29 October 2006

And What Do YOU Do?

Of all the questions commonly heard in our polite North American society, this is undoubtedly the question I hate the most.

I can see the scene unfolding in my mind. With each and every new acquaintance we go through the same charade. First, they are speaking to Clint about his profession as a Greek Professor, or his pursuit of PhD studies, or his 'cowboying.' All of which receive the customary "That's wonderful!" or "How interesting!" and of course, "Good for you!" Finally, their heads swivel toward me, eyebrows raised, and they ask in that very proper tone, "And what to you do?"

Does anyone actually think about what they are saying when they ask a woman this question? I know it's the only thing people can seem to think of to say, and it is arguably the polite way to make introductions in our culture. But we all know that what they are really asking is, "What do you do to make money?" It's not quite as polite to put it this way, but it's a little more honest.

Let's face it, women are defined by what they do. Their response to this little question of introduction will not only be the primary definer of their identity, but also of their quality of person. Women who have made the home their primary focus are left with only two possible answers, both require an answer of humiliation, namely, "Oh, I don't work." or "I'm just a homemaker." Even a woman who finds time to do a little work for pay outside the home, must respond to this question with "the little" they do outside the home. And, most likely, they would believe that it is the least important thing that they do with their time, and they would certainly not wish to be defined by it.

My frustration comes not with unbelievers, but with Christians. Where in the bible does it speak of a woman's role being primarily to make money? It doesn't. So why are Christian women made to feel like less because their primary energies are focused on running a household, ministry to their husband and/or children, and ministry in their local church and community?

I cannot tell you the number of times that Christian men and women have encouraged me to pursue a career in singing, but I have never once had anyone ask me how it would effect my marriage to be away from home for months at a time touring.

The Proverbs 31 woman "considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard." She is entrepreneurial. She is good with money and investments. All women should strive to achieve this, but this is only one verse of the 21 verses that paint a picture of her excellence. She is certainly not neglecting her home in order to make money. Why are the other 20 verses so often disregarded or treated as irrelevant among Christians?

Admittedly, there are some lazy women out there that give homemakers a bad name. But I can guarantee that not all homemakers sit around watching Oprah all day. They're much too busy with their duties of nutritionist, personal chef, accountant, investment researcher/analyst, secretary and cleaning lady. They are also spending time finding ways to minister to their husband and/or children, family, church and community.

Contrary to popular belief, I've never heard of a woman that had a full time career whose home did not suffer for it in some capacity. However, in truth, I am glad that we live in a country were women have freedom to work. Sometimes it is really necessary for a season, and in other seasons a woman has the time and finds enjoyment doing it. A paid job can truly be a blessing at certain times in a woman's life. But we must guard against feminism replacing scripture as our measuring stick for a woman's worth.

So please, don't define a woman by her paid job (or absence of one.) Don't assume that if she doesn't have a paid job, she's watching Oprah. And if you can be a little creative and counter-cultural, don't ask a woman a question that requires a humiliating answer.

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