Why Do All the Women Look and Sound Alike?

Some Signs that A Group May View Women Strangely

By Mary E. Stephens
Published Jan. 2020

Have you ever been in a group of Christian women and noticed that they all look alike, sound alike, and maybe even think alike? Have you felt like you were the odd one out in the gathering, even though you may have been dressed conservatively yourself? A friend and I had this experience once in a very marked way when we went to an event sponsored by women in a "Biblical Patriarchy" "Family Inclusive" type church group. We were wearing dresses/skirts. We were dressed very conservatively by most standards and neither of us were "styled" heavily in any way. Neither of us have really short hair, nor was our hair really long at the time. But, I felt like we were almost weirdoes among them. It was an odd feeling to me at the time. The only other women there who didn't fit in were some unsaved relatives of someone. They had super short hair, heavy make-up, pants, bright orange hair, etc. It seemed strange to be among the outsiders in this group.

What was this about? I had questions and thoughts.

Of course, I'd seen similar things before. The Mennonites, Branhamites (followers of William Marion Branham), Gothardites, various Pentacostals and Church of God, and others exhibit similar behaviors. It's hard not to notice their weirdness sometimes, even when you want to not notice and to be compassionate or kind.

But, what does it mean? What does it potentially show about the group's view of women?

Some Indications and Observations

Here are some things you might see.

1. Hairstyles all similar or the same.

The hair issue can be quite weird. Some of the more extreme groups believe that it is a sin for women to cut their hair and they must never do if they wish to be "holy." The woman's hair is considered to be a direct link to her submission, so cutting her hair would clearly indicate that she is a rebel. Some still allow styling of various sorts. Others seem to insist that the hair be worn loose and hanging down or pinned up in a particular manner. This is all custom and tradition of man. Though they may claim to have scripture to back up their specific style, it is hard to prove. Others resort to the "we've always done it that way" explanation, which is possibly more honest but still unsatisfactory.

Some groups are more focused on a woman's long hair being her glory, and have the idea that "the longer her hair is the more glory she has." A young lady from an Independent Fundamental Baptist home heavily influenced by the Pearls actually said this to me once. But, the Bible doesn't say that. This is what it says: 1 Corinthians 11:15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. If you pay attention to the words, it is not the same as saying the longer the hair the more the glory.

2. Head coverings required.

Of course, some groups require head coverings. Sometimes they're all the same, other times they vary. Some groups only require them for certain gatherings. Others expect head coverings at all times.

Obviously this comes primarily from 1 Cor. 11, although some cite other sources or traditions. Some groups will not tolerate any difference of interpretation on this. They have the exact type of head covering figured out to the smallest degree and present it as "God's will" or "biblical." The thing is, there are no specifications in scripture as to exact styles of head coverings. The main reason for this is because the Bible clearly says that the woman's hair is given her for a covering. [See verse above.] If some ladies wish to wear some other sort of covering in addition, they are certainly allowed to do so. But to say that it's required is contrary to a verse that clearly sates a woman's hair is her covering. (That's a subject for another time.)

3. Clothing styles similar or the same.

Some groups believe that if the women all wear the same exact styles then people will notice the person  their personality rather than their outward appearance. While this may work out OK in some instances and within the group, it can certainly tend toward removing distinctions and depersonalization. When they all look alike the cookie cutter principle comes into effect and the assumptions can follow that they ARE all the same. It also can tend to draw attention to the women, in particular in the secular realm as we see with the Amish, some Mennonites, Branhamites, and a few other groups. Rather than modestly blending into the environment, they stand out in a rather obvious way, unless they live within a community where their type is common.

Some groups tend more toward an "ideal." They insist on certain clothing for "modesty," but also they believe they have figured out the exact style of clothing that "pleases God." Any variation is viewed as rebellion against God or, perhaps more importantly, the male leadership. Usually, the previous philosophy of clothing is combined with this one. 

Bill Gothard has been noted for this within homeschool culture. He developed a specific style which was often recognizable when you saw his devout followers. It has morphed some in recent times as the younger girls have desired to break away from the prairie skirts, ruffled blouses, and fluffy curly hair of the '80s and '90s. The Duggar girls have been very instrumental in styling what they call "modern modest" clothing and what might be called the "noodle hair" style.

These aspects of dress are important, but the next items are even more concerning because they are more directly related to controlling of the mind and subjugating of the will to a manmade template.

4. Similar style of talking.

Some groups seem to interpret the "meek and quiet spirit" as meaning the women should all speak in a certain way. There is nothing wrong with being soft-spoken, but when all or most of the women tend to speak in the same way it becomes unsettling.

The most disconcerting situations, though, are when there is an unusually high number of baby girl voices in a given group. I'm talking about something like Michelle Duggar. Kelly Jo Bates and her daughter Erin exhibit this in some ways as well, especially Michelle. But, perhaps the worst I've heard in that particular circle is Priscilla Waller, Anna Duggar's sister. Priscilla talks in a baby talk manner in just about all situations. The fact that all these women run in the same circles is bothersome at the least. That is too many of the type in one group.

The little girl voice and mannerisms is an affectation. It is so concerning because it makes the woman appear childish, which in turn makes them seem immature and even gullible or needing of adult supervision (i.e. their husbands or fathers). The more extreme cases are disturbing on another level and that is the men who find that attractive in a wife. I have questions about a man who wants a wife who talks baby talk all the time and expresses herself in childish mannerisms.

Speaking of the church as a whole Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:14-15, That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: Encouraging or allowing women to cultivate a childish voice and manner doesn't seem like it fits with that too well.

By the way, interacting all the time with children is not a legitimate excuse as there are plenty of women who don't develop these characteristics although they interact with children constantly. Others learn to shut it off when they aren't talking to children, so they sound and act like adults in their normal state, so to speak.

5. Air head comments and lightweight conversation.

The unthinking comments combined with the little girl voices are even more disturbing. I believe this to stem from the ideology that "heavy" and spiritual subjects are the responsibility of the men and women "don't need to bother their pretty heads" about those things. Obviously many of them would deny this thinking, but it is hard to hide the facts when conversing with the women in some situations.

In interviews and on their "reality" shows you will hear some of these women among the Duggars and Bates family and their type make comments that are just silly and don't make sense. It's no wonder that these types of groups are accused of keeping their women dumbed down on purpose when they don't particularly exhibit the ability to think and speak well. This is not all of them, but sometimes you may find a group where most of the women are like this. It can be very disturbing.

The lightweight conversations usually run along the same lines too - baby care, childcare, homeschooling, housework, livestock and poultry, gardening, and possibly sewing. These conversation would probably be justified and encouraged as good "Titus 2" topics for ladies because that passage has been too often misinterpreted to mean that women should only be thinking about the earthly life things. I call them lightweight because in comparison with spiritual subjects, these are all temporal things, things of the earth that will pass away according Peter. 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Even when you do hear spiritual subjects in some groups they may tend to center around things like submission, obedience to the men, training children to be "arrows," modesty, and other similar subjects that fit into the presupposition that women should only be concerned about certain types of subjects.

6. No spiritual discernment or views allowed.

I find it very disturbing to be among women who have no opinions or who seem to feel it isn't their place to discuss spiritual topics. I realize that in some situations it is pure laziness on the women's part. They don't want to be bothered. But, I know that in some groups it is not acceptable for women to discuss doctrine and theology or to exercise discernment regarding the issues of life. Some groups actually seem to view it as dangerous for women to think too much about spiritual matters. 

I think the concept behind at least some of this is that certain groups believe women are "easily deceived" (another topic for another time), so they shouldn't be thinking about those things. They might get confused.

This is very reminiscent of Roman Catholicism in the past when they warned people that it was too dangerous for them to interpret the Bible so they shouldn't read it for themselves but rather let the priest tell them what it said. This view of women goes right along with the concept of the father-patriarch who is supposedly responsible to teach the wife and children everything they need to know about scripture and life. He becomes a priest to his family in a very Roman Catholic sense. I can't even think of any biblical reason why this concept has come to exist - the father being his family's priest. I don't know of any clear scripture to support it. Jesus Christ is said to be our high priest, but we are all made priests in Him.

Revelation 1:5-6 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. [Present tense - "hath" - not future.]

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: [Present tense - "are" - not future.]

Another reason that spiritual topics don't appear is that in the groups that follow any form of "Quiverfull," many of the women have their hands so full taking care of their large family and homeschooling their children that they don't have time to even think about or study spiritual topics. One lady with a large family admitted to a friend of mine that she didn't even know what her family believed any more because she had been so busy taking care of the babies that had been arriving one after another. That is incredibly sad.

Yes. I'm going to go there yet again. I can't help it. It's so important.

Luke 10:38-42 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Jesus said that Martha was "careful and troubled" about "many things" (things relating to housekeeping and hospitality in context) but that Mary had chosen "the better part" - to sit at His feet and hear His word - and that He would not take that part away from Mary by commanding her to go serve with Martha. Do you get that? Jesus doesn't want women spiritually ignorant! He doesn't think that too much knowledge of Him is dangerous to them. He isn't worried about women being confused or deceived by listening to His word for themselves. He also doesn't think it's "a woman's place" to be only concerned about household and wifely matters, to only be concerned with serving the men! (Oh yeah. That'll get you excommunicated in some places I'm guessing!)

7. All the women are keepers at home, want and/or have large families, and homeschool.

First of all, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with these things. But, when you find a group where there is no variation on this theme you will often or usually find a group that has very specific laws about "what women can do." 

In the real world women cannot always avoid working outside the home. It is not always about covetousness or discontent, despite what some women claim. 

I know a lady who works to help support part of her family because her husband has been "retired" due to health issues, and one of her sons suffers from some disabilities that make it hard for him to get higher paying jobs. In the cookie-cutter world of women all having one calling and one role in life, there would be no room for these people, or if there were, it would be uncomfortable and there would probably be occasional nagging questions. 

One church I heard of won't even accept as members anyone who won't agree that the wife will be a full time "keeper at home." Based on one verse of scripture, friends - one verse (Titus 2:5). And really not even a whole verse! Yes, I believe that verse, but I no longer believe in building a whole belief system and required "way of living" based on one verse. It isn't biblically safe to do so. I know a lot of people think they can prove this position all through scripture, but if we theoretically put a thumb over that one little phrase - "keepers at home" - none of the other "proof texts" for the subject would stand up as clearly as they seem to with it there. Again, I'm not discrediting the verse, but I am saying we need to be careful not to develop unbreakable life plans, standards or convictions based on a single phrase or verse of scripture. It isn't wise.

Lydia was a seller of purple (Acts 16:14), which was a high end job in her day. No husband is mentioned. Dorcus had enough extra time and resources to make clothing for the widows (Acts 9:36-39). No husband was mentioned. Phebe and Mary served the church and ran errands for them (Romans 16:1-2, 6, and signature after verse 27). No husbands are mentioned. Philip's unmarried daughters were prophetesses (Acts 21:8-9). These women would be viewed very harshly in some groups for not conforming to the so-called expected "roles of women." Yet, the Lord never condemned them and He put their stories in His revelation on purpose. He wanted us to know about them for a reason.

There is no one-size-fits all role for women in the body of Christ. We are many members. We don't all have the same work. Yes, women were created to be wives and mothers in their most basic role, but in the body of Christ it is not required. Paul even encourages those who can abstain from marriage, and just focus on serving the Lord, to do so. Various ideologies cannot tolerate this because it doesn't fit with their philosophy about women and reproduction. The ancient idea that women are lesser than men, dangerous, and unspiritual requires that they be "under authority" of a man in order to be saved from themselves. Some groups, such as the Branhamites, even go so far as to believe that everything bad that happens in the world is the fault of a woman. Add to this the concept that women are to be baby making machines to pump out many "arrows" for the "war on culture" and you have a toxic mix that confines women to being ignorant, unreliable, and physically exhausted. 

This brings us to our last point.

8. They idolize homemaking and motherhood for women and girls.

At the event I mentioned in the introduction my friend and I found ourselves repeatedly questioned about our "children" and/or "siblings." The younger women tended to focus more on the siblings, the older women more on the children. In retrospect I wish I had asked some blunt questions. 

Don't get me wrong. I understand why mothers like to know if another lady has children or not. Of course that's a point of common interest. But, I don't have children, and neither does my friend. It became obvious to me that some of the women in that group didn't know what to do with us because we didn't have children. and probably because we didn't express ourselves as miserable barren women who were so deprived. In fact, in one instance I believe we both expressed ourselves as content with our lot, to the apparent consternation of the woman we were talking with at the time. The younger women seemed inclined to move on to whether or not we had siblings and how many. 

 Free to be just what Jesus wants me -
Single, married, mother, sister, child.
Shedding forth His love to all He chooses -
Family, brethren, sinner, saints, reviled.

Free to live a life that's to His glory,
Free to walk His path that's best for me.
Free to spend sweet time alone with Jesus,
Free to know He knows what's best for me.

- Mary E. Stephens

I do wish I had asked them, "What difference does it make? How does that identify me as a person?" I would really like to hear their answers. Maybe it would help me understand this bizarre way of thinking that requires a woman to have children or siblings in order to be of interest. Maybe it would explain why I myself wasn't interesting by myself. Because I really don't understand it, and I find it very unsettling as well. Do they hate the concept of the personhood of women so much that they have gone to the opposite extreme and only identify women by their groups of children or family? I am sorry to say I suspect this is the case with at least some of them.

From my perspective, I see this as a symptom of the idolizing of marriage, home, and family.  Homemaking and motherhood has been belittled in modern western culture. But, in their attempt to "renew" it among Christians, many have responded with "reactionary Christianity," in other words, they have gone to an opposite extreme rather then following scripture, which is usually moderate (between two extremes). Since women having careers and having few or no children is "the world's way," they run to an extreme position and lift up being a wife, mother, homemaker, sister, daughter as some kind of angelic ideal. They glamorize it, surround it in mystique and nostalgia; they all but bow down and worship the image. Often I feel that they literally do worship this ideal by their actions. If we don't all willingly buy into this ideal and embrace it with them, then something is gravely wrong with us from their perspective. For some time I have had a problem with the almost ethereal image of homemaking and motherhood that is portrayed in an effort to make them more appealing to the starry-eyed neophyte. It is not realistic and it only leads to disillusionment in the long run.

And just to be clear, you can get too much of some good things.

Proverbs 24:13 My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:

Proverbs 25:16 Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

Should You be Concerned?

Yes. Any time you encounter a group that exhibits the more extreme aspects of these points you should carefully consider how much you are involved with them. But, there is always just cause for concern when biblical New Testament teaching is ignored in any specific group.

Galatians 5:13-14 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

(And let's make one thing clear in passing. John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  And speaking specifically of women: 1 Peter 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Well, it looks like we're all brethren. What do you know?)

Of course, there are groups that follow their beliefs as a way of life and try to live peaceably and amicably with professing Christians outside their groups in many ways. You will likely find these among some Amish and Mennonites and some other groups. Some do not necessarily treat their woman folk as lesser beings, biblically speaking. But there are still obvious reasons why you should probably not actually join one of their groups. (Legalism being an obvious issue in many cases.)

The more controlling a groups is, though, in general, and the more the women conform to a standard that requires them to be alike and belittled, the more concerned you should be.

When people are asked to leave the church if the wife doesn't stop working, there is a problem. If childless wives are harassed (even in the nicest most "helpful" way possible) or sidelined, there is a problem. If single women are looked down on as failing to do their "duty" to marry and have babies, there is a problem. If childless women are invisible in the group, there is a problem. If a woman's main value is her womb and her broom, there is a serious problem. If the women enjoy a world of lightweight conversation and thinking and there is no or little variation from that, there is a problem. If women are expected to keep focused on a limited selection of spiritual subjects only - submission, mothering, loving their husbands, obedience, modesty, etc. - there is a problem.

These are not the ways that Jesus Christ would treat His children nor have His children treat each other. He wanted Mary to sit at His feet and hear His word instead of serving Him and others in the comforts and necessities of this life. When women are cut off from certain things that are not forbidden to them in scripture and limited to certain things as "women's stuff" that are not clearly identified as such in scripture, there is something wrong with that group. Mark it down. We are all expected to "...grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ... 2 Peter 3:18 Boxing women into a small area of service, especially one that mostly benefits the men, is suspect at least. In some places it is absolutely evil and devious in its intent. Beware. Proverbs 4:26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.

Conclusion

Psalms 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD
than to put confidence in man.

It is easy to fall into self-righteousness on these subjects, especially the ones of outward appearances. This can lead to the way of thinking that says, "Our way of doing things is so biblical, so right and so reasonable; no other way can possibly be right." The obvious conclusion then follows that everyone else is wrong. This, friends, is the foundation of a cult. Yes, you read that right, A Cult. And, it doesn't matter whether the views held are extremely legalistic or extremely liberal if this thinking is going on. When no or little variation even within the house of faith is acceptable, submission to the rules and outward conformity in all things becomes essential for determining who is "accepted in the beloved" and who is not. This leads to casting out those who differ and, of course, to shunning - and I'm not speaking of biblical discipline as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5. I'm talking about that sort of thing where people are not allowed to think or understand scripture for themselves, but must conform to the outward identifications or be ostracized. 

If you are in a group like this, I beseech you to examine what the scriptures actually say rather than just accepting the interpretation and rules of those you are following. I don't care what "creed" they hold. I don't care how "blessed" they appear to be. I don't care how "happy" their families are. Having a "wonderful ministry" doesn't even prove anything as there are many who do many mighty works in the name of Lord whom He will not know in the day of judgment. Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

It is the scriptures and the scriptures alone which should be our final authority, and Jesus Christ alone should be our measure.  

John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 

Acts 17:10-11 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

If you have to deal with these types of people I encourage you to get into the scriptures and ask the Lord to show you ways you can introduce them to the perfect law of liberty. They are living in bondage, even if they don't know it. Ask the Lord to help you speak words of His liberty into their lives; not nagging, not accusation, not snide remarks. These won't help. It is the Son that makes us free indeed, John 8:36! You cannot fight self-righteousness with self-righteousness. You cannot correct ignorance with ignorance. Study to show yourself approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15) so that you can ask questions that will make them think, not resist. Yes, we need to plant a seed of doubt - doubt of the man-made system to which they have conformed themselves. But, we need to point them to walking by faith, not by sight, as they follow Jesus Christ instead of man. Sadly, too many people in these groups do not even understand the true gospel of Jesus Christ and are trusting in their works and conformity to their rules to prove a salvation they don't have.

2 Corinthians 5:6-12 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

 

graphics by Mary E. Stephens
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