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A Scarlett in a Melanie World: The Plight of the “Good Christian Girl”
A Scarlett in a Melanie World: The Plight of the “Good Christian Girl”

In the last couple of months, I’ve begun to despise the phrase “a good Christian girl.” To me, this label has too many connotations that I think are old-fashioned, as well as sexist. Let me explain through my favorite heroine, Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.

People have always characterized Scarlett as a villainous character. She is selfish, flirtatious, harsh, delusional, and seductive. In a lot of ways, she seems to embody what a Christian woman should not be.

On the other hand, we have the pious Melanie Hamilton. She is caring, considerate, sensitive, selfless, loyal, and innocent. Whenever someone is in trouble, Melanie is there. (A couple of examples include how she nurses Confederate soldiers back to health, befriends Belle even when society shuns her, sees the best in Rhett Butler, and unashamedly stands behind Scarlett, although society believes she committed adultery with Ashley.) In a lot of ways, our Christian subculture would hold up a Melanie as someone who all women should be more like.

Don’t get me wrong, Melanie is a great character. Who wouldn’t like her if she were a real person? However, I think the problem comes down to the fact that Scarlett isn’t as evil as people characterize her as. I mean, yes, if you’ve only seen the 1930s film, of course, you’d think she was a brat! Yet, I’ve been reading the original book and I’m just not seeing her that way.

Scarlett in the books is much more relatable. She’s in love with a man she can never understand or attain but loves him anyways out of habit and a need for an intense unreciprocated passion. Haven’t we all been there? Scarlett in the books is also trying to deal with her whole world falling apart when she was always raised to be a princess. She barks at people out of stress and tries to dominate those around her as a way to regain control in a chaotic Antebellum South.

More than anything, Scarlett represents that you can be a bold, independent, free-thinking woman. You don’t have to cower under men’s prowess, and you don’t have to laugh at all of their jokes. You can admit to yourself that you enjoy the physical aspects of being with a man, without feeling guilt or shame for it. You can be a business woman and entrepreneur, while still being married and raising children. Here’s a great quote from Chapter 5:

“I wish to Heaven I was married,” [Scarlett] said resentfully as she attacked the yams with loathing. “I’m tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I’m tired of acting like I don’t eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I’m tired of saying, ‘How wonderful you are!’ to fool men who haven’t got one-half the sense I’ve got, and I’m tired of pretending I don’t know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they’re doing it… I can’t eat another bite.”

Am I saying that Scarlett is perfect? Uh, NO. We all know that Scarlett is a huge brat. But I think if anything, I can at least relate to her more, and I see more potential for what women are able to accomplish. In Melanie, all I see is a damsel in distress who can’t get a grip on reality.

This is why I just do not like the “good Christian girl” label. It comes with this virginal Mary archetype, that women must be selfless, meek, quiet, and timid at all times; and must be the girl who always needs to be saved. She is at the mercy of her husband or the charity of others. She is destined to be the “stay-at-home mom.”

I’m not saying that any of these things are necessarily bad. I’m just saying that for me personally, I don’t feel comfortable with being considered that.

I see other girls who are the “good Christian girl” type and they are considered wife material. If a guy is into that, then cool. But personally, I will never want a starry-eyed Ashley Wilkes who just wants a woman to cook, clean, and take care of the babies all day. I want a Rhett Butler who is funny, enables my own thinking (in fact, Rhett encouraged Scarlett to think for herself), and lets me continue to do business even when we have kids.

So let’s get real: I’m tired of the “good Christian girl” label, because at the end of the day, the keyword here is “girl.” I do not want to be a girl, I want to be a woman – a virtuous woman. This is why I love reading about the Proverbs 31 woman – she has a man, but she doesn’t need a man. She’s a successful business woman, who puts the needs of others before her own, but doesn’t hide behind doe-eyes and false innocence.

What do you think? Are you more of a Scarlett O’Hara or Melanie Hamilton? If you’re male, do you prefer more of a modern woman, or a girl who fits the “good Christian girl” mold? Be honest even if you don’t agree with what I’m saying here!

And just because, feel free to grab your own copy of our own Proverbs 31 Woman Study to continue the conversation here.

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