Viewing Women through the Lens of Their Availability

I'm belaboring this point for a reason. What Challies describes is not biblical, but cultural, yet so tied to common interpretations of scripture that skeptics and believers alike assume the Bible advocates for this kind of misogyny. But it is not biblical for men to see women through the lens of our own happiness and wellbeing. When we do this, beauty is actually defined by "availability" to meet the needs of men. I think we're getting better, progress is happening, but this flawed assumption is still very obvious, particularly in places where it has been married to "traditional" values.

Just as a certain Boston-based rapper circa 1995 unfairly evaluated women in light of his dissatisfaction with their utility and availability, so too does Tim Challies' argument. The phrase "Godly Girl" never really caught on, though the phrase "biblical womanhood" seems to have taken root. But both of these characterizations veil the actual and harmful desires that they express. These terms say less about what it means for a girl to be "godly," or what the Bible says about womanhood, and more about the expectations that a particular cultural bias burdens women with.

I acknowledge Challies' intention to push this conversation away from a discussion of beauty, and into the realm of respect among married couples, but in doing so, it seems he is still removing the deciding factor of beauty from women themselves. In Tina Fey's newly released memoir Bossypants, she tells of a women's workshop she once attended at which the speaker was Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees, the book that inspired Fey's Mean Girls movie.

Wiseman asked her audience "to write down the moment they first 'knew they were a woman.'" Fey laments that almost every answer featured an incident with a man. And, typically, they weren't happy incidents—most, Fey notes, involved men yelling things from cars.

Our culture determines a woman's beauty by her utility and availability to men; Christians shouldn't condone this, let alone elevate it to the status of biblical.

6/1/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Jonathan Fitzgerald
    About Jonathan Fitzgerald
    Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is the managing editor of, and writes on the various manifestations of Christianity in culture. Follow him on Twitter or at his website,
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