Affirming our identity

A conversation this weekend has had me pondering further some thoughts already going round my head recently. What does it mean to be feminine if that has not been affirmed in us growing up and we grew up as so called ‘tom boys’.  I don’t recall moments of clear affirmation of my feminity and I have found myself wrestling with issues around being a woman, but at present I am in a season where I am very comfortable with who I am in that sense. Yes there are many aspects about my character that I am less comfortable with and know need to change but I don’t get caught up in being feminine enough. And the question made me wonder if we as women wrestle with this issue not so much because that is the real question at the heart of the matter or because the christian self help books tell us that it is without letting us explore our own questions and journeys.  And by offering easy reading they become obstacles in us going to God first. It reminded me of a conversation with a friend about healing and lack of bible teaching at a conference we had recently been too and my friend felt that often people needed healing before they could hear God’s word. For me it is God’s word faithfully and genuinely taught that allows any healing that is needed. That healing comes from God’s word not ours.

I am in a study group using the book Captivating as a spring board to our studies. I read it when it first came out and it offered a helpful spring board for me then but I am in a different place now and I find it pushes all the wrong buttons in me now. At times I find it and other conversations and books I have read want to both describe the questions and issues I should have and offer their response with a nod toward scripture but allowing their voices to shape the answer rather than God’s without allowing us to enter into asking our own questions.

And so this has led me to another question , why do we seek our affirmation from those who have either wounded us or those who have stepped into the empty shoes in our lives? Why if we claim that we believe God’s word do we not allow His words to be the words we hear and allow to affirm us? What holds us back from accepting His truths over us? His word is filled with affirmation and life and yet we often seem to look elsewhere yet claim to say we hold God’s word up as truth.

What is it that we are trying to understand about ourselves when we ask ‘what does it mean to be feminine?’ I realised after the conversation this weekend I was not sure if I knew what I meant by it because I get hung up on the idea of pink and fluffy and danity, but that might come from the fact that I was often referred to as the tomboy, so in some way I was not a girly girl even though I longed always to grow up and be married and be a mum and homemaker and yet I love the outdoors, I love adventure and I hate shopping, especially clothes shopping and make up confuses me totally. So I guess I see feminity being linked to clothes and make up because I was called a tom boy and those were the things I did not like.  So I resist exploring the question because I have this illogical fear I will have to embrace shopping and make up if I am to be truly feminine, but I have a feeling that is not God’s answer and if I was to take some time to stop and look at His word I would find it filled with women who were courageous, strong, cried, doubted, questioned, followed, submitted, led and in that I find my answer along with being called His beloved daughter through Christ. That should be the foundation I build my identity on.

What I have shared is a segment of my thoughts circulating around today and I write this not as a complete piece but what I hope will be the start of a conversation with some of those who read along. It is not about right and wrong but I would love dialogue and thoughts from others. It is a conversation open to any of my friends though I appreciate for those who do not share faith in the same way as me or at all then it may seem rather abstract or just totally random, but I ask that you bear with me in the questions I have asked and understand that there is a context in which they are raised. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.



3 comments on “Affirming our identity

  1. Ian W Panth says:

    Hi Roz,

    This post is a beautiful piece. Some men struggle with this too. Some of us are even “feminine” enough to admit it. In my reflections on what it means to be masculine or feminine, I came to the opinion that much of what we tend to think of as masculine or feminine is indeed culturally determined but I still hold that there is an essential difference between men and women.

    I see the stereotypical gendered categories as two normal curves that overlap. If you can visualize that image.

    In my opinion, the Eldredges do not allow for enough overlap and their categories are too rigid. I am not Wild at Heart and sometimes I want to be rescued — don’t all human beings want that. I think of the many lyrics written by men asking for someone to rescue them.

    Isn’t this desire to be rescued and to be loved that give power advertising?
    If the advertisers can make us feel unmasculine or unfeminine, then they can rescue us with their scented body washes and high heeled shoes. Women are Macs and men are PCs. What if the world isn’t so easily divided?

    When I think of the women that admire for various reasons, I have to say that where they fit in the masculine to feminine spectrum seems to have no bearing. I think of Irina Ratushinskaya, Mother Teresa, Corrie Ten Boom, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sinead O’Connor (her Theology album is truly beautiful) and my recently deceased Grandmother (104 years old). It is a character thing that goes deeper than cultural attitudes about feminity and masculinity.

    These are just some thoughts inspired by your post.

    Although it is out of print, for male readers who prefer Prius’s and Minivans to Hummers with Machine Guns The Men We Long to Be by Stephen Boyd is a rich alternative to John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart.


  2. Beverley Haagensen says:

    Thanks for starting this interesting conversation Roz. The Bible has many interesting things to say about femininity – perhaps the most crucial that there will be neither male nor female in the hereafter. In this life women are encouraged not to be overly concerned about their appearance but to find their value in what they do. I’ve not read the book you mentioned but will look out for it.
    I had an unusual boy-free upbringing Roz. Five older sisters, all girl school and quiet father who was away a lot. “Tom boy” was not an expression used in our family but I was almost always outdoors. My mother never wore makeup or went near a hairdresser and is one of the most practically capable people I have ever met. One of my sisters took to fashion and make-up in a big way and occassionally I would sneak into her room and try out the eyeshadow etc. In my late teens/early twenties I bought a few make up items to wear to parties and smart events but it was a short lived phase. I was shocked to hear recently that the average woman spends 40 min each day on her appearance – clothes, makeup, hair. I rarely spend more than a couple of minutes and its a good day if I manage to pull a comb through my hair before leaving the house.
    It has been interesting for me watching the young adults in my family. My only daughter I would describe as supremely feminine – she is gentle, wonderful with children and has a genuine interest in developing “domestic skill” – cooking, sewing etc. She has no interest in makeup or fashion, looks decidedly uncomfortable when she occasionally wears dresses for special occasions, is very comfortable with power tools and makes furniture, boats and small buildings, is academically ambitious and loves camping and boating.
    One of her adult brothers by comparison, who I would describe as highly masculine, has always taken a keen interest in fashion, loves dressing up and instinctively notices in detail what people wear. I was shocked to discover when still only a child he could give a detailed analysis of the fashion sense, clothes brands and favourite outfits of everyone at church. (Shocked because I hardly notice such things and would struggle to remember what colour someone was wearing let along whether or not their shoes matched their outfit).
    We all have different gifts and personalities, whether male or female and as my son has pointed out to me spending time on your appearance is not necessarily a negative thing but can show you have good self esteem. Although I think teenagers are especially susceptible to insecurities over appearance and I think if you managed to avoid that I shows what a healthy personality you have.
    I was out with a couple of women friends recently when one commented, “Its so great to spend time with other women who aren’t always at the hairdresser and making up their faces.” I stopped to look at them and realised they were both as natural as me (I honestly wouldn’t have noticed if she hadn’t said anything!)
    Look forward to hearing what other people think.

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