Struggling with Christian female identity
As I watched a program the other day on which two men were dressed as women in garish, bright yellow dresses, I lamented the state of our nation. Not just for this, but for so many things we are getting wrong in America right now.
As a protestant woman, there are pressures put upon us to carry forward the feminist agenda into our places of worship. many times we are pressured to lead, or teach, or even to preach. Our places of worship have been turned into political arenas. Woe to she who is on the wrong side of popular opinion. It may not even BE popular opinion. For all intents and purposes, it may just be the loudest.
These days, girls, and women are told that they can be anything they wish to be. ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it!’… is the common battle cry. Except a wife and mother… That is the not always as loud cry from those who oppose traditional families, but it is still there as a message. A message that is becoming louder and louder.
One of the happy discoveries I made in orthodoxy is; I don’t have to advance whatever ‘women’s’ agenda is on the rise in the world. There are no women priests in the Orthodox church and I am ‘ok’ with that. As a Protestant I was not ok with the very few women preaching to congregations. There should have been more (my thinking at that time). Even now, I am ‘ok’ with females teaching, even in audiences which include men and women. I’m not going to tell men they cannot come to a women’s event (although sometimes it is nice when it’s just all ladies.). Women are more likely to open up and share their hearts more deeply when men are not around. I’m sure it is the same for the men when there are no women around. Our ladies’ group is lead by our parish priest. While it is nice to have him all to ourselves so-to-speak, once a week… I do wish we ladies met more often with it being ‘just us ‘girls”. I’m working on it. My home has experienced leaking from a poorly patched roof. As soon as the interior damage is repaired, I will be hosting regular tea-times in my home for the women of our parish.
I doubt there is a woman in all of Christendom who has not struggled with the example put forth to us by the Proverbs 31 woman.
What if I told you that the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 was none other than… Bathsheba! Here is a LINK to the article written by, Fr. Gleason.
In Protestantism, they have the Proverbs 31 women as an example of Christian femininity which no man can imitate. As Orthodox women we have her but we also blessed have the Mother of God as an example of Christian femininity and virtue. Yes, Mary is the Mother of God, of course. She is respected and venerated in churches and homes around the world, but also… she was a mom to our Christ (but of course He had to grow up), and a wife to Joseph (but of course not in the conjugal sense). She took care of her home. She took care of, Joseph, and Jesus. She was a homemaker. She kneaded bread, changed the bed linen, cleaned her home, and went to the market. The most Holy Mother of God shopped for food!
In the current book I am reading (which I HIGHLY recommend to everyone) Words of the Heart, Gerondissa Makrina , an abbess who departed this world in 1995 recounts a vision she had about the Virgin Mary.
Page 66. The most Holy Theotokos also guided her concerning practical matters and tasks of the monastery. One time, Gerondissa saw the Panagia in the kitchen showing her how to work, putting away dishes and tidying up the space in the blink of an eye. Because of this experience, Gerondissa would often say that the Panagia is a very good housekeeper and very quick, and she would urge the sisters to work carefully and quickly.
The word, Panagia refers to the Virgin Mary. The examples put forth by biblical women have nothing to do with politics or being priests (fathers of the church).
The biblical examples of Christian women are; humility, service, obedience (not a dirty word but also does not mean to be crushed under the heal of her husband or father) submission (Ruth to Boaz, Mary to the Will of God. These are biblical versions of submission and it does not mean to be violated or trampled. Always in the bible we see these examples leading to blessing.)
I have mentioned before that my patron saint is the Blessed Matrona of Moscow. She thought that women wearing make up was a sin because it distorted us form being in the image of God. Hard for someone to hear who used to be a Mary Kay Consultant. But in our society, where anyone can put on a heavy layer of make up and call themselves a woman, I can see the wisdom in her words. Being a woman is so much more than breasts, skirts, hair well groomed, and being ‘made up’. While these things are nice, and yes, I still go to church ‘put together’ there are more and more days where I do not wear make-up.
A side note for you: many covers of fashion magazines feature trans-gendered men as women. I’m sure I’m not using the terminology properly but here is the issue- one of many regarding this…
Men naturally have less body fat than women. A man dressed to pass as a woman, on the cover of a fashion magazine, presents an impossible body image to young women. I wonder how many girls are suffering from anorexia because they saw a man on the cover of a magazine and almost killed herself trying to diet down to this fake ‘ideal body’? I challenge you, as women… as ‘keepers of the hearth’ to toss out and cancel magazine subscriptions which do not project an accurate image of Christian femininity. Do we as Christian women REALLY need to keep up with the latest clothing trends and fashions? No. Do we need to know what celebrities are wearing? No. Do we need the latest cosmetics craze dreamed up by the most ‘IT’ pop-star of the moment? No. Tossing certain magazines in the trash bin, and stopping those subscriptions is a good first-step toward reclaiming our Christian female identities, and reducing our consumerism at the same time.
Another good step toward reclaiming our Christian female identity is to be careful about what we allow into our ‘eye and ear gates’.
During Great Lent, we fast from certain foods which go into our, ‘mouth gate’. Jesus said what is more important is what comes out of our mouth than what goes into our mouth. Did you know that what comes out of our mouths can be influenced by what goes into our eyes (what we watch or read) and by what goes into our ears (the commercials we hear, the music we listen to, etc.)? If you watch t.v., be sure to mute the commercials. When listening to music is it contemporary music which is usually lacking in substance (even Protestant hymns can too fluffy.) or do you listen to cd’s and podcasts about the Divine Liturgy and Orthodox teachings?
Perhaps you are thinking; ‘Good heavens, Matrona (that’s me) you sure are getting quite strict!’. Well… and why not? In the Words of the Heart book, Gerondissa Makrina talks about how when we become lax in guarding ourselves, in our obedience, etc. we open ourselves up to darkness. If we are focused on eternity. If we busy ourselves with preparing ourselves to spend eternity in the presence of God, nothing else matters. Watching the latest episode of whatever t.v. show is our favorite while enjoyable (and yes even ‘ok’) it does not prepare us for eternity.
Do you have balance in your life? If not, the things that need to be removed and evaluated before being allowed back in… are not the things of God.
If you claim to be a Christian but support many worldly ideas, perhaps you are too much in the world. perhaps you watch too many soap operas, or night time t.v. dramas/comedies which have a clear, and ungodly, agenda.
Perhaps social media is your ‘media pet’? I am struggling with giving up Twitter for Lent. Twitter is my only social media account. I miss it. I miss voicing myself in that particular arena. My blog posts are updated on my Twitter account automatically. I have caught myself a couple of times trying to justify going to my account and commenting on issues. I have slipped up a couple of times and I do miss my community. for an introvert it is a great way to ‘interact’ with people without having to do so face-to-face which has its good points and not so good points.
Beware of social media. It very much presents an unrealistic view point of what it means to be a woman; but especially what it means to be a Christian woman.
I’m turning this post into a series. I will be covering topics ranging from purity to keeping house, to cooking, praying, etc.
I was just about to write how I thought our culture underestimated the important roles women have as wives and mothers. Based on how much these two aspects of womanhood are vilified and attacked by all aspects of media in our society, I instead think the world knows exactly how impactful women are on their husbands and families which is why it is so difficult to be a wife and mother these days. This is also why it is so important to have a focused series on this very important aspect of Christian femininity. You’ll hear from my friends & family and ladies from my parish about what it means for them to be wives and mothers both with modern struggles as well as in trying to keep things more traditional.
One of the reasons (there are many) why I became Orthodox was to get out of the female rat race. The pressure for women to ‘do it all’ was prevalent in every Protestant church I attended. I’m not saying this pressure is removed from every Orthodox church but I do try to observe what is going on around me and it seems, from my observations, that motherhood is much revered in orthodoxy. Traditional values are… well… VALUED in the Orthodox church.
If there is something you would like to read more about or have a video tutorial on, please let me know. I will take into consideration your ideas.
This was quite a long post. Here is a picture of a monk teaching bear cubs how to dance? Not really but it is a funny pic. I hope it brightened your day a bit.