“I recognized that femininity and strength are not mutually exclusive, and I think that femininity has often been equated with weakness, but we know it’s not.” – Niki Caro -Director, New Zealand
It’s International Women’s Day as I write— a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Around the world, women took photos with their arms in the shape of an X proclaiming the hashtag #BreakTheBias. What biases are we supposed to break? According to Pew Research Center, in 2019 57% of US women believed that men have it better in our society, up 18 points from 2010. Women were less optimistic than men in all of the countries surveyed, that gender equality will ever be reached. In 1960, women earned 60 cents to every dollar that men earned. In 2020, that number had increased to 83 cents for women for every man’s dollar. There was a 10k-12k difference in the median pay between men and women in Ohio. The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) instituted Equal Pay Day to expose this difference. In 2022 it will be on March 15th.
FEMININE means having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women. The Latin femina actually means “woman.” In women’s ministry we discuss what it means to be feminine, contrasted with being a feminist —an equal rights advocate for women. As you can see to the left there are stereotypical answers that some use to define femininity. It’s so easy to just think of things feminine as girly hair, nails, makeup and clothing. The passage on the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 defines femininity much differently. The “Proverbs 31 Woman” is: a trusted confidante to her husband, physically fit, a businesswoman, property owner, and philanthropist. This woman is a wife and mother who is also an enterprising worker, homemaker, and entrepreneur. She is benevolent, speaks kindly, and is respected and praised by her husband and children. Most importantly, she worships and fears the LORD. It’s no wonder that kind of woman is hard to find!
Jesus broke cultural norms in His engagement with women. He befriended and taught women. (Luke 10) His ministry was funded by women. (Luke 8) He spoke to women of ill repute and invited them to represent Him in ministry (John 4). The first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were women. (Matt. 28:8) He did all this at a time when women could not own property or testify in court. A woman’s opinion or her presence at an event was not even worth mentioning. Jesus gave women worth and significance. We may disagree on what it means to be feminine, but we cannot deny that Jesus was a true advocate of women.