What Does It Mean To Be “Feminine”?

There is a great discussion going on about Mark Driscoll and the “chickified” male/church at the Jesus Creed. I’m running out the door so I’ll have to revisit topic, but I have blogged about  my concerns with similar thoughts on masculinity and femininity.

But controversy aside, I’m curious. I’m not sure who all of you are who read my blog, but I’d love to know how you would define, describe, live/seen lived out femininity? It can’t  be about lip gloss and twirly skirts, but sometimes we don’t push the conversation, the descriptors, the issues deeper than that, I’m afraid. What do you see in women that is a part of the image of God that is reflected uniquely in the feminine? Or is there such a thing? And does race and ethnicity play any role in how you’ve seen the feminine defined?

For you women, what about being a woman do you find joy or discomfort in? What about being a woman draws you closer to God or makes drawing closer to God more challenging?


  1. Lisa March 3, 2010

    nurture. this is the most distinctly feminine characteristic i see. it’s not absent in men, but it’s different. why do kids always want mommy when the are sick? jeff and i do almost equal shares of taking care of the kids, but when they are sick or hurt, they want my nurture and care. there is something softer and gentler about it then the male equivalent, i guess.

    i have been thinking about this a lot in terms of Marion devotion in the Catholic church since I took Early Church History and am now taking a Spiritual Traditions class. Why do millions of people find Mary so accessible and appropriate for spiritual concerns when God is always available? My hypothesis is that there is something about the feminine, nurturing persona that is attractive.

  2. Kacie March 4, 2010

    Interesting comment above. Good comment.

    I struggle with feminity. I am not overly emotional. I feel very deep emotion but I am not like the female stereotype where I cry at the drop of a hat and struggle to control my emotion. I am VERY controlled. Overly controlled. I never cry. That’s typically associated with males.

    I am stubborn. I am opinionated. I care about politics, theology, history, and other topics that are often left to the males to talk about in a Christian setting. I have a deep drive to feel meaningful through work, which is also something usually associated with males.

    I am also deeply relational, nurturing, and sensitive.
    That, however, is not just a “female” thing.

    So yeah. I don’t know what true femininity is. I don’t know what real masculinity is.

  3. jerri March 5, 2010

    I had a friend recently tell me that the word Shaddai as in “El-shaddai” has its roots in the meaning “breasts,” almost literally “God of many breasts,” suggestively illustrating God’s nurturing side. Of course, the word also has its roots in the word “mountains” and “to destroy”

    I can’t say I know what femininity is, but I know that I’m a woman.

  4. andybilhorn March 8, 2010

    Dare I post on femininity as a male…but here I go…

    I believe Lisa is spot on. I’ve been marinating in Luke’s narrative of Jesus “setting his face to Jerusalem” for Lent, and one passage in particular jumped off the page: Luke 13:34, where Jesus “longed to gather your [Jerusalem’s] children together as a hen gathers her checks under her wings…”

    Maybe I’m stretching here, but there is something about the name of Immanuel – God with us – that is essentially nurturing. It’s this idea that Jesus wants to come along side, to be near, and to be with us. Like Lisa said above, it’s who you want with you when you are sick.

    There is something about Jesus that does get at the view of God that may be more feminine (as culturally defined as that might be) and what allows God to be more accessible. God the Father is perceived as very masculine. God the Son, whom was only accompanied by the women at the end, perhaps more feminine.

    (And for Kacie above, it is Jesus who just before he speaks of being a motherly hen in Luke 13:34 who smarts off to the Pharisees, calls Herod names, and is stubbornly persistent in Luke 13:32-33.)

    • AStephens March 10, 2010

      The Luke 13 passage most likely alludes back to Deut 32 where YHWH is described with BOTH paternal and maternal imagery.

  5. eliseanne March 12, 2010

    I felt the words of this post and the Balancing Act post deeply, especially reading them together.

    “For you women, what about being a woman do you find joy or discomfort in? What about being a woman draws you closer to God or makes drawing closer to God more challenging?”

    I am not a woman in a vacuum, and I am not a white woman in a vacuum. My entire background, culture, privileges and identity impact my womanhood. So even though I tried to think through these questions about me as “only” a woman, I can’t. So that is my disclaimer up front.

    I find discomfort in being a woman because of the critiques that I must face (dress, look, position, worth, voice, sensitivity), and the lack of physical safety that I feel and am aware of when not with my husband. I find joy in being loved of God and safe with God, no matter the power differentials in the world. I find joy in the emotional and social intuition and empathy God gifted me with, but I do not know if that is because I am a woman, or because I am me.

    You really hit me with the question of drawing closer to God. Is it something about being woman that draws me closer or makes it harder to be close, or is it something about the world I am a woman in, that makes it easier or harder? It goes back to that vacuum question, I guess, and the “what is feminine” question.

    I imagine that the definition of feminine is dynamic, and not absolute. Does it change / look different in matriarchal societies?

    • eliseanne March 12, 2010


      I think that race, ethnicity, and other cultural dynamics most definitely influence our views of femininity. For example, I as a woman can feel marginalized, but I as a white woman who retains her white privilege and is a part of the “in” group used for the standard of beauty, desire, and morality, surely have a different experience than a woman who is not white. And therefore I will be viewed differently by men than she will, and she will face different definitions and expectations of femininity than I will.

    • Kathy Khang March 17, 2010

      You bring up a great point. We are not women in a vacuum. However, I have found that over time when in conversations about race and ethnicity or even faith, I feel like my gender is somehow ignored because the dominant culture of those conversations, if you will, run with a masculine lens. Does that make sense?

      The best example I can give right now is Deadly Viper. I could not look at the book and not react as a woman, but quickly found that there was limited space for the complexity of addressing both ethnicity and women. There was plenty of room to talk about ethnicity and men, even though it was never explicitly laid out that way…

      And I’ve been thinking about the dynamic nature of femininity. Thank you.

      • .elise.anne. March 18, 2010

        oh yes, i remember that part of DV…you were the first person i found in the blogosphere brave enough to bring our gender into the discussion…


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