Blogger Rachel Held Evans, spent one year living according to the biblical rules of Leviticus 15 to 18, which give instructions about how virtuous women ought to live. The rules include those of "hygiene" during menstruation when women are "unclean."
Evans, in her book, "A Year of Biblical Womanhood," chronicles her year-long efforts to live up to biblical standards for women defined by hundreds of detailed rules of dos and don'ts.
In an interview with Chattanooga Times Free Press, Evans said that before she took up her religious lifestyle experiment, she had to learn how to sew and make her clothing. She grew her hair long and called her husband "master" for a week (Hebrew women called their husbands "adon" meaning "master," "boss"). She lived according to the old patriarchal rule that husbands are the lords of their wives and that women should live in humble submission.
She said that she and her husband Dan, were "very weirded out" when she called him "master" for an entire week. Times Free Press reports Evans also said it felt "weird and awkward." As part of her biblically prescribed efforts to honor her husband and "master," she stood on the side of a road with a sign that said "Dan Is Awesome." She said: " "There was no way I was going to do that for a month, much less a year."
Evans, as the virtuous "biblical woman," remained silent in church and observed the Jewish holidays. Time Free Press reports that according to the 31-year-old woman from Tennessee, during the year she lived under Biblical regulations of conduct for women, she observed strictly, the rules prescribing voluntary isolation from society during menstruation. She slept in a tent during her menstrual periods. She even carried a cushion to avoid coming in contact with seats she used and thus "contaminating" others who may come in contact with the seat. She said she abstained from sex and touching her husband. She wore a head scarf when she prayed.
Under the Levitical laws of purity and relevant passages from the Christian New Testament, she endeavored to focus on one prescribed virtue a month. In an interview with Gypsyink, she said:
"Some of these experiences were funny (in deference to Proverbs 31:23, I literally praised my husband at the city gate with a homemade sign), others were rewarding (I learned a lot about contemplative prayer when I visited a Benedictine monastery one month), and others were terrible (I ordered and cared for a computerized baby named Chip, and he was a nightmare)."
She said a difficult part of the imposed discipline was attempting to grow long hair: "I know it's trite and vain... I know it's supposed to be a woman's glory to have long hair, but my hair was not made to be long."
Evans started a blog in 2008 to promote her memoir that examined issues of faith and religious fundamentalism. Rachel, who describes herself as a "liberated" Christian woman, now uses the opportunity of the year-long experiment to raise theological questions and about sex and gender issues in Christian theology. She says that the point of the experiment was to show that in reality, no modern day woman is practicing "biblical womanhood." She said she hopes that her book shows that the definition of true faith cannot be rigidly prescribed.
Times Free Press reports that Evans said that many who espouse the idea of biblical womanhood believe there is a set of rigidly defined standards. She rejects this notion, saying that people who live by that conviction are usually "inherently selective, picking and choosing what parts of the Bible they want to follow."
Gypsyink reports she said: "My hope is that the book will help liberate women from the notion that there is just one right way to be a woman of faith. It's not about sticking to a list of rules or roles; it's about living with character... True feminism is celebrating the very best gifts of women and how they use them."
However she said she respects women who prefer to live by rigid rules of "biblical womanhood," as it is popularly held. She said: "If that's what's best for them and their family, I applaud them. I think that honors God."
According to The Star, Evans claims that in spite of the fact that her book, which has not yet been officially released, has gained large following, one of the biggest Christian bookstore chains, LifeWay, has declined to carry her book because it uses the word "vagina."
The Star reports that her followers bristled at the suggestion from her editor that she should remove the word "vagina" from her manuscripts so that the bookstore will carry her book. According to The Star, a petition called "Put-the-word-'vagina'-back-into-Rachel's-book!" was started and one of her fans even issued Team Vagina T-shirts.
Evans eventually acceded to the demands of her readers and decided to leave "vagina" in her book. Rachel reportedly said in an interview with Slate: “Writers adjust our content to fit this very sanitized, very strict conservative mold, which means we’re not producing the best writing… Everyone bends over backward to meet these demands.”