May 26, 2015

Femininity - Biblical or Cultural?

Recently I've read some posts on the subject of femininity that make me cringe.  Meant with the best of intentions, I fear they do more harm than good.  So, this made me start thinking.  What is femininity as it pertains to Christian women?

First, (because I am a writer and words seem like a logical place to start) let's see what Google says.

noun: femininity, plural noun: femininities

1. the quality of being female, womanliness
          "she celebrates her femininity by wearing makeup and high heels"
synonyms: womanliness, feminineness, womanly qualities, feminine qualities
          "she was a woman truly comfortable in her femininity"

The American Heritage Dictionary says: 1. The quality or condition of being feminine, womanliness. 2. A female characteristic or trait. 3. Womankind. 4. Womanishness; effeminacy

I think we can safely say the word "Femininity" means to conduct oneself as a woman would, pertaining to the following areas - appearance, attitude, actions, and behavior.  Let's see what the Bibles says are appropriate ways for a woman to conduct herself. 

1 Tim. 2:11-12 - Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 

Prov. 31:30 - Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Prov. 31:26 - She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teachings of kindness are on her tongue.  

Prov. 31:20 - She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. 

These verses paint a powerful picture of what a Godly woman should be.  Still, where does femininity fit into all of this? 

The majority of posts I've read on this subject push makeup, skirts, curled hair, perfume, nail polish, etc.  They go so far as to plainly state that outward appearance is key to being feminine.  

Certainly, outward appearance is one aspect of being feminine, but not the only one... nor, in my opinion, the most important.

This begs the question, what about those girls who are not comfortable wearing dresses/skirts, prefer short(er) hair, can't afford/choose not to spend their money on makeup, or simply prefer to spend their time improving other aspects of their lives? Are these individuals any less feminine?

I would contend that 95% of "femininity" is apparent in the way women act, their frame of mind, their grace and thoughtfulness in social situations, their willingness to serve (even if it causes them to appear less feminine), and the words they choose to speak.

I genuinely fear that spending too much time on ones appearance can hinder your ability to be an effective witness.  I know someone who always dresses nicely when he goes places – slacks and a button up shirt. He's nice to everyone and is very personable. However, it wasn't until one day when he accidentally spilled bbq sauce on his white shirt that someone (who had been watching him for a while) dared to approach and talk to him. This flaw in his normally perfect appearance gave him a human quality that had been lacking before; a little bbq on his shirt made him more approachable than his nice clothes or his combed hair. We, as Christians, should be careful that we aren't working so hard on improving our outward appearance that we cause others to feel like we are purposefully elevating ourselves above them.  In our endeavor to appear put-together, we should constantly be aware of the fact that at some point we cross over the line of appearing human to others and effectively push them away... snuffing out any chance we may have had at showing them the love of Christ.

When I think of the feminine women in my life, I think of those who thank men that hold doors for them, who take children on 4-wheeler rides, who help their brothers put the body of a twelve passenger van back on its chassis, who play Capture The Flag because the team needs one more player... but still curl their hair and wear a dress to a fancy dinner party. Those women who smile at everyone, love everyone, and serve everyone. 

To answer my own question, I believe that Biblical femininity is far more than personal appearance.  Femininity is a strong but quiet woman, a willing servant, a graceful conversationalist, a joyful giver and a humble receiver.  And then, on top of that, if you want to wear makeup... please feel free.  However, I believe a woman wearing a t-shirt and ponytail is possibly more equipped to tackle the world God has set in front of her and is most definitely not of any less value to Him.   

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