Being Female in Today's World - Part 2

jadyn noelle photography
In Part One of this series, we talked about how society views women, as well as some thoughts you shared about the value of being female. If you missed it, catch up HERE.

We left off asking the question, what should our focus be? Who are we supposed to be as females?

There are so many strengths of females, but we'll just touch on four.  

When I spoke on this subject a few days ago, the audience was from age 9-92. As I thought about adapting the subject to the audience, I realized that these strengths are true whatever age or stage you are currently in. So it applies to any age! On the subject of tween and teen drama (or mean girl stuff at any age), because I have studied the subject for awhile now, these four at at the top of my list, because of one thing I've noticed.

For every conflict that is common among females, it is in most cases a strength that is misused.

Each of these wonderful strengths has a common misuse. What if we as females, of all ages, could recognize this, and operate in our strengths? So what are these strengths?

1) We are made to have close relationships.  We are made to want and are able to have deep friendships, relationships, and intimacy with God. It's been said that we have an inner relationship manual inside of us. We know when something is wrong and we generally want to do something about it, even if we don't necessarily know how. 

The misuse? Females will often compete to be the closest person to others. Or we'll fight to keep our spot of closeness among friends. Much girl drama is fought over this good strength gone bad. Who's the BEST friend? If a new girl enters the scene, often girls will be mean to her, in fear that she will "steal" her friends away. This misuse shows up in other ways in older stages in life as well. 

2) We are made to be life givers. We can give birth yes. But we are also able to give life in other ways, at every age young and old, with our words, actions and love. Can you think of a time you felt "brought to life" by someone else's words or actions? What do your words do, benefit others or tear them down a little?

The misuse? Our enemy will fight against this strength by influencing us to do the opposite. Often we use our words and actions to tear others down instead of bringing life. Once again, this is especially true in mean girl stuff, but it applies to many other life situations too. Females can be our biggest support or biggest hindrance. You have to decide how you want to be used- to bring life to others or to tear them down? Listen to your words and see what you hear.

3) We are influencers. We can affect and make change. We can change a culture slowly by how we birth and raise godly character-filled children. We can change situations by our prayers. We can change feelings of those around us by our encouragement. We can stop mean girls by speaking up, or by sticking up for a friend, by understanding why people do what they do. You can be a godly example to your sphere of influence.

The misuse? Females are able to influence in ways that are negative. Manipulation is a distortion of influence. But also, think of females who have used their influence in ways you wouldn't choose. Many use their femininity in ways that affect culture and girls in ways that aren't godly. They definitely have power and influence. Girls often follow and want to be like them. On a local level, have you ever been to a school that has an atmosphere affected by the cattiness of females there? They are influencing for the negative, but they are influencing. The good news is, if a few girls decide to be different, they also can affect the atmosphere of a school by standing up against the competitive mean nature of some girls. 

We have to choose how to use our influence. For the good of others, for our own selfish motives, or to be used by God to make life better for others?

4) We are made to reflect beauty. Women love to create beauty. It is evident, in how we make a house a home, decorate a room, or create beauty in centerpieces for women's events. In another angle, we all want to know if we are beautiful. What happens when girls take a picture on their phone? What is next? They all want to see what they look like, then decide if it needs to be taken again. We are all looking to be beautiful. If you are among the ones hiding, not wanting to be in the picture, or not wanting to see the picture afterwards, what are you avoiding? Not appearing beautiful? It's a natural inborn question that we need the Lord to answer- Am I beautiful? If we don't let the Lord answer it, we will look for the answer in many other sources, but we'll get it answered. 

Our beauty is not only in our appearance, but even more in our confidence and godliness. What if we stopped obsessing over physical, still took care of ourselves without obsessing, and decided to be confident about the goods we were given? The hair we have, the eyes we have, the body shape we have naturally. What if we asked God what was truly unique about us from His perspective, then ran with it? 

The misuse is rather obvious in today's world. We have a cultural obsession over looks, unattainable perfection that we can never measure up to. We have paranoia over how we look and how others see us. We misunderstand beauty and focus on the wrong things. True inner beauty is the best makeup anyway (and I definitely still wear makeup!!) True beauty transforms how we look. 

In a world that shows females in so many negative ways, we have to be proactive in helping girls and women know their true strengths and purposes, and see value of being female. 

We can't forget, Jesus is our core, our center, our stability, our anchor. Without relationship with Him, and without understanding how He created us to be unique and amazing, we will use our strengths as weaknesses. He takes away insecurity as we grow with Him. He takes away competitive selfishness, as we understand our value in Him. As we grow in our relationship with Him, He makes us more able to see others in a better light, When we aren't busy battling for our own position, we are able to help people get into theirs. 

On Mother's Day this year, no matter what age or stage you are, not only celebrate moms, but you can celebrate being female. It's a good thing! 


Being Female in Today's World- Part 1

jadyn noelle photography
The subject of raising girls in today's world conjures up many thoughts, proven by MANY conversations I've either been a part of or have eavesdropped on in public. It's rarely a boring conversation!

I had lunch with some people at work the other day that I don't know. When the subject of raising daughters came up, one of the ladies said the funniest line, as she summarized her thoughts on raising her own daughter. She said, “When my daughter was 9, I said ‘I can’t do this’; when she was 11 I considered sending her to boarding school; and when she was 13, I considered going to boarding school!" That's a good summary of a fairly common thought!

Recently in preparation for my talk at a local church on the value of being female, I asked a question on my Facebook page "5 Things" to see what women had to say. I asked the question: One of the values or benefits of being female is _________:

Some answers you gave: 
  • giving birth and giving life
  • we are caretakers yet taken care of
  • we are emotional creatures and life would be meaningless without emotion
  • having such strong, raw emotions-sometimes it hinders, but mostly it helps me to experience life in the truest sense
  • motherhood
  • the innate ability to be compassionate
  • nursing a child
  • we are strong- stronger than we think
I add to that that we are creators, receivers, have power, are able to nurture, we have an intuition, an inner desire for relationship, we hold families together, and are able to go deep with the Lord.

Everywhere I go, I hear people say “OH NO” to raising girls in today’s world. Why? The reasons seem to be the dangers, it’s hard to control what they do in a culture so immoral, the pressures so strong and the role models so low. Raising girls is expected to be hard. But I say that’s the wrong point of view.
Let’s talk for a minute about how females are viewed in our society. First, there is so much gender confusion in today’s world. Knowing the value of why God created males and females has always been important, but it's becoming increasingly important. The strengths He gave each are important.

When I say “how females are viewed in society”, I’m talking about culture in general-  the culture we live in- the news, the media, the movies and books, the music, the culture in schools and on social media, etc. Not necessarily how you are living your life. How our culture portrays females slips in, no matter how protective we try to be, so it’s good to understand and think through these issues with our girls, as is age appropriate. I am generalizing in the broadest sense.

Think of baby girls- they are everything sweet, cuddly and princess-y. Girls are talkers and fun and frilly. As they grow into toddlers, we talk about how smart they are, what they are learning.

The elementary years are adventurous years, where they try new things and find new talents- maybe sports, leadership in school clubs, music, drama, art, being smart, enjoying life. Somewhere toward the older elementary years, the worrisome thoughts creep into girls' minds about looks, girl drama, mean girls and sometimes the confusing, yet fun subject of liking boys! Many adults look at these girls as though they are way too young to possibly be worrying about any of these subjects, but the young girls are definitely feeling the stresses early.  Thinking about looks, popularity, boys and how to deal with drama.

 As teen years hit, many in our culture have a view that teen years are going to be certain way. There is little we can do about the fact that girls become high maintenance, hard to get along with, sassy to parents and into things such as friend drama, dating, immorality, partying, etc.  We sometimes fall for this! But I disagree that it's a given. 

As adults, sometimes we are afraid of these years and are reactive instead of proactive.  We may assume the worst and expect things to be hard. We may put up with negative behavior in girls because “that’s the way girls are”. We put on our “YIKES” hat and think we can’t affect our girls in this stage. I believe that is so untrue!

People rise to the level of expectation. God never said the teen years have to be a terrible experience. They may have some difficulties and have rough periods, but we don't have to expect the worst and toss up our hands. If we consistently teach godly principles and have those as our standard, maybe some drama can be saved. We can concentrate on character at each stage and have that be our guideline. It certainly doesn't mean that the years will be a breeze, but we can prepare for them way ahead of time. Actually, the young years are the training ground for how teen years will be.

The biggest problems  in teen life become – who are my friends, do I have a boyfriend, and do I look good? The value of being female begins to show up as “how do I look, and am I desirable to guys?” instead of who they are inside, what they are gifted with.. what we see. Their view has often changed since childhood.

What’s interesting, in talking with many tweens, they feel tremendous pressure to grow up too fast. It’s easy to assume they want to, but when I've asked, almost 100% say they would rather remain young longer, and just enjoy being a kid. Who knew. 

As we grow older, the value that society largely puts on adult women is still in our looks, our youth and our sexiness. Like that’s the biggest aim we should have. That feeling gets transferred to our kids very young. The Girls 101 workshops we've done with girls as young as 5th grade prove that they have thoughts of self loathing about their looks and their size already. Negative thoughts don't necessarily go away as we get older, we just mask it differently. Some women have gotten beyond it, and don’t see their value in looks. But the pressure of perfection and our looks is very prevalent. The Lord helps us through that as we mature. We can get beyond it.

Even the mean girl stuff- that doesn’t always go away with age either. Women are either our biggest hindrance, or our biggest support. There is nothing more powerful than a group of women who support each other.  Women who aren’t competitive is a beautiful thing. On the other hand, little is as destructive as mean women. 

As adults, there are varied expectations of women. Either we are expected to get a degree and make good money and compete with men, or we are to be the best stay-at-home-super-mom there is, making everything from organic sources while blogging about it. But we are to be busy and excel at whatever we do, regardless of what we choose. AND, we are to stay desirable no matter what happens; stay young, keep our body in shape after birthing several children, etc. Whew!

Older women- do you feel expected to be available, to help raise more kids (grandkids), to afford this, work here, volunteer there, be good moms and grandmas? Maybe it’s finally time to live your dreams, when in reality you are tired from making everyone else’s happen.

I don’t think all of these negative assumptions society makes about females, or that we put on ourselves, is how God intended us to be when He designed us. I don’t think He made us to be difficult and competitive. 

I think we misunderstand femininity and expect too little.

Maybe we are just misusing our strengths!

In Part 2, we will take a look at:

What should our focus be then? What are the strengths God gave us as women?

Stay tuned.