Being in an evangelical/Christian environment for most of my life, I was always familiar with the term helpmeet, or helpmate. It was what a woman’s role in a marriage was supposed to be, if she was a “Biblical” woman. In conservative circles, it usually meant staying at home to raise children, learning to cook, clean, and so forth. In more progressive dialogues, it could also mean going to work to support the family, full-time or part-time.
Even when it’s lived out in a more “feminist” way (going to work), I have major issues with term “helpmate.” It literally sounds like the phrase “helping your mate.” You’re telling me that the whole purpose of my life is to “help” a man? Even if I go to work and put the kids in daycare, none of it is for me, it’s all to further this God-given mission that my husband has been set on? I was created to “help.”
This cannot be true. It contradicts the rest of the Gospel and what we know about God. He creates people for specific, unique, and individual purposes:
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
It also doesn’t make sense given God’s track record with women and their purposes. Jael killed the general of an enemy army rising against Israel, Deborah was a prophetess and the highest authority among the ancient Hebrews, Rahab negotiated for the lives of herself and her family with the Hebrew spies she hid from execution, Esther was the queen of a pagan nation and saved the Hebrew people from extinction, Mary gave birth to the Messiah, Lydia funded the early church independently with her wealth…these women were not assisting any man. Would anyone dare ascribe the word “helpmate” to any of these women?
No person is just a prop in another actor’s story. “Helpmate” isn’t even a good translation of the original word. Most translations don’t even use that word anymore, they translate it as “companion.” The word describing Eve, the first woman, is ezer. It appears 21 times. It appears as a description for God and the help He gives to Israel.
Deuteronomy 33: 26
There is none like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to your help, And through the skies in His majesty.
So, a woman is designed to help a man in the same way God helps His people. That is not a role that should be looked down upon, or squished down to fit into a strict list of rules. The concept that woman was meant to just help man on his big life’s purpose and not have her own thing going on is actually explained RIGHT IN THE NEXT CHAPTER. After Adam and Eve sin, God explains that their lives will not the same now.
Genesis 3: 16
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Patriarchy. Right there. The result of the fall was patriarchy. To adhere to the belief that women are meant to submit beneath their husband’s commands is adhering to a sinful hierarchy that God didn’t establish. He made Eve to be a companion, equal to man. It even explains why the word “ezer” was originally translated to just “helpmate;” the society it was translated in was a patriarchy and would not like women getting the idea that they should be on equal footing with men.
So that’s why I am not my husband’s helpmeet. He does not “lead our household.” So then who does? God does.
This is slightly off topic, but it really bothers me when people say that feminism has switched the roles and that women actually dominate men now. First of all, in what area of American society is that true? Seriously, name one field or area of media that has more women or men. And now, what area of the GLOBE is that true? There are women in some parts of the world that are fighting for a right to DRIVE A CAR. I also don’t trust statistics and surveys that ask men how they view equality. In a study recently (I looked online for forever looking for the original source because I read it a while ago, can’t find it, but it’s real), when there ratio of women to men was about 30-70, men saw it as equal, but when it was truly 50-50, men perceived that there were more women than men. Society has conditioned us so well to view inequality as “normal,” that our perception on equality is warped, especially when men are told over and over again that women will take over and make things worse for them. If a man and woman are up for the same job, and the woman gets it, a lot of men (not all) will become bitter and say it was just because she was a woman. Maybe it’s because she was better qualified than you or any number of totally legit reasons. The man is under the false impression that he was “owed” something.
Just because someone is being given more rights than they’ve had before, or even just the same rights as you, doesn’t mean you’re losing your rights.