In this segment of “Getting Up To Speed,” leading scholar Dr. Julia Wood joins Tim and Rick to discuss the topic of feminism. They discuss the three waves of feminism, key figures and prominent issues in each wave as well as common misperceptions, including debunking the emblematic act of bra-burning in the second wave. They highlight where Christians have historically supported feminist movements and which features of feminism might have found support from Jesus. It’s good practice to get clear on what we’re talking about, and this surely is the case with feminism when the tendency is to caricature or to conflate feminist viewpoints. This is part 1 of a 2-part conversation with Dr. Julia Wood on feminism.


Julia Wood: A lot of the institutions in society that are supposed to protect people are not doing that for people of color, for women, for other minorities. And that's where you have again, the structural issue, it's not personal, though of course it feels very personal, but it's not only personal. It is rooted in structures that allow these inequities to keep happening.

Rick Langer: Hi, my name is Rick Langer and I'm a professor at Biola University in the Department of Biblical Studies and Theology. And I'm also the Director of the Office of Faith and Learning. We'd like to welcome into the Winsome Conviction podcast, which I co-host with my colleague, Tim Muehlhoff. Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff: It is great to have you guys listening. We've done a segment in the past called coming up to speed. We did one on politics with Dr. Joy Qualls. That seemed to make sense as we were heading into an election year. And then we brought in the Reverend James White, an old friend of mine, to bring us up to speed on race. Today we're going to tackle a topic that people talk about, certainly the phrase isn't new, but wonder what it's all about and that would be feminism. One of the treats of this, Rick is you get to bring on guests that you kind of knock it off your bucket list. And this is our guest today is Dr. Julia Wood. Dr. Wood taught at UNC Chapel Hill for 38 years. Her focus was on personal relationships, intimate partner violence, feminist theory, and the intersections of gender, communication and culture. She has written or edited over 20 books and 70 articles on these topics.

Tim Muehlhoff: For me, two books stand out. One, Communication Theories and Action and Introduction. I've used that book, Rick ever since I've taught communication theory. I think it's one of the finest introductions to communication theory. And then my all time favorite book that our guest has written is called Gendered Lives, Communication, Culture, and Gender. It is in its 13th edition. It is one of the finest textbooks I've ever come across. And no, I'm not getting a kickback to say any of this.

Tim Muehlhoff: But Dr. Wood has also written groundbreaking articles in journals. One of them was Telling Our Stories, narratives as a basis for theorizing sexual harassment. This was long before the Me Too movement, but Dr. Wood realized that this is happening within our discipline and needs to be addressed. She also wrote an article, the Normalization of Violence in Heterosexual Romantic Relationships, women's narratives of love and violence. She also wrote an article Monsters and Victims, male felons accounts of intimate partner violence. Listeners know I've been teaching self-defense at domestic violence shelters, here in Orange County, and Dr. Woods insights have been invaluable.

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, her work has garnered attention, no doubt. She has earned over 30 honors. I think I've earned one. So 30 honors and awards for her work, including the Council for Advancement and Support for Education Award, for Professor of the Year at North Carolina, Gender Scholar of the Year, and George H. Johnson Prize for lifetime achievement. However, her greatest claim to fame.

Rick Langer: I can't wait to hear this. Go ahead Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff: Rick, her greatest-

Rick Langer: Her greatest claim to fame. I'd like to hear it. Go ahead.

Tim Muehlhoff: Claim to fame is she was my Emmy thesis director and my dissertation director for my time, all my graduate education was at UNC Chapel Hill and in our last book, Rick, with some convection, I dedicated my section to the three people have taught me the most about education and Dr. Julia Wood was at the top of the list. So it's so fun to be able to introduce a scholar, an activist, a friend for over 20 years, Dr. Julia Wood, welcome to our podcast.

Julia Wood: Well, thank you. Thank you for being my greatest achievement, Tim. It's really an honor to be with you.

Rick Langer: It's a dirty job, but somebody had to do it, right?

Julia Wood: Yep. It's true.

Tim Muehlhoff: No, Julia, it has been such a treat to be under your tutelage and you are this amazing scholar that just doesn't keep it in the classroom, but your activism, your volunteering is really a model for us in higher education. And we're just honored, we know that you're retired, we're just absolutely honored that you'd be part of our small little podcast and help with this topic. So sincerely, thank you.

Julia Wood: Well, thank you for inviting me. This is fun for me to talk about things that I'm passionate about.

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, we thought we'd start with a simple question, but one that really needs to be asked, how would you define feminism?

Julia Wood: That's a great starting point. I mean, there are so many definitions of it, but the word literally means a political stance about women. And what it means to me is that I believe that all living beings deserve respect and equal treatment. So I've never understood why it's such a devilish thing for some people to embrace that for instance, men and women are equal. And I think that's the core of feminism as I understand it.

Tim Muehlhoff: Boy, that's tremendous. And wouldn't you add to this, I read in your book, Gendered Lives, you said in its broadest definition, it's also an opposition to oppression?

Julia Wood: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because once you accept equality among living beings, then you're not going to oppress one another. You can't, once you decide they're your equals.

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh, that's great. Julia, one thing that I learned, and again, I'll confess my ignorance and I think this is why this is just a great topic, is I was a mature follower of Jesus when I came to UNC Chapel Hill and I had read broadly on certain issues, but when you, in your class that I was a TA, talked about the three waves of feminism, I will just confess my utter ignorance that here I was as a mature Christian, but I did not know about the three waves. And so we would love for you to kind of bring us up to speed on the three waves. So concerning the first wave, would you explain that a little bit, the waves and then who are the major figures we should know about when it comes to the first wave and then maybe even sprinkle in Seneca Falls?

Julia Wood: Okay. The first wave is dated. Well, first of all, when most people think about feminism, if they do at all, they think about the 1960s and beyond, but that was really the second wave. And there was a whole century of activism and effort for equality before that. The first wave started in about 1840 as some women were realizing that they had no voice in the life of their country, their communities, they had no property rights and so forth, and that they needed to have the vote in order to have those rights. So in 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention happened. And that was the convention at which women and some men there were about a third of the people who signed this Seneca Falls Convention who signed onto it were men, but it was for the right to vote, to own property and so forth.

Julia Wood: But it was interesting because at Seneca Falls, they took the Declaration of Independence, which says starts off, "All men are created equal." And they say, "We believe that all men and women are created equal." And so that was the beginning of the Declaration of Sentiments that was the key document there. And then it took 70 some years after that convention in 1848 for women to actually get the right to vote, which they did in 1920. And so by 1925, we say it's pretty much the end of that first wave.

Julia Wood: Now let me say one other thing, the key issues in the first wave were basic civil rights, so the right to vote, the right to have higher education to have access to it and the right to own property. Once women married prior to this, once women married, they lost their property rights because they belonged to their husbands just as the women did. So that's where the key issues in the first wave.

Rick Langer: Back to the theme of Tim and I's ignorance on these things, how standard, so to speak where the property rights and things like that in the states? Because when I think of the United States before civil war, kind of times, it seemed more federal in the sense of states having greater autonomy and differences. How was that relative to the various civil rights that you're describing here from the first wave of feminism?

Julia Wood: Well, there was some variation among states, but women basically did not have rights. They were not full citizens any more than blacks were at that time.

Rick Langer: Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. I read a quote from Schopenhauer, the German intellectual, who said, "Women are the perfect caretakers of children, because in essence they are a child. They are an adult child, they are not equal to the true human who is the man."

Julia Wood: That pretty much sums it up. That's what women were fighting about.

Tim Muehlhoff: And that is stunning to see in a quote, Julia. And then I make the comment, obviously, this man was not dating much, right? With that kind of attitude, but for my students to see it and read it and to say, "You got to be kidding me." And it's like, that's what women were fighting against in the first wave.

Rick Langer: Yeah. I think there's similar quotes like that from Sigmund Freud as well. It's one of those, I mean, you can blame, I'm German by heritage and you can blame lots of nasty things on German academics, but one of the interesting things is seeing how this becomes pervasive. It isn't just one outlier or something like that, but there's like a current, a drift, an ocean, whatever you want to call it, it's prevailing sentiment it seems.

Tim Muehlhoff: So Julia, go ahead.

Julia Wood: It was the culture at that time, it truly was.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. So Julia with looking at this first wave, I mean, it's not hard to conclude that the first wave is still happening in many parts of our world.

Julia Wood: Yes, in many parts of the world where women still do not have basic civil rights. Yes, it is still happening. In the US we've moved a bit beyond that. We still don't have the kind of equality that I dream about, but we have moved beyond it, but there are places in the world where that isn't the case at all.

Tim Muehlhoff: And what's so interesting about this, Julia and what was shocking to me when I was at UNC Chapel Hill, is when I learned about the first wave, it was so obvious to me that Jesus was a first wave feminist.

Julia Wood: Oh, he would have been for sure.

Tim Muehlhoff: And the reaction that I get from some other Christians is like, "Oh, what do you mean by that?" Because they immediately transpose it into third wave feminism, or maybe even aspects of second wave, but I'm saying, no, no, no, no. I'm just talking about first wave feminism. And I shared with you once before what James, one of the earliest books of New Testament, he distills true religion in the sight of God. And he says, "Caring for orphans and widows in distress." And that ... yeah, go ahead, Julia.

Julia Wood: No, I'm just going to say that would be exactly right. And for people who are oppressed generally, Jesus stood against those things.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. And so for me, I wrote an essay called Jesus, The Feminist, which was kind of a catchy title. But to me, it's like, it's just obvious that and isn't it true that a lot of the early first wave feminists were Christians, would self-identify as Christians?

Julia Wood: Oh, absolutely. We had some very strong Christians. Some were very conservative Christian groups. Frances Willard is probably the best known, she was with the Women's Christian Temperance League and they were fighting for temperance because alcohol led to violence in families, but they were also realizing that they needed the right to vote, to fight for temperance.

Tim Muehlhoff: And what I love about that is it wasn't a selfish motive. It wasn't like, hey, I just want raw power, but it's because they were interested in the temperance movement. They were interested in helping other people, but had no political voice to do that.

Julia Wood: Right. And some of those such as Frances Willard, they were also very much against slavery because that broke up families. So they were fighting those battles, but without a voice, without a political voice, it's very hard to be successful in the fight.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. And yeah, I think that's such a good point to say how, and again, because you and I are both in communication theory I love that phrase by Rural Howe, who says, "All words are riddles that have to be unpacked." And I think as Christians, we're so quick to say, oh, I know what feminism is. That's the 1960s. That's bra burning, which I can't wait for you to tell the story how that never actually happened, but they immediately kick it into their field of reference, which is what we mean when we say communication is systemic, it goes right into your field of interpretation and so it's so important to clarify terms when we're talking about terms.

Julia Wood: Yes.

Rick Langer: And I think that's one of the lurking problems in this and many other discussions we have today. But I mean, you have similar discussions about race, where I worry about the definitions people are using of the term racism or racist, when I hear them talking past each other and the same thing can happen with feminist or feminism, if we are talking about the same thing, there's no surprise that we disagree. Even if we might have disagreed, anyhow.

Julia Wood: We might, in many cases, we might disagree. There's a lot of room to parse out different views of feminism, but let's at least get ourselves on the same terminological grounds so that we can decide what we're arguing about.

Rick Langer: Yeah. I have a saying, I say one of the great accomplishments is achieving disagreement, that you actually know what the other person is saying so you can go, oh, okay. I either agree or disagree. And until you can state it in the way that the other person says, that's what I mean, you have no idea what they mean so you don't know if you disagree.

Julia Wood: That's wonderful, Rick. I love that.

Tim Muehlhoff: And let me just plug one of your books, Julia, that is, I mean, I was going to talk about all the ones I love, but then we wouldn't have a podcast. We would never actually get to Julia Wood, I would just talk about her books, but this reminds me of your book, Understanding the Misunderstanding, which was just so helpful in understand, okay, where are we missing each other? And you do a great job of unpacking content relational roles, and, oh, I'm sorry, constitutive roles. And so what Rick is saying is so good as, hey, I think we should just have a definitional moment. Like when you say critical race theory, what do you mean by that? And when you say progressive or Democrat, Republican, when I first got to UNC Chapel Hill, people would ask me, are you a Christian? And I said, well, first you tell me what you mean by that. And they said, yeah, oh, I know how you vote. I know your bias. Okay. Then I'm not a Christian.

Tim Muehlhoff: So Julia, can you talk just for a second, about one of the heroes of the second wave, I'm sorry, first wave.

Rick Langer: And actually, before you do that, when I, when you were describing this, you were saying kind of the idea that the first wave was wrapping down, so to speak around 1925 or sometime like that, we associate the second wave with 1960 Gloria Steinem and bra burning, which apparently didn't happen but we'll hear that in a second, were things quiet in between those intervening 40 years or what was happening during that time?

Julia Wood: Well, you have to look beyond feminist and to see what was happening. We had two World Wars going on.

Rick Langer: Yeah. I do remember those.

Julia Wood: And they occupied a lot of the country's attention, you'll have to understand. So that was going on. And actually you remember old Rosie the Riveter.

Rick Langer: Oh yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Julia Wood: Women to get up and get the factories and build the things to keep the boys safe while they were fighting the good Wars. And women were doing the work that they had been told they couldn't do and they were not qualified to do, they were doing it all of those years. And then when the Wars were over, there was this period of really sort of a domestic tranquility and a real domesticity that was deeply knit, so that the men came home from these horrible Wars, the women were told then you don't need to work. In fact, we were sending, go back home. The jobs were given to men, but then we had the huge baby boom as people wanted to resume the lives that they had been fighting for in those Wars, the kind of life they had been fighting for was what they wanted to live. And so that went on for a number of years.

Julia Wood: And then it was in a number of women, particularly white middle-class women were getting very frustrated with their lives because after 25 years or so, they had raised their children. The children had flown the nest, they were still in their forties or early fifties. They were young, they had a lot of life left to live and they had all these structural barriers preventing them from doing things outside of the home. And it was at that point that a key feminist figure stepped in, her name was Betty Friedan and she wrote The Problem That Has No Name. That was a book published in 1963, that is credited with kind of launching that second wave because so many women read it and said, "That's exactly what it is. I thought it was just my problem that I felt unhappy and I felt unfulfilled at home, but all my friends have the same problem. So it's not about me. It's about something in society."

Rick Langer: So that became a trigger point out of a whole set of cultural things that had risen up, that was sort of a flash point that raised the consciousness, so to speak. Okay.

Julia Wood: Right. Right.

Tim Muehlhoff: And then Julia, the guilt associated with that for many of these women is what struck me is, look, you've got a house, you have kids, you got a husband who dotes on you. Who are you to complain in post-World War Two America with all the affluence and these poor women were guilt ridden, like what is wrong with me? I am living what I'm told is the American dream and I'm unfulfilled.

Julia Wood: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. So they really had two problems. They had this problem with feeling unfulfilled and then the problem of guilt about feeling unfulfilled, because they were told they had everything they were supposed to want. And let's be really clear here, most of those women loved their homes, loved their families, loved their children and wanted a life that was in addition to that. Not instead of it, but in addition to it, just like the men that they loved wanted.

Tim Muehlhoff: So let me tell a personal story real quick, Julia. So, you know wonderful Noreen, my wife.

Julia Wood: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Lucky you.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yes. So she was nervous to meet you because she was like, "Oh my gosh, this is the Julia Wood. And I'm a stay at home mom." I mean that's what Noreen did early, when we had three kids and she has always commented at how at home she was because you absolutely affirmed that here is a sharp, brilliant woman who's choosing to stay home. And you just said to her, "Noreen, I think that's wonderful. I think that is absolutely commendable that you are choosing to do that in this season of your life." And so I love what you said it wasn't instead of, but women wanted more than just, they didn't want to get rid of it, but they wanted to add to it and there was nothing wrong with that.

Julia Wood: Exactly. And at that time, women, there were no laws to protect women in the workplace. If a woman got pregnant, as my mother did, once she was married, she was fired because she couldn't be a mother and a professional. There were no laws to protect her. There were no laws to protect any women. There was rampant job discrimination, incredible sexual harassment long before the Me Too movement. There wasn't even a name for it when the second wave started. So the changes we fought for in the first wave were great, but not sufficient to let women really begin to lead lives on an equal par with men. And that's what the second way was about trying to get at a different level of inequality, especially in the workplace and in the financial world. Women couldn't even get a charge account in their own name. I had to get my sweetheart in 1976 to sign that he would accept responsibility for my bills. Now he doesn't anymore.

Rick Langer: An entirely different question.

Julia Wood: I could not get any credit in my own name.

Tim Muehlhoff: Is that what Friedan meant when she said the problem is political?

Julia Wood: It is absolutely political. She meant it's not just personal, it's rooted in political or structural matters. When there are laws that prevent women from having access to financial, like a loan for a home or a car, then that prevents them from being able to move ahead in life. These are the laws, they've got to be changed. There were no laws against sexual harassment and that certainly interfered with a lot of women's ability to work and to learn, to the extent it was happening in schools.

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, and that's what the Me Too movement really showed us was like, you could have male and female actors, but what the women have to go through in corporate life, as well as in the arts, that I think so many of us were just shocked at the depth of the sexual harassment. And again, we're seeing with, we're not going to do politics, but you're seeing with Cuomo these stories. And again, we can go, hey, we can go left right on this one. We can do equal time on the left, right there'll be no shortage of people accused of sexual harassment, Kavanaugh and everything like that. But it makes you realize that women are playing under different set of rules.

Julia Wood: They absolutely are. And we've changed some things, but you still keep seeing here are the barriers to full participation and equality in the world.

Rick Langer: Let me pick up on the, we made a quick jump there from Betty Friedan in 1963 to the hashtag Me Too movement in whatever 2017, 2018, whatever that kind of hit. It strikes me in my foggy knowledge of these things that we moved chronologically from probably what we would call second wave feminism to third wave feminism by the time we get to 2018, yet on the other hand, it seems to me that hashtag Me Too movement would actually be classed with second wave feminism. Or am I mistaken about that? I mean, I'm not surprised that everything would've been worked out, I'm just trying to get my bearings straight on these issues.

Julia Wood: Well some issues have reverberated throughout two or three waves of feminism. For instance, reproductive justice was an issue in first wave, in second wave, it's an issue in third wave. Certainly sexual harassment on the job and date rape and rape in general became issues in the second wave that have not yet been settled. We got some laws passed, but enforcing them and making it unacceptable to do these things, the third wave is picking up on that to carry that particular issue forward.

Rick Langer: Because I remember when these accusations came out and particularly since so many more concentrated in Hollywood, which we would view to be a bastion of progressiveness in terms of the overall political environment, there was a part of me that when I was reading these things and just going, I can't believe this is happening in 2018, that we're thinking this is somehow okay and the stories that they're telling, some are from the past, but an awful lot were from a few years earlier or maybe 10 years earlier, it didn't seem to matter. Was this from 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or two years ago, it seemed like it was kind of the same stories. And that I found jarring, I guess, that that would go on at that level this long after so many of these laws had been changed.

Julia Wood: Well, you've got laws and then you have enforcement of them. Until there is a real consistency across people who have the power to enforce or not, then the laws alone are not sufficient. To take a quick aside, you can look at some of the horrible things that have been happening with police misconduct. Okay, that's happening now and we have laws against it, but the people who are enforcing it are not doing their jobs. So we can't let go of those issues until we truly get them resolved.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yes. So I mentioned, I teach self-defensive at domestic violence shelters and one jarring moment came when I was speaking to a group of women. And I said, "So when a police officer comes just know that he's generally on your side." Julia.

Julia Wood: What color were the women, Tim?

Tim Muehlhoff: What's that, Julia?

Julia Wood: What color were the women?

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh, well a mix. It was a mixed group, but I'll tell you, one white woman just said, "Tim that's BS." And she didn't use the abbreviation. Do you know, Julia, that she was so disturbed with how the abuse that was done to her by her husband was allowed to happen to the court system, she went and got her degree in law to help women fight in the courts, because she said the courts are not pro women.

Julia Wood: Good for her. She's right. She's right. Too often they're not, I won't make a broad brush stroke, but too often they're not. And too often, the police are not pro women. And too often, a lot of the institutions in society that are supposed to protect people are not doing that for people of color, for women, for other minorities and that's where you have again, the structural issue. It's not personal, though of course it feels very personal, but it's not only personal. It is rooted in structures that allow these inequities to keep happening.

Tim Muehlhoff: And Julia, let me just point out one thing for my listeners very quickly is, so what I have admired about you over the years is not only your content because that's impeccable, but notice what you just did. I want my listeners to hear you just said, now, listen, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush stroke here when talking about police or talking about the judicial system, you're so good at qualifying what we call stereotypes. And I've always noticed that you are quick to say, yeah, I don't want to demonize everybody. I'm not putting everybody in that, there are notable exceptions. And I think that is such a good word for us in today's argument culture that let's be very careful how broadly we paint with these brush strokes.

Julia Wood: Yes, yes. I think it's very easy to fall into that trap of all police officers are bad. The courts are bad. Men are bad. Women are good. I mean, none of that's true. It's just you've got to understand that we're, that there is a range on anything and that includes any group you want to point to. So thanks for pointing that out Tim.

Rick Langer: So give us a quick description of third wave feminism. Key issues. Key theorists.

Julia Wood: Wait a minute. I want to sneak back one minute to something both of you brought up and that's the bra burning.

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh yes. Yes.

Rick Langer: Oh, we didn't get that. Okay. All right.

Julia Wood: This is the second wave thing and people still talk about those bra burning feminists. And the truth of the matter is bras were never burned. It never happened. There had been a thought among some of the feminists who were protesting, I think it was a Miss America or Miss Universe pageant, I think it was Miss America. They were protesting it in all the ways in which women are made to be sex objects and so forth and they talked about maybe getting a freedom trashcan and starting fires and no, putting their bras and girdles and things like that. And they never did it. They talked about it and tossed the idea out, but it became one of the emblematic labels applied to second wave feminism, that they were brought burners, that they just never did it.

Rick Langer: So, I mean, I grew up in the sixties. That was one of those, there's no question, that was in the wind, so to speak.

Julia Wood: Yeah. And it was widely accepted and still is, you still occasionally hear it. And it's like, oh, I get tired of correcting that one.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. Julia Wood, thank you so much for carving out the time to help us get up to speed on an important topic and movement like feminism. And we're just so grateful that you're take time and do that. So Julia, thank you.

Julia Wood: Thanks for the conversation. I enjoyed it.

Rick Langer: And I'd like to thank all of our listeners for joining us here at the Winsome Conviction podcast. We'd love to have you become a regular listener by subscribing at Spotify or Apple podcasts or wherever you like to get your podcasts. And we also encourage you to check out the website for more resources, articles, information on cultivating convictions, holding them deeply and conversing with each other in ways that honor our difference, but avoid dividing our communities. That's really what we're all about here. So thanks again for joining us.