What turns a quirky fashion statement into a fad? And what transforms a fad into something timeless? What causes a book to reach the bestseller’s list, while other equally well-written books gather dust on library shelves? From feminism to yoga, activities and ideals once held only by fringe radicals have become the norm. We all would like to know: Why and how?
Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, attempts to answer these questions. Gladwell writes of the Hush Puppies, once a little-known shoe brand that inexplicably gained worldwide recognition:
“In the case of the Hush Puppies, the great mystery is how those shoes went from something worn by a few fashion-forward downtown
hipsters to being sold in malls across the country. What was the connection between the Manhattan East Village and Middle America? The Law of the Few says the answer is that one of these exceptional people found out about the trend, and through social connections and energy and enthusiasm and personality spread the word about Hush Puppies.”
What caused the Hush Puppy fad? According to Gladwell, it was surprisingly simple: a small number of people actively spread the word.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, a new wave of feminism swept over America. This wasn’t your grandmother’s “Votes for Women” campaign. This movement threw orthodoxy out the window. Men were labeled “oppressors” and feminism became known as the “women’s liberation movement.” The movement redefined womanhood and pushed Biblical perspective into the shadows. It was unconventional and extreme--and it transformed North America.
Yet, like the Hush Puppies’ rise to stardom, the feminist movement’s success was not due to political action or protest marches. Its success can be traced to a group of people who simply spread the word.
In 1968, film editor and feminist Kathie Sarachild brought a new strategy to light. The best way to promote feminism, she found, was to form “consciousness-raising groups.” Small groups women would gather together for annual meetings in which they would each share experiences of “oppression” and discuss common difficulties they faced. One scholar noted, “Feminists agreed that consciousness-raising, or ‘speaking bitterness,’ was the most potent, effective tool in the mobilization of the feminist movement.” (Mary Kassian, The Feminist Mistake)
This should be no surprise. In Proverbs 12:18, Solomon speaks of the tongue’s power: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Here, Solomon ranks words with an instrument of war. What more piercing weapon exists than the tongue? When it has taken thousands of soldiers to change cities into minefields, fewer words have changed the face of empires.
Yet there is one factor that pulls an ideology into popularity which researchers often miss; ultimately all is controlled to the One causes mouths to open and shut. He is the One who allows a movement (however temporarily) to ignite or fade into the footnotes of history.
While feminism may be a dominant philosophy of our time, in the end “…the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will.” (Daniel 4:32) Perhaps I may live to see this ideology discarded as a new “ism” claims the spotlight, but at the closing of the day, His Word will prevail.
What ignites a dream into a movement, and a movement into a revolution? Feminist researcher Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” I would add that all changes have occurred only because God allowed them---and He always has the last word.