In the seventies, Gloria Steinem famously quipped, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Then she and the rest of her feminist buddies set about to convince us of this idea. Sadly, we swallowed the bait. And now a whole generation of girls is being raised to believe that men are inconsequential, and that women can make it just fine without them.
Take the T-shirt a friend of mine spotted for sale in Target, for example. In large, garish print designed to splash across a girl’s developing breasts the T-shirt proclaims, “Who needs boys, I can WIN by myself!”
Just think about it for a moment. On the surface, the slogan seems to encourage a girl to develop a healthy self-respect and avoid getting enmeshed in dependent relationships. But there’s an underlying message here. The slogan insinuates that men are inferior, and that they are expendable. It fosters an unhealthy, independent, a-woman-needs-a-man-like-a-fish-needs-a-bicycle, type of attitude.
Honestly, what would you think would happen if Target started selling a boy’s shirt that spouted: “Who needs GIRLS, I can WIN by myself”? Can you imagine the outrage?
Power and Independence
Today’s young woman is taught to value personal power and independence. She can WIN! She doesn’t need men. Indeed, in order to truly win, she must do so without them. Men are the bad guys. They’re the ones who stand in the way of a woman reaching her full potential. They’re the optional and disposable piece in a woman’s life. Independence is the highly prized and sought after trait that will guarantee her success. So she approaches relationships with the resolve to retain her autonomy at all costs.
Even in Christian circles, we cultivate an attitude of independence in our girls. The underlying message is that women need to be independent because men are untrustworthy, and will almost certainly let them down.
But can a woman truly “win” in a world without men? Is she better off without ties to a godly father, uncle, cousin, husband, or brother? Will she succeed when she fiercely exerts her autonomy and regards and treats men as non-essential? Will this attitude actually enhance her relationships and her life?
I think not.
Independence versus Interdependence
God created the two sexes to be interdependent—not dependent, codependent, or independent. This is the case in marriage, and is also the case in the general way the sexes interact with one another. Scripture actually cautions us against adopting an independent attitude:
“In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman and all things come from God.” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)
God did not create male and female to operate independently. In this game called life, we’re players on the same team. We’re “heirs together of the grace of life.”
You will do your daughter a disservice if you teach her to be fiercely independent. It’s not a biblical perspective, and it’s not good for her. Yes, you should teach her to guard against unhealthy relationships, and not to look to men for her source of identity. But at the same time, you should be careful to teach her to respect men, to encourage and speak well of them, and to value and welcome the contribution that they can make to her life.
I understand that there are some scum-bags out there. I understand that your daughter may never get married. Or that her spouse might ditch her. Scripture provides an answer to these potential situations. It teaches that God has a special spot in His heart for women who don’t have dads or husbands. It promises that in such situations, He will be their father or husband.
We Need Each Other
Women need men. Even those who will never have a boyfriend or husband need men. Do not buy into culture’s idea that men are unnecessary. Do not teach your daughter to be independent of men. Do not teach her to devalue men and write them off as inconsequential to her life. We need men. We need them to be the fathers, brothers, husbands, protectors, providers, and heroes God created them to be. Being interdependent and having healthy relationships with males enriches a woman’s life. To truly “win”, women and men need to function interdependently.
It may be true that a fish doesn’t need a bicycle. But it doesn’t follow that women don’t need men. Gloria Steinem clearly got it wrong. After all, women aren’t fish, and men aren’t bicycles.
What do you think?
How does an attitude of independence negatively impact male-female relationships? Why do you think women fear losing their independence? How can women avoid becoming dependent, co-dependent, and independent, and foster a healthy interdependence instead?