One of the things I miss most about the way life used to be before the pandemic is the frequent encouragement and inspiration I got from my friends.
I am fortunate to know some remarkable, spirited women, some through running, some from other areas of my life.
I have been thinking recently about a friend I haven’t seen for a while.
Years ago, the two of us had many adventures together.
This friend, I’ll call her Beth, is a big woman. By “big“, I mean, she is tall, she is imposing, and she is brash. Beth is a take-charge kind of person, a natural leader and an excellent judge of character.
Beth always says exactly what is on her mind. In no uncertain terms.
She is also one of the most generous, compassionate, brilliant, and caring people I know. She laughs easily and loudly. Her eyes cloud when she hears tales of injustice. She has a soft spot in her heart for children and animals.
A male acquaintance once asked me what I saw in Beth, why I associated with her so often.
Puzzled, I wondered aloud why he asked me that question.
“She is such a b****,” was his reply.
I closed my mouth, which had fallen open at his response, and stalked away, unable to think of a good comeback, so complete was my shock.
It’s not easy to be a strong woman.
We deceive too many Deborahs into believing they are Jezebels.
A little background: Deborah, a prophet, priestess, warrior, and judge, is one of the most influential women in the Bible. She was a wise, strong leader of Israel in her time and settled disputes between fractious Israelites.
Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, was a queen of Israel. Among other things, she ordered the death of several Old Testament prophets and arranged for an innocent man to be executed. She was the female embodiment of wily pride, cruelty, and selfishness.
Here are three ways we tell Deborahs they are Jezebels.
- Apparently, it is women’s fault when men behave badly. Unless we are swaddled from head to toe, men are, you know…extremely visual. They can’t be held accountable for their actions, poor dears. 1 Thessalonians 4:4 “that each of you should learn to control your own body” is apparently aimed solely at women. Modesty, girls.
- Women accepting leadership positions in business, civic organizations, politics, and even the church is emasculating. Any woman with power must be bitter, angry, manipulative, devious, and a feminist. A Jezebel, in other words.
- Sexist slurs refer almost exclusively to women. One study found 2.9 million tweets per week that contained “gendered insults” such as “slut“, “whore“, and others too reprehensible to print. This bullying and harassment is aimed almost exclusively at women. I can’t think of even one male sexist slur. We don’t tolerate racist slurs (I hope), we should not tolerate sexist ones either.
Let’s teach women that modesty is more than what you wear, it’s an attitude we all should aspire to, that having more strong female leaders isn’t threatening, it’s freeing, and that using hurtful words aimed at women matters.
Let’s not confuse Deborah with Jezebel.
Let’s make them wonder why we’re still smiling.
“I look forward to the day when women with leadership and insight, gifts and talents, callings and prophetic leanings are called out and celebrated as a Deborah, instead of silenced as a Jezebel.” Sarah Bessey
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