You might not have heard the term “pink passages” but I’ll bet you a cucumber facial you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The pink passages are those bits of the Bible which are “women’s passages”. They are endlessly recycled in “women’s talks” or “women’s books”. Proverbs 31, Titus 2, Ephesians 5, the books about Ruth and Esther or, for a more Catholic flavour, anything and everything on Mary.
If it feels like it belongs in a rose-coloured, lavender-scented devotional on being a Godly Woman of God™, then it’s probably a pink passage.
Too often as women, we have restricted ourselves to the “pink” parts of the Bible. When we identify first and foremost as women, we can begin to believe that knowledge of ourselves will come primarily through passages that speak to women’s issues or include heroines like Ruth or Esther. But when we do this, when we craft our learning and discipleship programs around being “women,” we make womanhood the central focus of our pursuit of knowledge instead of Christ.
— Hannah Anderson, Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image
The problem with the pink passages isn’t that they’re bad. It’s not that we women shouldn’t read them or feel a particular connection with these parts either. We are women and we love and need the stuff about being women. It would be rather odd if we didn’t.
Anderson explains the real problem.
And we forget that these pink passages were never intended to be sufficient by themselves. We forget that we can never understand what it means to be women of good works until we first learn about the goodness of a God who works on our behalf. We forget that nothing about them will make any sense if they are not first grounded in the truth that we are destined to be conformed to His image through Christ.
All too often women have defined ourselves and allowed ourselves to be defined firstly as women and then as human persons. This is stupid and dangerous.
It leads to the ghetto-isation of femininity as something “extra” on top of a basic human nature which is implicitly gendered as masculine. This gives us two problems. On the one hand, “women’s issues” are treated as side concerns and women’s theological thought is limited to those safe “feminine” topics: babies, romance and modesty etc, etc. On the other hand, men are denied catechesis as men. This hurts men, leaving them vulnerable to worldly definitions of masculinity. It also leaves uncovered the ways in which so many supposedly “neutral” approaches to theology and culture are actually masculine approaches.
This is not okay.
One of the things I love about St Edith Stein is that she is absolutely clear about the priority of human personhood for both women and men. The first task of every woman is to “become a human person!” Dorothy Sayers is the same, noting that while Homo should simply mean human, it inevitably comes to mean men.
Man is always dealt with as both Homo and Vir, but Woman only as Femina… Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness… if he were compelled to regard himself, day in and day out, not as a member of society, but merely (salva reverentia) as a virile member of society.
In terms of Scripture, this means that every passage and verse of the Bible is for women. Every passage is a “pink passage” because every part of the bible speaks to every human person, whether man or woman. Every verse of Scripture reveals the character of God and invites us into communion with Him.
Our understanding of what it means to be women shouldn’t be shaped by the few passages which explicitly mention women (although they still matter) but by the grand narrative of Scripture: creation, fall, redemption, sanctification, and glorification.
There is no point in being a Proverbs 31 Woman if you are not a first, happily and simply a Proverbs Person. You won’t find the secret to womanhood in Titus 2 — you’ll only find it in the Blessed Trinity.
For women, the bible is all pink.