In Real Men Love Strong Women*, a feminist laments the fact that weak men are screwing feminism up:
I’ve heard it too many times: “A man likes a quiet woman.” “Guys don’t respond well to smart girls.” “Educated women are too intimidating to attract good men.”
…we feel very clever when we get to diagnose the cause and cure of singleness. “You’re too opinionated.” “You’re too boisterous.” “A woman should be small, quiet, and delicate.”
Yet, it’s easy to forget in the midst of all our diagnosing: whether a woman is “intimidating” is a factor of male perception, not female personality. Do we want women to be less intimidating? That’s a question to be put to men who experience them as such, and we can only wait for such men to grow.
This basic complaint is standard issue for feminists, and you will regularly see the same lament on Jezebel or Gawker. However, what sets this particular ban bossy article apart is that it appears on John Piper’s Desiring God website. Piper you will recall is (along with Grudem) one of the two main founders of the CBMW and the complementarian movement. Piper is also a council member of the other big complementarian group, The Gospel Coalition. John Piper is at the core of the complementarian movement, and he published this piece on his personal website.
As a complementarian argument for feminism, the author (Paul Maxwell) frames ban bossy as a matter of being good Christians:
We live in a time when women are outperforming men in many areas of professional and personal competency. And men have two choices: to find female strength captivatingly attractive, or to be insecure and intimidated. Real men love strong women, because God’s glory is beautiful, and “woman is the glory of man” (1 Corinthians 11:7).
Jesus, give men the grace to see the beauty of glorious female strength. Give women the resilience to remain strong long enough for the right men to find them beautiful for the right reasons. And help men and women to fall in love with proven, genuine faith, which is “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” (1 Peter 1:7).
Maxwell offers the example of Jael in Judges 4 in making his case that Christianity discourages women from being meek and submissive:
…often, godly femininity requires being strong, even intimidating. Consider Jael in Judges 4. Jael’s husband Heber “had separated from the Kenites,” and “had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh” (Judges 4:11).
So, when Sisera, a Canaanite military general under Jabin the King of Hazor — the enemy of the people of God — tried to seek refuge, he went to Heber’s tent, “for there was peace between Jabin the King of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite” (Judges 4:17). But Sisera found Jael at the tent and started barking orders at her: “Give me a little water.” “Stand at the opening of the tent.” In response, “she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground” (Judges 4:21). Deborah later sang of Jael, “Most blessed of women be Jael . . . She sent her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet” (Judges 5:24, 26).
Thank God Jael wasn’t meek and submissive and respectful toward this friend of her wayward husband. She wasn’t one to be trampled on. Strong women reject the requests of evil men.
A far more relevant (and less obscure) Old Testament example would be Sarah in Genesis. As the Apostle Peter explains in 1 Pet 3, Sarah is the example Christian wives are to emulate:
3 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Note that Peter tells us that wives who submit to their husbands, who cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit, are beautiful to God. Maxwell, on the other hand, tells us that men who are attracted to what God finds beautiful are not real men, and not good Christians. Is God insecure and intimidated because He finds quiet, gentle, and submissive women beautiful? Of course not. Moreover, what is beautiful to God is what is beautiful (period). God does not have faulty “male perception”, He is perfect, and so is His perception.
Not only has Maxwell chosen a relatively obscure OT story while ignoring much more relevant NT direct instruction, but he has managed to miss entirely the point of Judges 4. The moral of Judges 4 is not that men need strong women to lead them. The moral is that it was shameful for Barak to insist that Deborah accompany him to the battle. Because of this, God ensured that Barak would have no glory in the battle by delivering his enemy into the hands of a woman (Jael).
6 Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; 7 and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”
8 And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
9 So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
Every other man in the enemy’s army was slaughtered that day by Barak and his men, except for Sisera, whom God reserved for a woman to kill (as punishment to Barak).
16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth Hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.
17 However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael..
Instead of badly misinterpreting Judges 4, Maxwell could have turned to the book immediately following Judges, the Book of Ruth. While Jael is praised in the Song of Deborah for her role in shaming Barak, she is a foreigner who isn’t chronicled in the Bible as converting to become a Hebrew, and if she had any children they aren’t noted in the Bible. On the other hand, while also a foreigner, Ruth follows God, has a book of the Bible named after her**, and has the honor of being the great grandmother of King David, from whose line Christ was born.
Maxwell could also have gone further to Proverbs 7:11, where a rebellious woman is described as (depending on the translation) loud or boisterous, traits Maxwell is arguing are encouraged by God. He could likewise have turned to Isaiah 3:12:
As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
**If you haven’t read the book of Ruth, or haven’t read it recently, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read it. The story is moving, sweet, short, and every page is guaranteed to make a feminist want to tear out the hair on her legs.