Our living situation allows my husband and I to walk back and forth to work. As we were walking home for lunch the other day, we had to run across the six-lane road between where we work and our apartment building. As we were running, I heard my husband chuckle and say
“You run like a girl.”
I immediately got defensive.
“You’d run like a girl, too, if you were wearing a pencil skirt and these shoes and had to carry a purse and–”
“Hey,” he said, cutting me off, “I didn’t say that was a bad thing.”
The company Always ran a campaign for a while with the hashtag #LikeAGirl. The campaign kicked off with a video of teenagers and children (both male and female) being asked what it meant to do something “like a girl.”
A little boy who was asked to “throw like a girl” imitated limply tossing a ball, only to have it land at his feet. He was then asked if, by doing that, he was insulting his sister.
“No! I mean, yeah, insulted girls, but not my sister.”
A girl about the boy’s age, when asked the question “Is ‘like a girl’ a bad thing?” responded with “I don’t know if it’s really a bad thing or a good thing. It sounds like a bad thing. It sounds like you’re trying to humiliate someone.”
A major complaint among women is that male attributes are accepted as the norm, while female attributes are a deviation from the norm. Women have been described as “too emotional” (compared to men), “irrational” (compared to male thinking patterns), or “too compassionate” (instead of thinking “practically” or “realistically” about situations or people).
What’s even worse–at least, to me–is that the things that women are really good at, such as being moms, being aesthetically sensitive, being relational, and having high emotional intelligence, are treated as lesser skills and secondhand gifts. Not just by men, but by women.
Now, the last thing I want to do in this post is make a lot of sweeping generalizations about my fellow women. No two women are alike. Some women love hunting, others love sports, some love politics, some are aspiring chefs, artists, teachers, presidents. Some of us aren’t very social or relational, and some of us don’t consider ourselves to be “mom” material. I can’t say “all women are like x” because, frankly, all women aren’t. There’s not a mold somewhere. The stereotype fails most of us. There are several attributes of womanhood that most of us share, however, and I’ll be discussing those here. Speaking as one who has never really fit the “girl mold,” I want to add this caveat for others in my audience who don’t, either.
There are few things worse than being mocked for being what you were designed to be.
So let’s go back to Genesis again, shall we?
Man and woman both were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That means that men and women both share His attributes.
I’d like to spend more time studying what the Bible says about God’s “gender,” if He can be said to have a gender. He refers to Himself consistently as a “he,” but also reminds us that he “is a Spirit” (John 4:24) and not a human being. My initial conclusion is that God is not male or female, but both and then some. I haven’t delved enough into that area to anchor myself to that thought permanently, but that’s what I conclude from God defining Himself as a spirit.
But what cannot be ignored about how God refers to Himself is how He frequently gives Himself uniquely female descriptions.
I talked about His ezer-hood last week. That’s an important consideration, but ezer can easily apply to men as well. What’s interesting is how God makes a point of describing Himself using terms that can apply to women alone–those of motherhood.
- Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
- Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
- Matthew 23:37: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.“
While there are plenty of attributes of God that could easily apply to both men and women–strength, wisdom, gentleness, etc,–in these and other verses, God compares Himself to women in and element of their nature that excludes any possibility of “maleness.” Men can’t bear children. Men cannot experience what it’s like to nurse a baby with their own bodies. In God’s mind, there is no greater means of explaining His deep, unshakable compassion for His people than to compare Himself to a mother.
Later posts will dwell on other ways God is feminine (there are plenty). How He’s compassionate. How He’s aesthetically sensitive. How He’s relational. How He has the highest possible emotional intelligence. The thoughts that come most immediately to my mind are these:
If God acts as a mother, how dare we think motherhood is degrading?
If God is compassionate, how dare we think that compassion is foolishness?
If God authored emotions, how dare we belittle those most in tune with their God-given emotions?
If God is a helper, how dare we think being a helper is second-best?
If God made us in His image and His likeness, how dare we treat those divine traits He granted women as weaknesses?
If God made women in His image and identifies with women, how dare we treat female characteristics as somehow being of less importance?
These are half-formed thoughts. Formed out of sadness when I hear women criticize themselves for being what they are. As my husband told me, there is nothing wrong with being “like a girl.” In fact, being “like a girl” is pretty fantastic.
And, at least from what I’ve found so far, I think God would agree.