What is femininity?
What does it mean to be a lady?
How does a true lady act?
What does she look like?
These questions seem to echo around us, especially considering the fact that most of the women in our society do not fit the title of “a lady”, as femininity has been traded for feminism and many women are eager to prove (strange as it may seem) “masculinity”. At first glance, it seems as though there are so few women concerned with carrying out the Biblical role of womanhood. In probing a little deeper, we find that there are ladies who desire to live out their destiny as women, but the question is, how?
As born-again believers, it would seem natural to answer this question by turning to the Scriptures. Interestingly enough, the Bible does not give very much instruction about how to carry out our role. There are Proverbs 31, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 2:9-15, 1 Peter 3:1-6 – these are rather well-known passages, but they still leave us with questions.
For instance, is it ladylike to do work that could be considered men’s work? I can imagine 100 years ago, some upper-crust, high society “ladies” being horrified at the thought of doing physically taxing, manual labor. They certainly would not have considered it ladylike to carry firewood, milk a cow or (as in Proverbs 31:16) plant a vineyard. Yet in some third world countries, it is the accepted standard that women do much of the manual labor. What is the answer? Do we accept the standard of femininity from wealthy ladies of the Victorian era, or that of the third world countries? Or do we simply accept what our culture determines to be the roles of men and women? That would be a dangerous thing to do in modern-day USA.
As I thought about this topic, I remembered a Scripture that I had read:
“And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.” – Nehemiah 3:12
No! Really?! The daughters of one of Jerusalem’s governor s… they were actually building the wall?? Read on a little further. Chapter 4, verses 17 and 18 say –
“They which builded on the wall, and they that bear burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, everyone had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”
The girls … they were carrying weapons? Swords?
Granted, it does say “his hands”, “his sword”, “his side”, but one of the first lessons you discover in studying and learning Hebrew is that a group is always addressed or discussed in the masculine, unless there are only women in the group. If you are talking to a group of one hundred people and there are ninety-nine women … and one man, you talk to them in the masculine tense. That may not make sense to English-speaking people but many other languages have two words (masculine and feminine) for what would be one word in English. All that to say, I believe it most likely that Shallum’s daughters were included in that group; that they built the wall and that they carried weapons.
Somehow that doesn’t exactly fit into the Victorian era mindset of being a lady! Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy hoop-skirts, fancy dresses and tea parties, but there is a lot more to life than that. We are told that the Proverbs 31 woman “worketh willingly with her hands”, “she girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms”. Who says arm wrestling isn’t for girls! I firmly believe that being a lady includes working … and working hard sometimes. Work is not disgraceful; it can be enjoyable.
As I write, I realize that this is a touchy issue and what I am saying could sound rather feministic. After all, don’t the feminists claim they can do anything a man can do? Didn’t they fight for the right to have the same jobs as men? How can we work hard as women and not try to prove that we can do anything a man can? The answer is in 1 Peter 3:4 – a meek and quiet spirit.
I am certainly not encouraging or condoning that women go into the workplace to “work willingly” and “strengthen their arms”. The best place to do that is in your home, as we see with the Proverbs 31 woman. She didn’t have a career and go off to work every day. Instead, she saw to the ways of her household. She was the center of her home, supporting and caring for her charges.
Have we come to a conclusion? Let’s see to it that we fulfill our duties with a meek and quiet spirit. Let’s work willingly and strengthen our arms, all the while remembering that we are the weaker vessel and our femininity is something beautiful. We are not called to be men, or to do all the things that men can do. We are women and we should glory in carrying out our destiny.
I’m not sure if there will be a need for volunteers to build the wall of the New Jerusalem but if there is, I hope it will be said that Tom Washburn and his daughters worked together on it!!
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13,14
(This article was originally published in Volume1 Number3/Autumn 2008. You can request the entire issue in PDF on this page.)
Possibly sharing at: The Modest Mom, Mama Moments, The Art of Home-Making Monday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Titus 2sdays, Roses Of Inspiration, So Much At Home, A Wise Woman, Raising Homemakers, A Little R&R, Coffee and Conversation, Hearts for Home, Growing in Grace, Imparting Grace, SHINE Blog Hop, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Fridays, The Homemaking Party.