What does it mean to be a woman? This is something I think about, even more so since I got married. The topic of femininity – about what it means to be a woman – can get a bit controversial. Some say that a woman’s place is in the home, and only in the home. Some say we must move on from traditional gender roles. Some say that a woman must be beautiful, some say she must be strong. Through history, women have been seen as either saints or sinners. All this contention throughout the ages, I wonder if this is the enemy trying to hide the sacredness, the beauty and the strength of being female.
It says in Genesis 1 that God created human beings in his image, both male and female. Our gender is a gift from God, something that is foundational to God’s perfect design for the world. The woman was created after the man, not because she was inferior but because she was different and she was needed. The woman added something essential to creation, something that no-one else could give.
I do like my flowers, pretty dresses and dainty teacups. But I suck at doing hair and makeup. I know women who don’t fit the traditional girly-girl mould at all, but are among the most caring, nurturing people I know. There isn’t one all-embracing standard of womanhood that we must all look up to and emulate in every way. A lot of what it means to be a woman in our society is cultural. We don’t all express our femininity in the same way. But we all have something, given to us by God.
I’m hesitant about putting down one overarching definition of femininity. But I’m going to tentatively share some thoughts. Women may or may not be physically strong, but I know so many women who have incredible inner strength. There’s often a softness in women – not weakness but a gentle and strong spirit. Women are often nurturing and find connection through relationships. Women are beautiful, inside and out, and they are capable of bringing beauty into the world. Not all women necessarily have all these qualities and we certainly don’t show them all in the same way. But wherever you see the femininity God gave you, I encourage you to shine that forth. In whatever stage of life you are in, do that as a woman. In your workplace, be a woman. In your home life, be a woman. With your friends, with your family, with your husband – be a woman. Give thanks to God for the gift of being a woman, and live for him as a woman, redeemed, restored and renewed.
This post was written particularly with women in mind. To any men who happen to be reading, masculinity is also a gift from God. I thought, though, that maybe I should leave the detailed discussion to someone who has firsthand experience.