of course, these aren’t my original thoughts. They’re the thoughts I heard that Sunday morning, but from them some thoughts of my own were born, and the conclusion [I] reached [is] that somewhere along the line we women got off the track.

Poets have become immortal by remembering on paper a girl’s smile, but I’ve never read a poem rhapsodizing over a girl’s giggles at a smutty joke, or I’ve never heard a man brag that his sweetheart or his wife could drink just as much as he and become just as intoxicated. I’ve never heard a man say that a girl’s mouth was prettier with a cigarette hanging out of it, or that her hair smelled divinely of stale tobacco.

<Here she was interrupted by applause and cheers>

I’m afraid that’s all I have to say. I’ve never made a speech before.

<As she stepped off the back of the truck, she was saluted by more applause and cheers>

Now back to January 21, 2017. I pray that the women who either participated in the marches or wish they had done so will pause and (a) think carefully about the cause that they are espousing, (b) look carefully at the champions of that cause, and (c) consider whether the success of the current women’s movement will enhance or degrade the quality of life for themselves, their families, and American society.

The cause

Exactly what are the rights for which so many women are now clamoring? The “right to dress as I please” sounds innocuous enough. Does it or should it include the right to dress immodestly without being blamed for the unwelcome response which such attire invites and inevitably produces? The “right to choose” also sounds innocuous. Does it or should it include the right to engage in sexual behavior with any man, woman, or child whom you choose? Does it or should it include the right to kill the child in your womb [5] without the interference of your parents or the child’s father – let alone the state – all of whom bear responsibility for protecting you and your progeny? The “right to child care” may sound reasonable. Does it or should it include the right to receive government (read taxpayer) subsidies with which to pay other women to perform maternal tasks for you while you pursue a career? The “right to equal employment and pay” sounds reasonable. Does it or should it include equal pay and promotion even if your family responsibilities prevent you from expending as much time and effort on your work as your peers. Does it or should it include the right to obtain any job that a man can do, even if your lack of fitness for it puts the men around you at risk? [6]

The champions

Exactly who are the champions of the current women’s movement? They strike me as a group of very unhappy women who want other women to share their misery and negative outlook on life. I feel sorry for them, but I want to ask the women in their audience, “Are they really the kind of women you want to follow?” I am struck by the contrast between them and Mrs. Catherine Wood Marshall. They have abandoned their femininity and speak about masculine men as their enemy. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Marshall devoted the remainder of her life to urging other women to revel in their gender and enjoy its prerogatives, to cultivate femininity in themselves and their daughters, and to encourage masculinity in their husbands and sons. She did so while exhibiting genuine femininity.


Exactly what would the success of the so-called women’s movement look like? Might it be a world of manly women and womanly men? Might it be a world in which men and women compete in every arena of life – i.e. in the home, in the church, in government, in the military, in the work place, on the athletic field, etc. That is a far cry from the relationship between men and women which their Creator intended for them.  He designed them to complement one another in body, mind, and spirit and also to delight in one another. As the French say, “Vive la difference!” Calling for the opposite is not only destructive, but also an extreme form of rebellion against God and his design for Universe.

Relevant here is the biblical view of success. The word “success” appears only once in the Bible, where the Lord admonishes Joshua: “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein. For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” [7] True success has absolutely nothing to do with making a lot of money, giving a lot of money away, exercising a lot of power and influence, accumulating a lot of friends or  possessions, achieving a lot in some field of the arts and sciences, or receiving a lot of public recognition for the foregoing. It has everything to do with living a quiet life that honors God and his commandments, utilizes the unique gifts which God has given to one, pours out one’s love and assistance to others less fortunate than oneself, and spreads the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom God has made the sole mediator between himself and mankind.[8]

In conclusion, I pray that American Femininity’s tombstone does not bear the message “Died on January 21, 2017. May she R.I.P.” Rather I hope that she rises to flourish again – and for as long as America endures.

© 2017 John Holbrook Jr.


[1] Lest the reader believes that, by winning the popular vote, Mrs. Clinton was owed the election, I urge him or her to do some research. The founders of the U.S.A. despised pure democracy (rightly, I think) and established a constitutional republic. They wanted to ensure that a few populous states would not have the ability to elect the president on their own, thereby essentially disenfranchising the less populous states. Hence the founders created the electoral college, in which the electoral power of the most populous states is significantly reduced.

[2] Much of this haranguing easily fell in the category of hate-speech.

[3] Marshall, Catherine Wood, A Man Called Peter – The Story of Peter Marshall, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York NY, 1951.

[4] The man, of course, was the Rev. Dr. Marshall, who throughout his life gave many eloquent sermons on the profound differences between men and women and the nature of a healthy, God-centered marriage.

[5] God’s Word identifies children as blessings and as his gifts – e.g. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Psalm 127:3). Imagine his distress and anger over their intentional destruction.

[6] I use plain language here to reveal the reality that is concealed by euphemisms like the “right to dress as I please,” the “right to choose,” the “right to use my body as I like,” the “right to equal employment and pay,” the “right to child care,” etc.

[7] KJ21 Joshua 1:8.

[8] 1 Timothy 2:5.

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