It’s a man’s world

via Daily Prompt: Brassy

Somehow the term “brassy” never conjures up the image of a man in my mind. Perhaps my social conditioning has trained me to expect a man to be tough, strong, and even crass because those adjectives align with brassiness. Therefore, it generally goes unnoticed if he lives up to those expectations. On the other hand, its feels like a let-down when our male counterparts do not display or fit the John Wayne brashness that we often see him portray in many of his movies. In fact, we admire the rugged individualism, grit, daring, bluntness, and “I-don’t-care-what-you-think” attitude of his characters. So what if a man breaks the rules? There is no negative consequence because a man’s a man.

That seems to be the consensus – tacit agreement. James Brown, et al (1966), the popular American singer, expresses it very well in one of his songs – It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world. Well, if it’s a man’s world, he sets the rules, and everything else is an exception. As a consequence, a woman who is expected to be mild-mannered, delicate, nurturing, and submissive deviates from the norm if she displays behaviors that are similar to those named above. She may be endearingly dubbed as brassy if she possesses other socially redeeming feminine qualities or she may be seen as overbearing if she does not possess any. Physical beauty is one sure way to receive the lighter sentence of being called brassy; while a lack of this blessing will receive “an overbearing conviction.”

The latter is in many cases a euphemism for crudeness and manliness – two terms that are denigrating to women. These words carry their own baggage by themselves; they have literal and connotative meanings that will not be discussed here. However, language is contextual, and even stand-alone words carry an implied context. Therefore, when we hitch these terms with overbearing and women, we create various tentacles of social stigmas.

However, my goal is not to lambast anyone who may hold a negative view of a brassy woman but to highlight the virtues of a brassy woman in a positive light. This woman is of Moabite descent and her name is Ruth. She later adopted the Judaic religion and culture and became a citizen of Bethlehem.

Ruth and her sister Orpah married the sons of Bethlehemite immigrants to Moab named Elimelech and Naomi. Unfortunately, her father-in-law died, and later his two sons suffered the same fate leaving three widows. Her mother-in-law Naomi decided to return home to Bethlehem and leave the younger widows in Moab with the hope that they would remarry. However, Ruth resolved to go with Naomi to Bethlehem without knowing what her fate would be. Naomi was past childbearing and had little or no prospects of remarrying. Moreover, she had nothing to care for herself or Ruth.

Despite her mother-in-law’s desperate situation and Ruth’s better prospects of remaining in her homeland with family and friends, Ruth vowed her loyalty to Naomi. Her famous words are quoted over and over today:

16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me (Ruth 1:16-17).

Not only did she swear to give up all that she knew, but Ruth honored the oath that she made. She placed the need of Naomi above her own and went out in her new country to find a way for them to survive. God saw her righteousness and blessed her efforts. As a result of her perseverance, she met Boaz, a wealthy and respected relative of Naomi’s husband. Boaz would redeem the lost property of Naomi’s husband and return it to his widow so she would have the means for supporting herself. Moreover, he married Ruth because he loved her and also to “raise up seed” through her in remembrance of her dead husband. It was customary in Jewish culture for the brother or male relative of a deceased man to marry his widow and the first child from the marriage would be named as the deceased’s offspring for the perpetuation of his lineage. This practice was called the levirate custom.

What I have written here does not do justice to the magnitude of virtuous Ruth and it would better serve the reader to read the book of the Bible that bears the same name as the heroine. Through the loyalty and nobility of the actions of Ruth, the passage for Christ’s genealogical journey continued. Ruth and Boaz produced Obed; Obed became the father of Jesse; Jesse fathered David, and Jesus would be the son of Joseph who is from the line of David.

Ruth had to overcome many obstacles to do what she did. She had to overcome the psychological effects of losing a spouse and a brother-in-law. There were not many options for a woman to make a living in her society and it was even harder for an immigrant widow living with a mother-in-law who was also a widow without means. Ruth took a big risk relocating to a foreign land with her mother-in-law who was unsure how she would be received in her homeland since she was returning worse off than she had left. Most likely, Naomi had prepared her for some cultural differences, but not for all the things she had to learn. And she had to learn them immediately after arriving while trying to eke out a living!

Even in a post-modern world where some of the conditions for women are better than in Ruth’s time, it would have been overwhelming for anyone to accomplish what she did. However, she rose to the challenge and became one of the women who would make way for the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

*For further reading on Ruth and the levirate custom, check out “The Scarlet Thread: Tainted Women.

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