“Why not be utterly changed into fire?”
You know you know a friend well when you are sick of hearing that one word come out of their mouth. You know what I am referring to—that one word or topic that they won’t go a day without bringing up. While here at Oxford I have from one friend heard the constant mention of the topic “community,” from another “look at her hair color! She’s so light!” It’s gotten to the point where I have made a game of trying to beat them to saying it, just because I know they’ve heard or seen their trigger.
The word that I cannot help but repeat is the word “womanhood.” I am constantly excited to bring up this topic, using it as a focus in film, literature, and just everyday conversation. I know my best friends are sick of hearing about it, but it’s an obsession I really cannot apologize for.
This obsession is most interesting when seen through the lens of my favorite role models—the women who raised me, and the women whom I admire from history. Today’s focus? Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc was maybe the most badass woman in all of history. Not only did she lead an army at the tender age of 19, out of love for God and country, but she did it in all humility and modesty. This is a pretty hard line to walk, but Joan walked it. At 16 Joan petitioned to gather an army, and in order to gain the respect of her fellow frenchman, she dressed like a man and rode like a man.
Joan was born in a time of France’s delegitimization—as she grew, France shrunk, being taken over by the English due to the French government’s lack of a strong (sane) leader. Joan loved her country so much that she was willing to die for it. She rode, and fought, and rallied until she gave the French their courage back. But where did her motivation come from? God, of course. She heard His call to lead and that was all the reason she needed.
Joan sticks in my heart more than any other woman not purely because of her martyrdom, though that is awe-inspiring. It is the fact that she was an uneducated, soft spoken, and modest girl from abject poverty, who let none of that stop her. Not only that, but she rode and fought alongside the men she led, all the while maintaining the grace and kindness that is essential to womanhood.
She was fearless, but also modest. The only favor she ever asked was a chance to confess and receive benediction before her death by fire. God was at the core of all of her actions, words, and motives—should we not strive to be the same?
I cannot say definitively yet what “proper womanhood” really is, but I can say that Joan embodied it. A woman must be brave, and kind. She must love God more than all else, and let that motivate her to change the world for good.
A proper woman doesn’t avoid rocking the boat or causing a commotion—she’ll do whatever she must in order to do what’s right.