This blog post was originally featured on Rising Tswana.
You can listen to this devotional on the audio below, if you prefer that to reading. Feel free to download and share with your loved ones also:
Recently I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across a video from Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (of Rebelgirls.co) called “If Cinderella were a Guy”. Through this video, they highlight the fact that women are impacted by misogyny as early as childhood for the following reasons:
- A lack of representation of well-rounded female main characters in children's books and TV shows
- Linear representations of main female characters (e.g. as damsels in need of rescue by men)
which then give way to confidence issues by the time most girls reach primary or elementary school- more so than boys. In answer to the question of why this is so, Favilli and Cavallo pose one of their own:
“They say that ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’ But what happens if you never see someone like you making the headlines? What happens when all that you see around you is movies, cartoons, books and TV shows dominated by men?”
To counteract this, they created a book called “Goodnight Stories of Rebel Girls”- a collection of:
“100 stories of real women who have achieved incredible things, despite all odds [because] every girl… deserves to grow up thinking that she can be anything she wants.”
When I saw this video it instantly resonated with me. This, I noted, is definitely a problem in the secular world but it is also a problem within the church. Christian women therefore not only have to navigate systemic sexism such as gender pay gaps, mansplaining and rape culture, they also have the added baggage of the misogyny that occurs within church, which includes the:
- Exacerbation of the problem of limited female representation (in terms of how little we are spoken of generally and in what contexts we are spoken about when we are discussed, particularly where the matriarchs of the faith are concerned)
- Objectification of women's bodies (either as weapons for "tempting godly men" or for the sole purpose of pleasuring our husbands and having their babies)
- Depreciation of women's roles and identity (hence the continued debates around female leadership and preachers, and the idea that being a wife and mother is the "ultimate stamp of womanhood")
All of these issues were highlighted via this recent article. Issues which I am personally acquainted with and served as both the frustration and inspiration behind launching this website last year.
This website has allowed me the pleasure of challenging these stereotypes by interviewing a diverse range of Christian women from all walks of life (globally). I also continue to achieve this by discussing the “rebel girls” of the Bible through my weekly devotionals- women who shift traditional paradigms surrounding (Christian) femininity, such as:
#1 The Virtuous Woman (of Proverbs 31)
Although fictional, I used to associate the Proverbs 31 Woman with being the blueprint for Christian womanhood- particularly as it pertained to being a wife and mother. This is because these were the contexts in which I was used to hearing about her. Now, not only have I come to the realisation that Eve is God's blueprint for womanhood, I also see that The Virtuous Woman was a woman with several enterprises. For example:
- Proverbs 31:16 says "She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard"
- Proverbs 31:24 says "She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants"
Hers is therefore an example of a woman who owned businesses and multiple income streams, dismantling the idea that women should not work or have their own money.
If your upbringing was anything like mine, you may only know Eve as being responsible for the fall of man and its consequences (as recorded in Genesis 3). The only other relevance that modern Christian women may feel she has is as an example and traditional justification for the aforementioned stereotypes. However Eve is and represents so much more! As the first woman, she was (and still is) God’s blueprint for womanhood illustrating that, like her, modern women are:
- Also made in God's Image, despite God typically being associated with masculinity
- Called to rule and be stewards, just like men
- Not just called to be "helpers" of men but within the Kingdom of God and His church (Galatians 3:26-29)
Concepts which, amongst other things, I explore in greater depth in my guidebook, "The Ultimate Guide to Eve".
#3 Mary of Bethany
In contrast to her sister, Martha, Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him rather than doing chores (flouting social norms). When incited by Martha to scold Mary for this, Jesus instead praised her for choosing "the good part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:38-42). This is a stark contrast to many cultures, including my own, which continue to be quite prescriptive about gender roles- thereby praising women for being more domesticated than educated. It also shows that God has no qualms with women being educated despite many beliefs to the contrary, which are still affecting many women today.
#4 Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah
Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah were the daughters of Zelophehad. (Numbers 27:1-11). When he died they:
"stood before Moses, before Eleazar the priest, and before the leaders and all the congregation, by the doorway of the tabernacle of meeting, saying: 'Our father died in the wilderness...and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be removed from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers'"
When, Moses brought their case before the Lord, He spoke to Moses, saying:
“The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them."
This is a great example of male deference or submission. It also shows that God is an advocate of women's rights, equality and leadership.
#5 The Woman with the Issue of Blood
Traditionally women's menstrual cycles have been thought of as a "curse" (as per Genesis 3:16). As such the cultural norms of Jesus' day dictated that, during a woman's cycle, she and everything/one that she came into contact with was "unclean" (Leviticus 15:19-33).
Even today, menstruation remains taboo as women's health is still little understood and many women still face shame and ostracism every month. If that is still happening now, you can imagine what it was like for The Woman with the Issue of Blood, who had a gynecological issue that caused her to bleed for 12 years before her encounter with Jesus (Luke 8:43-48)!
Yet when she flouted the law for the sake of obtaining her healing, Jesus did not scold her, shame her or punish her. Instead He showed her grace by reassuring her and allowing her to "go in peace". Through this woman's story the body of Christ learns that, especially where women are concerned, we:
- Need to stop shaming and policing others, making them feel unloved (particularly by God, when this is clearly not the case)
- Should value people above religious dogma
- Should demonstrate God's grace and love to others (rather than condemning or judging them)