Archive for November, 2008

Brush your way to glory

November 11, 2008

No Christian Charm Manual-style how-to on hair styling would be complete without a reminder that girls are “the weaker vessel.” The lesson entitled “Femininity – My ‘Crowning Glory'” includes this picture of a gleaming but docile visage above these four instructions “to be truly feminine.”

Brush your way to glory.

Calling all weaker vessels ...

1.    See that you look like a girl – not a boy.
2.    Don’t usurp the role of the male.
3.    Cultivate a quiet, gentle spirit.
4.    Value your chastity.

Here, the Charm Marm teaches the quiet glory of styling one’s hair in an attractively submissive fashion. This particular hairstyling niche seems overlooked by fashion magazines these days. How is a girl to know which products will train her to coif stay perfectly obedient all the day long? One’s bangs must be compliant, one’s length must be meek, one’s ponytails must be modest but not faint-hearted. And one’s hairstyle must not pose a threat to nearby males.

The verses the Charm Marm includes on this workbook page include, “I suffer not a woman … to usurp authority over the man,” a reference to “the weaker vessel” and a reminder that a woman is a mere “help meet.” I confess that I generally find hair-care instructions to be confusing, but never quite this demoralizing.

I won’t attempt to go at the whole gender-religion thing in one blog entry. Suffice it to say that Jesus was  revolutionary about the role of women in society, treating them as equally important vessels of divinity. The men who followed him simply didn’t get it, and the men who determined what went into the Bible had their patriarchal political agendas to boot.

So why, a couple of thousand years later, are sweet little girlies being instructed about their limited importance? Because we’re only charming if we know our place? We’re only charming if we sit quietly and act pleased just to be allowed in the building? We’re only charming if we acknowledge that our very existence starts us off in the minus column – and that we’re supposed to stay there? And it’s so important that we understand our inadequacies that even our hair must convey the proper tone?

Usurpers, grab your brushes!

This workbook page reminds me of a church service I once attended in Knoxville, Tennessee. On that spring day, the pastor behind his pulpit found his way to the topic of women. I believe Eve was mentioned. He seemed anxious to give her a good scolding. He allowed – perhaps fancying himself magnanimous – that women could occasionally speak in church, especially if teaching children. “We can trust you dangerous hussies to give directions to little kids now and then,” the preacher didn’t really say but surely implied, “but don’t you temptresses ever tell me or others of male persuasion what to do.”

Oh, and did I mention that it was Mother’s Day? I think most of the women were downstairs preparing the potluck anyway, so I guess they’d already gotten the message.

Undo the Charm Marm: This ludicrousness of this lesson on hair grooming and gender politics is a little easier to see than the more subtle misogyny that pervades many church gatherings. The bottom line is that if anyone tries to make you feel powerless or fearful, it’s your divine right – yea, verily, your sacred duty – to ignore them. Give the culprit a decidedly un-demure look if you have to. Nobody, whether male, female, extra terrestrial, preacher, pitcher or belly itcher, has the right to diminish you. It’s not your responsibility to sport a submissive hairdo, chickadees – it’s your responsibility to stand up and be the full extent of who you are. And seriously, aren’t gender stereotypes so boring at this point? Charm school students who are bored, raise your hands. These cheap shots are tedious, destructive nonsense and have no more actual heft than a pretty, little hair on your head.

Maybe if the apostle Paul had ever actually met Jesus, he would have understood that a woman’s glory is being fully and completely who she is, instead of telling the Corinthians that “if a women have long hair it is a glory to her.”

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