I could be a Proverbs 31 feminist.
I couldn’t do so from the perspective of most who invoke that chapter, only as one who takes what principles apply to someone best described as “spiritual” and leaving certain others where they lie. I do not, after all, believe in Biblical inerrancy; to me it’s a cobbling-together of histories and cultural laws down the ages. What a person thought was right in antiquity may not necessarily be a good notion today.
But some ideas do carry forth.
“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.” There is no reason a feminist cannot be a trustworthy spouse who manages the household properly. She can do that and work at the same time, if she has the energy (I point to my mother in this).
“She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” If a woman loves her husband, surely this is to be expected. Nowhere does it say he will not reciprocate.
“She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.” Call that a sign of good judgment, whether literal (ooh, this wool/linen is great! Let’s make something of it!) or figurative (Nicely made garment, definitely worth the price). Besides, in any household, there is work for the hands, unless you are so spoiled that your servants do it all.
“She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.” I do not consider grocery runs unfeminist.
“She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.” See, once upon a time, food prep needed to begin pretty darn early. No need now, but consider that it may indeed be a virtue to put on the coffee for your spouse, especially if it means you get the first cup. 😉 As to portions for maidens, frankly, if you keep help, you should feed help. Or you should pay it sufficiently that it can eat.
“She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.” What’s that? Women can be prosperous business owners? The roles I’m seeing assigned to women are way more diverse than fundamentalists seem to consider…
“She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.” In its most literal interpretation, going to the gym is a virtue. I’m going to say this is a verse praising a woman who practices self-care, which many consider a feminist act anyhow.
“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.” A Proverbs 31 feminist has a fabulous work ethic, to include honest trade.
“She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.” This harkens back again to the days when certain things needed to be done for survival. Again, I’m not suggesting you need to be a great spinner. In modern contexts, this verse speaks to a woman’s will to do what she needs in order for herself and her family to make it.
“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.” So the Proverbs 31 feminist has an interest in social justice!
“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.” See, she even keeps her family warmly dressed.
“She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.” Hear that? You don’t have to drab yourself or your home down in order to be virtuous. In fact, a little glam is a good thing. Tapestry, silk, and purple were all pretty fine.
“Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.” In other words, she picked a good man she doesn’t have to raise with their children.
“She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.” More metaphors. This virtuous woman is productive. Last I checked, feminism was all about making women part of the workforce.
“Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.” I consider strength and honor plenty feminist. Strength is something different in all of us, too. Sometimes strength is the courage to take another step. And another. And to breathe another breath. And if today isn’t amazing, that’s no reason tomorrow can’t be another day.
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” A lot of us could learn from this. Especially on social media. I’m still learning.
“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” What have I been saying all along? This verse sums it all up.
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” Her family likes her and says so. She isn’t taken for granted.
“Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” To the people she loves, she is valuable beyond value. This echoes the initial “price is far above rubies”.
“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” If you’re not Christian — like I said, I’m not — then consider this verse a call to value what is inside of you, your character, your morality, your ethics, over what the world decides you should value. It makes sense considering that a virtuous woman is supposed to be strong, honorable, wise, and kind.
“Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” That’s right. A woman’s reputation is hers, earned by her valor, her deeds.
Sure, this is a liberal interpretation of a conservative document. I don’t expect you to agree with me. I kind of like it, though. I think I’ll try it. You can try it too, if you’re bored.