Part Four: Biblical Femininity in the Workplace
I hesitate to attempt a summary of the historical context, there is so much that could be said and it is so easy to misinterpret, plus we are outside the authority of Scripture, so let me be clear that that providing some history isn’t the foundation of my case for biblical femininity but an attempt to provide some context to the world in which we now live. Others have devoted whole books to this topic and have done it much more justice. If you’re interested in this topic I would suggest Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley or The Feminist Mistake by Mary Kassian, they both address our nation’s more recent history in this regard from a biblical perspective.
Sometimes we tend to think that women in the workplace is a relatively new phenomena, and yet that is a false assumption. Women have always worked. Eve worked alongside Adam in the garden (Genesis 2:15, 18). The Proverbs 31 woman worked; she worked with her hands (31:13), bought a field and planted a vineyard (31:16), and engaged in trade (31:24). Her work was of great benefit to her family (31:11, 27).
In tracing the last hundred years of American culture from the pre-Industrial revolution through multiple waves of feminism and into our modern era we see that while women have always worked, until more recent times most work (for men and women) was mostly structured around the home. The expansion of cities and movement into the mechanical and industrial revolution fundamentally changed the structure of home life and removed work from home for many, if not most, families. Wars have also dramatically influenced these shifts. Both World War I and II drew many women into the work place, but it was particularly after World War II (remember Rosie the Riveter?) that these women chose to continue working outside the home.
These fundamental cultural shifts were also accompanied by changes in thinking and belief systems over the century, including three influential waves of the feminist movement. While at times these movements accurately observed and even attempted to address sinful behavior of man toward women, they failed to appropriately define the problem or solution according to biblical understanding. In fact, while we have reason to be thankful that today American women can vote and own property, each of these waves of feminism had aspects of their philosophy that was, and is, fundamentally opposed to a biblical worldview.
While it would be very easy to let historical context and cultural experience determine our view of women in the workplace and our own attitudes about these matters, women who are pursing godliness ought to have their attitudes determined not by history or popular opinion, but by the Word of God. Women will work, whether inside the home or outside the home; the question we must answer from Scripture is how a woman can seek to cultivate godly femininity within the context of her workplace and in her decisions regarding when, where, and how to work outside the home. As Mary Kassian states regarding the attitude of a godly woman:
(Kassian, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, 64.)
Godly women will think on what is true and meditate on the Scripture that she might be guided by the truth of the Word of God (Ps 119:9-16).
Next we will begin looking at the character qualities of biblical femininity outlined in Scripture.