Last weekend at EQUIP 2017, a Christian conference for women in Sydney, Australia, a speech that was ostensibly about holiness went far off the track.
Rather than talk about the power of prayer, the need to read the Bible more, or asking what Jesus would do, speaker Carmelina Read asked women with short hair to reconsider their life choices.
At that point, reports say, many attendees got up and left. I would have, too.
During a talk about the meaning of Bible verses on male headship — where men are leaders in the home and the church — an image of newly-shorn actress Kristen Stewart flashed onto an overhead screen.
Was this platinum blonde buzz cut, asked the speaker, Carmelina Read, appropriate for a woman? Was it feminine and submissive, or instead flagging independence and rebellion?
As reported by Anne Lim in Eternity magazine, Ms Read, the Dean of Women at the Presbyterian Christ College in Sydney, said “it might be more in line with God’s good design to have long hair because it was a visible sign of the difference between men and women in which God delighted”.
It wasn’t just that a female speaker was attacking other women on their appearance. It wasn’t just the odd suggestion that Jesus cared about the length of someone else’s hair. What really got to me was what Read’s words implied about people who had short hair for reasons completely out of their control.
Psychologist and conference participant Kylie Maddox Pidgeon addressed that cruel element of this “teaching”:
“And, unintentionally I’m sure, but nonetheless, you’ve cast doubt or guilt over cancer patients, Shave for a Cure champions, the girl with hair so darn frizzy that she has to shave it to get the nits out, women suffering hair loss from pregnancy or illness, not to mention mothers who chop it all off just to make the day manageable. Oh, and half of Africa.”
Are those women not as feminine? Does Read’s God consider those women failures for not living up to His “good design”? How long does hair have to be before women are allowed through the Pearly Gates?
Or will Read admit she was just wrong on this one?
Interestingly enough, men with “man buns” were left out of the presentation entirely. Maybe that’s because Jesus, with his supposedly long hair, can relate.
(Image via Shutterstock)