In my Shania Twain phase, years and years ago, I remember a song by this title (Man! I Feel Like a Woman) that, intentionally or otherwise, suggested a woman who wanted to “do what she dared” had to let loose and, essentially, act like a man.
I was never one to notice sexist messages or inequality. Recently, though, I’m seeing it everywhere, thanks in part to influences like Rachel Held Evans’ new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. (Like the kid in The Sixth Sense tells Bruce Willis, “I see dead people,” I feel like telling those I meet, “I see gender inequality!” I’m sure that wouldn’t be awkward at all.)
I stumbled onto Rachel’s blog when one of her posts was referenced in a class my husband was taking at seminary. He left the link open, I read it, and I went back for more. Then a friend quoted from her first book in a sermon, and I decided to subscribe to her posts. She was talking up the release of this, her latest, and the premise intrigued me. In it, Rachel sought to live out in a year all the biblical “rules” in the Bible regarding women. She called her husband “Master,” she kept quiet in church, she slept in a tent on her front lawn during her period. And while she has been highly criticized for making a mockery of the Bible and womanhood, I found her year of biblical womanhood a courageous act on behalf of all women.
Rachel takes one for the team, not to mock women or the God who created them, but to elevate women to their equal standing with men. Through her year of living biblically, she honors women by reclaiming Proverbs 31 from the “to-do” list it has become and exposes gender bias that has become unequivocal truth in some denominations.
I laughed out loud while reading the book. I cried reading stories of South American women who have lived hard lives to save their families. I read passages out loud to my husband when I was moved, tickled or outraged. (I was all three.) In one case, this was to my benefit. After learning that Jewish men are the ones who memorize Proverbs 31 and recite it in celebration of their wives, and that “woman of valor” — eshet chayil, in Hebrew — is a blessing, my husband has started to say this to me for little things I’ve done or for no particular reason at all.
Whatever you’ve heard about this book, good or bad, you’ve got to read it yourself. Rachel is witty, passionate, honest and serious about the Bible. Which is why she wrote the book: to free women from misconceptions about their roles in God’s kingdom because we’ve taken the Bible literally when we shouldn’t have.
On her blog, Rachel honors women of valor regularly by sharing their stories. You can find the series here.
This is one takeaway I have from the book: honoring women for their acts of valor, whatever they may be. So, don’t be surprised if I shout Hebrew at you or randomly hail you as “woman of valor.” Because we’re sisters and we need all the encouragement we can get.