Reading the words above from a free paper on the London underground from celebrity actor Isla Fisher created two reactions in me. It made sense on one hand and I longed for a life of feminine equality. But hearing the word femininity always seems to make me cringe - especially as Isla's actress roles in terrible films are not ever ones I'd aspire to be.
Instead femininity seems to be at odds with a girl who has done a lifetime of sporting activities, at times being the only female in the team at work, and going no where near what she perceives to be the stereotypical Christian domesticated female who bakes and has 'a gentle spirit'. Basically my lifestyle and character didn't seem to work with femininity.
To me femininity has symbolised weakness. The feminine ones were the girls who were picked second last on the school sports teams. The girls who chose to do arts and crafts inside instead of running around. They were the meek and mild ones who I felt needed to man up a little bit, stop crying in the playground and stop being boring.
And yet in adulthood, they were the ones all the guys irritatingly pursued for relationships. As I found out long ago, not many guys like to be punched on the arm by a tom boy wannabe… Yet many girls like to feel that to be equal and noticed we have to adopt what I'm going to call a 'hard spirit' - a spirit that stamps all over our own femininity so there is no risk of appearing weak, inferior or insecure.
My anti-feminine-spirit opinion has clearly gone askew somewhere along the way. God made men and women with unique characteristics purposefully - 'He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them "Mankind" when they were created.' Genesis 5verse 2
Ultimate Christian handbook
The ultimate Christian handbook on femininity by the Eldredges, 'Captivating', unveiled truths for many women, but for plenty of others, I hear that the bold statements were more vomit-worthy for them. For example, John and Stasi Eldredge write in 'Captivating' , "Every woman, in her heart of hearts, longs for three things: to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty. That's what makes a woman come alive."
For a modern woman, post feminist era, we want to have the great adventure throughout our lives without being the weak or vulnerable character and we don't want to wait until we play the poor rescued female. Although this book isn't necessarily about femininity, it looks at how we as women should do our lives from God's perspective. But some come away with a sense that they will never be that woman - they don't want to be, they hate the thought of becoming the self-sacrificing dress-wearing, cake-making female who submits to her husband.
I'd like to throw it out there that the Eldredge's may well be right in many ways? 'Captivating' hits something in our spirit that rejects their construction of a woman's role as something they couldn't be… or wouldn't be? And so I believe that many women have a skewed viewpoint on what it is to be feminine. On the surface I would have laughed at anyone who might have asked me if it was jealousy or feeling a lack of worth for embracing being truly feminine.
Yet adopting a hard spirit for my life has been a way to protect myself from having to admit that femininity makes me nervous - it is something I am not sure I can do. In our modern world, I believe it's easier for a woman to take on a hard spirit but the challenge is living contentedly with the feminine spirit. The softness can threaten the identity they have constructed for themselves and barriers they've put up around them - they don't want to appear vulnerable.
And so what is feminine from God's perspective? As God is all male and all female, he embodies both masculinity and femininity completely. The bible tells us in Proverbs 31 verse 30 that, 'Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.'
Femininity is not frilly dresses or long hair or a soft voice - although God allows women to embrace these things in the Bible. It is not the gorgeous Hollywood actress look with designer dresses. It is not about expressing sexuality which often gets confused with femininity - whether covertly or overtly. John Eldredge again says, "She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish with Eve. She is the Master's finishing touch." But what does this mean? And has the modern woman lost sight of what this truly is?
The feminine heart
Rather than adopting a feminine character I believe it's about the feminine heart. It's about claiming our beauty, stepping into the mantle of our spiritual authority and growing into our warrior female role. And of course, women can be feminine without believing in God, so although praising God is essential in the passage from Proverbs, I would also interpret it as loving life contentedly and embracing a softness of heart rather than character. It's about honouring other females rather than clashing with them (which I've observed can happen when a girl struggling with a hard spirit encounters the feminine spirit).
It's a peace with being female, without feeling we have to be male (or adopt male traits) to succeed in relationships or our workplace or even with God. We don't have to be the dominant or abrasive ones, but we can still be successful. We can still be achievers and love the outdoors, but our perspectives of ourselves as females are different. We can stop emasculating men by knowing and living our femininity so they can live out their masculinity.
Cutting off the jokey nicknames from myself, accepting compliments, noticing the feminine strength of certain women around me and choosing a role model of how they live their life… All these contribute to me discovering how God made me as feminine and individually crafted my femininity. I might not need to be at the centre of a great love story living as poor Cinderella rescued by a Prince, but I know that my God has me in the centre of a love story where he has pursued me.
So I hope that in a new season of stepping into femininity, I might draw closer to who God says I am, and into the heart of God as I become his bride. And I might even put on a dress.
Proverrbs 31 : 10-31
A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She's quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
"Many women have done wonderful things,
but you've outclassed them all!"
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!
Originally from The Lake District in the UK, Amanda works in Publishing in Auckland and is passionate about seeing Christians bring salt and light into the media, arts and creative industries. She is also working on fighting her FOMO and doing less. Amanda wrote this article from London when on holidays.
Amanda Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amanda-robinson.html