We’re halfway through the book! Also, Handsome is in the middle of reading Wild at Heart, and he’s putting his thoughts on it into a post, which I am pretty excited about. I read through some of his marginalia, and I think you all are going to enjoy what he has to say.
On today’s chapter, I think it would have gone a lot better for Stasi if she wasn’t so dismissive of feminism and if gender essentialism weren’t buried so deeply into all of her assumptions. There was a lot I enjoyed about this chapter, however; this is probably the chapter that I enjoyed reading the most because there was a lot in it that I think people need to hear more often. Basically anytime that someone dedicates an entire chapter of their book to how much God loves us, I’m going to be at least somewhat happy with that.
She does say a few things that I think deserve to be highlighted, though.
A woman becomes beautiful when she knows she’s loved … Cut off from love, rejected, no one pursuing her, something in a woman wilts like a flower no one waters anymore. She withers into resignation, duty, and shame.
Honest moment: that Handsome tells me, almost on a daily basis, that I’m beautiful hasn’t exactly hurt my ability to see myself as beautiful when I look in the mirror.
However, I am insulted that Stasi apparently thinks that I was ugly before I met him. She rushes to assure us that we don’t need to “wait for a man” to be beautiful– that God loves us, so that can make us beautiful, too!
Just … ugh.
The interesting thing about this section is that she pulls from pop culture– movies, like she usually does– to make her point, and one of the examples she chooses is Tulah from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That’s one of my all-time favorite movies, so I was amused when Stasi got it so epically wrong. She says that Tulah’s beauty was “released” by the “power of romance,” except… that’s not what happened at all. She got sick of her life going nowhere, living under her patriarchal father’s roof, and decided to educate herself. She starts going to college, changes her job, and that’s when she starts seeing something different in the mirror. She owns herself and who she is and what she wants, and she goes after it.
But nope. Not according to Stasi. It was totes falling in love that did it.
What would it be like to experience for yourself that the truest thing about [God’s] heart toward yours is not disappointment or disapproval, but deep, fiery, passionate love? This is, after all, what a woman was made for.
Ok, so I see where Stasi was going with this: God made us so he could love us. It’s a pretty typical evangelical thing to say, and it’s a somewhat pretty idea. However, I disagree with this point of view because of what it says about God, because it turns him into Pygmalion. For example, there is the possibility for me to become pregnant, and I would be “making” another person, after a fashion. If the only reason I had a baby was so that I could have something to love, that’d be … well, in my opinion, that would be supremely selfish. But, that’s frequently something evangelicals say about why God made us.
Later, Stasi draws on the story of Mary and Martha, where Jesus says that “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” Stasi argues that the “one thing” Jesus is talking about– the one thing Mary chose– is a “captivated, adoring heart, a heart that responds to the extravagant love of God with worship.” I feel that Stasi is doing a little bit of eisegesis here, since it’s incredibly convenient for her if that’s what Jesus meant– however, in verse 39 of Luke 10, the passage says that what Mary was doing was hearing his word. What’s notable about that was that Jesus welcomed a woman to hear his teaching, which was unusual, not that Mary was “captivating.”
The last problem I had with this chapter stems from Stasi’s inability to see how our Christian culture functions because she dismisses sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. At one point in the chapter she is encouraging women that they matter because “women minister something to the heart of God that men do not,” and while that’s more gender essentialism, the real problem I have with this is that Stasi has to fall back on patriarchal gendered stereotypes in order to tell women that they matter while simultaneously denying the way that conservative Christian culture has utterly subjugated women.
I don’t matter to God because of my ability to fit into gender roles. I matter to God because I’m a person.
She closes out the chapter with this paragraph:
The culture of women in the church today is crippled by some very pervasive lies. “To be spiritual is to be busy. To be spiritual is to be disciplined. To be spiritual is to be dutiful.” No, to be spiritual is to be in a Romance with God. The desire to be romanced lies deep in the heart of every woman. It is for such that you were made. And you are romanced, and ever will be.
And while, yes, those are lies I’ve heard preached from a lot of pulpits, to separate those lies from the context they belong in means that you’re not going to be fixing the actual problem. Women are told that they need to be busy, disciplined, and dutiful because they are women, and are told that deviating from these things means that you can’t be a “true, godly, feminine women.”
I am sure that many men are told that traits like “discipline” are how one demonstrates spirituality– I’ve seen it happen. However, Stasi is divorcing these lies from how they are delivered to women, and women only.
Women are told to be ‘busy’ by being a “keeper at home” and occupying herself with homemaking and child-rearing. Women are told to be ‘disciplined’ so that she can maintain her youthful vigor and looks, to not “let herself go.” Women are told to be dutiful by “submitting in all things” to the “priest and king of her home.” Stasi is ignoring how these lies take shape in the life of Christian women because she can’t afford to– because admitting to that could eventually lead to her realizing that gender essentialism is inherently damaging.
And the next chapter is . . .
“Beauty to Unveil.”