Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Rood, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master".

My friend Judy picked this for book club and I was curious exactly how the author would define "biblical womanhood"- there are lots of opinions out there. Historically, the Bible has even been used to justify the mistreatment and inequality of women.  I would consider myself someone that strives to follow the teachings of the Bible, but being a Mormon, some people like to have long debates on whether or not I am a even a Christian. 

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book. First of all, I love the entire idea of a challenge like this -maybe I will even do modified version of some of the challenges someday. Among her challenges, she cared for a computerized baby, sat on the roof as penance, camped out in her yard during her "monthly', called her husband "master", kept kosher, spent time in a monastery, learned to cook, sew, and even knit. Secondly, I loved the warmth, humor, and candor she used when sharing this experience. 

I could write pages and pages on my thoughts, but here are some of my favorite quotes/parts. 

"Evangelicalism is like my religious mother tongue.  I revert to it whenever I'm angry or excited or surrounded by other people who understand what I'm saying.  And it's the language in which I most often hear God's voice on the rare occasion that it rises above the noise." xviii

 I have been blessed to have many spiritual experiences with people of a variety faiths, but I can relate (although I would substitute "Mormonism".)

The Bible, especially the Old Testament is full of women being treated poorly-sometimes even savagely, and it bothers me.  I appreciate that they bother her too. 

"Caring for the poor, resting on the Sabbath, showing hospitality and keeping the home-these are important things that can lead us to God, but God is not contained in the them." 36

I love that. The gospel is not a spiritual chore chart, but should be a way to become more like Jesus Christ.

So apparently Evangelical Christian women place a big emphasis on being the woman describe in Proverbs 31. (Mormon women also take self-imposed guilt trips on their inability to be the perfect wives and mothers, we just don't specifically use this chapter to fuel those guilt trips).  The author's Jewish friend pointed out that Proverbs 31 is not even addressed to women, but as counsel from a mother to her son King Lemuel.  In other words, King Lemuel's mother was teaching him that "women of valor" or "Eshet Chayil"  do all these amazing things and he should appreciate them for it. Hebrew men actually recite this line at Sabbath meals to honor their wives.  The author uses this blessing as a verbal "high five" anywhere she saw women using their force for good.  I love this!  We are too hard ourselves and should maybe give each other more shout-outs. Eshet Chayil all of you that made dinner or ordered pizza. Exercised or took a nap.  Laughed or cried. Cleaned a toilet or performed heart surgery. Read a kid a story or yelled at him for not turning in his homework.  Eshet Chayil!

Perfect description of Hobby Lobby: 
"If ever one should wish to see a modern incarnations of the Proverbs 31 woman in her natural habitat, Hobby Lobby would be the place to start. Jazzy worship music played of the PA, while petite, white-haired ladies carrying home-made totes glided through the fabric rolls, humming along and smiling politely at the raccoon-eyed crafting hipsters who darted across their paths." 80

BTW One of my very favorite talks about this from a Mormon perspective was written in 1987  by Patricia Holland, and I read it when feeling overwhelmed by my lack of super powers. It can be found here. The entire talk is amazing (go read it), but here's a portion.
We must have the courage to be imperfect while striving for perfection. Wemust not allow our own guilt, the feminist books, the talk-show hosts, or the whole media culture to sell us a bill of goods—or rather a bill of no goods. We can become so sidetracked in our compulsive search for identity and self-esteem that we really believe it can be found in having perfect figures or academic degrees or professional status or even absolute motherly success. Yet, in so searching externally, we can be torn from our true internal, eternal selves. We often worry so much about pleasing and performing for others that we lose our uniqueness—that full and relaxed acceptance of one’s self as a person of worth and individuality. We become so frightened and insecure that we cannot be generous toward the diversity and individuality, and yes, problems, of our neighbors. Too many women with these anxieties watch helplessly as their lives unravel from the very core that centers and sustains them. Too many are like a ship at sea without sail or rudder, “tossed to and fro,” as the Apostle Paul said (see Eph. 4:14), until more and more of us are genuinely, rail-grabbingly seasick.

Evans spends a great deal trying to be "submissive" to her husband, which caused me to reflect on my own marriage. I was raised to believe that the husband is the leader of the home, but also that I am his equal partner. Sounds a little contradictory I know and I can't even explain it, but it works for us.   We are both motivated by trying to insure each other's happiness not by power trips and neither of us wants to hinder the other's dreams or success. We are a team-Scott and Tara versus the world. We value each other's input and I think he would find running our family as some sort of dictatorship exhausting.

She also talked about eating ethically.  I was deeply disturbed by the suffering and exploitation of others so I can eat cheap chocolate.  I have been blissfully unaware and it's time I became more informed and possibly change some food purchases. (FYI Costco does sell "fair trade" chocolate chips for pretty cheap.)

Her experiment taught her: 
"It  (The Bible) isn't a flat, perspicuous list of rules and regulation that we can interpret objectively and apply unilaterally to our lives." 294

I so agree. I believe that if I want to talk to God, I pray.  If I want Him to talk to me, I need to read in my scriptures.  Different passages have meant different things to me at different points in my life and that's the beauty of it. 

The book reminded me that I should be less snarky, more charitable, and should probably even compliment my husband more. I should mention, that I enjoyed following her on this spiritual journey, but lots of people were deeply offended by the entire project. I totally recommend the book and can not wait for book club to hear what everyone else thought. 

UPDATE:  I think this might have been the best book club discussion we've ever had.  We laughed, cried, got way too personal and I came home on such a high for being a woman surrounded by great women, that it is still lingering the next morning. If you're looking for a good book for your book club (especially if most of you go to church on a regular basis), pick this one.


  1. Ok so as I mentioned in a later post (Im working my way backward) I belong to a book club with women that I have known barely 3 or 4 months. This book sounds interesting to me but I am aware of one atheist in the group. I wonder if this would be a good choice? Any thoughts?

    1. I think every book club of 40+ women should be Calling Invisible Women. We don't meet to talk about it until next week, but I think it will be good.

  2. You should read it first. It isn't preachy and is really more about being a better woman than a better Christian.I think it would be most enjoyable to someone that grew up going to Sunday school and was familiar with Bible stories.

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