Have you read the Grimm story about a girl who slept in the cinders, but ends up a princess? The Grimm version has this horrible bloody bit about stepsisters, knives and feet.
Determined to make the prince their man, and pitting themselves against each other, they carve out slices of their toe or heel to make Cinderella’s golden slipper fit. Cramming their mutiliated feet into someone else’s shoes, blood pooling and marking their footprints, they hobble to the prince.
“A princess should never have to walk,” they think.
But the prince knows, the birds sing the treachery and the false woman is returned.
How embarrassing and disgusting. It’s probably a combination of all women’s worst fears, blood finding them out, rejection, public shaming, mutilation and false masks revealed. Who hasn’t feared something (or endured something) like the stepsisters? In junior high I never wore white just in case I started my period. When boys didn’t seem very interested in me, I wondered if I would ever be married. When I watched The Man From Snowy River I took hope that Jessica Harrison had curly hair, dark eyes and still was wanted and loved by the strong, adventurous (and cute) lead. That was until someone pointed out, “The actress that plays Jessica really isn’t that pretty, but her character makes her pretty.”
So you could be pretty without being pretty? I thought about that a lot.
Disney’s Cinderella story fails to relay Grimm’s admission: the stepsisters each had beautiful feet.
The problem lies in the squeezing into a shoe made for someone else. Let me push you to think of this in our every day lives.
Sort of like a stay at home mother who fits better in a working mother shoe. Or a single career woman who fits better in a mothering life. Or a nurse who fits better in a management position. Or a smart blond haired beauty who doesn’t want to model, but wants to study.
There are things women and men can and cannot do, given their genders. But they’re a lot less interesting and a lot less black and white than many people believe. Men cannot have children, women cannot fail to face the childhood capacities of their bodies as feeding, birthing, life-giving portals.
Some of life is black and white, but most is gray. Think of the 10 commandments verses all the questions that actually plague us in life: what to study, what to do, who to befriend, who to love, who to leave, who to marry, how many kids to have. None of these answers lie in Scripture. God asks us to engage with his plans for our gifts, gender, personality.
Last week Soulation invited ten souls to Steamboat Springs for our first annual Gold Gathering. We rediscovered the meaning of fairy tales, these myths that explain the meaning of life better than most sermons or how-to books. Thank you, Sarah, for reminding us of these timeless truths.
Take the meaning of The Princess and the Pea where we find intensive sensitivity a mark of royalty, not “high maintenance.” Or Beauty and the Beast where a innocent but valiant young woman can lead a man back to his humanity, even as she sacrifices herself. Or The Little Mermaid (again, the Grimm’s version) where lovers are pitted against family loyalty. You must read it to discover who wins.
Five years ago, I landed on Dorothy’s ruby slippers as a perfect picture of women’s femininity. But as this metaphor will become the new capstone of my blog, I think these shoes merit a short explanation.
Why ruby slippers?
They’re beautiful and troublesome . . . as is womanhood. They are both the source of Dorothy’s power and her pain . . . as is womanhood (Haven’t you noticed how women uniquely draw the Evil one to prey0. They’re deeply misunderstood and too easily relinquished, remember how easily Dorothy will give them up to the Wicked Witch? They’re fused to our identity, impossible to remove.
These ruby slippers are valuable, even off the MGM set. The New York Post last week marketed them as auctioning for $3 million. Female image bearers, no less valuable, offer the world a glimpse of things about God we cannot see in men.
Dorothy’s ruby slippers will hit the auction block Dec 16, no doubt fetching a hefty sum as their light circular scuffs on the soles indicate they are the precise shoes worn by Judy Garland when she chanted, “There’s no place like home.”
Every woman I’ve met longs to return home to their femininity, to feel at home in their own skin, to relax in the body and soul they’ve been given. As one eighty-year-old woman in the midwest told me, “You’ve finally made me realize I’m not on the wrong wrong, headed the wrong way. My differences from other women make me special to God.”
Not only that, they make us reflect something about God to this world that has grown bored (sadly) with God’s attributes of omniscience and sovereignty.
Female Image Bearers
Women demonstrate the work God does daily “bearing us again” into the kingdom of God every time they bear down to push new life into this world (John 3:3). Women’s sensitive awareness that tunes them into more data every time they step into a social setting echoes the sensitive awareness of the Triune God who lassos all his gifts to notice and meet the needs of the millions on earth and in heaven. Women’s vulnerable bodies point to the choice the God of Israel made to take on flesh that could be pierced and brutalized.
Who else wants a sisterhood to help them live into the unique womanhood God placed within her? Who else needs to own their pair of ruby slippers?
I’m closing in on my fourth year blogging on women and spirituality. It’s time to crystallize what I’m doing here.
I’m renaming this blog, Ruby Slippers: the sparkling connection between faith, feminism and Christian womanhood, and we’ve found an easy url: www.rubyslippers.org. Don’t worry, I’m not moving, this url will link you right back here, but I hope it will be easier to explain and share. Subscribe above, top of the right column for weekly posts on Wednesdays. A half way point in your week to consider that being created male and female was no accident.
Here, you will find a place to talk safely about femininity, spirituality and sexual renewal, a site to search for Biblical answers for how God didn’t create female above or below but co-equal (though not identical) with men, a place for women to come home to their womanhood.