Jezebel, Ruth, & The Silence In-Between

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I hate being a woman. Well, let me rephrase that: If I had the choice, I would not be a woman. No, I’m not tripping about childbirth or menstrual cramps. Neither do I care about the countless painstaking ways we try to improve our appearance. It’s just that the kind of woman I am doesn’t often fair well with either gender, and if I was just a dude, my life would be so much easier.

You see, I’m the kind of woman who cares more about what I put into my body than what I put on it. I abhor the idea of someone being more drawn to my appearance than my intellect. I would rather cry and fight over injustice than cry and fight over a man. I’m not too fond of misogyny, inequality, or hypocrisy and I don’t hesitate to express it. Most importantly, I will never knowingly step on another woman’s toes to chase after a man. I think it’s one of the worst things a person can do and I never tolerated that behavior in former friends.

Perhaps, these unconventional values and traits are the reasons I have more former female friends than present ones. They might also explain my several “brothers” actually being like brothers and not a bunch of dudes I’ve been with in the past or desire to be with in the future. But of course, this is yet another unconventional trait that repulses the vast majority of men and women. But honestly, I wouldn’t even mind being socially ostracized if it didn’t occur in the church more than anywhere else.

The truth is that I’ve always faced some difficulty being the type of woman I am, but I never hated being a woman until I became more active in the church. Sexism and gender inequality are on center stage in many congregations, yet no one’s booing or throwing rotten tomatoes. Even in predominately female audiences, there are claps and cheers where there should be gasps and sneers. Instead of walking out on this never-ending show of misogyny, we stampede to get a good seat and don’t care who gets trampled in the process. Of course, those who get trampled are the women who struggle to meet the status quo, who don’t dare to be different because they just are. And the women who overcame their own struggles with conformity not that long ago look down on them in disgust like, “Eww! What’s wrong with her?” I’ve seen this happen so many times that I tend to avoid large groups of women and try to engage sisterhood on a person by person basis. Yet, even in those situations, I’ve still gotten burned.

After wrestling with this issue for so long, I decided to come clean to a couple of friends, male and female, about my concerns with the treatment of women in church. Although I’m more disturbed by the women who do the mistreating than the men, I understand why this “crabs in the barrel” mentality exists. Many people in general live by the archaic concept that only the fittest survive; and by virtue, only the fittest are worthy of survival. Yet this theory, which has long since been exposed for its bigoted origins and disproven by many great minds, continues to live on somehow. It goes to show that depravity trumps reason; and unfortunately, in many cases, depravity trumps faith. Despite Christ proclaiming “the last shall first and the first shall be last,” we still insist on competing with each other — at least for the time being.

The competitive tension among women is nothing new; it’s just that, over time, the tension has increased. There was a time when a woman was considered a prize and men lined up to compete for her affection. However, one day, men wised up and said, “Hold up, we run this!” so the new attitude became, “We don’t love them hoes.” Of course, it’s far from true, but they said it so often that women actually started to believe it. The claws came out and everything became about impressing and oppressing each other until men were practically pushed out of the picture. Hair, makeup, clothes, relationships, and weddings all became about outdoing the “next b*tch” and men were the means used to accomplish those ends. To put it plainly, gender relations are all messed up and intragender competition has distorted the purpose of companionship.

But how does all of this play out in the church? Interestingly enough, not much differently than in the world — we just have a way of being so mean while making it look so nice. Rather than outdo each other in promiscuity, Christian women try to outdo each other in modesty. Instead of criticizing the next woman’s weave, we whisper to each other about the length of her skirt. Insults become rebukes. Cliques become accountability groups. It’s all the same game, just under a different name. Then, there’s this whole obsession with Proverbs 31. If you’re a woman and you ain’t a Proverbs 31, you ain’t nothing! On the flip side, where is the equivalent standard for men? Where is their rubric? There are several scriptures about the biblical standards for men, but they aren’t nearly as popular. For what reason? I won’t speculate, but I’m sure you could guess a few. Now, if the only acceptable woman is a Proverbs 31, what about those who don’t quite meet that standard? How do we classify them? Come here, Jezebel! The “Jezebel spirit” is at work in every woman who doesn’t live, breath, and dream Proverbs 31. If that’s not her holy grail, she’s headed for scorching hell. I’ve never actually heard anyone say these things, but sometimes it’s what you don’t say that screams the loudest.

To say I’m tired of this foolishness would be an understatement. I’m sick, exhausted, disgusted, and disheartened. I want so badly for more women and men to recognize this issue and become active in addressing it. The first step, I feel, is to recognize the difference between patriarchy and biblical order. Patriarchy says that men are superior, but biblical order says that men are family leaders. God created men and women in his image, so we are equally loved and appreciate by Him. Although our roles within the family unit are different, one isn’t superior to the other. Just as I’m charged to follow in the example great women of faith set before me, men are charged to follow in the example Christ set before them.  If a man can fall short and grace is shown towards him, that grace should be shown towards women who fall short as well.

Sisters, please stop competing with each other. What God has for you, if it is in fact for you, cannot be taken away. You are not saved by marriage or perfection, you are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Find your complete worth in a relationship with God instead of seeking the approval of man. If a husband is in fact in your future, serving and doing for others with the love of Christ will prepare you to fulfill the role of a wife. If you can cook, feed the homeless. If you can clean, grab a broom and pick a neighborhood. If you love children, volunteer at a youth outreach center. While you are yet single, allow your virtues to be a blessing to your community; because, until you have a family, that is your first ministry.

We all have a purpose to serve in this life, a path to walk down, and it will differ for each person. I know that God made me a woman for a reason, and although it can be difficult at times, I fully embrace His plan. Please pray for me as I continue to grow and learn more about myself. Pray that I not rebel when I become frustrated, but instead allow that tension to sharpen my mind and spirit. I hope that anyone reading this can see my heart behind it; and even if you don’t agree, please continue to move the conversation forward.