Feminism, Chivalry and Violence

Today we are being confronted with more domestic violence, and more angst
about what to do about it. Increasingly it is being claimed that gender equality is the
key to ending the scourge of violence against women. Feminists have become strident
that the solution to this sexual violence is to be found in gender equality. In order to
achieve this, in 2018 and 2019 some 39 Australian universities solemnly signed up to
what has become the Respect and Equality Program. Its aim is to deliver enhanced
workplace standards, training packages, resources and toolkits for leaders, staff and
students to promote equality and prevent violence. As Catriona Jackson has declared:
‘If gender inequality is the core of the problem, it (is) also the heart of the solution.’
Natasha Stott Despoja, who once sat in the Australian Senate, has argued this case in
her recent book, On Violence.

When the Southern Baptist Churches in the USA were rocked in February
2019 by stories of scandal and abuse, there were those who had a ready solution.
Writing for the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof charged the Southern Baptists with
rape, and concluded: ‘An all-male clergy is part of the problem.’ Susan Shaw,
Professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Oregon State University –
apparently to be regarded as a real subject with educational value – accuses
evangelical theology of supporting a culture of abuse. In so doing, she claims that it
resembles Catholic theology. The mantra is that unless male and female roles are
totally interchangeable, men will abuse women. Hence women should be seen in
equal numbers to men on corporation boards, parliaments, the media, and any other
corridor of power. Achieve this and men will treat women with respect – so the story

If one repeats the paradigm often enough, it becomes a kind of sociological
law, and it is heresy to question it. One fears that the road to equality will be paved
with coercion. Yet it does not seem biblical nor does it seem to connect very
obviously with reality. There is an alternative paradigm to examine. The apostle Peter
refers to women as ‘the weaker vessel’ (1 Pet.3:7), which hardly seems promising.
Whatever could he mean? He could not be referring to the intellect or to the spiritual
life, for that is clearly not true. In Adam, there is a rough equality in sin (Rom.3:10- 12) –                            which does not mean that every sin is equal. In Christ, there is an equality in
redemption: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is
neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal.3:28) – which does
not mean that all tasks are open to men and women..

To the feminist, equality means functional sameness; to the Bible, equality
means respect for God-given differences. The word ‘chivalry’ is not found in the
Bible, but the idea is not far from the kingdom. Whereas the Qur’an allows Muslim
husbands to ‘scourge’ disobedient wives (Qur’an 4:34), the apostle Peter tells
Christian husbands to treat their wives ‘in an understanding way’ and show them
honour (1 Pet.3:7). Most men are bigger and stronger than most women. The vast
majority of women athletes cannot compete with male athletes – which is not to say I
would want to play tennis against Venus Williams. For all the exceptions, the
differences are obvious. The child-bearing capacity of the woman is yet another
indicator of the physical and physiological differences between the sexes.

The solution to domestic violence does not seem to be advanced by jumping
on the feminist bandwagon. In 1940 C. S. Lewis saw where society was heading, and
wrote: ‘Chivalry offers the only possible escape from a world divided between
wolves who not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make
life desirable.’ This has been reflected, in a general albeit imperfect, way in history.
Geneva was a decadent town of little more than 10,000 people when Calvin arrived in
1536. Holding to what today would be called complementarian views of gender
relations, Calvin preached and prayed for renewal. Scott Manetsch has found that
from 1542 to 1609 (well after Calvin’s death in 1564) over 25% of all suspensions
from the Lord’s Supper were to do with public quarrels and domestic disputes,
including the abuse of wives, the neglect of children and the ill-treatment of servants.
It did not take militant agenda-driven feminists to tell the Church that domestic
violence was wrong. Calvin was able to read his Bible. Men are meant to be both
valiant and gentle, and indeed the sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox has found many
practising Protestant fathers and husbands to be ‘soft patriarchs’.

The feminist ‘solution’ is a pretence which, defying God and reality, will
collapse in on itself. Hollywood stars who are vocal in support of virtually any
debased lunacy and who walk the red carpet dressed in clothes designed to be
sexually alluring, have initiated a #MeToo campaign, which is full of self-righteous
bluster and little else. They do not oppose the Harvey Weinstein culture; they are a
component part of it. G. K. Chesterton always managed to turn things on their head:
‘Feminism is against chivalry,’ he wrote, ‘but chivalry will always be rather in favour
of feminism.’