In Defense of the 'Unladylike' Christian Woman
By Jo Hilder on May 22, 2012
A few months ago I wrote a couple of blogs about men, women, sex, marriage, masturbation, infidelity and Christianity. They were widely read, my blog stats were happy to report. I received some great feedback, too. And a half-joking guarantee I’d never be invited to speak in church in any of the southernmost states of the U.S.A. And that’s quite okay.
And then, there was this - emailed directly to me, not left as a comment on the blog:
Fantastic article! One problem: why must you use such crude, even vulgar language to express your position? It is especially wrong for Christians to speak and write that way. Moreover, ladies don't talk that way.
Ladies don’t talk that way. A slightly backhanded compliment, to say the least.
Image: Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press.
My male reader apparently thought the article was great and took the time to tell me so, but also felt it would be okay to speak to me as if I were his eight-year-old daughter who just said “crap” at the dinner table. I read the comment to my husband. His eyebrow went up. "That man," he said, "is not your father, and he is not your pastor. And he most certainly is not your husband. Who is he to tell you how you may or may not write on your own blog? ” God, I love that man. So, I wrote back to the man who was not my daddy, pastor or husband...
Thanks for visiting my blog, I really appreciate it. With regards to your enquiry, I have checked back over the last few posts I wrote, and I am actually at a loss to know what bad language you are referring to. My subject matter is confrontational, for certain, and I’d agree my manner of speaking about it is frank. Please let me know which post you mean.
Please forgive me for not identifying the article. It dealt with a husband's excuse for adultery. Fabulous.
My interest piqued, I clicked the link at the bottom of his email and checked out his website. Author. Pastor. Conservative Republican. Advocate for freedom of speech...but only if that speech is something he wrote himself, it seems.
I wrote back and addressed his *freedom of speech* manifesto.
Thanks for clearing that up. I checked out your website. I particularly liked this part:
"The author has gone on record as never permitting anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances to tell him what he can preach or teach."
And by the way, I will give you $20 if you can find evidence I ever wanted to be considered "ladylike”.
I was simply pointing out to you that we Christians have a responsibility to honor Christ in our actions and conversation. It is my opinion that coarseness and crudeness are unnecessary, unseemly, and unchristian. It is my further opinion, note opinion, that words such as heck, damn, etc. are unnecessary and should not be in a Christian's vocabulary since they are "minced" oaths. We are to let our yea be yea and our nay be nay meaning that we should be clear in our conversations.
(Jo here - I had no idea what minced oaths even were. I had to Wiki it.)
I have been dismayed by this generation of preachers who apparently want to be identified with youth by resorting to sprinkling damn, hell, crap, (even more crude, vulgar words) into their conversation. Of course, each tub must sit on its own bottom and we must all give an account for what we do and say. The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:8 "But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
As to "ladylike," I assume all Christian women value that description but to each his own.
In Christ's Service,
After I stopped rolling on the ground laughing, I replied:
Whilst I share your belief that we as Christians have a responsibility to honour Christ with our actions and conversations, I have come to the conclusion that I also bear a responsibility to behave with authenticity, consistency and transparency. It has not ever been my intention to deliberately try and "grab" an audience by trying to be "hip" and "up with it". It's not a marketing ploy. What you see is what you get. I use the very same language on my blog as I do in my everyday life. I write like I talk. If people don't like it, they are free to read someone else's blog.
I personally am very weary of the behaviour modification approach to presenting Jesus Christ. 'This is the way we do things here.' I find that loving people sincerely and not pretending I am any better than the worst of them generally speaks volumes about the God I serve and love. I have seen Christians who use curse words yet are able to both communicate and facilitate the transforming power of Jesus Christ in the lives of others. I have also seen all-fixed-up Christians have no idea what to do when it comes to loving people and sharing the gospel. I have come to the conclusion that what is important is not micro-managing the behaviour of the messenger, but getting the message across.
With respect, your assumption all Christian women value 'ladylikeness' is indeed incorrect. I don't define myself using the stereotypical gender attributes assigned to me by my particular culture. I value those qualities which enable me to bring the light into dark places, to those who need it the most. I am an advocate. I value the following attributes; courage, strength, wisdom, articulation, resourcefulness and intelligence. Christian womanhood and “ladylikeness" are not inextricably linked. Ladylikeness, in my view, consists largely of activities centred around maintaining a set of long, pretty fingernails, keeping ones legs crossed in public and never leaving the house without makeup on. I haven't the time for those kinds of female niceties. Nice girls rarely change the world. Even Mother Theresa had her critics and her enemies - now that's what I call a lady.
I never thought your use of vulgar language was a ploy, I simply wondered why you think it is necessary. Moreover, I wonder if your mom talked that way and if she permitted you to do so as a child. And do/did you permit your children to do the same?
(Jo here - my mum talks plainly, and I was brought up to do the same. I was raised to speak my mind, and speak it clearly. And I am much more interested in hearing what my kids have to say than I am in policing how they say it.)
You wrote that with you 'what you see is what you get' but is 'what you see' what should be seen? After all, just because we are genuine, sincere, plain, etc. is not the criteria but is that the thing a Christian should do? Remember, the Bible teaches that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit so we are always representivest of Christ. All a Christian's life should be one of improvement, not degeneration.
(Jo here - of all the Christian-ese words I despise the most, should is number one.)
You wrote of 'the transforming power of Jesus' and that is my point: if we are changed when trusting Christ in the forgiveness of sins, we will be changed in every way. We become 'new creatures' in Christ. The old person spoke, lived, and thought one way while the 'new' person speaks, thinks and lives another way--honoring Christ.
It is my opinion, after reading some of what you wrote, that you have been influenced by extremist feminists; however, I could be wrong since that has happened a few times in my life. Being ladylike has nothing to do with long, painted fingernails and other silly things, but using the virtuous woman in Prov. 31 as a pattern should be the aspiration for every woman. I am delighted that my wife, daughters, granddaughters, and daughter-in-law are similar to that woman. It does not mean that they don't think for themselves or are fearful of speaking their minds, but they are gracious, kind, intelligent, women who honor Christ and their husband in their daily lives.
Anyway, good to 'talk' with you.
I can quite honestly say I have never met anyone I would consider to be an extreme feminist, or even finished a book written by one, so I think it's quite unlikely I'm influenced by any. I've seen a few on TV I think, but I can't be sure. I bought a book by Greer at a second hand shop once, but I found it unreadable.
Because you do not know our story, I can appreciate why you've been able to draw the conclusions you have about me. However, you know nothing of the path I have walked as a woman, as a wife and mother, and as a Christian, over the last 40 years. Suffice to say, I have worked very hard in the past to maintain all the 'shoulds' you refer to, including being very careful about not giving Jesus a bad reputation, and being very well-behaved indeed. However, when I was at the lowest of the low, none of those things mattered one little bit, helped one little bit, or served any useful purpose whatsoever. All of my good behaviour had been completely ineffective in bringing the grace of God to bear in my life. In fact, all the fervent behaviour modification I had practiced as a Christian was the first thing that was challenged and discarded, and I am very loathe to take it all up again.
My own grown children are walking their own journey, and I would hate to think they would feel any pressure to be anything other than who and what they are when they are with me. If my two little grand daughters ever come to believe their grandma cares only about jumping on every silly thing they say rather than on pouring out all the grandmotherly love I can muster upon them, I will feel I have failed them.
I realise fully that my children and my grandchildren will draw much of their image of God from who and what I am when I am with them - and I fear that the way we have behaved as Christians in the past - focussed on behaviour modifications, and shoulds, and worrying about Gods reputation being spoiled because of things we said or did - has likely damaged our children's perception of God. God knows it damaged mine. I find it amazing how so many can claim to have been Christian their whole lives and yet never understand that they are truly loved by God, don't you think?
In regards to the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, I think you should probably take all that up with my husband. Like I said, because you have never met me and don't know anything other than what you have read in a few of my blogs, you have drawn some fairly broad and largely disparaging conclusions about my femininity and how I live my life. And that is your prerogative. However, it is mine to continue to challenge the kind of paternalism and overall misogyny amongst many Christians which promotes the regulation of women’s femininity as something that is not the God-created best of a woman, but a device designed purely to complement what I venture is the very worst in men.
PS - You say "All a Christian's life should be one of improvement, not degeneration." I beg to differ. I believe all a Christians life should be about redemption.
I do not believe in the idea of ladylikeness. God did not create ladies, He created women. A lady is a construct, a product, a thing made in the image of the thing some men think they ought not to be. A lady exists only in reference to masculinity - she cannot exist without a man. Being a lady is unnatural. Its hard work. Where a woman is, a lady does. She can never be enough, and is never, ever good enough.
A woman, on the other hand, is God's good work. She is finished, she is complete, and while she is made of the same stuff as a man, she does not need a man to survive. She is strong. She has her own voice. She is enough.
And she is awesome.