Recently Boundless blogger Suzanne Gosselin highlighted an article on Rachel Held Evans’s blog entitled “Thou Shalt Not Let Thyself Go?“, in which Evans puts Mark Driscoll on blast for the following 2006 statement:
“At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.”
Evans then says:
I fear that the sentiment behind these remarks—that the Bible holds women to a certain standard of beauty that must be maintained throughout all seasons of life—remains pervasive within certain sectors of the conservative evangelical community.
She then calls out Christian authors Dorothy Patterson and Martha Pearce, as well as unnamed pastors in her own life, for telling women that they should remain beautiful and sexually satisfy their husbands to the point where the husbands will have zero temptation to stray.
The message is as clear as it is ominous: Stay beautiful or your husband might leave you. And if he does, it’s partially your fault.
Evans goes on to say that nowhere in the Bible are women commanded to remain physically beautiful for their husbands and instead highlights the usual verses about how beauty is fleeting, yada yada yada. But Evans then goes one step further and labels the advice to stay attractive misogyny. She contends that Scripture affirms that beauty decreases with age and childbearing, and – SHAMING ALERT! – “frankly, the suggestion that men are too weak to handle these realities is as emasculating as it is unbiblical.” (Anytime someone starts a sentence with “frankly,” it’s an alert that condescension and/or shaming is imminent.)
Evans ends the article with this hamsterrific, projection-tastic piece de resistance:
Rather it is to help set women free—from the lie that God is disappointed when our bodies change, from the lie that it’s our fault when men cheat, from the lie that we become worthless as we grow older, and from the lie that that the Bible is just another glossy magazine whose standards of beauty we will always fail to meet.
While reading this article, I questioned whether Evans knows anything about men, or about women. I don’t know anything about Evans, but it seems like she’s projecting her own insecurities onto men at large, and in trying to defend herself is actually propagating more garbage.
Very few men expect their wives to remain as physically attractive over time as they were on their wedding day, so Evans’s contention that there is some sort of churchian imperative never to age just seems totally bogus. What men do expect, however, is that their wives care for their looks. There is a big difference between showing natural signs of aging and packing on fifty pounds and wearing sweatpants all the time. A wedding ring isn’t a license to start eating Ho-Hos to your heart’s desire, or shoving all your makeup in a drawer that will never again see the light of day. So yes, this means that a woman who completely neglects her appearance and expects her husband to “just deal with it” is a woman who enables her husband to stray. She doesn’t cause him to stray, but in neglecting her appearance, she makes it easier for another woman to catch his eye. The reality that Evans seems to be most ignoring is that to a man, his wife’s investment in her appearance is a sign of respect for him. And a man usually interprets his wife’s respect as love. So man whose wife doesn’t care for her appearance tends to think that she doesn’t love him. And a man who feels unloved is an unhappy man who is a prime target for temptation. It’s up to your man to stray, but you can make it easier for him not to.
Does the Bible contain positive commands to women never to age or to work as hard as they can to retain their beauty? No. But the Bible doesn’t contain positive commands NOT to do so, either. When the Bible tells women that their greatest beauty is in their spirit and demeanor, it’s not a permission not to care about their looks; it’s a reminder that the true beauty of a person comes from within, not that their looks have NO place of value.
But even if you buy everything Evans is selling, consider the shoe on the other foot. Would Evans ever consider it okay for men to stop caring about making a living? Would she be okay with a man deciding, “Well, I’m married now. That’s a lot of responsibility, so I just can’t work as much as I used to. I don’t think I should be expected to keep making more and more money, anyway. That’s an ominous lie of materialism and there is no biblical command to make a lot of money. So, yep, I think my wife should be okay with me not making $100,000 a year and keep loving me the same now that I’m only bringing home $20,000.” Yeah…I don’t think so.
All I’m saying really boils down to one thing: do things that make it easier for your spouse to love you.
P.S. I glanced at the comments. Oy, vey.
[ETA for reference: Suzanne Gosselin’s referring article, “Thou Shalt Not Become Ugly.”]