- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2000

In her new book, "Growing Strong Daughters" (Baker Book House, $12.95), Lisa Graham McMinn, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution west of Chicago, instructs parents on how to raise confident and capable women. She is the mother of three girls. Following are excerpts from a recent interview conducted by Melanie Noto of The Washington Times.
Q: What are the most important issues that parents face today when raising daughters?
A: I think one is increasing a strong sense of self and self-confidence. Girls, when they hit adolescence, tend to go in a decline of self-confidence. If parents know this and anticipate it, they can be working on developing a strong sense of confidence by developing competencies. If they see their daughter is good at sports, they can encourage her athletically. In whatever they see their daughter exhibiting an interest and ability in, work to develop that as a competency.
Q: You suggest parents use women from the Bible as role models and the examples you gave were of heroic females rewarded with marriages. Is marriage the main goal here?
A: No. I think marriage is a wonderful gift for women who end up in good marriages. Certainly the culture of the Old Testament was that women get married. They didn't remain single, so most of the models we have are of married women. People must be careful not to imply that marriage is the only road to fulfillment. Daughters and sons need to know that there are fulfilling lives for people who are not married.
Q: How can single women find fulfillment in a church that so heavily emphasizes marriage?
A: I want to be able to say single women can find fulfillment in the church. But I know there is a challenge for the church to be able to validate singlehood. Single women may have to look outside the church for that validation.
Q: You also suggest teaching girls that virginity is not the most important quality of a young woman. Doesn't this contradict your faith?
A: Our church has tended to overemphasize the importance of virginity. Girls who have lost their virginity have a sense that they have lost their value.
God values who we are as people. Our behaviors don't determine our value. The church has erred in overemphasizing certain kinds of sins being worse than others, sexual sins being in that category. However, I do affirm that virginity is a good thing.
Q: Does your faith ever come into question when you read how women were oppressed in the Old Testament?
A: I think that women have to reconcile what they see in the Old Testament and recognize that it is reflective of broken structures and not what God desired. If I can look at the oppression in the Bible and see it as a part of the fall, then I could focus more on the redemptive possibilities of restoring women as partners of men. I think the teachings of Jesus reflect that.
Q: How do you reconcile the instances in the Bible when God directly instituted oppressive measures against women?
A: I'd like to challenge our interpretation of those passages. I'm not a biblical theologian. But some biblical theologians take the passage of women having to bring a sacrifice to atone for their menstrual periods as evidence that God wanted them to have the same access to God as men did.
I recommend Phyllis Trible's book, "Texts of Terror." She is a biblical scholar who looks at some of the Old Testament passages that show oppression of women. She distinguishes between what God intended and what people did.
Q: Why bring up strong daughters if men don't want to marry "strong women?"
A: I think there are more men that want to marry strong women. More men are beginning to look for equal partners rather than a junior/ senior relationship. Men are starting to look at how social structures have limited their expectations for how they are supposed to be and live with others.
Q: What led you to write this book? What do you think wasn't being said to young women?
A: I think that women were being told to get angry. There was a lot of emphasis with women's rights and that needed to be balanced with a sense of obligation to God and to society. We need to contribute as men need to contribute to society.
The book raises the awareness of the hidden messages in our culture that undermine women's ability to think that they are capable, competent and have something to contribute. By raising the awareness of a hidden culture, we can better challenge it and confront it. My hope is that women will more actively participate in the public sphere and in spheres where men have typically dominated. If we can bring in the intuitive nature and sensitivity of women, then a missing piece will be brought back in.

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