I have been watching A Year of Biblical Womanhood develop for over a year. The idea of someone who shares my values (feminism, inclusion, Christianity) and is braver, better informed and a bit ballsier than me going through the bible for everything it says about women fascinated me. And when I say “fascinated” I really mean “relieved me of responsibility.” It was a project I wish I had thought of, but since Rachel Held Evans had thought of it first, I got the insight with none of the having to be all demure and handy around the house.
I have always wanted to know the essence of things. The real core at the heart of things. The Prototype. Ur-thing if you will. Time and time again, I go searching for, say, the “real” Arthurian legend behind all the rest only to find there is no such thing. Conversely, I wonder how much can you change a thing before it is no longer that thing? How much can you tinker with meatloaf before it is no longer meatloaf? At what exact point on the color wheel does blue become green? Okay, maybe that one only happens after midnight and a certain amount of alcohol. Maybe there are no answers, but the search is fascinating.
A big question that I roll around in my head is What Is It to Be a Woman? Can we come up with a definition of “woman” that includes girly-girls as well as tomboys, straight women as well as lesbians, stay-at-home suburban moms and biker chicks, college women playing soccer and elderly members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, women whose bodies have matched their spirits since birth and women who must work to bring the two into harmony? Is there a definition of women that has room for both me and Kim Kardashian?
Add Christian to the definition and that question becomes even thornier.
Most of the women I know balk at the idea of Biblical Womanhood. Even the Christians. And for good reason. Scripture (like nearly anything with any power behind it) has been co-opted by those in power to stay in power. For most of the women in the circles I run, it is easier to give up on the Bible and be the kind of woman we know in our hearts we are meant to be. The problem with that tactic (and don’t get me wrong, I do/have done that as well) is it cedes a huge chunk of territory. It is in essence saying, “Okay, patriarchy, you are right about the Bible. I give up.”
Well, I long ago got tired of giving in to the patriarchy. And that Bible belongs to me, too. And to the lesbians and the biker chicks and the DAR members. A Year of Biblical Womanhood takes it back for us. It celebrates the strong women in the Bible; it honors the women who were destroyed by the patriarchal system they lived in; it points out how many of those “womanly” qualities some would have us believe are a sign of a good Christian woman were intended for good Christians period.
This week I am preparing to lead a book discussion on A Year of Biblical Womanhood. We’ve gathered a group of women from various generations and backgrounds to share a meal and some stories. Although I like the content of YBW, I want to use Rachel’s story as a jumping off point for sharing our own stories.
You can follow along with my preparation on Twitter. I will be tweeting a (very) short synopsis of each chapter as I finish it. I will also tweet the questions the chapters raise for me.