Show & Tell: Of Femininity & Family


  • I've been meaning to write about this for a while, and kept putting it off... but I want to know what you ladies think about extrabiblical lists/rules for 'ladylikeness'. Here's an example. You may want to contrast it with this article. I'd just be interested to hear your thoughts...
  • Mrs. Brigham wrote an interesting post about women's hairlength and how it may/may not correspond to our spiritual state... What say you ladies?


(Just a little cartoon to lighten the mood! Even fairy tale marriages aren't perfect!)
  • The, Ahem, Easier Thing- Crunchy Con rebuts Linda Hirschman's attacks on stay-at-home wives & mothers
  • Children Are a Blessing - A working mother shares some insights from her workplace about cultural attitudes towards children
  • Is Family a Valid Feminist Choice? - This question has prompted women like the aforementioned Hirschman (and other historical feminists) to assert that women ought not have the option of staying at home, lest they exercise that option out of feelings of obligation or cultural expectation.
  • SUBMISSION - Amy has written an excellent post about what biblical submission means, particularly in the face of disagreement. Go read it.


As always, HAPPY READING! (And let me hear your comments/feedback!)


Anonymous said...

I have been visiting your site about 2 months or so and LOVE it. I am not sure how I stumbled upon it, but I was looking for some perspectives on Christian birth control. I am interested in so many of the things you write about. I just love your choice of topics! And you always have so many links, which are fantastic.

About 'Blessings or Curses'...OUCH is all I have to say.
"NEVER say a negative word about your child to anyone." That one hurt. I have a 3 1/2-month-old who is the easiest baby ever. Her 2-year-old brother was the epitome of colic. I have said some not-so-nice things lately about how 'hard' he was. Boy did this line slap me in the face with conviction I am ashamed to say. Thanks for pointing me to such a great read. God surely meant for me to read it today, as I just made one of those awful comments about my sweet boy last night...

This is the first time I've ever commented on any blog. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy yours!


Anna S said...


Thank you for visiting my blog and for all of your sweet and encouraging comments. I have been enjoying your blog for a while now (sometimes I comment, but mostly I'm a lurker). Thanks for linking to me! I checked out some of the other links and they were great. I also enjoy reading Mrs. Brigham's blog! She was the one who inspired me to write about breastfeeding in the first place.

Buffy said...

Just to say I think that list of how to be more feminine that you linked to came from Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. I think such lists are useful in our present climate. Time was when a mother would have passed this sort of information on to her daughter as she was growing up.

Lisa said...

a few thoughts on the "don't" list for ladylikeness...
1. You summed it up with one word, "extrabiblical." The Bible gives us guidelines on how to live lives that please the Lord. Let us not get distracted with additional rules. Constantly checking ourselves to make sure we don't laugh too loudly or slap someone on the back can distract us from seeing the real sins that our in our hearts.
2. Such a list focuses on the externals, cleaning the outside of the cup, while we need to be changed from the inside. Right behavior will be a natural result.
3. By our nature we like laws. We want to know what to do so we can check those things off the list and feel good about ourselves. But when we look to justify ourselves by doing x,y, and z, we sin greatly by not looking to the righteousness that has been secured for us by the work of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,
Just popping today, and working my way through your very interesting links :)
I agree with Lisa on extra-biblical rules. If a lady wants to make herself some guidelines so that she can feel more feminine, then great. But if those guidelines for an individual become rules for us all... then it leads quickly into legalism, and consequently judgmentalism.
This is true for those thought on eating, and hair length (and dresses, and quite a number of other things...). If the bible hasn't made clear direction about these things (and I don't believe it does, despite some arguments I have heard), then we have some freedom to make choices.
As with all things, it is a person's heart that determines their choices, and only God can see into someone's heart. But to make a one rule for all, for all occasions is just silly!
Still it is worth pondering, so that we can each examine our motives for making the choices we do. In the end, our desire should be to glorify God, and love our neighbour, not try to follow everyone else's opinions :)
Sim in Oz.

Mrs. Brigham said...


Thank you for linking to a couple of my posts :o)

All of these links are wonderful and leave with much to think about this evening. The various posts about children are especially challenging.

I do think certain extrabiblical convictions can serve a useful purpose in a person's life, however, the notion of some "checklist" really does not sit well to me. We each have our own challenges and must seek the Lord's counsel and strive to live according to the Word each and everyday. What might be the effects of rebellion or sin in my life is not the same in somebody else's and vice versa.

Lisa made some great points about extrabiblical standards.

Kim said...

I absolutely agree with Lisa above. I think that it is totally fine and acceptable if one woman wants to grow her hair long as a sign of commitment, obedience, and modesty to the Lord - so long as that long hair doesn't grow with it Pride. However, I think to put that as a "spiritual thing" out there for all women (which I don't necessarily think you or Mrs. Brigham were saying, but it was how you worded the question) - I think that is treading dangerously close to legalism in a manner similar to the circumsised/uncircumsised argument that was circulating in Biblical times, circa Paul.

Thank you for giving me something adult to think about, it was fun!

Isabella in the 21st Century said...

I think Lisa's comment about the femininity list was very sound. This is an extra-Biblical list, so if one woman thinks it's nice thing to do then won't and shouldn't make all women feminine, it cannot be prescriptive...especially for me as my husband likes my loud, stupid, dumb-ass, embarrassing, laugh!

Oh, and the breast milk stuff was very interesting. I extended breast feeding both of my children and I've noticed that their eczema and asthma is much less startling than some of their eczema suffering friends, who were bottle fed.

Anonymous said...

Laurie B again--wow, where to begin? Your links on what feminists supposedly believe are out of line with reality. I am a proud feminist and stay-at-home mom, and so are many of my friends.

Feminists (and liberals) have advocated for legislation like the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is insufficient but at least created the legal grounds for working women to stay home with their new babies. By the way, the Republican Party members in Congress fought kicking and screaming against the Family and Medical Leave Act, saying it would destroy the business climate in this country. Are you old enough to remember this?

If you are so proud to be a "recovering feminist," then why do you bother to vote? Feminists fought for decades for women's suffrage against traditionalists (who often relied on biblical interpretation to support the view that women should submit to whatever men decided for them, and that it was not feminine to participate in politics).

Do you plan to teach your daughter to read? Because I challenge you to find biblical support for doing so. In Jesus' time, there were no printed books, and it was forbidden for women to touch or read from the holy scriptures.

Where does Jesus say that women should study? Men transmitted God's word to the women in their household. The biblical advice to study would have been understood by everyone at the time Jesus lived to apply only to boys and men.

For centuries, people who advocated girls' education beyond learning household duties were attacked by religious traditionalists.

As for submitting to one's husband, if a dominance/submission dynamic works in your marriage, that's great for you, and I would not tell you to live your life differently. But I find it amazing that so many people will recommend this approach to all women, knowing nothing about individual personalities involved.

I have attended numerous La Leche League and Attachment Parenting International meetings at which women struggled because their husbands were pressuring them to do something that was clearly NOT in the child's best interests (early weaning for a baby, or a vacation away from nursing babies/toddlers so the husband and wife could have "alone time").

Are you not aware that many men tell their wives not to breastfeed at all, because they think the breasts exist solely for the sexual pleasure of men?

This would have been unimaginable in Jesus' time, because there was no alternative to breastfeeding (other than wet nurses who would not have been available to most). But if you think it is not a very real issue in many modern marriages, you are mistaken.

In the worst-case scenario, your advice and the advice of authors you link to could be persuading women you don't know to remain in a physically or verbally abusive situation, which is not good for them or their children.

Regarding home-schooling to keep your children away from the influence of secular culture, it's a free country. My attitude is that if you are confident and secure in your faith, you can teach your values to your children no matter how they are schooled.

I grew up in a Jewish family in an environment that was less than 1 percent Jewish (the Des Moines area). Our public schools had Christmas trees, and we learned to sing Christmas carols in music class. My parents chose not to feel threatened by this or to tell us that other people's beliefs were bad, but to teach us about our religion and culture outside of the public schools we attended.

This is the approach my husband and I are taking with our children. We could home-school and try to keep our children from getting to know others with different religious beliefs, or we could move to a mostly-Jewish neighborhood of a large city and send our children to private Jewish day schools, but I do not fear diversity.

I think it's healthy for my children to get to know children from different cultures. Even if you home-school, I would caution against a fortress mentality that shields children from getting to know others who are not like them.

In terms of cultural influences, most television programs aimed at children are much more damaging that public schooling. That's why my liberal and feminist family has adopted a no-tv rule for our kids.

Jess said...

Hi Laurie B,
I had this whole lengthy response typed up and then decided that really, what is missing was some grace on my part recognizing that you don't really know who I am. I think if you spent a little time reading about my thoughts on feminism, marriage, children, cultures, education, etc..., you'd find me to be not precisely the person you think you're attacking in this lengthy comment. Your comments show a complete lack of comprehension of what kind of wife, mother, and woman I am. I'd invite you to stay a little longer and see if you might find your questions answered. My friends online and in real life would likely verify that I'm not an easily-boxed-in woman, and it appears to me that you've built a box in your mind that you think my family and I live in.

Grace & Peace,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for linking to my 'blessings or curses' post :)!!

To the mom who said she was guilty of this b/c her child had colic and she'd tell people about him not being easy: YES!! I did this too, I had a child with reflux and I would talk about how hard it was, etc. One day she asked if she was a 'bad' baby. OUCH. I was throughly convicted. I have stopped discussing her problems in front of her at all, and only tell my story of her problems with reflux if I think someone needs advice on a baby with similar problems.

It's so easy to get caught up in complaining about our kids, isn't it? Especially when everyone around us is doing it!

Love Samantha

Jennie Chancey said...

I think I'm coming in a little late on this one, but I wanted to post a comment on the "femininity lists." We live in a time of extremes. The portrayal of women in the media is either androgynous (be like a guy) or sexy (sell yourself cheap). I get lots of emails from women who were raised in day care and never had a godly feminine role model. They are hungry to know how to be feminine and how to enjoy their femininity in a godly way. The Bible is full of feminine imagery (think of the gorgeous woman of the Song of Songs with her long hair, perfume, white teeth, etc. -- and women like Esther and Abigail and Sarah, who were models of beautiful femininity). I think we have to be careful not to just pre-judge and push aside all these articles and websites that seek to help women return to a godly expression of their femininity. Obviously, I am not talking about legalistic minutiae (hair so long and no shorter, skirts down to ankles, etc.). But there are many thousands of women out there who are starving for feminine role models -- and, let's be blunt here -- role models they aren't finding in their neighborhoods or churches. They are looking for the contented, happy, feminine ladies who enjoy their homes and children, practice hospitality, love their husbands deeply, and have warm hearts and lots of love for those who don't come from such a background. I get emails by the dozens from these gals, and they seem to eat up the "how-to" websites on femininity. Yes, it's important to warn them away from works righteousness and legalism, but not to the point that we ourselves become prideful about how non-legalistic we are ourselves! ;-) I guess I'm just saying don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a place for sites that encourage femininity and share practical tips on how to do so. And when we remember that God made man in His image male AND female, then we understand why being androgynous or masculine shouldn't be an option for Christian women. We've been given this fabulous gift -- to complement maleness with femaleness. God rejoices in our femininity, because He created it and called it "good." So can we! :-)

Anonymous said...

Jess, I am sorry if my comment was too harsh. E-mail communication tends to turn out that way, so I am sorry to cause offense.

Your profile describes you as a "recovering feminist," yet you are clearly politically active and an avid reader. Many women denigrate feminism, yet do not acknowledge that they have benefited from battles feminists have fought for centuries.

We now have the luxury of saying, of course I think girls should be educated, and of course I think women should be able to vote, but don't call me a feminist! For much of human history, you would have been considered a dangerous radical to suggest granting these rights to women.

You linked approvingly to Shayne's post, which suggested that professional women who wait to have children value their children less or think children are a burden instead of a blessing.

You linked approvingly to what Amy wrote about submission, which says God wants wives to obey their husbands even if they disagree. I think this is dangerous advice to give when you don't have any clue what kind of disagreements women are having with their husbands. I have gone back and forth with Sara on this issue as well.

I think mothers must be advocates for their children if fathers are demanding things that are not in the children's best interests.

I should not have taken the posts you linked to personally, but I know hundreds of feminists, none of whom have ever suggested that women shouldn't have the right to stay home with their kids, or that I shouldn't be staying home with my kids.

I don't recognize myself or any of the women I know in the caricature of Linda Hirschman. She sounds like an idiot, frankly. But feminists do not value motherhood less or love their children less. If that is not what you meant to imply, I apologize for misunderstanding you. Either way, I am sorry for offending you.

Laurie B

dcrmom said...

Hi Jess. I only read a couple of these links. It's midnight, I need to get to BED! :-) But I just feel like some of the thoughts expressed smack of a lot of legalism. I dunno, perhaps I'm too immersed in our modern culture to see the benefits of some of those ideas (the long hair, the list of ladylike, or unladylike behavior) but it seems like it's putting a lot of pressure on us to do things or be certain ways that are not explicitly expressed in Scripture.

Serena said...

I'm jumping in, but not on every link.

The thoughts on femininity have been discussed well above, I think. I detest fake food. Give me real fat and real sugar! I do want to add something about hair length, though. I think that, for some women, this can be an issue. Obviously, this is something that Mrs. Brigham is convicted about. But there are women that do not have this conviction to have long hair, and simply like their hair shorter for various reasons: efficiency, looks. I cut my hair a few years ago, and felt very feminine, because I was actually able, for the first time in my life, to style it and make it pretty. I cut it again a few months ago, liked it for two weeks, then ohhhhh...why did I cut it again? (I'm such a dork.) At this point, if my hair EVER grows back, I plan on keeping it long. My husband prefers long hair, but I didn't cut it without his consent, and he reassures me that he also likes it when it's shorter. Hair is simply a personal matter.

Concerning submission: I think that Laurie misunderstands what's being said. Of course a wife should not stay in an abusive situation--abuse is hardly Christ-like, and the husband is to be submitted to Christ. As the husband is submitted to Christ, the wife is submitted to her husband. (And that cleared nothing up.)

I won't go into the articles about the feminists.

Breastmilk: Awesome stuff! Worth more than gold or platinum or precious jewels! Breastfeeding is worth working for (and I certainly had to work hard at first to do it successfully).

I love that article of Janel's.
Blessings or curses: Ahem. A good reminder to the ever-complaining me.

Serena said...

This is going to be very badly put, and probably confusing, but I'll attempt it anyway. Please feel free to not post this if you feel it doesn't help with the discussion.

In the Bible, it says to train up our children in the knowledge and ways of the Lord (Prov. 22:6, Deut. 6:7). If we are to do so, education must be employed. What better way to learn about God than through reading (or listening to) His Word? Or looking at His creation? Seeing His laws in place and working? Seeing His hand throughout history? Education can show us God, but, most of all, reading His Word and praying show us God. I think that you could get by with no learning at all, if you could read the Bible. In reading the Bible (most of all), one is able to personally learn about God.

I think that Laurie doesn't realize that God has always been 'for' women. Women had 'rights', yes, even in Old Testament times. (Numbers 26:33, 27:1-7, 36:10-12) I don't think that God has ever been opposed to education for women. Imperfect humans, yes. But if God wants us to have a personal knowledge of Him, I would think He'd be okay with women being educated and able to read. This is all my opinion, of course, so I apologize if it comes across confusingly.

Just because women weren't allowed to read when Jesus walked the earth doesn't mean it was okay. The Pharisees and Sadducees weren't exactly doing everything right.

And just because feminists are for a certain cause or issue, it doesn't mean they came up with it, or that the reasons behind their support are pure.

Buffy said...

Please may I just make it clear that Jesus went out of his way to bring his message to women as well as men. He even broke taboos (such as talking to the woman at the well or touching women who were ritually 'unclean'). I dare say he didn't expect women to study at that time but then neither did many of the apostles because he wasn't necessarily recruiting the sort of people who had access to reading and writing.

LisaM said...

As usual, you came up with some lovely thoughtful blogs to link to. I think that most "thinking" ladies (and gentlemen perhaps) who read your blog understand (and I think that most who read your blog must be thinkers!) that it is important to think about things like these. I see nowhere that one has tried to bind laws where God has not bound, but rather to encourage one another to love and good works, and to be what God has made us to be. Of course we should think about these things; if they convict us then that is well and good, and if not, then at least we may understand better those who do feel differently from us. If we were all the same, where would the body be? Keep up the good work sharing your thoughts, and the thoughts of others.

IMHO: Interesting how someone who believes that they are fighting for the rights of all women feels it necessary to shield or protect certain women from certain of these blogs, as if they are not intelligent enough on their own to discern when to study and when to listen blindly to someone's homemade list of suggestions. Have we not the right to serve God as we understand best? And how are we to understand unless we are shown how to think on these things, to study and decide for ourselves, as the noble Bereans did in the history of Acts?

Mama Russell said...

I only have time to comment on the list of Don'ts from the link you provided.

The list is certainly extra-biblical. Many of the don'ts are useful for men as well as women. I am not against this list as a whole, but to restrict it as to be qualities in which makes one feminine is severely limiting one's ability to be who they are meant to be. Differences are who we are as God created us to be.
For instance, #8 is "Don't stroke your husband's back in public, caress his hair, or fondle him." This is absurd. How does this make or not make one a lady? My husband, I believe, would be insulted if I did stop showing him public affection. It sets us apart and other's do see how we care for one another. However, for another couple, they may not show affection that way. There are obviously ways of affection between a married couple that should not be shown outside of the bedroom. But to dismiss little things like stroking my husband's back sets me apart as little more than a sister!

#3 suggests some helpful qualities that are so very useful to all people: men and women. However, there are times when firmness of voice (think: disciplining the children), or singsong (playing in our family almost always includes some type of singsong) are certainly not wrong when used in the right places.

Oh, and no, I am not feminist, in case anyone is wondering. I just despise lists that tell us to what not to do or to do in order to be feminine. I see a lot in this list that takes for fact what is not backed up by Scripture.

I feel I have failed at speaking gracefully about this. I am in means angry or upset. I merely want to share what I think. I hope I have not offended anyone; I do not write as well as I could!

Melissa said...

If you thought that my postings were extra-biblical and out-of-line...why didn't you let me know personally before posting them for hundreds of women to see. My blog is not up for people to point at for a bad example, but to show my desire to become more like Christ. I am your sister-in-Christ, why didn't you come to me on my blog and let me know your concerns, I would have listened.

As a recovering feminist seems like you would have noticed in my Don'ts the difference in a man and a lady, and the need to be less manly.

Mrs. U said...

Interesting discussion.

From the link that Jess kindly provided, Melissa says nothing about the list being biblical at all. I'm not sure where Jess gets the idea that it is extra-biblical. Melissa states nothing of the sort in that link.

And let me add, I am the one that sent Melissa the list. I found it somewhere online and shared it with her. We were discussing what a lady looks like and I found this list very interesting.

A true "lady" these days can rarely be found. I see many "women", but where are all the ladies?? This list was, I am sure, only compiled to give one an idea of what "ladylike" could possibly look like. I do not see it as a check-off list at all. I see it as a list that gives you a mental picture of a lady.

Mrs. U

Jess said...

Melissa & Mrs. U,
Please forgive me for offending you and causing you to think that I was in some way disparaging you personally, your blog, or your walk with the Lord.

If you go back and re-read my link list, I believe you'll see that I did identify your list as extra-biblical, which simply means something additional beyond the Bible. Which it is. But I did not pronounce a judgment about the list, because I actually haven't made up my mind what I think about it (which, as those who know me would testify, is rare). ;)

Melissa, I did not call your list out-of-line, and I didn't intend to insinuate that it was. My intention was to simply draw attention to something I have been thinking about, and ask my friends and fellow-thinkers online to "weigh in" with their thoughts about it. Which they have.

I'm truly sorry that it seems I've offended you. If you look around, you'll notice that I do this a lot- bring up issues: those that are clearly black and white, as well as those that are gray, or not quite-so-black-and-white, and ask for discussion or comments. I simply enjoy good conversation and discussion over interesting issues, which (in my mind) we've had here over the last week or so.

Again, please forgive me for offending you. It was not at all my intention to do so. I would not at all want to hurt or offend others, and I am truly sorry if I have done so.


Anonymous said...

I read or heard an AMAZING thing about extra-biblical rules. It said (my memory is terrible) that as long as you don't hold others to the extra-biblical standard that you hold yourself to, then we're all in the clear.

I don't know why Mrs. U and Melissa are offended. I thought the list was interesting, and I don't thing you disparaged them at all.

Also, my husband likes my hair shorter... he says it's cuter that way. Go figure.

Jess said...

Laurie B,
I wonder what you would say if someone wrote the converse of what you wrote,

"I think fathers must be advocates for their children if mothers are demanding things that aren't in the children's best interests."

By making the opposite statement (that mothers need to be the watchdogs of the home), you have carried your own assumption that fathers are mostly in the wrong, and mothers are mostly in the right into this discussion. And while that may be true in many situations in the world at large, it is not and should not be assumed to be true in Christian homes.

There are many situations where because of a mother's over-emotional reactions or hyper-attachment to her children (even above and beyond her own husband), she may be likely to make decisions, seeing herself as an "advocate" for the children, that are really quite poor decisions.

Decisions to forgo discipline, for example. Or to write off poor behavior as a biological or personality flaw and sweep it under the rug. Or to "balance" out the husband's discipline by being the lenient one (rather than teaching the children about the oneness of marriage by standing shoulder to shoulder with him and talking through and supporting biblical discipline one with another).

There are many instances where the mother is indeed the downfall of her children, and much of it falls down around the lines of submission and the problem of a woman who becomes more "one" with her children than with her husband.

In fact, I may just write a post about this. It's a huge problem in society today.