In a world where women are often categorized as either “good” girls or “bad” girls, two iconic figures stood tall, embodying the essence of love, compassion, and female solidarity. These two women were none other than Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. Their close relationship serves as a testament that the strength of women, grounded in love and compassion, can shatter stereotypes and end the polarisation of the female sex, even in the Church.
The Unlikely Companionship Between Princess Diana and Mother Teresa
The iconic relationship between Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, two of the most influential women of their time, offers a compelling narrative on the sexual double standard that pervaded society. Princess Diana, despite her unwavering Christian devotion to charitable works, was often maligned by the male-dominated political and religious establishments. This criticism was largely rooted in the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles, an event precipitated by his adulterous affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Yet, interestingly, the same establishments that chastised Diana remained silent about Charles’s infidelity.
In stark contrast stood Mother Teresa, a beacon of “good girl” virtue within the Roman Catholic Church. Her status was not just anchored in her selfless, Jesus-focused charitable work but also her commitment to a life of celibacy. As a Roman Catholic nun, she represented the epitome of moral purity within the Church’s framework.
Mother Teresa’s relationship with Diana was marked by a deep sense of maternal support, particularly during Diana’s search for a new partner and the ensuing backlash from society. She recognized and appreciated Diana’s Christian charitable works, seeing them as a reflection of her own mission.
The relationship between these two women serves as a potent symbol of the polarizing portrayal of women in Proverbs. It highlights the societal tendency to categorize women into binary extremes – the “bad” girl and the “good” girl. Yet, through their bond, Diana and Mother Teresa challenged this dichotomy, demonstrating that women could embody a spectrum of virtues and attributes. Their friendship underscores the need to move beyond reductive stereotypes toward a more nuanced understanding of womanhood.
Defeating the Double Standard
Their friendship challenged the double standards imposed on women. Princess Diana, despite her royal status, was often subjected to public scrutiny and judgment. Mother Teresa, though revered for her work, also faced criticism. Despite these challenges, they remained undeterred, continuing their efforts to make the world a better place. Their actions sent a powerful message–that women are not just “good” or “bad.”
This double standard was also evident in the Old Testament. A clear example of this is the depiction of The Bad Girl: Jezebel and The Good Girl: Ruth. “The name Jezebel became laden with connotations that link normal female behaviour, such as self-adornment and the application of make-up, with great evil, facilitating the common biblical characterisation of women as either ‘good’ girls or ‘bad’ girls” (Jesus and Women, p. 45). Then you have Ruth, who, “like Jezebel, was a foreign woman and yet is a beloved biblical character” (Jesus and Women, p. 45).
As the narrative goes, Naomi and her husband Elimelech, along with their two sons, left Bethlehem due to a severe famine and settled in Moab. After Elimelech’s death, the two sons married Moabite women: Ruth and Orpah. However, tragedy struck again when both sons also died, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law widowed.
Deciding to return to Bethlehem, Naomi urged her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and remarry. Orpah reluctantly stayed, but Ruth famously pledged her loyalty to Naomi, saying, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Ruth began to gather grain in the fields of a wealthy relative of Naomi’s, a man named Boaz. Learning of Boaz’s kindness, Naomi instructed Ruth to request Boaz to be her kinsman-redeemer (a close relative who could marry a widow to continue her deceased husband’s lineage according to Jewish law).
“When Naomi hears of Boaz’s kind and noble treatment of Ruth, she speculates that he could be a potential husband for her and begins to devise a plan of seduction. She tells Ruth to wash and perfume herself and put on her best clothes. Once she is all dressed up, she is to go to the threshing floor where Boaz will be working and bide her time until she discovers where he will sleep for the night. When he is asleep, she is to creep under his blanket” (Jesus and Women, p. 46).
Fortunately, Boaz was already planning to marry Ruth before this act of seduction. And when they did, they had a son named Obed, who became the grandfather of King David, thus placing Ruth in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ. However, “while Ruth is traditionally considered to be the star of the story, I would argue that its ending elevates Naomi to an even higher level than that of her daughter-in-law” (Jesus and Women, p. 47).
What We Learn from Ruth and Naomi’s Friendship
The story of Naomi and Ruth in the Bible is admired and celebrated, despite Naomi’s cunning and Ruth’s seductive actions. This acceptance stems from their pure intentions, the genuine love between Ruth and Boaz, and the deep bond between Ruth and Naomi.
“The fact that love conquers all is evident in the way they are portrayed as exemplars for all women, while allowing them the fullness of their femininity. The outcome of their loving relationship also highlights what women are capable of achieving when they work together and also how the sight of it can elicit solidarity from other women, as is evidenced in the pleasure the women of the town take in Naomi’s good fortune. I believe that the story of Naomi and Ruth exemplifies the power of female solidarity in defeating the double standard and generating joy and harmony” (Jesus and Women, p. 49).
Similar to the friendship between Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, Ruth and Naomi’s relationship highlights how female solidarity, grounded in the gifts of love and compassion, can defeat the double standard and create space for women to exist, not just as “good” girls or “bad” girls, but in the fullness of their femininity.
What This Means for the Restoration of Harmony Between the Sexes and the Church
When it comes to Princess Diana and Mother Teresa’s relationship, “it is clear that their shared qualities of love, compassion, and empathy enabled both women to cross the boundaries of their lives… The fact that it was the saintly Mother Teresa who instigated their unique and loving relationship is an important indication that a Christian context of grace will be necessary for the achievement of the feminist ideal of ‘the sisterhood’, a situation of female solidarity that remains to be achieved despite decades of feminist campaigning” (Jesus and Women, p. 158).
“Their relationship also illuminates the way forward for the achievement of harmony and cohesion among the female sex, the achievement of which will be closely linked with the restoration of harmony between the sexes” (Jesus and Women, p. 158).
Women’s voices, often sidelined, are vitally important in fostering an environment of love, compassion, and understanding. Recognizing and valuing these feminine gifts can lead to a more inclusive, empathetic, and balanced society and transform the Church to God’s original intent in which there is harmony between the sexes. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa’s “greatest legacy… may well be their demonstrations of how female solidarity grounded in the female gifts of love and compassion can defeat the double standard and end the polarisation of the female sex” (Jesus and Women, p. 161).
Should this topic pique your curiosity, I’d highly recommend delving into my book, Jesus and Women. In it, I explore how Jesus’ life on Earth exemplifies the value of the female sex and how it’s essential to the restoration of harmony between the sexes and the Church. Purchase your copy today!