I was recently directed to a blog that a woman named Carolyn McCulley wrote entitled, “Women Who Intimidate.” In this blog, Carolyn discussed what it means when a woman is labeled as being “intimidating.” (If you wanna check it out, the link is below). She argued that labeling a woman as “intimidating” is not necessarily a comment on her success, as feminists would like us to believe, but is instead a comment about her spirit.
1 Peter 3:4 instructs women to have a “gentle and quiet spirit,” but our spirits do not always reflect this kind of calm and peace in Christ. Instead, we want to control things and do them our way, in the same way that Eve did in the garden. We manipulate, we scheme, and we can become shrill when we don’t get what we want. Any person would find this kind of behavior to be intimidating, which is why Carolyn concludes that the title is not a compliment.
However, while I agree with Carolyn to an extent, it is at this point in the discussion that we part ways, because I do not think the label of “intimidating” always reflects the truth, nor is it always a negative label. I whole-heartedly agree that women can be bitter and angry and drive people away with their fitful spirits, but this is not the only reason women are intimidating.
On the contrary, I think there is some validity to the claim that women can also be intimidating because they are smart, and because they are successful, or even because they are spiritually solid. Some might accuse me of sounding “feminist,” but I don’t think my claim is Biblically unfounded. The attitude of a woman is not the only element to factor in when a man is intimidated by her.
Shortly before reading Carolyn’s blog, I read an article entitled “Real Men Risk Rejection” by Michael Lawrence (link is also below) in which the author explained that men often fail to initiate interactions with women, not because the woman has done anything wrong, but simply because the men are scared.
So while it is indeed important for women to check their attitudes and make sure they’re not acting out of a desire to control or manipulate, I think Michael Lawrence offers us insight into what is also going on when men are intimidated by women. It’s not simply the woman’s fault; it is also the man’s.
The reason I think this distinction is so important is that it would be easy for a man to write off a woman as being “intimidating,” simply because he’s not at a place spiritually to lead her. And as a result, the woman is left blaming herself, thinking she did something wrong, when, in fact, she did not.
The larger result of this thinking is that we now have a generation of Christian women who are afraid to study theology or come off sounding too smart because they don’t want to “intimidate” men. We treat our minds more like an obstacle to dating than a gift to be used for the Kingdom of God.
But the solution to this predicament is not the dumbing down of women. Dumbing ourselves down will not only result in weak women, but weak men as well, given that men will not be spiritually challenged in leading such women. The best solution, I believe, can be found in men like Michael Lawrence, who are raising the bar for men by challenging them to take more risks and put their egos on the line in the face of solid women. It’s intimidating for them because their pride is at stake, but it makes them better, stronger men, which in turn encourages better, stronger women.
So don’t get me wrong, there are times when intimidation is a bad thing. If we as women are not resting in the love and security of Christ, then it will certainly show through. BUT, I am wary of attaching a stigma to the word “intimidating” for fear that if someone labels you as such, you’ll immediately assume you have done something wrong, when it may be just the opposite.
Instead, the next time someone labels you as intimidating, search your heart, and see if there is any grounding to the statement. Do you struggle with humility? Do you struggle with wanting to control people? Do you often feel manipulative? If you answer “yes” to all these, then perhaps you deserve the title.
But, if you feel that you are truly placing your heart in God’s hands, and that your actions and words flow out of that trust, then it is more likely that the label of “intimidating” is a compliment, because that kind of faith in Christ can be mighty intimidating to a Christianity that is dominated by mediocrity.
Carolyn’s blog: http://solofemininity.blogs.com/posts/2007/03/women_who_intim.html
Real Men Risk Rejection: http://boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001443.cfm