Monday, June 11, 2012

What is Biblical Womanhood?

In some circles there is still a lot of talk about the biblical roles for men and women. In reality what the discussion is about is what, according to the Bible, women can and cannot do. Sometimes I think it is the latter that most people are interested in.

I am glad that these kinds of discussions are not a regular part of my experience here at Ashland. I remember when I spent some time at another institution where these kinds of concerns were front and center. I remember feeling like I had been warped back in time. I had forgotten about all of the arguments centering on what the Bible says a woman can and cannot do. 

But some of my colleagues in the academy, the church and blogosphere still are encountering these situations, women in particular. 

Rachel Held Evans has an interesting post in which describes her experience at a "biblical womanhood" conference. She makes some excellent points especially the one that most men do not want to go back to a full patriarchal society since they don't want to sell their daughters to the highest bidder or forbid women to own property. I think she summarizes the situation pretty well as she explains how one speaker uses a picture of June Cleaver as the model for biblical womanhood.
The first photo to appear in her presentation on biblical womanhood was a photo of June Cleaver.Beginning with June as the model of joyful homemaking and biblical femininity, she traced what she perceived to be the slow deterioration of society through the likes of Mary Tyler Moore, Murphy Brown, Carrie Bradshaw, and, finally, Ellen Degeneres. Women once reveled in their God-ordained roles as mothers and homemakers, she said, before Betty Friedan came along and “ruined it all” by telling women that they could name themselves, name the world, and ultimately name God.. While “feminism is the world’s way. Biblical womanhood is God’s way.” 
That image of June Cleaver emblazoned on the screen represented a moment of clarity for me, because it profoundly illustrated a fact that I would encounter again and again and again in my interactions with complementarianism: At its heart, the modern “biblical womanhood movement,” as embodied by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and organizations like it, is not really about returning to a biblical lifestyle; it’s about returning to an idealized vision of pre-feminist, 1950s America that relegates a woman’s identity to her roles as wife, mother, and homemaker. Far from being counter-cultural, it is profoundly cultural, in that it emerges as a reaction to feminism and finds its ethos in nostalgic esteem for a specific time in American cultural history.
You can read the whole post here. Do go visit Rachel's blog and let her know you stopped by.

1 comment:

  1. Without being at the conference, I'd agree with Rachel's insight—that there is a deep desire to return to an idealized America, based on our nostalgic view of our recent past. I think we see this in more than just the way we want to define roles for men and women. Just listen to the rhetoric about political candidates during the after-service coffee klatch.

    That said, I don't think Rachel's insight proves anything at all about what scripture teaches on the roles of men and women and nor does it undermine the position of the complementation view. So, a lot of complementarians are nostalgic about their culture's past. So what? Maybe their nostalgia is wrong or flawed, but they might still be on the right side of truth, no?

    What drives the egalitarian? A progressive view of the world? A desire to earn an income or have a respected career regardless of sex? Doctrine?

    I'm guessing for each side, especially when talking about the rank and file, it's a big mess of reasons and desires and influences ... we can't discount these positions based on what's driving the population. We've got to get at the truth and it should be based on our philosophical view of life. It needs to be based in a solid and defensible ontology, metaphysics and morality.

    Besides, everyone knows that June made the best cookies. ;)