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What is biblical femininity?

Jan 21, 2019

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What does femininity look like? To many, it looks like crying during romantic movies and loving the color pink. It looks like weakness and dependence on others. But this concept of feminism is not correct; femininity is not a list of job descriptions, personal tastes, or abilities. Women are not trapped in a bubble of housewife or nurse. They can be a body-building, single woman while still being feminine, or they can be a pink-loving mother who happens to love cooking. Biblical femininity is more than these personality traits, rather, it is a reflection of the Creator.

In the book Biblical Femininity, author Chrystie Cole studies feminism in the context of Scripture and applies it to modern-day women. Beginning from the creation account, Cole explains that when God created man in Genesis, He understood that man was not fit to be alone and needed a helper, so He created woman. Both man and woman were created in the image of God. As Cole explains, the term God used to describe woman was ezer kenegdo, which means “essential counterpart” (21). He did not describe woman as “non-essential counterpart,” or “sub-par man”; He gave woman an essential role alongside man. Just as man was created in the image of God to display God’s leadership and authority, woman was created in the image of God to display God’s role as a patient and strong helper. God Himself was described as ezer several times in the book of Psalms (Cole 22). Both man and woman were created to exult the Lord through their unique characteristics. Biblical femininity is the role of being an essential counterpart in order to demonstrate the Lord’s similar traits—strength, humility, and submission.

In Psalm 33:20, the Psalmist writes, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield” (NIV). As an article from Ezer Magazine explains, the Psalmist uses the work ezer, which translates to “help” to convey the strength of God. And who denies that God is the absolute strength? Furthermore, Proverbs 31:17 and 31:25 describe woman with “arms. . . strong for her tasks” and as “. . . clothed with strength and dignity” (NIV). Clearly, woman is not seen as feeble in Scripture. While many fear that femininity exposes weakness, they are missing the association with strength that woman is given in Scripture. In Biblical Femininity, Cole compares woman’s role as essential counterpart to a flying buttress. Used in 12th century architecture, these buttresses supported the weight on the walls so the building did not collapse from pressure with their added latticing and windows (22). Without the buttresses, the walls would not be strong enough for ornate lattice work and stained-glass windows. Woman is necessary so that the walls—man—can withstand pressures of this world. Femininity requires strength, and ultimately, it is an expression of God’s ultimate strength.

Along with strength, biblical femininity may be characterized by its emphasis on humility. Woman’s depiction of humility in Scripture can be seen in 1 Peter 3:3-4 when Peter tells the women, “Your beauty should not come from the outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (NIV). Here, woman is characterized as having a gentle and quiet spirit, a phrase often used to refer to humility. Peter is expressing to these women that their femininity should not be characterized by their outer appearance, but instead, it should be characterized by their humility. This humility portrays that of Jesus Christ—who, as God in the flesh, humbled himself to become man and to wash the feet of his disciples. Woman’s femininity is pointing to the Creator, Who is powerful and strong, yet shows perfect humility.

Lastly, biblical femininity depicts the submission Christ showed to the Father. The same chapter in 1 Peter that describes a woman’s humility also explains how a woman’s submission is like that of Christ’s. “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives” (1 Pet. 3:1, NIV). This passage refers to the end of 1 Peter 2, where Peter is describing Christ’s perfect example of submission when He remained quiet in the midst of insults and ultimately died so that His insulters might live righteously and “die to sin” (1 Pet. 2:24, NIV). The power of Christ’s submission to save others is used as an example to encourage women to submit to their husbands, knowing that there is power and strength in that act of submission to save their husbands. As a woman submits to her husband, she is submitting to the Lord just as Christ did. This is a vivid portrayal of the feminine image-bearer reflecting the image of God through humble submission.

Biblical femininity is a picture of God. Women have a great honor in being feminine as it points to God’s strength, humility, and submission. Femininity is not a socially constructed ideal; rather, it is a part of womanhood designed to showcase the qualities of God that are uniquely feminine. As women submit, humble themselves, and support through strength, they are being truly feminine.

Want to read more about this subject? I suggest reading Biblical Femininity by Chrystie Cole.