What women want…I think

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

(Photo by Foxtongue)

The blogosphere is buzzing once again about the topic of women’s roles in the church, home, and society.

I’m not exactly sure how it started this time. Maybe it was a controversial cover story in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “The End of Men.”  Maybe it was Matthew Paul Turner’s response to John Piper regarding women who work outside of the home (and the subsequent firestorm in the comment section).   Maybe it was Emerging Mumy’s observation that the lack of female speakers at faith-related conferences reveals a larger gender issue in the church.

Or maybe I’ve just had women on my mind ever since I encountered some surprising statistics last week:

  • Since 1972, women’s overall level of happiness has dropped (United States General Social Survey)
  • As women age, they gradually become less happy—as opposed to men, who gradually get happier (Journal of Happiness Studies)
  • Women are more likely to feel sometimes or always rushed in 1999 than in 1975, while men were not. (Journal of Marriage and Family)
  • Married mothers are more stressed and less happy than married women with no kids (United States General Social Survey )

Now, Piper would probably say this is because women have been given too many opportunities to excel outside of the home, while many feminist would argue it’s because we still haven’t been given enough.  I suspect most women would say these statistics reveal something about the pressure that comes with trying to juggle it all and the daily insecurity we feel about screwing it up.

I wish pastors understood that our insecurities are only exacerbated when they tell us that God has one right way in mind and we are constantly falling short of it. I wish hard-core feminist knew that the solution isn’t to cram all women into a one-size-fits-all antithesis to the 1950s housewife.

But as much as I would love to blame the culture or the church (or men) for all of our misery, I’m pretty convinced that the only way women can ever be happy again is if we cut ourselves some slack.

Let’s face it.

None of us can have it all (at least not all the time and all at once).

None of us have found a way to magically combine Martha Stewart Living with Cosmopolitan for a glossy, wrinkle-free  life. 

And none of us are living 100% biblically (unless of course you camp out in a tent in your backyard for seven days after the start of your period in accordance with Leviticus 15:19-30).

So let’s stop using the Bible as a weapon and our differences as excuses to judge.  We all interpret Scripture a little differently. We all live our lives a little differently. The one thing we have in common is the fact that we can never achieve that elusive, impossible ideal we’re so fond of imposing on ourselves and one another.

I’m not exactly sure what women want…but I know that most of the time, all I want is to feel like I’m doing the right thing.

I wonder how long it will take me to realize I can’t wait around for John Piper or Martha Stewart to tell me that I am.


Alright,  ladies—I want to hear from you!  Why do you think women are less happy today than they were in 1972? Is there just one ideal lifestyle that truly honors God? Are YOU happy?

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