On ChristianityToday.com, Agnieszka Tennant reviews John and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating in What (Not All) Women Want. The book deals with a woman’s desires, and how she can attain them biblically instead of according to culture. On the front cover is a picture of a woman in white dress walking toward the castle. Tennant says that she is worried that the Edredges’ view is a “finicky feminity.” There is the usual women should not be “domineering” schtick. These are women who love their careers and earn promotions. They will even travel alone. What they say women want bugs me almost as much as their definition of beauty. What women want: romance, to be swept away in an adventure, and to be the beauty in the story. And beauty? “We wear perfume, paint our toenails, color our hair, and pierce our ears, all in an effort to be ever more beautiful.” Can this possibly be more superficial?
We live in a society that idolatrizes its version of beauty to the extent that girls and women suffer from various eating disorders in order to try to be “beautiful.” I do not believe this is the advice Christian authors should be giving to their readers. I agree with Tennant that this is a finicky feminity. I also think it is a dangerous one. The church should be giving a different view of beauty, and what makes a woman beautiful. Although they encourage women not to listen to the culture, it sound like in the end the Eldredges buy into culture’s definition of “beauty.”
I like how Tennant went on to broaden the definition of beauty into the aesthetical realm–literature, poetry, and paintings. Her expansion reminds us that beauty is all around us, and is not the sole domain of how women look. Beauty can quicken our hearts and make us catch our breath. It can make us see the world as it should be, and help us to work harder to make the world the way it should be. It reminds us that all that God created is good. May be the Eldredges should have been encouraging their readers to pursue their gifts in writing, painting, sculpting, and the other arts in order to show their own inner beauty with a culture desperately in need of true beauty.