(A)typical Womanhood: An Interview with Abigail Dodds
Why is it so important to properly understand how God made men and women? How should we think biblically about womanhood? In her book, (A)Typical Womanhood, Abigail Dodds offers thought-provoking content on what it means to understand womanhood through the lens of Scripture. The following is my interview with Abigail around her new book and the topic of biblical womanhood.
In the introduction to (A)typical Woman you write that it is worth our time to try to understand our Christianity and our womanhood. Why is this important?
Because if we really believe that God is the author of all things, if we believe that he is the Maker and Creator both of our birth and our new birth, then we will seek to understand the meaning he’s woven into those things and live accordingly. Furthermore, if God is the author of both the created world and a Book, then that means both what he’s made and the words he’s written down for us matter. If God is the author of both the created world and a Book, then that means both what he’s made and the words he’s written down for us matter. Click To Tweet
In our current culture, defining what it means to be a woman involves the glorification of self. How does defining the term “woman” from a biblical view differ from a feminist view?
When we define the word woman from a Biblical view, we understand that both men and women are essential. They are created in the image of God. They aren’t meant to compete with one another, but to complement one another. If all the world were men, we’d be in trouble. If all the world were women, we’d be in trouble. God’s plan for filling the earth with his glory was to have both men and women—male and female made into one through marriage so that the image of God could replicate and spread to the ends of the earth.
And one very important thing we learn in the Bible is that man wasn’t made for woman, but woman for man. In other words, God makes it clear that the order of his creation matters and that he’s given us specific roles as male and female that are suited to our sex. Women have babies, men don’t. Men have bigger muscles than women. It is from among the men that qualified elders must be chosen. It is appointed to wise older women to teach and train the younger women.
What is generally true among feminism is that the distinctions between men and women become points of contention. This means that the very things that make a woman unique from a man—the very things that give her special value––are erased so that she can be the same as a man. It sadly creates a lose-lose situation for women. They are told that to have value they have to compete with men, but because they weren’t made to do so, they not only forfeit their God-given distinctions, they also end up losing the competition with men, because a woman will never be as good at being a man as a man is.
In your book you write that being a woman is the expression of our personhood. You even reference that some views of feminism echo Gnocticism. Why is being a woman (or man) not just one aspect of ourselves?
There has been a bit of confusion in how we talk about manhood and womanhood regarding our roles. Being a woman means that I’m assigned certain roles, but being a woman isn’t merely a role. Being a woman isn’t a hat that I wear when I’m doing womanly things, then when I stop doing womanly things I put on my “human” hat. If God made you a woman, then you’re a woman through and through, in everything you do, whether you’re working in the kitchen or working in the office or the yard. We don’t have female body parts and human body parts. Every bit of our body is coursing with DNA that declares “WOMAN.” So, while being a woman certainly involves particular roles that are distinct to womanhood and roles that are not distinct womanhood (roles that overlap with men), being a woman is not a role. It is a reality.
You capture the idea that a woman is a prism that takes in light and turns it into an array of greater light that permeates everything given to it and points to Christ. This is beautiful imagery. Where do you see this idea in Scripture?
The most poignant and dense example is in Proverbs 31:10–31 in the oft-dreaded passage on the excellent wife. We are quick to either make those verses the legalist’s Savior (just nail this part of the Bible and then you’ll achieve true Biblical womanhood status!) or, in an effort to keep Christian women from feeling like maybe they aren’t as awesome as their Insta feeds would suggest, we just throw that passage overboard as a nice and utterly unattainable idea that no one should ever consider putting into practice. Neither of these approaches are Christian. What is a Christian approach is to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, by whom we are declared righteous before God, and through whom we are actually being made righteous in our day to day life, then to look at Proverbs 31 as an inspiring vision of how a woman who is secure in God gets to work glorifying everything around her.
How does fabric come to be clothing? How do eggs and flour become a cake or bread or pie? How do bricks and wood and steel and nails become a home? How do little ragamuffins become contributing members of society? By the glorifying work of others. Men can transform raw materials into useful, beautiful things, just as women can. But there is something particularly compelling about the way women do this. “A woman’s touch” isn’t a mere stereotype. It reflects something wonderful about how God has made us.
How can this book on Christian womanhood be a discipleship tool for anyone who reads it?
My heart’s desire is that older women would read it alongside younger women, helping them navigate the sticky parts and sit with them through tough questions. But, for younger women who don’t have an older woman to read alongside them, I hope that my voice in the book would help guide and encourage them as they walk with the Lord. I know that many authors did that for me as a young Christian woman, so I trust that God can still use books to grow people up in Him. That’s the wonder of discipleship—it is scrappy and flexible. God can water seeds by all sorts of unlikely means. I’m praying this book would be one of them.