I was studying Proverbs 31 the other day and some things struck me. You know it's a normal thing, I guess it's cultural, here in Nigeria, to assume that that a virtuous woman is one that spends her entire life in the kitchen or at least a major part. We've come to believe that a virtuous woman is one that can prepare several meals and able to take care of her husband and kids. And we support it with the verse that says she rises while it is yet dark and gives meat to her household.
I remember in university, when we talked about the most eligible young women for marriage, we'll mention the fellowship Mamas and for no other reason than that they were always so caring and their ministry was to feed the hungry. We thought if a man married such, he'd have no problems at all. Like they say, 'a man has just two needs: sex and food'. So most women in preparing themselves for marriage, invest in learning to cook all forms of dishes and be home makers. But is that really true about a man's only needs?
Some men earnestly look out for excellent cooks when choosing whom to marry. When you ask them about the qualities of the woman they will like to marry, this is the typical answer you'll get. 1. She must be God fearing 2. She must be homely 3. She must be beautiful... and so on and so forth. The number one reason is now a cliché, people don't even know what they mean by God-fearing. As long as she is not an atheist, she'll pass. The second is where they really spend their time searching. 'She must be homely'. What they simply mean is that she must know how to cook, clean the house, receive visitors, take care of children and so on.
Now I'm not against women knowing how to cook. I am very much for that. In fact, I consider the occupation of being a housewife a serious one indeed, just as serious as that of a medical doctor. But I discovered something that really got me thinking.
When you study Proverbs 31 (I used New Living Translation), you'll find out that:
1. Most of the verses talk about her productivity outside the home (v 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 24) They talk about her as a business woman, dealing in flax and wool, linen garments and sashes; how she stays late into the night to make her products and sells them to the merchants; how she considers a field and buys it with her earnings; how energetic and hardworking she is; how she makes sure all her dealings are profitable.
2. A few talk of her as a home maker (v 15, 21, 22, 27)
They talk about how she prepares food for her household, clothes her household in winter, assigns chores to her servant girls and makes her own bedspreads.
3. A small but significant number talk about her hospitality and wisdom(v 20, 26)
How generous and kind she is, how she helps the poor.
Why was this woman called a virtuous woman?
It's definitely not just because she cooks the best meals or makes the finest clothes for her children. We can see that she is productive. She is not waiting for her husband to provide for her. She goes out, does her business and even enriches his life.
Young women, who says our ministries end in the kitchen? Young girls don't have goals for their lives anymore. They are waiting for that man that will 'take care of me', because there is this belief and it's so common in Igbo land that the man's sole duty in the home is to provide financially and the woman's sole duty is to take care of the house and kids. Women don't aspire to be economic titans. When one is courageous enough to make it in that field, people gather around her, especially her fellow women and say, 'the way you're going , it will be hard for you to get a husband' . If she's married, 'they'll say, 'what of your family? Don't you want to take care of them?'. I remember when single girls were discouraged from owning cars because 'it will chase all the men away'. A female medical doctor talks of going into surgery and everyone discourages her saying that it will shatter her home.
I do not neglect the fact that some women have actually neglected their homes in pursuit of success in their careers. But we shouldn't then swing to the other extreme and say women should not pursue big dreams. The virtuous woman is the woman that finds a balance between productivity in the world and her duties at home.
Celebrating the International Women's Day
©Radiant~ March 2015