There’s a peculiar and subtle trend among women of the internet the past few years, and it’s an obsession with the word “she.” It is now common to think of ourselves not only in the third person, but with a third person pronoun. You don’t believe me?
Consider these uber-popular blogs: She Reads Truth. How Does She. She Worships. In fact, just google “she blog” and you’ll find no shortage of third-person self-descriptions. Seriously, I clicked through the first six pages of results and the “She”-titled blogs were still going strong: Life As She Does It. She Quilts A Lot. She’s In Fashion.
There’s a “She Speaks” conference. A “She Is Clothed” conference. A “She Is” conference. And yep, a “She” conference.
Or you can recall that some of the most popular scriptures among women for “Bible-journaling” or word art are any and every verse that mentions feminine pronouns, even if the scripture isn’t addressed to us or even human beings at all.
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45 is talking about Mary, who was just promised that she would be the mother of the Christ.
“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.” Psalm 46:5 is definitely using the pronoun “her” to talk about Jerusalem, and if you were reading in the NLT you would never think to apply this verse to yourself because it says “God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.”
Now listen. I like each of the blogs I mentioned and I’m not criticizing them in any way. The verses, though not necessarily addressed to us, are still true if you simply remove them from the context…we are blessed if we believe God’s promises (Psalm 1) and God is in our midst (Zephaniah 3:17.)
But what I’m trying to figure out is why. Why are we drawn to thinking of ourselves with a third person pronoun? It can’t merely be narcissism, because then we would be using our actual names and not a pronoun.
I’m reminded of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s description of the fictional Irene Adler in A Scandal in Bohemia, and how reading of Sherlock’s admiration for her made me feel: “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind…And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.”
So Sherlock didn’t necessarily love her—or he at least wouldn’t allow himself to think he did—but he viewed her so highly. Regardless of who she actually was or how many other females Sherlock had met, to him Irene Adler was the woman. And for some reason, reading that description filled me with an unhealthy sense of longing that people would see me in a similar way too. I think most of us, introverts and extroverts alike, want to be the type of person who could walk past a group of people and one of the bystanders might say to another, “That’s her.” Of course this scenario doesn’t happen in real life, but again, we’re talking about a type of person. Our mind is creating fantasy.
This makes me wonder if we like to objectify ourselves. Do we want people to build their perception of us based on knowing us or based on who we want them to think we are? Are we giving people just enough information about ourselves so they view us as a type of admirable woman but not our own individual self, flaws and all? Maybe this is also why we like pictures in which the object's face is out of frame, but I might be getting carried away.
Helen Thorne’s book Purity is Possible talks at length about how women generally tend towards fantasy…our imagination can run wild and we might not even know it’s happening. She talks about how “we daydream of a different us.”
The thing with the pronoun “she” is we can fill in the blanks with anything we want. We are able to see ourselves as insightful and disciplined philosophers or do-it-all supermoms. We can tell ourselves we are preeminently fashionable and effortlessly attractive. Other people are invited to perceive us as the type of virtuous and strong woman we desire to be, even if in reality we spend all our time on Facebook and possess the self-control of a raccoon.
So what do we do with all this?
Again I want to reiterate that the word “she” is not a bad word. The websites I mentioned are not necessarily Self-Objectifying Fantasy-Feeding Blogs and many of them are putting out content that is truly equipping women for good. Yes, it’s possible that marketing teams are aware that “she” invites consumers to indulge in their self-fantasy, but I’m not going to be a conspiracy theorist and assume that all the She brands have an agenda.
But it could be helpful for us to face the reality that we want people to perceive us in a particular way. We daydream about being an impossibly perfect woman that we are not. A major remedy is to spend time with people in real life; knowing and being known by people in face-to-face settings has this magical ability to snap us back into reality that we are not perfect but neither is anyone else, and that’s what makes love so sweet. We’re not who we want to be, but we’re not only accepted in spite of that but encouraged to grow. My friends are aware of my failures and they don’t love me less because of them, but they love me too much to continue believing lies or feeding my bad habits.
And, of course, humility frees us from thinking too much of ourselves altogether. When we don’t have to spend time and energy making other people (or ourselves) think we are a certain type of person, we are free to embrace the beautiful things and therefore become beautiful. The more we know who Christ has declared us to be, the more we actually become who we are. (But I’ll write more on that later.)
So, sweet sister, be encouraged that it doesn’t matter who you think you are, because who you are is a beautiful woman made in the image of God…but you, like everyone else, are desperately in need of a Savior, and that Savior has come. Run to the Lord because only He can make you whole.
By the way, pronouns about God are much preferable to pronouns about us. It doesn’t matter who “she” is as long as I am HIS.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today