Public Square

What’s Missing from the American Dream for Women? Look to the Cultural Mandate.

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Every now and then I read a blog post that lights a spark in me.

Luma Simms’s article, “How Women Should Rethink the American Dream,” recently published on The Federalist website, is one such post.

As a young female professional, companies and pollsters are constantly trying to label me and make me conform to cultural “norms.” Because of my age and gender, I should be a feminist, pro-choice, socialist, vegetarian, and probably a regular supporter of PETA and a shopper at Target (okay, the part about Target is true).

I do not fit the “mold” social media claims I should fit. I often feel out of place in popular culture and even politics. Who represents me in the world? Who speaks for me on a stage? Honestly, very few.

Simms understands this feeling of alienation very well. While most people in her family become doctors, lawyers, or engineers, she became a stay-at-home mother (gasp!).

Even within her own family, she has a hard time defending her choice to forgo a typical “career.” On top of that, she too has been tempted by our culture to live the American Dream and get all the goods (big house, luxury car, fancy degree).

But she blew me away when she calls foul. She says,

Like the peasants gathered around Marie-Antoinette’s palace shouting for bread, we gather around our politicians demanding a piece of the American Dream. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the American Dream is not a job and a house.

The American Dream has nothing to do with material luxury, and in fact is not exclusively American. Simms declares,

The American Dream is a call to create a society with the space to pursue what in history was known as God’s cultural mandate to male and female alike: ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’

If you are familiar with IFWE’s content, the cultural mandate is the call to action, the definitive order. Simms hits the nail on the head by uniting these two concepts.

The real American Dream represents our inner-most desires to create and live a full life as our Maker intended. The cultural mandate is the explanation for those desires – God made us to work, and he wrote that onto our hearts.

Our culture has exploited many of those desires toward material and harmful ends. That feeling of alienation I’ve experienced? That was my inability to see the space in society that is meant for me, that God has given me to serve him and work for his kingdom.

The lie that society is dispelling to women like me is that there is only one proper way to be successful in today’s world, almost rewriting the American Dream to be exclusive to women. It is usually packaged as “men have been more successful at X than women, so women should try to dominate this field. If you don’t follow along, you’re betraying yourself.”

At the root, society has told women to chase after a fiction that is grounded on a falsehood: women and men are in competition with each other. Simms explains why it is deceptive:

The human person, whether male or female, is created and called unto a work – a vocation – not as a class, but as persons…just like not all men were created to be engineers, not all women were created to do the same work.

So much of current culture is treating women like one class and one singular group, which is just a lie built on lies. They say women should work outside the home to be truly fulfilled; women should not have families because men don’t have to in order to be considered successful. All these “shoulds” are irrelevant. The only mandate that matters is the one God gave us. How truly liberating that is!

God made each of us uniquely, and yet he expects each of us to work. Of course it will be different for each woman. The unity we have as women comes from the fact that our Creator made us to work alongside men for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom and glory. The particulars (my job, your education, her income level) do not matter as long as we do what God wants us to do. And this is what Simms calls the real American Dream:

Fundamentally, then, the cultural mandate means we pursue what we were created to be without fear…women at peace with being women.

How can we begin to be at peace with our distinct womanliness in a culture that is trying very hard to erase it away by intimidation and lies? It begins by claiming the space in society that is rightfully ours to begin with. I should not let the popular culture intimidate me because it is fundamentally wrong. I can rest in faith that God wants me to be here. He gave me a mission to accomplish, and he will be delighted when I willingly take up my station in this culture.

Simms’s call to action is for every woman to “reach for the American Dream that is at your fingertips, no matter if it’s changing a diaper or heading foreign policy studies.” She is so right, and we women have a tough road to forge.

We always feel alienated by the culture, but unfortunately many have also been alienated by misunderstanding God’s cultural mandate and call to flourish. Simms notes that women have a responsibility to “recover the space in our society for people to pursue again humanity’s calling.”

If you believe in biblical flourishing and God’s call to stewardship in your life, you can start immediately. You only need to see that everything around you is an opportunity to fulfill the cultural mandate God has put in your life.

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