Should a woman ask a man out on a date? I asked this question once to a class full of young and hip ministry students. The overwhelming majority objected without a hiccup. “No. Never!” one guy declared with rock-solid conviction. “That’s such a turnoff!” said another crossing his arms.
“What about Ruth?” I quizzed.
The book of Ruth has one of only two courtship stories in the Bible, with the shocking twist of the main character Ruth proposing to love interest Boaz. There’s not even any subtlety here. After a pep-talk by her mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth puts on her finery, spruces herself with perfume and heads out to Boaz’s place to pop the question. She didn’t even ask him for a date first.
Sometimes people try to dummy down Ruth’s actions. Well, she didn’t actually ask him, she just said to; ‘spread the corner of his robe over her’ (a metaphor for asking him); Well it was only after he left her some grain on the corner of his field (the law required him to do so). But Ruth’s actions and intent are clear. She did the asking.
Unsurprisingly the men in my class were unable to give a Scriptural answer for their objections. The idea of the man asking the woman out (and not the other way around) is not a biblical mandate. This modern courtship dance does not come out of our Bibles or out of divine revelation. It comes out of our traditional gender roles.
This week my flatmate and I were elated to discover the perfect top. It’s a long black kimono made of lace with fringing on the sleeves – the perfect accompaniment on a chilly night or to dress up a speaking outfit. And did I mention it was a bargain? So we bought one each with the condition that we’d never wear it at the same time.
There’s something wonderful about wearing a new piece of clothing and finding the garment that compliments your wardrobe perfectly. We’re free to enjoy our bodies and express our God-given creativity – but is there a limit?
After we’ve moisturised, toned, cleansed, de-frizzed, trimmed, plucked and painted, it might be time to ask the question, are we spending too much time doing this? Are we too focussed on what we look like?
It seems to be more of a girl thing. Yes men have become a lot more ‘metrosexual’ these days – a male friend of mine gets regular facials – but in general it’s us women who are more fixated on our appearance. Why is that?
Why is it that women spend so much time on their appearance? What is this compelling and overriding desire to be beautiful?
And why is it that it’s more probable for a man to marry an attractive woman fifteen years his junior than a handsome man to marry an ‘unattractive’ woman fifteen years his senior?
One of my earliest initiations into fashion was when my new flatmate flushed my scrunchie down the toilet. She swiped it from my hair box on the bathroom cabinet, dropped it in the bowl and pressed the button on top of the cistern. Then she turned around and walked away without saying a word.
It took me days to get over it. That scrunchie was high quality Gregory Ladner bought at David Jones for $6.95. It held my unruly hair neatly in a bun, a side plait and a high ponytail. It was made of black crepe so it went with everything. Anita had just thrown out my best ever hair accessory.
“It’s from the nineties girl! You can’t wear that anymore!”
I didn’t know what she was talking about.
Years down the track, Anita is my stylist, dressing me for my TV shows and photoshoots. She taught me that it doesn’t work to pair wide-legged pants with loose fitting tops because it creates unbalanced layers, and that skirts that fall below my knee make me look like grandma because my giraffe legs are disproportionately long in the thigh compared to the calf.
The whole issue of fashion was a new one for a girl who’d grown up to understand that dangly earrings were extravagant and fashion magazines were the things you read when stuck in doctor’s waiting rooms. Mum only wore Vaseline on her lips to keep them from chafing, and why would anyone need heels if you were already tall?
Growing up, ‘feminism’ was a dirty word. It was what those aggressive, angry, bra-burners with their pant suits and cropped hair did to mess up the social order. They were out to get us – the church – who knew how to do male-female relationships, who knew what it was to be a true woman.
So it was a rude wake-up call for me to realise much later that one of those ‘offensive’ women defined feminism this way: “The belief in the full social, economic and political equality of women and men” (Gloria Steinem).
It was embarrassing to admit it at first; that made me a feminist.
Jesus, Paul and the author of Genesis as Christian Feminists
But then over time, that realisation became less daunting as I saw that Jesus, the Apostle Paul and the inspired author of Genesis 1:27 could all be labelled feminists too. Each of these advocated a belief in the “full social, economic and political equality of women”, or in their own words:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them; “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:27,28)