I am proud to work to reclaim the word feminist for its original meaning: The valuing of life and true equality. I know the word has been skewed, spat on, and stigmatized, but for me that is no reason to leave it behind.
Okay. I'll step off my soap box for now.
But some women have fallen into the frightening pit that I like to call femi-legalism (like that term? I just came up with it). This pit is composed of women becoming so "independent" they forget that other people are there to give and be given to, women that are so wrapped up in "demanding what's theirs" that they have become blind to the needs of others, and so interested in living their own lives that they forget the suffering of those around them. They are against any traditional roles or terms. And the one "traditional role" I'd like to address that is often misinterpreted is the "Proverbs 31 woman".
The Proverbs 31 woman has gotten a lot of criticism lately, especially from girls my age. Girls trying to be their own version of the Modern Woman, which for some reason has caused this woman of the Bible to come under fire. Just last week my friend was telling me that a girl had posted one of these articles explaining how she was so much more than the Proverbs 31 woman. That she was not a stereotype. That line of thought begs the question: Who is the Proverbs 31 woman, and should we actually try to emulate her?
My answer is: of course. There is such a thing as a literal interpretation and an cultural interpretation, that is: applying text to make it relevant to our current situation. We have to look at the Proverbs 31 passage both ways. The wife outlined in Proverbs 31 is beautiful and humbling. She possesses qualities to emulate regardless of where we are in life. As a single woman, I consider the passage a charge to be diligent, hardworking, graceful, generous, strong, and God-fearing.
But what are some of people's issues with the Proverbs 31 woman? Well, I'm glad you asked.
This woman is often criticized as not being a strong character, being married and servant to her husband. But that is not the case. The passage itself says "Strength and dignity are her clothing"(vs. 25). She has strength and none of that is taken away by marriage. A common mistake in our fallen world is that women cannot be strong and in love. But in fact, choosing to love is one of the greatest sacrifices we can make. It takes more work than always concentrating on ourselves, after all.
She is also criticized for being "stay-at-home". First, let me say there is nothing wrong with choosing to stay with your children at home. Society has deemed that role unacceptable, but that is simply ridiculous. Women exhibit strength in choosing their profession, not in which profession they choose. But this is also where other interpretation comes in. Her diligence within her household is a charge to work wisely and ardently where we find ourselves, regardless of what job we end up working.
The Proverbs 31 woman sees need and gives to the poor. She works tirelessly and does not fear for the future, because God is her ultimate defender. She teaches kindness and wisdom. And she cares for the needs of those around her. There is nothing more beautiful than that or more worth imitating. When we reject her example, we embrace our own foolishness, choosing selfishness over sacrifice. So let's not become so self-righteous that we forget where our priorities are. Let's all try to be more like this woman of the Bible, no matter what situation we're in.
P.S. So before I end this week, I have to give a little shout-out to the person who inspired this article. Thanks, Jaime. You are a wonderful, wise woman of God and I'm honored to know you. Little did either of us know your frustration with someone else's interpretation would make me want to write my own!