I just finished this book by Shirin Taber and I have way too many thoughts about it to just write a quick review in Goodreads.
This is a really interesting time in my life to be reading a book like this - a book to young Christian women about how to maintain balance in their life. I've recently been indirectly told that I'm not making Christ and spiritual things a priority, and it's true I'm not. That doesn't mean I'm not interested in those things or that I've suddenly become an atheist, but I think it's fair to say my worldview has changed in the last few years. I don't really have the desire to live the "church life" that I did in high school and college (where life revolved around bible studies, church, hanging out with people from church, etc). But I do have a desire to be spiritual and to learn and to not shut away God completely. So I gave this book a chance. The last "Christian" book I read before this was Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (which I enjoyed) but besides that I haven't read a book by a Christian author in a really long time.
First off I will say that I enjoyed this book much more than Captivating, and thought it was a lot more practical too. Captivating basically tells young women that we're all princesses longing for romance, an intimate relationship with God and with our husbands. Which is kinda true I guess, not the princess part but the longing for intimacy part. I felt that Captivating left so much out though. And while this book isn't all inclusive about women's desires (no book can be, really) it goes a little deeper than "find your inner princess" (IMHO).
I'll start off with the things I liked about it. First of all, it's culturally relevant. The culture wars are discussed, but this isn't a "be in the world but not part of the world" kind of book. This woman has lived and encourages other women to be culturally engaged too. She argues that women long for 7 things (again, not all inclusive of things women long for). The 7 things are: Significance, Beauty, Intimacy, Solitude, Financial Security, Legacy, and the Supernatural.
I found it really interesting, almost ironic, how in the chapter on Beauty, she was saying almost exactly the same things I just read in Female Chauvinist Pigs a few weeks ago. That women often confuse being "sexually liberated" (read, slutty) with true empowerment. It's kinda funny (in a good way) to me how two women with completely different worldviews and ways of life came to this same conclusion. She even quotes Ariel Levy (author of FCP) once! She also quotes Naomi Wolf's Beauty Myth several times. Haven't read it, but probably should since it's generally on every feminist "must read" list. So, common ground does exist between feminism and conservatism.
She talks at great lengths about feminism and "traditionalism," and this kinda leads into the things I DIDN'T like about the book - she often pits them against each other. And then (indirectly) claims that she has found the perfect harmony between the two. She makes sweeping generalizations about both. I can say that many of the claims against feminism are either not true or exaggerated (i.e. feminists don't think women should marry or have kids or that feminism is somehow mutually exclusive from honor and integrity). I don't know as much about women who considers themselves traditionalists, but I can only assume some of the claims she makes about them are not true as well.
Often times throughout the book I found subtle contradictory messages. For example, she mentions often that women can't "have it all" which isn't exactly a new claim, but then encourages women to not limit their dreams both in the home AND vocationally. She accuses baby boomers of raising our generation (the women she's writing to) "like boys." She doesn't think women should try to be "like men" but doesn't explain what that means exactly. One time she equates a "man's world" with money, sex, and power. Seems like a low opinion of men if you ask me(ironic as she accuses feminists of having a low opinion of men). Something I was particularly infuriated with was when she invoked statistics about educated women marrying later and having children later or not at all. And then went on to say, "If these statistics don't unerve you and you're still hopeful your little straight A daughter will snag a great guy sooner or later, let me warn you it may be a lot harder for her than it was for you."
Umm.. so what, we want our daughters to be smart but not TOO smart? Maybe As and Bs is ok, but not straight As?? I didn't get straight As that often, but on the rare occasion that I did, I'm sure as hell glad I didn't hear "Well that's great Kim, but maybe you should take it down a notch. Boys don't like women who are smarter than them." It's all kind of odd to me especially since the author is actually very well educated (and also married with kids).
Another downfall of the book is that I feel it's marketed towards a very narrow segment of women. She specifically says the book isn't for women over 35 which is ok, but I often got the feeling that she was also only writing to those of us with college degrees who went to liberal arts schools. Even though this applied to me I think other women will have a harder time relating or will just feel excluded all together and not give the book a chance.
Another dislike is that the Intimacy chapter dealt with mostly female friendships and other support systems, which isn't bad, but there was no discussion of the need for sexual intimacy. Sex was rarely discussed, and I feel that's kind of an important thing especially for women in 18-35 category. (not that it isn't important for other age groups, but I feel like it should've been discussed more in a book about things that are important to 18-35 year old women).
What I did like (I know I'm very back and forth)was how unlike some Christian authors she admits there's no formula for living. And even though God's Word doesn't change, she doesn't see anything wrong with the fact that culture changes and women in particular are changing the way that we live our lives. This book, like a lot of books says that relationships not things are the key to happiness. Kinda hard to argue with that. I guess the major thing I got out of this book was that there are people (Christians, even!) who don't see life in black and white but also solidified my opinion that women, and Christian women in particular, are often given contradictory messages. But to be fair to the author, this wasn't a "how to be a good Christian woman" but rather a book that will start conversations. And lookee, here I am having a conversation with myself :)
I like that she seems to thinks husbands and wives should work together so that they can both achieve their dreams and value their families and that this might not happen by the husband working 9-5 and the wife staying home to raise children. If anything, this book makes me want to communicate more with Greg just about life in general and also work on building the relationships with other people that are in my life. Some might be disappointed that it doesn't make me want to start going to church every week and become BFF with all the women there who are my age (that's not to say I'm 100% opposed to it either though). It does though make me want a "spiritual, balanced, & fulfilled life" (the book's subtitle) so I guess despite it's flaws, the author achieved what she set out to do.