I Am Woman…I Don’t Have To Roar
Woman’s strength, even invincibility, are among the qualities that our culture identities as giving a woman value, especially in considering her value as a man’s equal. Consider the “We Can Do it!” poster featuring Rosie the Riveter, an identifiable cultural icon that originated during World War II. It was originally intended as propaganda to motivate women to step into the trade jobs and factory positions vacated by their male counterparts who had left for combat. But Rosie was ultimately seized by women of the feminist movement and reassigned to symbolize female empowerment in the early 1980s.
In 1972, at the crest of the second wave of feminism (think Roe v. Wade era), Helen Reddy put the sentiments of this movement to music with her Grammy award-winning song “I Am Woman”. With lyrics such as:
I am woman, hear me roar…
I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman
You can bend, but never break me…
By studying Rosie, Reddy and the several waves of feminism in recent history, we can see that many women who identify as feminists yearn to be known as strong, especially in relation to men.
After all, in their view, it is a male-dominated society’s perception that the female gender is weak that keeps them oppressed, and thus their value not fully appreciated by others. Those who embrace this ideology attempt to convey their message of liberation by insisting on Woman’s total strength, as well as rejecting, disdaining, or otherwise disassociating with any tasks or traditions in culture that (they perceive) connote weakness or subjection to Man.
As a Christian, I am convinced that I need to learn how God defines me as a woman, a notion known as “biblical womanhood.”
This process includes giving attention to Scripture’s every word for women, even the counter-cultural ones. First Peter 3:7 and its surrounding context is one such passage. In this book, the Apostle Peter gives believers instruction on how we should interact with each other. Chapter three provides wisdom about how spouses should behave towards one another. After addressing wives, Peter tells the husband to live with [his wife] in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman. (NASB)
After consulting numerous Bible commentaries regarding this passage, I agree with the nearly-unanimous perspective that Peter is describing Woman’s general physical weakness in relation to Man’s.
Tragically, the ideology that a feminist clings to in order to validate their gender’s dignity is actually what enslaves them. Christians rejoice in the knowledge that their worth does not stem from a transient human characteristic. Rather, the value of both Man and Woman is rooted in something greater.
Indeed, Woman’s worth is immovably, indestructibly rooted in having been sovereignly, lovingly, purposefully, marvelously created to bear God’s image in a way that is distinct, yet equal with Man’s. The two genders are impartially valuable to their Creator yet were assigned by Him different roles to fulfill on Earth.
I understand why being labeled as the “weaker vessel” (ESV) would rub some of us the wrong way (I initially felt that about this passage myself!). However, it became easier to accept as I uprooted misconceptions about its meaning and began to appreciate God’s caring design for men and women.
Here are a few things that being the “weaker vessel” (ESV) does not imply:
- It does not imply that women are devoid of any possession of strength.
No portion of Scripture suggests this to be true, other than that which is misunderstood or misused. Godly women throughout history, numbers of whom are recorded in the Bible, have consistently (and unsurprisingly) displayed great strength intellectually, athletically, morally, etc., because women are not wholly weaker.
- It does not imply that women are spiritually inferior to men.
In the latter part of 1 Peter 3:7, the apostle reminds husbands that their wives (as well as every other sister in Christ) are their co-heirs “of the grace of life” (NASB). Men and women were both found guilty in the Fall, redemption is available to both, and both are given the opportunity to enjoy fellowship with God and the abundant life He offers (John 10:10).
- It does not imply that God prefers or intends for society to be patriarchal.
Regarding God’s commands as they relate to the application of the complementarian understanding of gender roles, let me mention this: to draw the line exaggeratedly beyond God’s limits can cause ramifications that are just as serious as disregarding the proverbial line altogether. Every Christian is obligated to humbly and faithfully apply God’s Word and obey His commands in the way He intended, as honestly as they can discern.
- It does not imply that men are biblically permitted to employ their strength unchecked.
Peter has a specific word for husbands considering their physical advantage over their wives. He charges them to be “understanding” with their wives, and to “honor” them, warning husbands that their prayers will be ineffective if they are too careless (also 1 Peter 3:7). The Holy Spirit’s words through the apostle reveal that God does not intend for women to be domineered by men, but that the genders are partners together in God’s plans.
For the millions of women whose misguided ideology Rosie and Helen Reddy represent, to relinquish their “strength” is to relinquish their value.
But, Sisters, what a refreshing message it is (one that we should eagerly share!) that it is not in the realization of our strength that we ascertain our value, but in the realization of our weakness – because we trust that the way God chose to bear His image through us is perfect.
This Truth will never atrophy, and likewise neither will our worth.