For a long time I felt guilty, even ugly. I would read books about ‘true womanhood’ and felt so… not womanly.
It wasn’t necessarily looks, though I was never too confident in those. I have a “four-finger forehead” (as coined by Tyra Banks), with wavy/curly/I-cannot-be-tamed hair, big triangular eyebrows (which have been tamed), a body I feel is ridiculously out of proportion, and have more freckles than a Dalmatian has spots. But that’s never really bothered me. I can’t really change it.
What’s bothered me most is my very ‘tomboyish’ personality, even though I don’t feel I am. Somewhere along the line I was given the impression that ‘real women’ wear pink, makeup, and have perfectly coiffed hair, and just sit down and do as they’re told. They bake. They sew. They knit.
Not this woman.
This woman takes charge when charge needs taken, even if it means stepping on male toes who were unwilling to step up and do something. I will openly disagree with people, and have no problem carrying on 3 hour long debates. I will defend what I love with claws sharpened and teeth bared. I fear little aside from bees and tree nuts, both of which can kill me.
I don’t do drama. I don’t do gossip. I do change tires and brakes. I truly don’t care what people think of me, though I don’t go out of my way to be unlikeable. I do rock climb with an electric blue manicure. I do cook. I love cooking. I do not bake (you don’t want to see me bake). I thrive on adventure and love doing anything ridiculously daring. Sky diving is an activity currently on my bucket list.
No surprise, guys get along with me easier than girls do. My closest friends are all equally as ‘rebellious’ women.
My friends call me a paradox. It takes them a while to adjust to my version of womanhood, but it doesn’t make me any less a woman.
At first, I thought it did.
I thought my decidedly ‘not-feminine’ approach to life was due to my time in pornography. Many women in pornography are vocal, aggressive, loud, and powerful. They are women; hear them roar.
I thought they had changed me. I thought maybe, deep down inside was a Jessica who was quiet, timid, gentle, and who liked to knit. I’ve looked for a few years now and still haven’t found her.
Here’s my conclusion: Such a me does not exist.
My personality is not a product of pornography.
Now, can pornography influence us? Absolutely. I’ve had instances I’ve been able to attribute to the effects of pornography. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but I assure you, pornography has nothing to do with my desire to rock climb and the fact that I have no patience for scrap booking.
Christian women are caught in a bit of a tug-of-war.
On one hand we have the cultural feminists, who stage topless demonstrations in order to fight for equal rights. If guys can walk around topless, so can they. If men can watch porn, so can women. Women should have porn made for them too. We are women, hear us roar.
Then, there’s a popular Christian cultural version of femininity which pounds the meek and quiet spirit, and memorizes Proverbs 31. We are women, listen to us wash dishes. Is Proverbs 31 great? Of course, but let’s be realistic.
If we want to take it word-for-word literally, then all of us should be wearing scarlet, because a “real” Proverbs 31 woman clothes her home in scarlet. I think we would all agree that the specifics point toward the character of the woman, not her homemaking skills. She is trustworthy (v. 11), a hard worker (v. 13-15), resourceful (v. 16), caring (v. 12, 20), strong, honorable, etc.
Still, we can find ourselves trapped in this mindset that all actions of the world fit into perfectly spliced ‘gender roles.’ There are “man” things, and there are “women” things, and mainstream society has spent several decades trying to destroy those walls, while a majority of Christianity has been working to reinforce them. Here’s the deal, though. We aren’t called to fit into society’s (whether it be secular or Christian society) mold of womanhood.
Real women can get college degrees, lead corporations, write books (amen!), go rock climbing, cook, bake, do dishes, or knit.
Sometimes, when we look at our battle and the long road of healing ahead of us, we aim for this bizarre, un-natural goal of becoming something we were never created to be. Notice, I didn’t say something we can’t be. The Christian life is all about being something we can’t (in our own strength) be. We try to be something (or some one, I should say) we were never created to be.
We set this standard that goes beyond godliness and purity and ventures into actually redesigning how God made us. I’m not talking about overcoming sin; I’m talking about forcing ourselves to do something simply because that’s what women are supposed to do. I’m talking about feeling guilty or even ugly because we don’t fit into a specific mold of womanhood.
As I finished reading Sexual Sanity for Women, by Harvest USA (review coming soon), I came across one concept that was so healing for me. In short:
I am a woman. Therefore what I do is feminine.
Can women rock climb? Yes, because I do. Do women have to sit at home and knit? No, because I don’t. My body makes me a woman, not my actions. If I don’t wear lace, and don’t knit, it doesn’t make me any less a woman. The standards we set forth in Christian society are not standards of womanhood; they are standards of Christian living for men and women both.
It’s time we stopped. Stopped shooting for little cultural standards and making idols out of our own selves and each other. It’s time we focused on the principles of living a Godly life, which include the fruits of the Spirit, the command to love each other, and the command to respect authority. Those don’t define us as women. Those define us as Christians.