What’s A Woman?

What makes A Woman?

It’s a genuine question – and I don’t have an answer; nor for that matter, an agenda, (theological or otherwise). But my head hurts from trying to make sense of it. And I’d love to know what you think.

I’ve tried to work it out myself.  Even done some reading.

It goes without saying, that the women’s glossies are a pile of poop.

The fashion ones tell you that it’s Dior or death.  The ‘healthy’ ones urge you to love yourself with mung beans, marathons and mantras.The mumsy ones tell you it’s all about family.  The ‘sexy’ ones recommend things I can’t even imagine, let alone practice.

But I’ve looked elsewhere too. Proper books. Everything from Wayne Grudem to Caitlin Moran, (sorry Wayne, but Caitlin was pacier).  All good – but they’ve opened up as many questions as they answer.

I’ve been to talks on godly womanhood.  Again, these are good – but sometimes they  point me back to the truth, without helping me get there. They remind me for example, that  ‘beauty comes from within’.  This is absolutely right. But WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? How do I get to the point where I even want it (as distinct from feeling like I ought to want it?)

I know in my head I should stop obsessing about appearances and think about what really matters.  But it’s like wanting to be purple. Nice in theory, but impossible in practice.

– Or am I missing something, everyone else seems to have got?

Even the straightforward stuff is confusing: appendages and hormones and biology. For example:

are you still a woman if your womb doesn’t work?

how about chest size? If you take after your dad, does that make you less of a lady?

Then there’s urban wisdom about what it means to be female.  Example:

1. Women are nurturing. Natural mothers and home-makers or carers.

(So what about the woman who doesn’t want kids? Or the one who has them and wishes she didn’t? The wife in a loveless marriage? The daughter forced to care for parents who make her life miserable?)

2. Women are relational

(So what about the introverts? Or those with autism? How about if I’m single – does it mean there’s a bit of me that will never be fully alive? If I’m terrified of intimacy am I still a woman?)

my brain




Answers on a postcard.






13 thoughts on “What’s A Woman?

  1. Hi Emma,
    I felt very concerned about a similar question: what does it mean to be a man. I did a lot of reading, I spoke to a lot of people. At the moment I have come to two things which I offer you for what they’re worth.
    1) The Bible doesn’t seem to offer a pronouncement on what a man or a woman *is* (unless I’m missing something). It does present many people who are godly men and godly women. They are not the same. So maybe ‘a woman’ looks like a lot of different things and maybe that’s okay.
    2) I’ve come to the conclusion that if you aim for ‘manliness’ or ‘womanliness’ head on you end up missing it and become pretty silly (no offense indeed – I include myself in this). Instead I saw that I could “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I could follow Jesus (by faith through grace) and he’d sort out the man-thing. Didn’t help me define it but somehow it sort of started to worry me less and less.

  2. Good one, Emma, and good response Matt. You can probably spend several lifetimes on these questions (and seeing we’re currently outside of Eden, still not be in the original ‘learning zone’ on such matters). I think what really helps is the comfort that we are being conformed to the nature of Christ – that doesn’t take away anything (it probably makes them a great deal more complex) – but it means that genuine identity is and will forever be ours… The iron is in the fire, and the fire is in the iron, so what counts is our continuing to look forward to what’s coming, because there, no doubt, will be meaningful answers – and even greater wonders, as we become all that that entails.

  3. Here’s where I am on this:

    I am a woman because God says I am. Most statements about what men and women are like are comparable to the statement “men are taller than women”, which is true, but means “most men are taller than most women.” Any given man or woman may be the other way round and it doesn’t impact their gender. I want to have sex more often than my husband does. He needs the house to be tidy first. It’s ok!

    I am to submit to my husband because God says so. Not because men are natural leaders and women are naturally submissive.

    Some of the best women I know are single. Some are married but childless. Others are mothers. All of these involve sacrifice and trusting God.

    I think the particulars are more important than the generalizations. I’m not sure there’s any such thing as a woman or a man. There are just women and men, made severally in God’s image.

  4. God made men and he made women and he made us in his image. So if we’re not men, we’re women, and no matter how varied we are, we carry the image of God and that is good! I don’t think manliness and womanliness is the biblical priority, but godliness. Ps I need to get this into my own head too!!!

  5. Thank you Emma, I love your topics. here’s what I think:
    men and women were created in the image of God, therefore I think we should derive our definition from there.. we, like the diverse and united Triune God are two different persons of the same nature; humans, men and women. but what makes each one a woman/man is her/his entire being, every single thing that makes us ourselves. I think there isn’t and shouldn’t be a mould for all to fit in. and I guess the mould the world have made is what makes us uncomfortable in our skin. I too struggle to fit in the mould, to look and sound feminine. and then ”Godly woman” mould comes specially made for Christians, just to makes us a little more uncomfortable!

  6. Thanks Matt – you’re right; when you aim for man or womanliness you end up missing it, but if you’re focused on Jesus you have the freedom to become what you already are (and not in a one size fits all way either)

  7. Howard – great reminder that I’m both being conformed to the likeness of Christ and already in Him.

  8. Thanks Rebecca – ‘I am because He says so’. So powerful – and yet I need constant reminding not to get my identity from everything else.

  9. Hi Hend, yes – whether from the world or my own caricature of ‘godly womanhood’, a man-made mould is one I’ll never fit. So why do I keep forgetting this? And why do I think it’s what will offer me life – instead of the Christ-given identity that’s all of grace?

  10. Great question. I sometimes get mind boggled thinking about these things. Like, what makes Jesus the Son of God? Especially when you consider that at one point he was only a small cluster of cells. I remember someone telling me that it is his relationship with the Father that makes Him the Son. Jesus is and was and always will be the Son of God because he is the One beloved of the Father. Could that mean then that a woman finds her womanliness in being the beloved of another? Perhaps the man (Christ)? Not sure how that pans out all smoothly. I’ll let you take it from there.

  11. Wow. Not sure I can take it from there – you’ve thought about this far more deeply than me. And my mind gets boggled very quickly!

    I love what you’re saying about Jesus being the Beloved of the Father. The Trinity must tell us everything about who we are – and this is one very powerful example.Have you seen Mike Reeve’s new article at desiring God – he talks about exactly this : http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-spreading-goodness

  12. there is so much gender stereotyping and prejudice, that it is difficult at times of weakness and uncertainty, just to be yourself as well as who one is meant to be. Also as Christians, as I understand it, we are not to look for role models, however inspiring they may be, for that is what the world would give us. ….furthermore I wonder what each sex makes of the other? Then I think we get into a real mix-up! One the one hand i am happy enough with who I am , on the other hand, put a woman nearby to ‘rib-me’ or point out what they thought was strange about me, and well…i might start to crumble. I guess we are all vulnerable in our sex, and the older one gets the more one just wants to be left alone!! In other words let me avoid the misunderstandings of others -as far as possible – and let me just get on with ‘it’, life. But unfortunately such a situation would virtually mean the end of relationship, between the sexes, but certainly would make life a good bit simpler!! (And on the other side, i do wonder , not having indulged myself, what the point of make-up is? i just dont get the need to preen and nail and pedicure and moisturize and acessorize and pluck . I better stop for you see we can appear ridiculous to the other – barely tolerable- and that is precisely my point and yet if i want to wear smelly socks, that is perfectly normal to me, oh dear.

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