Two Definitions of Femininity


I’ve recently come across two very distinct definitions of femininity.  One comes from John Piper’s book, What’s the Difference?  The other comes from Jonalyn Grace Fincher’s book, Ruby Slippers.

John Piper’s definition of femininity:

At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.

According to John Piper, being a woman means affirming men’s leadership.  That’s it.  So, I’m not really a woman unless I’m affirming the leadership of men around me.  All men.  Do I even have a purpose on this earth if I don’t come in contact with men very often?  Think about this definition…I mean really think about what he is saying here.  My purpose, my life, as a woman is to affirm and receive the leadership of men.  I don’t know where he got this idea, but I can’t find anything in the Bible to support it.  (If anyone can find the Bible verse where it says that men should lead women or that husbands should lead their wives, let me know…)

Jonalyn Grace Fincher’s definition of femininity:

the unique, unfallen ways God shows himself on earth in women…femininity is the way females are made in God’s image.

Now, this is a definition I can understand.  I am made in God’s image.  I am a woman.  It’s right there in Genesis, He made them, male and female.  I don’t have any list of things to do to prove I’m a woman, I just am one.  Fincher’s definition may seem vague to some people.  I think that’s because, as Christians, we crave rules.  We want to be told what we can and cannot do.  We want the law, in black and white.  But it isn’t always going to be easy to know what to do.  I believe God purposely doesn’t tell us exactly what to do in many situations, because He wants us to seek Him, to pray, to cry out to Him for wisdom.  There are restrictions on us as believers, but I’ve found that most things aren’t black and white.  There are many gray areas where we have to seek, pray, and trust that God will show us the way.

Jesus didn’t come to give us more laws and rules, or to tell us to fill roles.  He didn’t tell women to “get in their place”.  He came to set us free from the Law.  This doesn’t mean the Law has no value or that we can purposely sin and take advantage of God’s grace.  But what it does mean is we are free from prejudice, from meaningless restrictions on our personhood that are based on gender.  Women and men should be free to pursue giftings and develop their talents and intellect in any area they choose, regardless of their gender.


About creativehomeschooler

I'm a homeschooling mom of two creative children. I created this blog to highlight the things I'm thankful for during my days. It can be a challenge to homeschool, but I try to look at the grace my children and I experience. And these kids come up with some neat projects, so I hope to encourage and inspire others who may be reading.

7 responses »

  1. I remember the first time I read John Piper’s definition of femininity in “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”. I was aghast. He defines femininity purely in terms of female responsiveness and submission to all “worthy” men. (“Worthy” seems a very arbitrary description.) And he defines masculinity purely in terms of male leadership of all women. So “That’s it”, as you said; leadership and submission is what distinguishes men and women. Horrendous! Let’s just squeeze all of diverse humanity, from every continent and culture, and from every age, into two little neat restrictive categories, with no overlap. Piper’s definitions are ridiculously inadequate; and wrong.

    I am thinking that this article would be a great addition to my website. May I repost it with appropriate credits?

  2. Marg, thanks for reading and of course you can repost. I’m honored:) For some reason I missed this comment…some wordpress glitch, I suppose.

    It’s amazing to me how restrictive Piper’s definition is; it also has no Biblical basis, as far as I can see. He attempts to squeeze all of humanity into two, neat and tidy packages. It just doesn’t work that way!

  3. Pingback: Two Definitions of Femininity – Stephanie Phillips Wilkins

  4. Wow – I knew I disagreed with Piper on this subject but had not seen his definition of femininity – truly absurd – and as you say NOT scriptural!! I know they justify these ideas with all the Romans submission verses, but even there, I do not see how you can use that as the sole definition of man and woman.
    I am so tired of hearing christians define gender roles based on qualities that God clearly called BOTH sexes to display (submission, service to each other, fruits of the spirit – they are not gender exclusive!)
    As a young woman, I pray that the Holy Spirit leads men and women to challenge this idea and seek God’s definition for their worth and purpose. As I enter my 30s as a single, Christian woman, I really worry about what ideas Christian men will have about me as a woman, if the likes of Piper & Driscoll are informing them!! I truly hope there are men who see the flaws in these definitions and the beauty in diversity within and between genders.

    Thanks for sharing this! Gonna check out your other posts too. I’m a big follower of Jonalyn Fincher and she linked to this 🙂

  5. I remember bringing up these definitions with my pastor – trying to discuss the whole book with him really as I was struggling with the complementarian teachings I had heard on gender roles. Over time, I came to the same conclusion as your second quote.

    I am a woman. I don’t want to be otherwise. But I don’t fit Piper’s definitions and descriptions of “femininity” well. I identify more with his descriptions of how men should behave. Does that make me masculine, gender disordered, did God “mess up” on me or does obedience to the Word mean I have to repress all about me that doesn’t “fit” Piper’s description of femininity? I struggled with all those questions.

    Not so much anymore. Piper can just be wrong about what masculinity and femininity are. Being made in God’s image is the most important thing about me. End of sentence. And as his redeemed image bearer, I am being renewed and transformed to conformed to reflect the image of the risen Christ, That’s amazing. And liberating.

  6. Hi… I really enjoyed reading this blogpost as I am studying the Social Sciences in Sport… focusing on feminism. Would it be possible to cite your blog and refer to the reviews you have given, regarding John Piper’s extreme definitions on masculinity and femininity, in any future pieces of work I do relating to the topic? I would really appreciate this! Thank you, Rikki

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