Woman, Find Thyself!

I just finished reading a Serendipity Book. You know those books you pick up at the library or bookstore and think to yourself: Hmmm … I’ve always wanted to read this; or I’ve heard good things about this author/book; or it just feels right in your hands; and then you take it home and nearly every line speaks to your life  in that exact moment? That’s a Serendipity Book. I had it with C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and I had it again with Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self.

Authenticity is a word that has been bobbing around in my head lately and when I read this beautiful book it all came together. I would highly recommend this book to any woman who has been struggling to love and accept herself and/or has always found her identity in her personal relationships, fractured or healthy as they may be (Doesn’t this sound like us all?) I personally know so many women who could benefit from the wisdom in these pages.

Here are some passages that especially spoke to me:

“[…] We may loathe our human frailties, flaws, and foibles in a world that only approves perfection; loathe our oddities, eccentricities, and ugly habits; loathe our inability to avoid insidious comparisons; loathe our buying into the illusion that good men would save us because that would be easier than striving to save ourselves or believing that we could.”

I sent this one to some of my closest girl friends because it just seemed so relevant. It was one of those passages to which your soul responds, yes yes yes!:

“When another’s love for us or its lack becomes our truth, we see ourselves through that person’s eyes and through the relationship that exists between us. Because our love relationships are often imperfect, emotionally manipulative, disappointing, sometimes even dishonest delusions, and because we see ourselves reflected in them, we often see ourselves as damaged goods.

If the relationship is lonely and unfulfilling; it must have been something you did or said. If it’s been months since he’s reached for you; it must be the way you look. No matter how many times you try to engage him, he shuts you out. You sit by the phone and wait for the call that never comes; you call him and immediately interpret the irritation or hesitancy you hear in his voice to mean there’s something lacking in you.

[…] That’s why every woman must at some point in her life become courageous enough to turn away from the prism of her relationships as the reflector of her worth […]

Pull away from HIS view of you until you can commit to an exclusive, inclusive relationship with your Authentic Self.

[…] Today, pick up a mirror and look in it until you see Spirit’s truth reflected back. You are a woman of great style and enormous substance. Did you know that? You are a woman of beauty, intelligence, vision, warmth, power, influence, strength, wit, generosity, compassion, and soul. And if you don’t see this, you’ve been looking for your worth in all the wrong faces, and I don’t care who you live with.”

"You are a woman of great style and enormous substance!"

I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me — Anna Quindlen 

“You must become your own heroine. Most people have lives crowded with incident but without purpose. You must start seeing each day as a blank page waiting to be filled up with amusing anecdotes, profound turning points, provocative choices, and pursuits of passion […]”

“Bad men are spiritual graces sent in disguise to teach us, through torment, to love ourselves.”

“No man can ever give you your self-worth, but you can let plenty of men rob you of it.”

This next one makes so much sense and a good answer to the question I’ve often heard–“Why are all women so crazy?”:

“When a woman’s heart isn’t at peace, she can’t invest her time, creative energy, and emotion in anything else. She can’t focus. Since there’s plenty swirling around her, impatiently awaiting the attention she doesn’t have–because she’s struggling to hold the center of her universe together with her bare hands–she becomes conflicted, confused, annoyed, scattered, depressed, and often testy.”

“[…] For a woman there [is] something worse than being alone: being with a man who doesn’t deserve you and doesn’t know it.”

“[…] When a new man comes into your life–whether he’s a king or a carpenter […], if he can’t match your generosity of spirit and meet your emotional needs, you’ll never be happy together. When you yourself are rooted in abundance consciousness […] and the object of your affections […] is rooted in lack, the two of you will always feel frustrated and continually clash.

Nothing else matters. Not your astrological signs, not the way he makes you laugh, not the kisses that make you swoon. If you two aren’t generous, demonstrative, and emotional equals, you’ll always feel that you aren’t getting the love you deserve, and you’ll be right.”

“You now have two options. Chase this Something More in a series of unfulfilling repeat-and-return relationship reruns with bad men until the day you die. Or, you can stop running. You can stand still for a moment, long enough to swear to God that you’d rather be alone for the rest of your life than endure one minute of a destructive, unhealthy relationship with a man who does not deserve you. You decide to try a turn on the dance floor with the One that brough you, baby, here to Earth.”

to be alone with me

And you know what? It’s not about the popular view/misconception that feminism is about hating men (an accusation thrown at me this week that still has me feeling bitter) and rah rah rah; girls rule and boys drool. It’s simply about loving and accepting who you are as a woman and straying from the belief that you need a man to complete you. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-love and a little independence, is there?

 

* All quotes from Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self, Sarah Ban Breathnach. Grand Central Publishing, 2000.

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Puffy Sleeves and Harem Pants (Or, All the Single Ladies!)

*  Warning: this blog may contain high doses of Empowerment and Grrrl Power. I make no apologies, but you’ve been warned.

you look fab, but your puffy sleeves don't bring all the boys to the yard

Girls, when you think about how much time and effort (and money!) is put into making yourself attractive to the opposite sex, it’s kind of depressing. What was the point in our feminist predecessors burning their bras and fighting for equal rights when we’re still obsessed with dressing to impress and displaying our bodies to secure the elusive, yet predictable, male gaze?

While I like dressing pretty and ladylike, I feel angered at the prospect of having to show off “the goods” in order to get a man. The whole notion is shallow, primitive, tiresome, and frankly exhausting. We’ve heard that “men are visual creatures” ad nauseam and are taught by popular culture that overt sexy-ness is the way to a man’s heart. Really? So we’re going to let men dictate our fashion choices and tell us what’s sexy and what’s not? The premium placed on female beauty is ridiculous. I’d love to see a guy standing in front of his mirror before a big date, agonizing over how his butt looks in his jeans and wondering if the girl he’s dating will want to go on a second date if his butt looks saggy. I’m fairly certain men dress for themselves and so should we.

I recently came across this fashion blog via a Hamilton Spectator article. I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about fashion (I get most of my inspiration from Blair Waldorf and Grace Kelly), but I applaud 21 year-old Leandra Medine and her groundbreaking blog, The Man Repeller. Taking cues from celebrities and high fashion, Medine fills her hilarious and subversive blog with styles aimed at repelling, rather than attracting, the male gaze.

According to her blog, being a Man Repeller is: “outfitting oneself in sartorially offensive way that will result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full-length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent machinery and clogs.”

Gaga is a textbook Man Repeller

I don’t know if Medine realizes how revolutionary her blog is. On the surface, it’s a tongue-in-cheek fashion blog full of ugly-ass fashion that men hate. But on a deeper level, I think she’s subverting popular notions of female beauty and pinning them down with a clog-footed toe. It’s about wearing whatever the heck you want, the male gaze be damned. It’s about owning your style and realizing that, no matter how you’re dressed and how much skin you are or aren’t revealing, you’re fabulous because you’re you. I am woman; hear me roar.

Isn’t that so incredibly liberating?

On a slightly related note, my cousin and I are compiling a list of reasons why it’s awesome to be single. I’ve come up with a few here but if you have any to add, please feel free to comment below. Put your hands up, single ladies!

 

Rosie the Riveter

Why Being Single Rocks

  1. You’re not a slave to your phone and therefore, not prone to spells of craziness: “Will he call? Will he send me a text message? Why has he taken 3 days to contact me?” … Ridiculous. No girl needs that kind of drama, and no guy worth his salt should cause it.
  2. You get the whole bed to yourself (extra points if it’s Queen or King-sized!)
  3. Want to experiment with a new look? Cut off all your hair? Wear blue eyeshadow? Take a night class? Jet off to Paris for the weekend? Adopt a needy puppy? Become a roadie and travel with a band for a year? Have Gossip Girl marathons?  By all means, do it! You have no one to answer to and no one else’s opinions or timetables to consider. It’s your life, baby!
  4. This may sound snarky, but being in a relationship can make you frumpy because you don’t have to try anymore. I know this kind of goes against the whole Man Repeller thing I was just raving about, but think of it this way: aren’t you more likely to put more thought into your appearance and health when you’re single? You also don’t have to worry about whether or not your boyfriend will like your haircut or eyeshadow colour. If you like it, nothing and no one’s stopping you from trying new things and taking risks.
  5. Your schedule is more open to Alone Time, Social Time, and mingling with new and exciting people.
  6. You can flirt shamelessly and check out cute guys without the guilt.
  7. There’s time to work on yourself and become the strong, independent, capable, wise, mature, and well-rounded woman you were created to be. Sometimes relationships can bring out the worst in an individual and make you more aware of your many weaknesses and insecurities. Or, depending on how unhealthy the relationship is, it can create these weaknesses and insecurities.
  8. You can figure out what you really want in a potential mate and what is invaluable to you instead of dating a bunch of frogs and duds and settling just because you don’t want to be alone. It’s not worth it.
  9. When you’re in a relationship or married (with or without kids), you may look back on your time being single with wistfulness and nostalgia. I recently ran into a former neighbour who is married with three small kids. When I told her I was single she said to me earnestly, “I love my husband and kids with all my heart, but part of me really envies you.” This is a time to cherish, not to resent!
  10. Mani/pedi? Brand-new fancy-schmancy laptop? Trip to Europe? Hot winter boots (I’m thinking of getting some after I write this!)? Professional massage? Writer’s Retreat in Dawson City, Yukon (something a friend and I were just discussing)? Mission’s trip? Invest in yourself wisely because you can!

Mirror Mirror: A Fairytale

chained to images; blinded by sight

It’s the same twisted fairytale since the day she was born:

Girl is tucked into bed with milk and cookies and a bedtime story glittering with perfectly pretty princesses, strong princes and ugly, jealous step-sisters. As her head hits the pillow, the moral of the story echoes in her mind: Beautiful is good. Beautiful is desired. Beautiful is next to holiness. Beautiful wins the prince and the happily ever after. Beautiful is a girl’s prerogative; a woman’s power.

Very quickly, Girl learns that life opens its doors for the beautiful; that talent, integrity, and intelligence have very little to do with it. She measures herself in the lens of a camera, in simple mathematics (36-26-36 to be precise), in glances from princes (for they are visual creatures, you kn0w), in her ability to reflect the painted ladies and glorified jades who grin seductively from storybook, stage, screen, bedroom, and bumper sticker alike. At a young age, Girl is fed maxims with her vitamins: the pretty are praised, the ugly and plain are either overlooked or mocked.

Her mirror becomes her closest friend and harshest critic. Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all? The answer is always: Not you.

And then: thoughts like poison become obsessions. Girl wages war on her reflection, on what Mother Nature has bestowed upon her, on every other damsel determined to be Princess and have princes falling at her feet. In this war, there are no victories, only casualties. Starvation, exhaustion, self-harm, jealousy, insanity. The prize is always just a skipped or regurgitated meal away …

spin me a new story

It’s the same old story and in this bright and shining New World we’ve heard it over and over. Bras were burned, body fat accepted, intelligence praised and eating disorders recognized for endangering the lives of many a hopeful princess. There was hope that Girl would be finally be free and happy and put her fairytales to rest, that she’d stop neglecting her inner self to perfect her temporary outer self. That her gaze would turn outward and she’d see other girls as human beings just like her, rather than competition.

But the story hasn’t stopped. The war against aging, fat, and not being able to win a prince rages on. The battle for beautiful still glints fiercely in Girl’s eyes and motivates every action. That old mantra–Beautiful is good. Beautiful is desired. Beautiful is next to holiness. Beautiful wins the prince and the happily ever after. Beautiful is a girl’s prerogative; a woman’s power–is her daily prayer. She knows better, but those demons have a sneaky way of creeping back in her life just when she thought she had burnt the pages of that story forever.

… Because as long as Girl is preoccupied with fad diets, skinny jeans, anti-wrinkle creams, Botox, food portions, back fat, hip-to-waist ratios, and winning princes based on those thin parameters, she’ll never walk away from the war, throw down her weapons, and become a princess in her own right, creating her own happily ever after.

no hero in her sky

Call me a feminist (go ahead; call me one. I wouldn’t hold it against you), but there don’t seem to be as many outstanding female heroines in movies as there are male heroes. Kick-ass heroines in action films are more celebrated for their ability to look hot in a catsuit whilst firing bullets (ahem–Angelina Jolie–ahem) than they are their courage and strength, and most female leads in romantic comedies are shallow and weak-willed caricatures of what movie producers imagine real women to be like (retail therapy and men bashing sessions over cocktails, anyone?).

And then there are those fabulously magical free-spirited “indie chicks” emulated by every Urban Outfitters-clad hipster (Natalie Portman in Garden State, Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer, Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, etc.). They’re fun and light-hearted and gorgeous and quirky, they steal the hearts of the pathetic male anti-hero, and I’m pretty sure they don’t exist in real life. Maybe in the Annex or Trinity Bellwoods … or the entirely fashionable city of Montreal. But since the aforementioned films are from a male’s perspective, they’re glistening beacons of tiny-waisted perfection, quirks and all. And thus, I hate them.

So when I was wracking my brain trying to think of movie heroines that didn’t annoy me in some capacity, I came up with a pretty short–yet specific–list. My choices may surprise you …

Without further ado, my top five favourite female heroines in film:

5. Kate Winslet as Iris in “The Holiday” (2006)

Kate Winslet pretty much rocks in everything she does, but for some reason, in the Christmas romcom “The Holiday,” she’s particularly charming. I don’t know if it’s her adorable English cottage with the cozy fireplace and books, her acknowledgment of being pathetic over that schmuck who uses her, or her unlikely friendship with Amanda’s elderly neighbour, Arthur Abbott, but she’s so darn likable, especially in comparison to the irritating Cameron “I’m-a-gorgeous-goofball” Diaz.

Kate has class, and although Iris is wasting her time being in love with an unavailable schmuck … well, who hasn’t? At least she realizes that “you’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life, for God’s sake!” and she handles her feelings for Miles (Jack Black) with grace and restraint. She recovers her self-esteem and even displays healthy doses of gumption. I watch this movie every Christmas and always find myself loving Kate Winslet a little more each time.

4. Emma Thompson in anything, but particularly “Love Actually” (2003)

I want to be Emma Thompson when I grow up. Truly; she’s a marvel. She’s intelligent, funny, thoroughly British, and I’ve loved her in every film she’s ever been in. Even “Nanny McPhee.” Like Kate, she’s a class act and has such an un-Hollywood vibe about her that is so refreshing (Sidebar: Emma and Kate do a bang-up job as sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in the 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense & Sensibility.” But I digress …) Emma seems like someone you’d be able to sit by the fireplace with under heaps of thick knit blankets during a snowstorm, having a nice tea and a long chat punctuated by moments of comfortable silence.

… But enough of my Emma Thompson idolatry. There’s a moment in the film “Love Actually” that my friend and I absolutely adore and pretty much sums up why her character Karen is so wonderful. After attending a work Christmas party where she observes her husband (Alan Rickman) flirting with his pretty young secretary, she doesn’t fly into a jealous rage and throw teacups at his head or demand an explanation or cry irrationally which is probably what most of us would have done. Instead, she remarks how pretty the secretary is, and when her husband makes a glib response, she says simply, “Be careful there.”

As my friend says, such grace. It takes a very confident, self-composed woman to be able to deal with that situation the way Karen does. I recommend watching “Love Actually” just for how Emma Thompson’s character handles her husband’s suggested infidelity. It’s quite inspiring.

3. Audrey Tautou as Amelie Poulain in “Amelie” (2001)

To whomever says that shyness and introversion are negative characteristics, I say phooey. Amelie is a shy, introverted loner living in Paris who enjoys the small pleasures in life, like skipping stones, and engaging in random, anonymous acts of kindness. If she wasn’t that way, could her sweet “stratagems” have that much of an impact? I love this line about her: Amelie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below …

Even though her neighbour Dufayel tries to convince her to stand up and do something (“So my little Amelie, you don’t have bones of glass. You can take life’s knocks. If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So, go get him, for Pete’s sake!”), she pursues Nino on her own terms and in her own way.

I love the part where Amelie goes home with Nino’s photo album and is lying in bed with it (as shown in the picture above), and the narrator says: “Any normal girl would call the number, meet him, return the album and see if her dream is viable. It’s called a reality check. The last thing Amelie wants.” So she’s a little reserved, a little scared of putting herself out there and possibly getting hurt or torn from her dream world. I can identify with that, and that’s why I love Amelie so much. She reminds me of one of my favourite quotes by Virginia Woolf: “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”

2. Olivia Williams as Miss Stubbs in “An Education” (2009)

I’ve already blogged about why I love Miss Stubbs at the end of this blog entry about “An Education,” so you can just read it there …

1. Juliette Binoche as Vianne in “Chocolat” (2000)

In a town of closed minds and cold hearts, Vianne is a breath of fresh air in “Chocolat.” She’s upbeat and positive, she sees the best in others (even the town’s stodgy mayor), she’s able to melt and win over her toughest critics, she wears bright coral heels everywhere she goes, and she fills her life with goodwill, joy, and fun. She follows her heart. Oh, and she owns a chocolate shop! What’s not to love?

Honourable Mentions: Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), Sophie Quinton as Avril in “April in Love” (2006), Rebecca Hall as Vicky in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008), Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo in “Frida” (2002), and Drew Barrymore as Josie in “Never Been Kissed” (1999).

It just occurred to me that among my top five favourite females in film, three are British and two are French. Interesting, n’est-ce pas?

… So, back to you, blogosphere. Who are your favourite film heroines and why?

The Love of a Good Woman

woman, thou art loosed

I am utterly convinced that not only was Jesus an anomaly in the way he treated women living within a patriarchal culture, but that some of the most simplistically beautiful and poetic language in the Bible is reserved for women and the inner workings of their hearts. Small, subtle passages packed with meaning.

Consider:

Ruth 1:16-17 “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!'”

Matthew 28:1, 8-9 “Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb […] The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshipped him.”

(Note that the first people Jesus appeared to upon resurrecting were women. Significant?)

Luke 1:41-45 “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honoured, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said’.”

Luke 2:18-19 “All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.”

Luke 7: 37-38 “When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair.Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.”

Luke 10: 38-42 “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

... and it was not taken away from her

You know what these scriptures reveal to me? That God truly values and treasures women and that we are a uniquely fashioned reflection of him and of his beauty, creativity, poetry, loyalty, and fierce — nearly inexplicable — love.

Men are special too, of course; that goes without saying. But I’m a woman and I cannot help but be captivated by these Biblical women who treasure things in their hearts and turn them over often like precious jewels, who fall at Jesus’ feet without abandon in front of rich and important men and bathe him in their tears, who shirk domestic duties to bask in his presence.

Although the position of women in Biblical times and their role in that culture was obviously not ideal — from our standpoint — it’s still worth noting that the women that are mentioned are given a special significance (Mary the mother of Jesus alone is worth contemplation, especially in Catholicism). Despite the damage that man has done over the years in terms of bigotry and religion, it wouldn’t be a stretch to look at all the passages of the Bible that speak about women (making sure to include Esther, Deborah, Anna, Rahab, the Shulamite woman, the Samaritan woman, etc.) and conclude that God respects, adores, and cherishes his brides.

Another thing that the scriptures I highlighted illustrate is that a woman’s love is fervent and unparalleled — whether it be for her family (even her mother-in-law), her child, or her Lord, and perhaps even … her man (I would suggest looking at the book of Ruth and Songs of Solomon for some interesting love stories).

You see, the love of a good woman is precious beyond measure. It’s undefinable, often impractical, at times illogical. You’ll look at these women who are faithfully, unwaveringly devoted to ungrateful partners, rebellious children, selfish friends, and think, how could she be so weak? How could she love someone like that? They don’t deserve her love. Perhaps they don’t, but her love remains constant. Her treasures trampled. Her gift — selfless love — abused. The corruption of the world renders her love obsolete, worthless, cheap, laughable, pathetic. Counterfeit love reigns supreme.

i offered you my love and it was pure and true like a million twinkling stars

But it doesn’t have to.

Women, let’s love our families, our friends, our partners and our First Love without abandon, without restraint, without fear of rejection or misuse. Let’s take a lesson from these Biblical women and let the fires of our love never cool. Let’s throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet and let ourselves be loved immaculately so we can in turn lavish that love onto others.

And men, please cherish our love like the priceless gift it is …

A Modest Proposal

it's not like this anymore ...

It seems like my blog friend whom I will call “Seattle Mike” and I were on the same page this week. I encourage you all to read his fabulous blog, “On Women and Modesty.”

His take on how Christian women dress and whether or not it “causes men to stumble” is so refreshing I could’ve burst into tears of joy. Seriously. I’ve never heard a Christian guy make such an enlightened argument; heck — I’ve never heard a Christian girl make such an enlightened argument!

Here’s my favourite paragraph:

Every woman, and every part of a woman—and I do mean every part—was fashioned by God in God’s own image.  That’s Genesis 1:27.  Wrestle with that for a while.  A woman’s body is a good thing, and her sexuality is a good thing: not a funny thing or a gross thing or an evil thing, but a godly thing.

Wow. Just … wow.

Adornment

" ... a beauty neither of fine colour, nor long eyelash, nor penciled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance ..."

As a feminist in a post-feminist world, I’ve always had an issue with the Apostle Paul and his whole “wives, submit to your husbands” shpiel and sometimes I like to pretend it’s not in the Bible.

As a Christian, I’ve always kind of felt guilty about that.

Surprisingly, much debate still arises from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and verses that have been used out of context to keep women silent and uninvolved in ministry (or in any position of authority). What do you really do with verses that state, as in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, that “the women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church”?

You would think that, in 2010, Christians would be aware of the fact that Paul was speaking to a particular church about a specific problem in a certain culture (ie. the womenfolk using the church as their place to gossip and heckle each other), but sadly, I’ve had some debates with believers who strongly believe that the Word is as alive to today as it was then and it is blasphemy to try to make the Bible culturally relevant because it clearly states “man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake” (1 Corinthians 11:9); therefore, a woman is inferior to a man and it is in God’s design that a man have the power and authority in church and otherwise, and a woman ought to be silent and submissive.

I have actually heard those arguments, and when I hear them spoken by women, it grieves my heart. Yes, I believe the Bible is as alive today as it was when it was written and you cannot mess with the word of God, but still … it’s all about context, context, context. I don’t think it’s blasphemous to take a step back from scripture sometimes and think it through, keeping it mind that yes, it is living and true, but it was also written a very long, long time ago and some things just aren’t relevant anymore. Women can vote, own companies, be CEOS, and get equal pay, yet they shouldn’t be in positions of authority in the church (with the exclusion of Children’s and Women’s Ministries)?

Something doesn’t quite add up there … We certainly don’t sacrifice our livestock anymore, and if we did, it would be ridiculous since the society back then was far more agricultural than it is now and animals were often used as currency. So to subordinate women for the sake of obeying God’s word? It just doesn’t make sense.

there is truth in the red letters

In cases like this, I always go back to the life, words, and actions of Jesus, since He is what it’s all about. Jesus was culturally radical when it came to his treatment of women. He spoke to women, personally, in the same way He spoke to men. Not only that — He spoke to marginalized women, like the adulterous Samaritan and offered her truth and hope rather than judgment. In Luke 10, Jesus is at the home of Mary and Martha and is teaching Mary, something a rabbi in that culture certainly would not have done. He says, ” … Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 42)

It certainly shall not.

While there are portions of the Bible directed to women that admittedly still make me cringe, there are passages I can learn from and apply to my everyday life. Proverbs 31 is one. And 1 Peter 3, even though it does start out with, “wives, be submissive to your husbands” (but I don’t have a husband so I don’t need to worry about that!)

Last Sunday, I was at a church service, and my friend’s husband was preaching from 1 Peter 1 and for some reason, I found myself drawn to 1 Peter 3:3-4 which says, “your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

That verse touched me like it never has before, and I didn’t interpret it as another attempt of the early church to subjugate women. Instead, it speaks of something greater, something close to my heart. It’s not merely what’s on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that is lovely and beautiful to God. It’s who you are in secret, when you’re not in church and around other Christians and playing Perfect Little Christian Girl. It’s ridding yourself of performance, jealousy, insecurity, and pride, and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform you.

There is, I think, a marked difference between silent and quiet. I can live with that.