Not Just Decoration: Ramblings on Defining “Womanhood”

When my eldest son was three he started asking an indecent number of “why?” and “what is it?” questions about the world. Coming up with answers was sometimes challenging; no one can draw attention to the folly and illogical nature of the adult world like a child. And so it was that we began distinguishing those things that had a clear purpose (the “why” questions we answered) from those things that were “just decoration” (ones we couldn’t quite figure out the point of).

I am afraid that modern Western society has subconsciously relegated the female figure to “just decoration”; it appears set on divorcing the appearance of my body from its point– it’s use. And I believe this has had a tragic effect on society’s definition of “womanhood.”

Consider the transgender movement– I argue that underlying the belief that a man can become a woman simply by changing his external appearance lies the misconception that what makes a woman female IS her appearance. What a shallow view of femininity!

In the New Christianity, we know gender is not defined by mere body structure and chemistry—and certainly not by choice or whim.

My current fav passage on this subject is Conjugial Love 33:

“because interior qualities form the exterior ones to their likeness, and the masculine form is a form of the intellect while the feminine form is a form of the love of the intellect, therefore the male has a different look, a different sound, and a different physique from the female…In general, he has a less beautiful form than the female. The two sexes also differ in behavior and manners. In short, nothing in the two sexes is the same, although there is nevertheless a capacity for conjunction in every detail.

Indeed, masculinity in the male is masculine in every part, even in the least part of his body, and also in every idea of his thought, and in every bit of his affection. So, too, with femininity in the female. And because one cannot as a consequence be converted into the other, it follows that after death a male is still male, and that a female is still female.”

Apart from the main point—that we women are women through and through—I appreciate how well this passage summarizes the proper progression of reality. At our very core, our soul, we women are fully distinct creatures from men. And it is because of that internal distinction that we have more external differences: we think differently, we behave differently, we sound differently, we look differently…

And, more to my point, it is because of that internal distinction that we ultimately excel at different uses. See CL 174-176 for further info.

These feminine uses, especially those of bearing and raising children, are where the “rubber meets the road” or rather the “soul meets society”; it is how our womanly souls shine through to affect those around us. Or, looking at it from the outside-in, those uniquely feminine uses are why our bodies and manners take on that “womanly” form.

For example: I have large breasts (as the two year old keeps pointing out), but they are not there just for decoration; they are there to serve a use—to nourish and sustain human beings. Likewise, I don’t have curvaceous hips just for the heck of it, but so that I can bear children.

And this comes to a challenge I see: if women’s bodies are going to be appreciated for their use rather than just their appearance, I believe women are going to have to come to terms with the fact that we ARE baby machines—and that that’s a wonderful thing. For decades now, women have been told that to devote oneself full-time to bearing and raising children is demeaning. And I think that attitude has had a detrimental effect on society. So many women I’ve known have felt pressure to quickly have their babies and then get back into their “real jobs” ASAP. I do not feel that womankind is proud of motherhood—despite the fact that it is the one job completely and indisputably beyond the capability of men.

And how can we expect to include use in our definition of “womanhood” if we have trouble appreciating those uses?

We women may be able to perform many amazing roles in this world but we shouldn’t denigrate the most distinctly feminine role of all!

Whatever the secular world wants us to believe, womanhood is not skin deep. Our distinctly feminine souls permeate every level of our being and shine out through the uses we are designed to perform. The whole system defines “womanhood.”

But I suspect womenkind doesn’t know this.

Enter the New Christianity…

About Eden Lumsden

Eden is loving wife to Derrick Lumsden and full-time mother to five little men. She grew up attending the New Church of Phoenix, went to the GC College, married a priest and was promptly shipped off with him to Africa. They spent 6yrs enjoying the people and culture at the Westville New Church, near Durban, South Africa before returning to the USA in 2014. They currently live in Sarver, Pennsylvania where they dabble in self-sufficiency, homeschool their boys, and scheme of ways to help the Church. Eden finds the True Christian teachings about women and marriage to be particularly profound.

6 thoughts on “Not Just Decoration: Ramblings on Defining “Womanhood”

  1. Thank you, Eden. My son-in-law sent this C S Lewis quote recently which I think you will appreciate.
    “I think I can understand that feeling about a mother’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, ‘To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavor’. (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So the job of motherhood is the one for which all others exist…”
    C.S. Lewis, writing in a letter to a “Mrs. Johnson” on March 16th, 1955

  2. Good stuff, Eden – thank you! It’s so nice to have that reassurance that we’re all so much more than our outward appearance, and to receive the validation for “doing nothing,” as it were – i.e. not holding a “real” job. (I appreciated Janis’ quote from C.S. Lewis, too; very appropriate.) …….And while I really appreciate what you’re saying, and I agree with it and support it, I can’t help but wonder what the implications are for women who CAN’T bear children. (That’s a question, not an accusation of any sort.) Thoughts?

    1. Hi Jenn. Thats a valid concern–I know women who are shy to shout out support for motherhood because they don’t want to hurt those women who cant have children. For me, I view infertility as an error in the natural–sort of like a child born with epilepsy or even a car crash victim who loses their leg. These people are whole on the spiritual level but there is various interference or problems with the external container. Really, we all have bodies that have broken pieces to varying degrees–but I recognize that some disabilities are much harder than others.

      Of course it makes it especially wonderful to me to know that there is a deeper and more true reality to a person. That a woman is a woman first and foremost in her soul and that that is what causes the rest of her to be a woman–if there are stumbling blocks to her natural form that’s sad and frustrating but it doesn’t affect who she truly is (and it may be those challenges will be used by the Lord to make her stronger).

      But I think we can still uphold bearing children as an ideal for women, the same as we can uphold a mind without seizures as ideal and two working arms as ideal. What do you think?

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