Book Review 1: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I purchased a sack full of books from Barnes and Noble for my Christmas gift. The first book I read in three days! I have been meaning to read this book and am happy to share a short review on my blog. The book is titled A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. The premise is that the author took one year to explore many different definitions of Biblical womanhood especially in reference to traditional gender roles and traditional Jewish customs. Each month of the year is a different focus. I enjoy reading her experience and perspective although I may or may not agree with all of her approaches or opinions. The book does have humor and a good flow, as well as being an easy read. I think it would be appropriate for teenage girls as well. 

I’d like to share some of my favorite portions. 

The month of October has a focus on the trait of gentleness. The author comes to the conclusion that “….I think maybe that God was trying to tell me that gentleness begins with strength, quietness with security”. The question of gentleness is a big debate especially in Fundamentalist circles. I have always been of the opinion that gentleness is more about appropriate behavior and self control versus being a doormat for others to walk over. It is a great topic and I feel every Christian person needs to come to terms with what this trait means. 

The month of November has a focus on the trait of domesticity. The author comes to the conclusion that “…in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.” I really appreciated that quote. I am currently furthering my own education with the goal of returning to work outside the home once my littlest is school age. I know that I have struggled with pressure to remain as a homemaker as well as include homeschooling into our life. These choices are not bad. I fully support others choosing this. However, it is not for me and I have made peace with the knowledge that God’s presence and approval is not restricted to the 5 by 5 foot area that is my kitchen. 

Skipping to the month of January which has the focus on the trait of valor. Here the author spends a lot of the chapter discussing the Proverbs 31 woman. This passage is often used as a checklist of sorts, especially in Fundamentalist groups. The Proverbs 31 woman is used as a weapon to oppress Christian woman into one role, one mold, one definition of Christian womanhood. The author discusses the fact that there is no proof that the Proverbs 31 woman was an actual person as well as discussing the Jewish traditions associated with the passage. It is traditional in Jewish culture for the men to quote the passage to the women and recite it in song at the Sabbath meal. According to the author, the passage “…at its core is a blessing – one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally”. I love the intent that the passage was traditionally an encouragement to others with the assumption that any woman could be a woman of valor, that there wasn’t just one definition to earn that. Love it. Additionally, the author says “The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it-with valor”. The final conclusion being that many things can be done with valor and that woman aren’t restricted to just the activities of the Proverbs 31 woman. 

Skipping to the month of March and the hot topic of modesty. This is a huge debate especially with Fundamentalists. Way too much to cover, but I would like to share my favorite quote. The author says “More often than not, this (regulating modesty among church members) backfires, and our attempts to be different result in uniformity, our attempts to be plain draw attention to ourselves, our attempts to temper sexuality inadvertently exploit it, and our attempts to avoid offense accidentally create it”. This exactly explains my issue with the modesty rules at my previous church. It is not just me being a “rebel” and wanting to wear pants and whatnot. It is the principle behind the rules. I don’t have a problem with individuals choosing to wear very conservative clothing. I do have a problem with others feeling like they have the right to regulate the clothing for my family. I also have a problem with the consequences of a system that regulates others apparel and activities. 

April discusses the subject of purity and contains a great overview of the Biblical account of the woman who was healed of her blood disease. 

Skipping to June, submission is discussed. Another hot topic for Fundamentalists! What a great chapter with some thought provoking subjects. My favorite quote “Women should not have to pry equality from the grip of Christian men. It should be surrendered willingly, with the humility and love of Jesus, or else we miss the once radical teaching that slaves and masters, parents and children, husbands and wives, rich and poor, healthy and sick, should submit to one another”. 

July discusses justice. Great topic. Love it. Includes a great explanation about the differences between charity and justice. 

August discusses silence, specifically the idea that the Bible supposedly supports women being silent in the church and not exercising authority over men. The conclusion has another great quote of “There is a big difference, after all, between being silenced and silencing oneself”. That about sums up my beliefs….focusing on individual self control and appropriateness versus one authority figure making mass decisions and silencing and oppressing one gender in favor of the other. 

I highly recommend this book. It’s an easy read in that the flow is great. It was hard for me to put down but also, not a big deal if you need to take a break and come back to it later. Some lighter moments as well as a feeling of relatability versus superiority.