Thursday, 13 December 2012

The F Word

This is a polarizing word, one that I instinctively cringe at. It's not taboo in Christian circles, in fact it is trumpeted from the rooftops and plastered all over pretty blogs covered in roses with sweet hymns playing in the background.


It wasn't pushed on me as a child, but I have a cautionary tale about Christian homeschool girls who did have this word rammed down their throats from an early age. I’ll tell you the story of "Lucy," an amalgamation of 2 or 3 real girls.

Lucy was something of a tomboy. As soon as she could toddle around, she was playing in the dirt, fording streams, and mauling small animals. Her mother despaired. She longed for her girl to be a perfect little lady, a good example to other children. So she did what made sense to her: she shoved Lucy into pink dresses with puffed sleeves.

Original Photo: Pink Tutus, a photo by rustman on Flickr.
Lucy hates puffed sleeves. Ever tried to climb trees or chase cattle in a skirt? Not the easiest thing in the world. Besides that, puffy dresses and lace weren't to Lucy's personal taste (fashion ideas develop early, don't they?). But these things were "feminine," and God wants little girls to be feminine, right? So Lucy suffered in silence.

Now Lucy is in her twenties, and what is the last thing in the world she wants to be? You guessed it. FeminineShe's cut her hair short, bought some black shirts, and has nothing but jeans in her closet. Nothing, that is, except for one pink skirt. That's what she wears to church on Sundays. 

Why does she wear that skirt to church? It's a holdover from youth. She has the idea that this is what you're supposed to do. It’s somehow "holier," and should be worn at least once a week. She wears that skirt because her mother wants her to. The church wants her to. Maybe God wants her to.

What is true femininity? It has a lot to do with cultural norms,  with what is traditionally considered appropriate to women. The Biblical definition is 99% about character (as Devin pointed out, you can be feminine as a duchess or a cowgirl), and almost nothing to do with clothing. The Bible has very little to say about how women should dress (1 Timothy 2:9-10 is a rare and somewhat vague exception). 

Some girls like Lucy are shamed into flouncy clothes they dislike, others abandon femininity altogether as soon as they grow up. Plenty of girls—many of you, I'm sure—have no problem with pink and dresses (I certainly don't). There is nothing wrong about being feminine. God calls women to look, speak, and act like women, but I cringe at the word “femininity” because of so many bad examples.

We wade in dangerous waters when we put strict limits on what is and what is not feminine.

Here is the warning I feel led to give: be careful when you define what is "feminine" for another girl, especially when it comes to clothing. It is so easy to injure someone else’s spirit with judgmental words. More than likely, someone who is already set against femininity will run in the opposite direction and you’ll end up doing more harm than good.

Are we called to a high standard of holiness? Yes
Is it sometimes hard to be feminine in a culture of gender equality? Yes
Should we encourage other girls to act in a godly way? Yes
Must we be careful about the extra-biblical rules and regulations that we put down concerning dress and attitude? I believe so.

Have you or someone you know had an experience similar to Lucy’s? What is your working definition of femininity?


  1. That was a wonderful post Abby! How true. I know several "Lucy's" who left the church because they felt that being Godly and feminine was all about the pink clothing, tea parties or whatever else they labeled feminine and they ran from anything like that as soon as they could. It is so sad to see young women fall into this trap of lies that Satan has used to trip them up.

    May God fill each of us with His love, that it might spill over and touch others...with no "human expectations" holding on.

    Again, great post!



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