Mounting the conservative case for working women

Women at home

The final episode of Leave it To Beaver aired in June of 1963, but many conservative Christians still promote a vision of womanhood reminiscent of June Cleaver. For these evangelicals, a woman's place in the world is to get married, bear children, and support her breadwinning husband.

Katelyn Beaty – the managing editor of Christianity Today, America's largest evangelical Christian publication – has set out to change this notion of gender, writes Jonathan Merritt at The Atlantic.

Her new book, A Woman's Place, claims to reveal "the surprising truth about why God intends every woman to work." This declaration may surprise many of her magazine's 80,000 print subscribers and five million monthly website visitors. And it may also rouse many of her fellow evangelicals who believe her ideas defy the Bible's clear teaching, if not qualifying as outright heresy. While Beaty knows criticism may be coming her way, she is making a conservative Christian case for working women.

"I'm wanting to tell wives and mothers that there is so much inherent goodness in the call to work and that we needn't pit certain types of roles against each other," Beaty said. "There are ways to be a devoted wife and mother and a devoted CEO. In the Church, we need to make space for women who feel called to both at the same time."

The 31-year-old Beaty wasn't always so outspoken about this idea. Three years ago, she broke off an engagement with her fiancé and was promoted to managing editor on the same day. With her dreams of marriage and motherhood sidelined at least temporarily, she embraced her leadership role. But Beaty said she has experienced some resistance as a result of her gender.

She once believed staying at home with children is a mother's "central call" but her thinking has changed.

In meetings with Christian men outside of the company, she often feels invisible. Sometimes it is as subtle as the way someone establishes eye contact; other times, she is blatantly ignored by her male peers. Beaty recalls attending a recent gathering with other Christian leaders in Kentucky where she was the only woman representing the evangelical viewpoint. As she and several male leaders stood in a circle chatting, another man entered the room and aggressively shook every attendee's hand – except hers. The man didn't even look at her.

"No one's explicitly said to me, 'I don't want to talk to you because you're a woman,' or 'I don't value your insights because you're a woman,'" she said. "It's all in body language and subconscious symbols of who has the power in a room and who doesn't."

In addition to experiencing the tensions many religious women face, Beaty was transformed by the fulfilment she discovered in her work. Before her promotion, Beaty said she would not have hesitated to quit a job if she got married and had children. She would have happily relegated the task of financial provision to her husband.

"If that were to come to pass now, I'd be more proactive in finding a workplace culture that supports, in actual policy, the perfectly good desire that women have to hold their jobs, take maternity leave, and be a mother," Beaty said.


The Conservative, Christian Case for Working Women (The Atlantic)

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