I am a woman. I am not a woman because I wear certain clothes or take up certain social roles, I am a woman because I am a woman. This is biological, God-given fact. I have two X chromosomes, and all the normal physical consequences. I have borne children. I do not have to do some particular things to become feminine, I am feminine by definition, because I am a woman. When I read particular complementarian (or worse, patriarchal) blogs and articles, I am bemused and confused by their definitions of femininity. They seem to me to have a lot more to do with a particular, idealised cultural image (was it ever REALLY like that?) than with anything explicitly biblical.
I am a woman, but first I am a person: a redeemed sinner, a blood-bought child of God. His calling on my life is to pursue godliness: to honour Christ in every way. Godliness is not one thing for men and another thing for women, we are all called to be obedient, to be prayerful, to walk in step with the Spirit and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience etc are not divided up, with some of them for men and some of them for women. Nowhere do I see a command to pursue femininity, but many to pursue Christ.
Some of my characteristics and behaviours fit certain definitions of “femininity”, some do not. So what? I was a stay at home mum to be there for my kids, but I think I missed out on the “nesting” gene .. I would rather read a book or write a poem than have the neatest house around. I wear skirts in summer and trousers in winter (comfort and convenience come first). I wear make up. I like to keep my hair between chin and shoulder length, I don’t feel like me if it’s any shorter. I NEVER wear high heels (they hurt my back) and I detest pantyhose. But I like to wear pretty colours (especially purples). I enjoy wearing jewellery. I hate expensive designer fashion, and most of it doesn’t suit me or my personal style anyway.
I can cook reasonably well. I can’t sew if my life depended on it, and ditto for handcrafts. I’ve yet to work out why people even WANT to do handcrafts. I missed out on that gene too. I can enjoy a morning of girl-shopping with my daughter, and I got tremendous satisfaction out of my Greek and Hebrew classes, in both of which I was the only female. I have a good sense of colour, my spatial sense is abysmal. I hate action movies, screen violence repels me, I have almost as little time for formulaic Hollywood romance, probably because I don’t believe it. I’m a verbal person, but I’m not afraid of silence. I am calm and laid back, and never believed I had to micro-manage my children’s lives. (Incidentally, my two kids have grown up to be very organised people – I claim no credit, and they’d laugh at me if I did) I never bother with diaries or to do lists, but I’m punctual to a fault. I can’t open jars but I can kill cockroaches. I have male friends and female friends. I have never had the least desire to be a guy (I LIKE being a girl) but I have been deeply hurt by misogyny and gender injustice.
Am I feminine? Do you know, I don’t really care. I am a person who happens to be a woman. Because I am a woman, what I do is feminine by definition. I don’t care for a gender separated world, with a male sphere of existence and a female sphere of existence. That has always seemed to me a form of apartheid. Every aspect of life is richer if male and female can work in harmony together. The gender wars are a product of the fall. Hierarchical relationships are a product of the fall. The Kingdom of God is about serving and blessing one another, with whatever gifts we have. Our maleness or femaleness is just one aspect of that.