It is rare to encounter people in the United States who understand what I do. “You’re an anthropologist?” They say. “How interesting! Is that like Indiana Jones or more like Jurassic Park?”
I exaggerate (a bit), but anthropology is not a widely understood discipline in this country. I would also say, based on my highly unscientific study, that it is even less understood in the church. Anthropology’s traditional anti-missionary bias, combined with a general distrust of “-ologies” of various sorts, has led anthropology to be a weak voice in U.S. Christianity.
Digging deeper into Prov 31:10–31 in context reveals it was never intended to be a how-to manual for becoming the perfect woman. In the context of Proverbs, this passage is the parting mnemonic incentivizing young men to pursue wisdom and marry wisely.
Over the past forty years, the remarkable presence of women in Prov 1–9 has drawn an equally remarkable number of studies, a gift from the rise of feminism and women in the academy. The combination of these two forces brings attention to the once invisible women in the text, figures generally overlooked or ignored as males have read and interpreted the text for other males. Now, however, the text again gives birth to these marginalized figures, providing them with bodies, eyes, ears, hands, feet, and especially, mouths for speech. Of 256 verses in Prov 1–9, 132 specifically mention or speak about women and another seventeen verses either introduce these texts or draw conclusions from them;hence fifty-eight percent of Prov 1–9. Yet, ironically, all this attention to women comes because of the writer’s interest and concern for young men (1:4), with a secondary appeal to older, wise men (1:5). For the sages, it would seem that the way to a man’s heart is not through food, but through women. After all, the author seems to assume, what better way to engage the attention of a young man than by speaking about or describing women?
They came from all over— Bahrain, Turkey, Rome:
A little band of women
with hope all their own
To learn and to study,
To become stronger in their faith
To encourage one another
In the footsteps of the saints.
Rendered invisible it has happened just too many times
times two squared
Even worse is being rendered visible
but not really important.
Your voice is not really that important they say.
It doesn’t have the right credentials,
Many books behind you ... a following... or enough degrees,
or how could you really have something to say
when you spend many of your days doing laundry,
wiping noses, changing diapers,
raising living human beings, instead of just words on a page.
Living words are not regarded with the same care.