The Piper Scale of Female Leadership

Recently I was re-reading John Piper’s explanation for what types of careers and jobs are appropriate for women. He goes into a long and complicated description of how to determine what types of leadership and influence a woman can have over a man without doing damage to their masculinity and femininity. It occurred to me that his criteria and subsequent explanation sound a lot like the Pritchard poetry scale from Dead Poet’s Society. So with profound apologies to Robin Williams, Dead Poet’s Society, and the authors of the screenplay, I present to you the Piper Scale of Female Leadership:

“Understanding Female Leadership,” by Dr. J. Stephen Piper, Th.D.

To fully understand female leadership, we must first be conversant with the nature and application of leadership between men and women, then ask two questions: 1) how personal is this female influence over a man and 2) how direct is that influence. Question 1 rates the nature of the relationship between the man and women. Question 2 rates the degree of influence. And once these questions have been answered, determining the inappropriateness of a woman’s influence over a man is a relatively simple matter.

If the directness of the influence is plotted on the horizontal and the personal nature of the relationship is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the influence yields the measure of its inappropriateness.

A wife advising her husband might score high on the vertical (personal) but low on the directness (non-directive). A job as a city planner might score low on the vertical (non-personal) but high on the directness (directive). A job as a drill sergeant, on the other hand, would score high both horizontally (personal) and vertically (directive), yielding a massive total area, thereby revealing the female leadership to be truly inappropriate.

As you proceed through other examples of female leadership in life, practice this rating method. As your ability to evaluate female leadership in this manner improves, so will your avoidance of inappropriate female leadership over men.

And how do I feel about the Piper Scale for Female Leadership? To paraphrase Robin Williams’ character, Mr. Keating:

Rip it out! Rip! Be gone, J. Stephen Piper, Th.D. Rip. Shred. Tear. Rip it out!

If, by chance, you aren’t familiar with the original scene from Dead Poet’s Society, you can watch it here.

20 thoughts on “The Piper Scale of Female Leadership

  1. Tim says:

    His bias shows in saying the purpose is to determine the inappropriate nature of woman’s leadership. Inappropriate is his default position. Otherwise he’d say the scale is for the purpose of determining the appropriateness of the leafership.

    It wouldn’t make a difference, though. He’s still passing judgment on matters the Bible does not call for judgment on.


  2. wifewithpurpose says:

    I never saw Dead Poet’s Society, but I enjoyed this! Piper has left me a bit perplexed over the years with his views on the (appropriate) roles of women. I do think there is some good, but there is also quite a bit of overreach.


  3. Herjourney says:

    I have to add this tid bit about one of Pipers FB posts awhile back when I was following him.. because ?
    “It’s not appropriate for a women to use any other last name but her married one.” I do believe he might have stated it was showing a lack of respect to your spouse.
    When in a legal battle with my ex, my lawyer asked me if I would like to change my last name to my maiden name.
    Breaking any ties to an abuser will set you free.

    It’s easy to go back!
    It’s more difficult to move forward.


  4. Sophie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! As a Christian graduate student, I’m trying to figure out a biblical stance on gender issues and recently heard a talk from a college/career pastor based on the essay by Piper that you referenced here. He does young Christian women (and men) a huge disservice by quoting Scripture out of context to “prove” that a woman’s role is submission to men in every area of life, ignoring the fact that this was a specific command regarding marriage. I’m concerned for the young academic women of my generation who are hearing either radio silence on this subject from Christian leaders or being told to leave their brains at the altar. Thank you for combatting these ideas in a gracious and intelligent way; it was truly refreshing.


  5. Trent says:

    Bwahahaha! Love it!
    I have thought long and hard about complementarianism since the whole EFS thing and Piper’s going off the deep end and I have to say I don’t consider myself a complementarian anymore. I still find egalitarianism strained in their NT readings, particularly in submission and women in the church but, unlike complementarians I do not think ‘submission’ means what those evolving in patriarchialists think it means. I guess I am rather inconsistent in my views but, on a number of practical things (eldership aside), I am more of an egalitarian (because I cannot find anywhere in the Bible this all around comprehensive, if not exhaustive template for male and female ‘complementary behavior’) all of this has seemed to be adiaphora.


    • Timothy Joseph says:

      Submitting to one another, wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord, husbands love your wives as.Christ loved the Church; adiaphora? I think you may have ‘jumped the shark’! These are biblical commands not options. Even when complementarians exaggerate the level of submission and its consequences, this does not change the significance of the biblical teaching.



  6. Joann L says:

    The command for submission is more than a mere command regarding marriage. Women are to submit to the elders in the church as well–who, according to Scripture, were only men.


  7. Lea says:

    That redheads expression at the thought of ripping pages out of a book is so mine!

    But I agree about Piper entirely. Excrement.


  8. Glenna Hendricks says:

    Given the teachings of John Piper, the highest position a woman should have in a hospital is nurse’s aide. (Nurses direct work of orderlies.) If a woman cardiologist is present when he needs care because of a coronary, he might prefer she step aside and have the orderly take over. The absurdity of his position is obvious if we look at the real world. Given his “rules” no single woman should be in a profession where she earns enough to live comfortably–and woe is she if she is abandoned or widowed and has children to support.


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