Real Sexual Freedom
Sisters Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird, co-founders of Girl Defined Ministries, talk about what it means to be a Christian woman in a sexualized culture. Together they tell the story of Katie Jones (a classmate from their high school) and Marilyn Monroe, both popular girls who embraced the culture's lies about beauty and empowerment and later reaped heartache.
About the Guest
Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird talk about what it means to be a Christian woman in a sexualized culture.
Real Sexual Freedom
Bob: What is the culture telling young women is the essence of femininity? Bethany Baird says it’s all about beauty and boys.
Bethany: What a lie that is being fed to young women today! It’s totally garbage / totally baloney—that if you had the fame / had the guy, then you would be really happy.” That’s why we are so passionate about this message for moms to really teach their daughters: “That’s not where your identity is found. That’s not what will make you a real woman.” Look back at women in history—we know that a lifestyle outside of God’s design will not satisfy and cannot last, long term.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. So, if the culture is not presenting an accurate picture of what makes a woman feminine, what is the right picture? We’re going to explore that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, you want to get right into Beyoncé today?—is that what I heard?
Dennis: I do; I do. I want to find out from our guests, here on the broadcast, Bethany Baird and Kristen Clark, who have written a book called Girl Defined. It’s all about God’s radical design for beauty, femininity, and identity—they’re on it. These two ladies have written a great book. They’re going to help a lot of single women—I think married women of all ages—but also help some moms and dads know how to center their daughters around this issue of: “What does it mean to be a woman today? Who are you, and why did God make you?”
Well, let’s get back to Bob’s point here—Beyoncé—she’s kind of the brand today for womanhood and femininity; right?
Bethany: She is absolutely. She is so famous and so popular. So many young girls are looking up to her as a role model.
Bob: Let me just step in here, because we don’t know Beyoncé—she may be a really sweet person—we’re not really talking about Beyoncé.
Bob: We’re talking about the brand.
Bethany: Exactly; yes.
Bob: We’re talking about the cultural message which Beyoncé is making. The cultural message is all about female empowerment. You hear that phrase over and over again. A lot of young girls want to be empowered young women. Is there anything wrong with that?
Bethany: There’s nothing wrong with being empowered. It just—the question goes back to: “What are you being empowered to do? What are you being empowered for?”
When we look at someone like Beyoncé, we look at what she is empowering women to do. We know—like you said, we’re not attacking her directly—but the brand, the message, the worldview that she is training young women under—and that is that she is empowering women to be totally independent in every way, shape, and form / to be completely liberated from every ounce of gender roles, from gender distinctions, from marital roles.
She’s empowering women to be sexually free and embrace that to its fullest extent.
Dennis: There would be those listening to us right now, who’d say, “You’ve drunk the poison of a section of Christianity that wants to oppress women—that wants to put them in their place / keep them down.” In fact, I’ve had, in recent years, some communication with a woman, who graduated from the west coast / a very liberal university on the west coast, who kind of came after me and FamilyLife Today—that we are oppressing women.
What I wanted to do with this young lady was—I wanted her to meet my wife. I wanted her to meet my daughters—and I wanted her to meet all of them, in fact. I have seven women in my life, between my wife and my daughters-in-law and my daughters, and eleven granddaughters. I think I would be willing to have her interview them and say: “Are you oppressed? Have you been put down?” because Beyoncé is trying to liberate from some kind of mythical ideal—
—or something, that in some cases, men have fostered / men have not treated women with the dignity they deserve. What would you say to somebody, who’s pushing back on this and saying: “Wait a second! You’re just going to be oppressed.”
Kristen: We have not been oppressed ourselves. I think our voice, as women / Christian women, in our late twenties, to look at these young girls and say: “We have been actively striving to embrace God’s design in every aspect of our lives, and it has proven to be the opposite of what the culture tells us. The culture says you will be a doormat, you will be oppressed, you will lose every ounce of freedom. Men will dominate you / they’ll take over your life. We’ve experienced the opposite. The more that we have personally embraced God’s design—to be totally honest—the more free, the more empowered to live out God’s truth, the more fulfilled, the more content we have been, more than at any other time in our entire lives.
Dennis: You’ve been married for five years to Zach.
Kristen: For five years.
Dennis: So you’re talking from some degree of experience as a married woman.
You didn’t give up your womanhood card to become a wife.
Kristen: I didn’t; no. No; I am fully embracing God’s design with my brain!—with my opinions!
Dennis: —and your will.
Kristen: —and my will, which can be very strong!—yes. It is beautiful when lived out—when the male and the female both, together, embrace God’s design. The dance works. We use this example of dancing—both roles are totally necessary. There’s the leader / there’s the follower—when they work together, the dance is beautiful; but both roles are equally valuable / they’re just intentionally different.
Dennis: We took some dancing lessons a few years ago.
Bob: You and Barbara did?
Dennis: We did. Our adult children gave us dancing lessons—
Bethany: Oh, how fun!
Dennis: —for a Christmas gift. And you know, honestly, I thought we had this thing, called husband and wife, down. [Laughter] But when we took the dancing lessons—I’m telling you—it taught us a lot!
Bethany: Oh, yes! [Laughter]
Kristen: It does; yes.
Bob: I just have to say—if my kids are listening, “If you give us dancing lessons next year, you’re out of the will,”—[Laughter]—
—just making that clear.
Dennis: I mean, it was fascinating; because the way a man is to form a frame and be solid—and believe it or not, I was not forming, Bob, a solid frame. [Laughter]
Bob: I’m shocked.
Dennis: And the woman was to press against the frame so she could sense, as he leads her in the dance—
Kristen: Right; it’s a beautiful thing!
Dennis: —he’s empowered to do it. I think, “What would a dance be like if both had the same assignment?”
Bethany: Yes; it would not be—
Dennis: Both pushing against each other.
Bethany: I know. I took dance lessons—swing dancing lessons for several months. When I would try to take the lead or take his position, the dance looked horrible—we were just a mess—you know, we were stepping on each other’s feet. But when he fulfilled his role and I fulfilled my role in the dance, it looked beautiful; and people enjoyed watching it.
Bob: Okay; this brings to light one of the things that you, in your book, say is defining of femininity; and that is that God has created women to be helpers.
Bob: Now, you know, in saying this, there are some who would say: “God’s created a wife to be a helper to her husband, but that doesn’t mean that every woman is to be a helper to a man. That’s only for the marriage relationship that this helping is supposed to take place.” So, is that accurate?
Kristen: When we look back at Genesis—Genesis 2:18—we see the Bible says so clearly, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.’” So in the beginning, we see this idea of being a helper as being an indispensable role for the man. But that helper is ingrained in who we are, as women, within our design, and something that we should nurture and something that we should work to bring out from a young age, whether married / whether single.
Bethany is still single, and she actively lives out being a helper in her everyday life. You can just share some of the ways that you strive to embrace that aspect of femininity.
Bethany: Yes; you know, I would love to be a helper to a man one day—I have a great view of the word, “helper.” I know it’s kind of viewed as a bad word—almost like, “Don’t say the h word—the helper word—that one!” But when I look to Scripture—when I looked in Genesis 2, I really saw: “Okay; there’s God; and God created the man—ultimately, his purpose is to serve and glorify God. Then my purpose, as a woman, if I first get married, would be to help that man serve and glorify God.”
So really, when you get down to it, neither of the roles are about you. It’s not about satisfying the man and all his desires and everything he wants. His job, ultimately, is to glorify God; but as women, we can’t worry about, “Okay; what is he doing?” We just have to make sure that we are fulfilling our role well.
Bob: But let me talk about you, as a single; because you don’t have a man that you’re trying to help right now; right?
Bethany: Yes; so I am really trying to embrace that aspect of God’s design, just in the people around me.
I have a dad; I have brothers; I have men around me in my church. I am really striving to have a humble kind of a servant’s mindset in my heart, because I naturally want to push against that. But when I embrace it and when I have that humble servant’s mindset of helping others—of helping my dad / practicing that—helping my brothers—it really is so beautiful, and it works really well.
I would say to the single girls that: “You can practice it, whether it’s within your own family / whether it’s a church—just wherever you are, you really can practice that with the men around you.”
Bob: Now, we agreed that the issue of the other word—the submission word—that’s a marriage word. Women are not created to submit to men, but wives are designed to submit to husbands; right?
Bob: You’d agree with that.
Bob: So, what about a person, who would say: “Aren’t men supposed to be helpers too? I mean, isn’t helping just something that God created all of us to do? Why are you making this feminine, and does that mean guys don’t have to help?”
Kristen: When we look at Genesis, we see that God created the woman specifically to be a helper.
We’re not making this up / we’re not out here, saying: “You know what? We’re going to define what womanhood is, and we’re going to tell you how to live it!” We are going back to God’s Word and saying, “How does God define manhood and womanhood?” The woman was created specifically to fulfill an indispensible role as being a helper.
That doesn’t mean that men don’t help—Zach helps a lot. In fact, when we were writing our book, we were so busy. He was jumping in and doing laundry and doing a lot of the tasks that I would normally perform around the house. So, of course, we help each other—we love each other—but when we’re talking about our roles, as male and female, we have to get back to God’s Word and allow His Word to define us, not our ideas and what the culture says.
Bob: How did he do with the laundry; okay?
Kristen: He actually did better than me, because he’s so precise about how he lays it out and folds it! I was like, “You just got a new job.” [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, Bethany, you said something earlier that I just want to go back and just camp on for a moment. You talked about how male and female were made to glorify God.
They were not created male and female to satisfy their own desires and to become powerful on their own. They found their design as they rightly submitted their wills to their Creator and His design that He had for them.
Dennis: I think here’s where the whole thing comes off the rails in the culture. We try to squeeze this into some kind of equation—or “A” + “B” = “C”—
Bob: —formula; yes.
Dennis: It’s not going to be that; okay? A single woman like you can hold a position in a company and not lose your femininity. You can be powerful; but you found your power by fulfilling God’s design for who you are, not by seeking the power / not by seeking the position.
Bethany: Exactly; yes.
Dennis: I have a friend, who was promoted all the way to the CEO of a company. He said, “Dennis, I never asked for a single one of those promotions.”
I think that’s pretty cool.
I think a woman today is never more powerful than when she is obeying Jesus Christ, submitting to Him, and then figuring out: “How do I relate to the men in my life?—some of whom are single / some of whom are married. I need to know how to be God’s woman in the midst of this world.”
Bob: Tell our listeners about Katie Jones.
Bethany: Katie Jones is a girl that we grew up with; and in fact, looking back now, we would identify her as a young woman who bought into the three pillars of counterfeit femininity: liberation, independence, and sexual freedom. But when we were younger, we didn’t understand that—we didn’t know about feminism / about counterfeit femininity—we just saw this girl, who seemed to have it all. Everybody liked her and all of the girls wanted to be like her. So, when we were young, we wanted to be like her too. We looked to Katie Jones and we thought, “She is the real deal!”
But as we got older, time really told the story and really showed the results of what happens when we, as women, buy into the lies of counterfeit femininity.
In our book, we tell her story; then we fast-forward ten years. Sadly, what we see now isn’t the same girl that we saw when we were young. She’s now been married and divorced; she’s struggling; she’s pregnant out of marriage. She has so many insecurities, and her life is falling apart all around her. But we don’t see that when we’re young. As young girls, we see this power-house woman and we think, “Oh! If I copy her and be like her, then I’m going to be a real woman.”
But if we let the story play out, it never pans out the way that we’re told it’s going to. And Katie Jones is just one example of what happens to us, in the long run, when we buy into the lies of counterfeit femininity.
Bob: A little bit back to the Beyoncé mythology.
Bethany: Yes; exactly.
Bob: If you were to peel it back and say, “So, where has this empowerment brought you?” would you say it’s brought you to a place where you go, “I love life”? I’m not sure even Beyoncé would say that.
Kristen: Right! And Marilyn Monroe is an example we bring out early in our book, because she’s kind of like the vintage version of Beyoncé; right? I mean, she was power-house woman—she had it all.
She had the men, the fame, and the money. She was the girl, and she still is, so often, in America—she’s the icon for the American woman. But we dig into her life story, which is so sad, and we bring to light so many of the struggles that she faced on a daily basis—
Bethany: Oh, yes.
Kristen: —I mean, insomnia, depression, three marriages / three divorces, struggled, and ultimately, committed suicide. There’s a woman that, even today, young girls look up to and say: “She’s the real deal! She’s the picture of womanhood. We need to copy her and then we’ll find fulfillment.” We say: “Let’s pull the layers back. Let’s look beneath the surface,” and we discover a tragic version of womanhood that isn’t working.
Bethany: Yes, and that side of her story, though, isn’t told. We had to dig deep to find that, because all we see—even just a few years ago, I went to Hollywood; and she was everywhere. As a young woman, the message was: “Oh, if you’re like Marilyn—if you have the guys / the body, if you have the looks, if you have the fame—if only you had that—then you would be a real woman / then you would be really happy.”
But as we dug into her story, we saw—we saw the insomnia / we saw the depression. And we saw that, at only 36 years old—that’s young!—she committed suicide. But Hollywood / the world—they don’t want to show you that side. They only want to show you the glamour and say, “If only you had this, then you would be happy.”
But as we stepped back and looked, we thought: “Wow! What a lie that is being fed to young women and women today—it’s totally garbage / totally baloney—that if you had the fame / you had the guys, then you would be really happy.” That’s why we are so passionate about this message for moms to really teach their daughters—for daughters to understand: “That’s not where your identity is found. That’s not what will make you a real woman. Look back at women in history—look back at women who have embraced that lifestyle, long term, where it will get them.”
We see Beyoncé—we don’t know what the end of her life will look like, but we know that a lifestyle outside of God’s design will not satisfy and cannot last, long term.
Dennis: Earlier, we talked about—both you kind of expressing this in one way or the other—you both feel comfortable in your skin—as not just women but as women who’ve decided to follow Christ. What delights you most in being a woman as God designed you? I’m not interested in—and I want to be careful how I say this—I’m not really interested in a super spiritual answer. [Laughter]
Kristen: The Sunday school answer.
Dennis: Exactly! You know.
Bob: “Jesus.” [Laughter]
Bethany: “John 3:16.”
Dennis: Yes; but—you’re single, Bethany / you’re married, Kristen—I mean, what delights you most, just about having skin on and being called a woman?
Bethany: I am like the sparkle, and red lipstick, and all of that—I’m the queen of all that—all things girly.
Dennis: Okay; this is Bethany talking.
Bethany: Yes; this is Bethany. So, just on a superficial level—not deep spiritual—I love just being a girl—I love all things girly.
I have the red lipstick on right now. I like dressing up. I like doing my hair fun. I still wear tulle tutu-dress style skirts; because I’m like, “If the little girls get them, I want that!” [Laughter] They’re long and they’re modest, but I sew them myself because I want them. I just personally love being a girl—I think it’s so much fun—the more sparkles the better. Normally, I carry around a big, gold, sparkly cup. So it’s like I have the cup; I have the lipstick; I have the hair; but I don’t find my identity in that. That’s not what makes me valuable, but I just genuinely enjoy it.
Dennis: Okay; I have a question for Bob. Have you ever dreamed of tulling around in a tulle shirt, Bob?—or a tulle skirt? [Laughter]
Bethany: A tulle shirt would be scary! [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m trying to picture it; you know.
Bob: I’m just trying to figure out what a tulle skirt is. I have a tool belt at home, but I don’t think they’re related. [Laughter]
Dennis: Okay; Kristen, what about you?
Kristen: I enjoy most of those things. I’m not so much the tulle skirt kind of girl, but I love just being feminine! I love wearing pink—I’m wearing pink right now. I love doing my hair, my makeup, and just embracing aspects of my femininity.
But another side that I really love is just this inborn nature God has given us to nurture relationships. I love nurturing relationships, and mentoring young girls, and building relationships. We have five sisters—so building those relationships—and just that aspect of God’s design that He’s given to us, as women, to be social / to be relational. I love that. I see the difference between guys and girls—of course, this is not across the board—there are some men, like Bob, who may talk more—but in general, that relational—
Bob: Excuse me?!
Kristen: —that relational bent. I so appreciate that and just love embracing that in my life.
Dennis: Okay; so here’s the question I probably started out asking to men; but I have enjoyed asking women this question too. This is not a simple question.
Kristen: Oh no!
Dennis: Out of everything you’ve ever done in your life, what would you say is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done? And courage is doing your duty in the face of fear.
Bob: You guys take a minute and think about that. While you’re doing that, I’ll let our listeners know how they can get a copy of your book, Girl Defined, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about the book that Kristen and Bethany have written.
Also there’s information there about the Passport2Identity™ weekend we’ve been talking about this week, where a mother and a daughter or a dad and a son can get away for a few days to talk about the critical issue of identity, which is something that every 14- and 15-year-old is wrestling with. Listen—if you’re not talking to your son or your daughter about this, guess who is? The TV’s talking to them about it, their friends at school are talking to them about it, their teachers are talking to them about it—a lot of voices coming at our kids talking about what their identity should or shouldn’t be. Your voice, as a parent, needs to be front and center in the middle of that conversation.
That’s why we designed the Passport2Identity getaway—so that a mom and a daughter or a dad and a son can have some time away to talk about: “What is it that God designed you to do and to be? Who are you according to His design?”
Again, there’s information about Passport2Identity, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com, along with information about the book, Girl Defined. You can order these resources from us, online; or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Dennis: Well, we’ve had the founders of Girl Defined with us—that’s the name of their book. Kristen and Bethany have been with us. I asked them the most courageous thing they’ve ever done. Kristen, do you want to go first?
Kristen: Sure. For me, one of the most courageous things I did was actually right before I got married and leading up to the wedding day.
Zach and I made a really courageous choice, which is extremely countercultural, and that was to—obviously, save sex for marriage was something that we were wanting to do / what we saw in the Bible as good for saving for marriage—but even more than that, we just wanted to protect our purity. We decided to save our first kiss for our wedding day. So, when we got engaged, we didn’t kiss. Throughout our entire engagement, we never kissed. It was so hard, and it was so countercultural. We had people telling us: “You’re crazy! What are you doing?” Even Christian friends—like, “Is this even necessary?”
But we wanted to protect our purity and just set up that extra boundary. So that, to me, was really courageous; because it was hard and there were times where I would question: “Is this really worth it? This is so hard!” But praise the Lord—we stayed the course, and we did have our first kiss ever—neither of us had ever kissed anyone before—anyone—and so we experienced our first kiss ever with each other at the altar of our wedding. It was beautiful—we wouldn’t change it.
Dennis: Did Zach nearly faint? [Laughter]
Kristen: I think we both nearly fainted—we had about a thousand people there—so that was a little intimidating; but we got through it, and we had more time to practice afterwards. [Laughter]
Dennis: We had a son who did that, and he nearly passed out—[Laughter]—his first kiss!
What about you, Bethany?
Bethany: Okay; so to give a little back-story—basically, my worst nightmare was to be past 22 and still single. So, when I was 22/23 in a relationship—that was like my dream. I was so excited, and I really wanted to marry this guy. But as it became clear that he—you know, just character-wise, there were a lot of red flags—I had to make a decision. My parents / the people around me were really advising me not to move forward—we were very serious in the relationship.
So I had to make the decision. I was gone on a trip. We decided—him and I—to not talk for that whole week. I just was praying and just crying out, “God, please change this situation so I can marry him,” because he was ready to marry me like that day. I remember having to give up my wants, my desires, my will, because I knew he was not the one God had for me.
Having to give that up, with no idea what the future would hold, thinking, “I could be single forever,”—which to me was my worst nightmare—having to give that up and just totally trust God and His plan for my life was really, really hard. But I was able to courageously give that relationship up and move forward in my life. I, looking back now, am so grateful that I did, seeing the plan that God has for me and the direction that He’s taken me. Not having moved forward in that marriage was a really good decision. I would say that’s probably one of the most courageous things I’ve had to do.
Dennis: Okay; I’m cheating—I have one more question for both of you. Your mom is going to be listening to this broadcast.
Bethany: Yes; she will.
Dennis: Would you like, both of you, to seat her across the table from you right now and both of you look her in the eyes and give her a tribute for how she modeled what you’re talking about?
Kristen: I would love to do that. I would just say:
Mom, thank you so much for modeling God’s design for womanhood for so many years—for being faithful even when it wasn’t easy, for being faithful to raise eight children and to stick with it, and you still love us.
You still desire to be involved in our lives, and you are one of the biggest reasons why we’re where we are today. We’re so grateful for you and just could not thank God more for your example and for how you modeled true womanhood and made it so appealing to us, as young women.
Bethany: Mom, I would say to you:
Thank you so much for homeschooling us / for loving us even—I’m still at home—thank you for loving me, even 27 years later—you probably thought I would be gone.
I am so grateful for all of the behind-the-scenes work that you have put into our family, into your marriage with Dad, into our relationship. You truly are one of the big reasons that we are here today, and I am so grateful to God for making you my mom.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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