“Kill the cool girl.”
My best friend and I have a well-worn saying: “Kill the cool girl.”
It’s an inside joke that sounds pretty violent without knowing that the cool girl doesn’t actually exist.
The idea of her definitely does, though. Gillian Flynn wrote about it in her novel Gone Girl, and that paragraph has stuck with me ever since:
Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means that I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes . . . and jams hot dogs and hamburgers in her mouth . . . while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner, and let their men do whatever they want. . . . I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl!
Now, obviously, Flynn’s cool girl inhabits a different subculture than my own (notice my edits), but the gist remains the same: she is hilarious, intelligent, non-threatening, attractive, and accommodating.
For many women, the cool girl of biblical womanhood is June Cleaver.
Whenever I talk about stereotypical womanhood, June is on my mind. The beautiful mother in Leave It To Beaver had 1950s housewife down pat, from her perfectly coiffed hair and pressed dresses to that put-together stay-at-home mom persona. I never even liked the TV show, but June burrowed deep in my mind as the picture-perfect housewife.
A few months ago, a picture from a 1950s home economics book began making the rounds on Facebook. Titled “Tips For Looking After Your Husband,” it offered a few pieces of advice for wives, including:
- Take fifteen minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives.
- Never complain if he does not take you to dinner.
- Minimize all noises.
- Don’t complain if he’s late to dinner.
- Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes.
The goal? “Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.”
And the church of June said, “Amen.”
And the voice of shame in my heart said, “You loser.”
The Trouble with Lists
To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with that list.
My husband just returned from an out-of-town trip, and I rushed around to clean the house and ready myself before he got home. I know he loves a vacuumed living room, so I happily did it for him.
But I’m still learning to “look after my husband,” to serve him, out of a genuine heart of service and sacrifice rather than one of guilt. I’m learning that the picture-perfect marriage I aspired to before is not an attainable goal. Phillip doesn’t want a wife who hides away her needs and fakes it at the end of a rough day. When he comes home, I’m not putting on a show. We want to outdo one another in acts of service, honor, and love (Romans 12:10). We want to look after each other. I’m no longer trying to be the cool girl, because the cool girl is too busy faking it to be sanctified.
The gospel’s picture of marriage is one of mutual sacrifice. The most radical version Paul preaches is actually required of husbands toward their wives (Ephesians 5:21–33). The purpose of the home is extending hospitality to people outside of the nuclear family (1 Peter 4:8–9), not merely the husband. God is the only king of biblical households. Both husband and wife are servants of him and one another.
“Tips For Looking After Your Husband” is not a bad list, but it falls terribly short of biblical truth.
The Biblical Truth
Few people would argue such a list is strictly biblical, though. They’d say something similar to a comment I recently read: “Sure, the gender roles of the 1950s were not necessarily biblical, but what do you intend to replace them with? Unless you can give me an answer to that, I will stick with them.”
That’s the rub. When in doubt, we cling to stereotypes. Relying on the word of God won’t lead us to June Cleaver, or those 1950s tips, but neither will it give us a handy dandy list of dos and don’ts for how to be a godly woman. And the absence of that list creates discomfort.
A lot of us are so hellbent on being countercultural that we’ll accept a shoddy substitute for biblical truth as long as it counters the prevailing narrative. It has brought us to a place where we’re completely handicapped without an extra-biblical set of rules. If we can’t define godly femininity in terminology that tells us exactly who we should be at every moment of every day, we’ll default to our safe stereotype, to June Cleaver, to the cool girl.
Because at least the cool girl suppresses all her doubts.
Killing the Cool Girl
Leaving behind the cool girl is scary, even when we’re confronted with the truth that she’s more of a cultural stereotype than a biblical command. What will we hold onto if not our stereotypes?
My hope is that we’ll hold onto the word, to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and our freedom in Christ. Each of these satisfies the soul in a way that chasing after June Cleaver never will.
Silence the shameful voice of the cool girl shouting in your mind. Listen, instead, to the truth of the gospel. You are beloved. God purposefully made you a woman for his glory (Psalm 139:14; Genesis 5:2). The entire counsel of God’s word points to the story of your redemption through Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Are there verses that speak directly to you as a woman? Absolutely. Do those verses paint a picture of Cleaver-esque perfection? Decidedly no.
1 Corinthians 2 is always such a comfort to me. The Spirit, who reveals “even the depths of God” to the children of God, enables us to think with the very mind of Christ (v. 16). As we grow in grace, we grow in our understanding and our ability to apply his word to our day to day lives.
And that’s how we’ll know what kind of women we’re supposed to be. Without leaning on the cool girl. When your mind rushes to fill in the “blanks” in God’s word with cultural stereotypes, remember that his truth is sufficient.