>Ishah – Hayil

>Not two days after the first Arab-American was selected to be Miss USA 2010, allegations surfaced that she had been involved in a pole dancing/stripper contest for a local radio station in Detroit. Pics soon flooded the Internet, and Miss Rima Fakih responded by saying that the pics were just in good fun. From a Muslim background, this is how she reconciled the two:

“My family comes from a Muslim background, and we’re not defined by religion. I would like to say we’re a spiritual liberal family.”

Almost every beauty pageant touts itself as selecting a winner who is a woman of outer and inner beauty and someone who can be a role model. With news of yet another ‘scandal’ in which the winner is found out post facto to have a shady past, it makes me wonder if these beauty pageants and the now expected scandals which follow are merely revealing what our culture has done to femininity and womanhood. Even the Miss USA contest itself contradicts itself as one video on its website touts the qualities of being a role model and beauty followed by another video of a racy lingerie photo shoot in Las Vegas all done under the context of a ‘morning after’. I grieve the loss of radical womanhood that our sexually charged culture seems no longer able to produce. Perhaps with the way that femininity is portrayed and what is called beautiful and sexy, these scandals and shaded pasts will be the expected norm. Maybe we need to have a full disclosure statement at the beginning of these things just to get it all out on the table – how many nude photos have you taken? how many pole dancing contests have you been involved in? how many drunken/spring break binges have you been a part of, have they been captured on video or pics? etc.

In contrast, the book of Proverbs celebrates a vision of womanhood, and I don’t just mean in Prov 31. Wisdom herself is personified as a woman, and Proverbs places great emphasis on the ‘ishah-hayil’, the woman of strength, among other descriptors of the excellent woman. This is more than just a dormant, submissive female. No, the book of Proverbs compares the ishah-hayil to another ishah, the adulterous or strange woman. The father’s counsel is simple – at all costs avoid this type of woman and pursue the excellent woman, the ishah-hayil. Interestingly enough, only one woman is called this, Ruth, and she’s not even a Jew but a Moabite.

As a father of two boys, I am realizing more and more how difficult it will be to find wives for my sons that will be truly excellent in the sense of the ishah-hayil. I realize that I need to begin to pray for those young ladies now – that God might protect and set them apart – molding in them true beauty and strength.

Perhaps John Mayer’s words are prophetic? “Fathers be good to your daughters, ‘Cause daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters to.” I’d change the onus of responsibility, but the principle remains the same. Oh that our young women would be entranced with a vision of beauty and excellence not defined by how you can aggressively assert your sexuality, but rather by how you can passionately serve the purposes of God in beautiful and quite feminine ways.

I’d be interested to hear from you – what do you think makes a woman beautiful?

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