Anyone who was ever a Christian or spent any time around them is probably all too familiar with the Christian call for women to be a “Proverbs 31 Wife.” There is a trend on social media from some Christian SAHMs to return to tradition. These self named “trad wives” profess to be emulating the fictitious Proverbs 31 Wife. But what exactly does that mean? Well, most today assume it means to be a traditional stay at home mom, a house wife. Being a housewife and stay at home mom is a 24/7 job full of rewards, but that “traditional” notion is actually a 1950’s concept. The nuclear family did not exists until the suburban housing campaign post WWII. Women were previously in the work force (while men were at war) and men wanted those jobs when they returned. The US government provided a solution as it launched suburban building programs that included building homes for GI’s and there wives.
The terms of the government-backed loans favored new construction, and cheap land outside cities soon grew into suburbs filled with rows of modest 800-square-foot Cape Cods, providing just enough room for a G.I., his wife, and their proverbial 2.5 kids. The homes “represented the American Dream reduced to its basic minimum,” wrote Barbara Kelly, author of Expanding the American Dream, in The New York Times.Quote Source: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-postwar-housing-boom-wasnt-all-sunshine-and-roses
Before the suburbs became the rage, families were not exclusively nuclear. They were generational. Women were not isolated in their private home day after day with no peers and no support. They lived amongst family including in-laws, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and built long term relationships in their neighborhoods. Of course they had no choice but to live amongst family as women were not allowed to rent or purchase their own homes. Sometimes women worked away from home, like my maternal great grandmother who wore pants (!), drove a motorcycle with a side car, and went to the Oscars, because she was a journalist. Some women worked from home, some did not work outside of caring for the family. Women lived in community, not isolation. After decorating the home and hosting enough parties, the 1950’s wife began to feel the mental and emotional burden of isolation and lack of community and support.
The isolation combined with lack of purpose began to take the toll on women. But society’s (men’s) response was to lock women up in mental institutions until they could “behave,” or could be properly sedated. This wasn’t a new practice by any means (See an expanded history of ‘hysteria’ here). Songs like Mother’s Little Helper captured the sentiment “She goes running for the shelter of her little yellow helper…(Rolling Stones, Jagger-Richards, 2 July 1966).” Pills were prescribed en mass to ‘control’ women’s ‘moods.’ Women were sent to institutions for being disagreeable or rebellious. The tragedy of Rosemary Kennedy and her lobotomy at the request of her father is a much publicized story of an all too common practice of men hurting their own daughters, wives, and mothers for wanting to be autonomous … like men. The nuclear family was proving to be unhealthy and difficult for women. In fact, it was breaking women. But that is just not important compared to the mortgage industry, and money involved in building suburban communities. Clearly, the plan to reduce women to subordinate house keepers and nannies did not work as planned. Why not? Well, because it is an unnatural state of being for families, and for women especially. This was amongst the reasons that catapulted the second wave feminist movement (more on that here).
Where can we see an ancient, more accurate portrayal of women’s role in society? Yes! Proverbs 31 does provide the answer to women’s roles in her community. But so many Christians today are uneducated, rejecting learning from any source outside their heavily controlled propaganda. The $1.2 TRILLION ANNUAL Christian Industry (in the USA alone!) has a vested interest in keeping men’s self proclaimed dominion over people and planet as status quo, and in keeping women “in their place.” But what does the Christian Holy Book actually say about women, wives, and how to be a good one? Let us examine the chapter most sited and dedicated to just that.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.11Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.12She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.13She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.14She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.15She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.16She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.17She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.18She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.19In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.20She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.21When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.22She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.23Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.24She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.25She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.26She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.27She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.28Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:29″Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”30Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.31Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.“Source: Bible Gateway
What do we find? Her husband has every confidence in her. Note he lacks for nothing of value – because she is providing for him. She produces fabrics and makes clothing from finest materials. She sells sashes to merchants. Her light does not go out at night, because she has the means to burn oil all night. The light is on because she runs her affairs well into the night. But also because she seems to be running a bed and breakfast, probably for merchants as they were some of her customers. She is a property owner in her own right – purchasing fields as she sees fit, from her own profits. She then grows vineyards producing wine. She is so much more than most people would think of when describing a Proverbs Wife. Let’s review:
- She is a chef
- She produces fine linens and garments
- She invests in real estate
- She runs a bed and breakfast
- She runs a vineyard
- She works with fabric dyes
- She runs profitable trading businesses
- She is a boss with a team under her that she supervises
- She teaches her staff and family with great wisdom
- She is rich from her work
The Proverbs 31 Wife has no less than five or six jobs. How does she do it? Well, she works from before the sun comes up until well into the evening. But how does she do that? She is not alone! She has a staff, a team of workers to help her. She is not tucked away in isolation serving only her husband’s needs. She is using her skills, abilities, and determination for the good of the entire community. She provides jobs, job training, and an example for other women to follow. She is a mentor.
What does her husband do?
“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land (Pr 31:23).” He is a community leader – a politician. The City Gate is the equivalent of the town hall, or as we see politicians utilizing today, virtual town halls such as Twitter and other social media. He is working at solving the problems of his community, while she supports him. Quite the opposite of the trad lifers on social media today so loudly promoting their 1950’s version of tradition. Of course they have it 180 degrees backwards, at least if there is value in the teachings of their Holy Book. According to their own “divinely inspired and wholly inerrant” Word of God, they should be supporting their husbands so that their husbands can spend all day on social media. Whoops! No wonder their men feel castrated. These trad wives are usurping their professed men’s place by taking their own voices to the town hall aka the City Gate aka social media.
That is irony.
This misguided pursuit of a “traditional” 1950’s family is the result of a very poor education. Sadly, the Christian trad wife does not want to put in the real hard work to be a Proverbs 31 wife. She wants to pervert her own belief system and seek “the reward” and “praise at the city gate,” now social media, without actually earning it. Too many even attempting a profit from telling others not to work. They want to have the voice at the City Gates while their husbands are silently working to support their platform.
Talk about folly.
Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way…(Proverbs 9:14-15)Source: https://helpingupmission.org/2014/05/proverb-for-the-day-914-15-lady-folly-her-stupid-ideas/
Now that sounds familiar. It is the wailing cry of the trad wives on social media today who have cut off their own tails. Lonely and attention seeking, yet begging for a return to the “trad life” 1950’s model that led women to isolation, addiction, and institutionalization.