Book review: Is God Good for Women?

By Matt Pointon

We can find inspiration in the strangest of places, but even I never expected a service station on the M6 to be one of them.

Whilst making a brief toilet stop en route back from the Lake District, I spied this title in a charity book sale and thought it might be worth a pound’s donation. I was not mistaken.

Michelle Guinness is an interesting character. A well-known broadcaster, she was brought up Jewish and is now married to a Christian minister. Interfaith if ever there was.

In her book “Is God Good to Women?” (1997), she turns her attentions to a tricky question: in a world where women seem to be side-lined or treated as second-class by religions, is God good for women?

She attempts to answer it by speaking to twelve inspirational females who have succeeded in a male world. There’s an army officer, an MP, a CEO, a rabbi, a vicar and many more.

By recounting their stories and exploring their faith, she attempts to answer her question.

As someone who had just come back from travelling around Pakistan, where I struggled with the strict gender segregation and absence of women in the public sphere, this was definitely a question on my mind.

I enjoyed the book. As one might expect from an experienced journalist, the stories are well-written and readable. The lives they document are inspiring; women who have overcome great odd and achieved incredible things.

The most powerful for me was Mandy, the survivor who fought addiction, violence and grinding poverty in the worst areas of Liverpool, using her faith to take herself to a better place.

The Jesus she knows, she refers to as “the big JC”. I like that. A mate not a master.

I do have criticisms of course. This book was published in 1997 and it shows.

It recognises diversity in that there are rich and poor women, black and white, fortunate and less fortunate.

However, what is conspicuously absent in the book is diversity of faith.

In this book, to be religious means to be Christian or Jewish. We’re missing Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists. Missing too are the LGBTQ+ community – a crucial intersectionality that’s not explored.

However, given the time period, it’s clear that such differences were less prominent and less talked about then. Every book is of course a product of its time.

Does it answer the central question though? Guinness is adamant, after talking with her twelve apostles that yes, God can be good for women, though organised religion often is far less positive.

But she goes further than that. As a man, I found it both inspiring and informative to learn how the female journey of faith can be distinct from that of my gender.

She talks of how women are experts at coping, whereas men want only to solve problems.

The truth is, the world needs both and that women, when they can take inspiration from God, radically transform our world.

As Guinness herself sums up:

Many women feel like a mouse inside. They take a peek at their possibilities, see only pitfalls and problems, and cower in a corner.

But throughout history there have been women willing to respond to go beyond their usual limitations, to rub against hard and difficult man-made structures in an attempt to make the world a better, fairer, godlier place…

They prove that a God who is good for women intends them to have the heart the mind, and the roar of a lioness.

Let every woman roar – in the name of God!

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