Models of Womanhood


Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful and gracious comments. As a result I’ve made some further changes. I accept that the previous model for womanhood wrongly implied that women could not lead outside marriage or the church or in the absence of male leadership. I was trying to make the leadership axis match that on the diagram for men, but the end result was misleading so I’ve given up on that. I’ve therefore relabelled the leadership axis ‘welcoming male leadership – resisting male leadership’. This still leaves the issue of leadership outside of marriage and the church ambiguous, but I’ve clarified that a little in the PDF worksheet version.

I think I will also revert to the previous version of the male diagram on which the leadership axis is labelled ‘passivity – proactivity’ as I think that focuses the issues helpfully for men.

As I said in the previous version of this post, I thought it was more relevant to our issues today and closer to the Bible’s emphasis (especially in 1 Peter 3:1-6) to change the other axis from service-selfishness (not often so relevant to discussions with women, certainly not in terms of models of womanhood) to fearlessness-fearfulness.

So here’s the revised models of womanhood diagram (and here it is as a PDF worksheet on womanhood).

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7 thoughts on “Models of Womanhood

  1. I’m really enjoying these, Tim. Thanks so much for coming up with one for women! Just one comment: while it’s right to emphasise men’s responsibility to take up leadership, it’s not ‘bad’ for men to ‘let others lead’ – as long as those others are in rightful authority over them e.g. governing authorities, pastors and overseers, a boss. In fact, you could argue it’s also good for a husband to let his wife lead – not to lead him, but to be a leader to their children and a leader in their home under his authority.

  2. What Jean said.
    Also to expand her example of women leading their own children, plenty of women would and I believe should also take initiative and lead under the authority of their church leadership. I sometimes go to the leaders of my church with ideas about ministries I would like to start, they give my ideas consideration, and then I go ahead with the ministry if they give me their blessing.

  3. Hi Tim, you’ve really stepped into the lion’s den here (or perhaps the Lioness’s den…)! I’m less able to comment on how it strikes me as a personal analytical tool – for obvious reasons – but my overwhelming feeling is that the initiating leadership… letting others lead is rather difficult. One of the great challenges of the headship principle is the challenge it gives to men to actually step up and be leaders. However, there are many times when, for a variety of reasons, women need to do the same thing. In families where a dad is absent (through divorce, death, or long working hours); and in churches where there would be no gospel witness without women taking the initiative. One of my dearest friends is in this position – fiercely holds to the headship principle – but preaches (rather brilliantly) on a regular basis, because she has the opportunity in a network of churches that has largely lost sight of the Gospel, and there are no men around who are able or willing to take up the challenge.

    I look forward to reading more discussion on this…

  4. Tim,

    Thanks for doing this -I’m grateful that you are encouraging a thought out discussion

    I tend to agree that the “letting lead” and “initating leadership” concepts don’t really work Tim. I wonder if you’ve fallen into a trap here. Does complementary/ like opposite to mean that men and women must do the exact opposite on the scales that you originally set out.

    Isn’t it possible that tcan be ways that women can be “passive” (wrong) and proactively (right) as well. In fact, I would suggest that “submit” in Ephesians 5 is very proactive…not passive.

    As others have picked up on here, the other thing we need to think about is whether or not headship is primarily about a blanket male-female thing, or whether it is primarily about the marriage relationship and then with implications through the household to the church as household.

    The issues about manipulation, of fear, failing to take responsibility, being strident,selfish, domineering etc are really helpfully brought out into the open.

    So far I would happily use the original worksheet for dealing with men/husbands but the one for women might need a bit more of a look at. I look forward to the final outcome.

  5. What I do love about your quadrant for women is that it helpfully summarises 4 attitudes of women towards male headship. It does this really well, drawing on passages in Genesis, Ephesians, and 1 Peter, and it helpfully points out the “fearless/fearful” attitudes that lie beneath the ability to submit in 1 Peter.

    Is this a complete vision for womanhood? Well, no. It’s about a woman’s willingness to submit to and support male headship. So it doesn’t cover her initiative and leadership under his authority. Although now I think about it, “serve in love” (top left) includes taking appropriate initiative and leadership, so it’s there on the chart, just not spelt out.

    Perhaps the real sticking point is “want to lead” (top right) – there is nothing wrong with wanting to lead in appropriate contexts. Perhaps this could be changed to “she wants to take over”. Or just leave out these 3 words as they’re implied in “struggles to accept/submit to male leadership”.

    One more thought: you could frame “fearless” more positively, as “putting her hope in God” or “trusting God” (1 Pet 3) or even “fearing God” (Prov 31). Although that would mess up the neatness of the chart a bit! But it does highlight the strong trust in God at the heart of biblical womanhood that enables submission.

    All that said, with a bit of thought and tweaking, I’ll be using this chart. Thanks, Tim.

  6. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the models. I just wanted to ask whether you think 1 Peter 3 is to be applied universally, or whether the context suggests it applies only to women whose husbands are not believers. In the context of 1 Peter 2, where Peter is commenting on submission in the context of ungodly authority, I wonder whether it should be limited to this context. I would value your reply.

    With love in Christ

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