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The meaning of pinkhood

By tanakawho from Tokyo, Japan (Not a black sheep  Uploaded by Petronas) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By tanakawho from Tokyo, Japan (Not a black sheep Uploaded by Petronas) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the gender expectations for boys and girls.  I suppose this is because this great post about toy shopping in Target has been circulating.  I admit to loving it–it’s funny in a snarky way, and it certainly hits at what I feel is one of the biggest problems in toy advertising/store arrangement.  But something has been bothering me, and it wasn’t until last night that it really solidified.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you may know that both of my kids are in multiple dance classes.  Currently, my son is taking private ballet lessons, as there was no class for his age group.  Yesterday, we arrived a few minutes before the end of class so we could watch him do a little combo with his teacher.  Afterward, he gave her a card he’d made and she gave him a small gift–homemade Chex mix and a little bag containing mini bottles of coconut-lime shower gel and hand lotion.*

He was thrilled.  I commented that his teacher sure knows him well, and he agreed.  It was a very sweet moment.  Now, what had me thinking about it is the number of adults in my circles who would find that strange or even bad.  Why would a ten-year-old boy want such a feminine gift?  Thus begins the speculating on my son’s life and future.

And that, right there, highlighted the real problem for me.

It isn’t merely that we think it’s not okay for boys to like dolls or fancy hand lotion or pink cook stoves that don’t feature boys on the box.  It’s the erasure of anything that seems too feminine.

The Big Questions that always come up are: Why can’t they market toy stoves and tea sets in neutral colors?  Why can’t doll clothes come in blue as well as pink?  Why can’t I find a boy doll?  Why can’t Barbies utter oddly specific action phrases when you push a button on their backs?  Why must all Legos be placed in the boys’ section?

Meanwhile, I’m asking an entirely different set of questions.

Why can’t boys own a full set of My Little Pony figurines?  Why doesn’t Batman say, “Give me a hug!” when you press a button?  Why isn’t it okay for a boy to be featured on the toy stove box, even if it is pink?

We’ve gotten very comfortable asking why the girls’ aisle is hosed in pink and frills while the boys get action and adventure.  We intentionally choose to shop for our daughters among the Legos and Monster Trucks and superheroes.  We’re okay with urging our daughters to try out sports and climb trees and wear any damn thing they want to.

We’re getting better at it with boys, but often it’s coupled with speculations about their future sexuality.  Hardly anyone talks about how much they will still love their football-playing daughter if she turns out to be a lesbian; it’s assumed that even if she is still sporty as an adult, she will at least marry a sporty Prince Charming and ride off into the WifeMommy sunset.**  But should a boy show an interest in ballet, pink, and Cher’s greatest hits, suddenly parents take to their blogs to assure the world that they will still love their obviously gay sons.***

When it’s not tied to our sons’ orientation, then it’s tied to the color-coding.  We demand the same “girl” toys for them, only we want them in blue and orange instead of pink and purple.  God forbid little Johnny play with a pink toy microwave or drink from a pink teacup.  We also rarely encourage boys to play with toys that we associate with relational skills.  It’s okay to own not-pink cookware, but the world might end if we purchase the latest Fisher-Price dollhouse for our boys.  I mean, they don’t actually need to learn the skills associated with caring for home and family.

It seems to me that the reason for this is that we like the erasure of cultural femininity more than we like the erasure of cultural masculinity.

Cultural femininity is seen as weak and bad.  How many of us have gone from feeling stifled by the lack of options to feeling guilty that we still want some (or most) of those feminine things?  How many men feel like they are less, somehow, because they have traits usually associated with women?

It took me a long time to accept that I like the color pink and that I like stories with a little romance.  I sort of felt like I couldn’t even enjoy a Disney princess movie without having to examine its problematic elements first.  This erasure of anything culturally feminine means that in order to survive, I must become more like a man.  But if I become more like a man, not only do I destroy that which is considered feminine in myself, I also end up being told that I actually want to be a man!  Or I’m a bitch or a ball-buster or some other negative term for a woman who isn’t “woman” enough.  Yet if I give up and go home, then my femininity makes me invisible again.  We often don’t have the option of being both culturally feminine and strong.

This erasure is part of what drives parents to ponder their sons’ sexuality.  It’s a grudging acceptance that if our sons want to play at being girly, we will then convince ourselves that it’s okay if they don’t live up to our expectations of what real men are like–that is, virile heterosexuals.  That is both misogynistic and homophobic, and it certainly doesn’t do any favors for straight men who are naturally more culturally feminine.  (Don’t even get me started on the erasure of bisexual men and gay men who are perceived as stereotypically masculine; they often get shit from all sides.)

I would like to see this all just go the eff away.  I see a lot–and I do mean a lot–of anti-pink snark.  But what is so wrong with pink?  Or girls liking pink and playing with pink things?  I understand the concern that we don’t want our daughters (or, hopefully, our sons) to be limited by the color-coding in the toy aisles.  I certainly understand that we don’t want to limit our children to one idea or another about what makes a “good” girl or boy.  But what if we rearranged our thoughts a little?

What if instead of changing the color-coding, we simply expanded our options?  Maybe it would be okay to associate pink with home and family if we stopped assigning the math as

Pink = Girls

Home and family = Girls

Therefore, Home and family + Pink = Not for Boys

I don’t think manufacturers, advertisers, or stores are going to change the way they deliver to consumers.  If we want change, it has to come from us.  We need to be the ones willing to say, “Eh, screw it.  I’m buying the pink stove for my son” or “My daughter would love that Hulk action figure” or “Hmm…I think my kid would like to wear this Snow White costume while building this robotic car” or “Superhero cape and an Easy Bake Oven? I think yes!”  We can’t expect the world to change for us–we have to change the world ourselves.

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*My son gets very chapped hands in the winter, and his teacher has been sharing her lotion with him.  He loves the scent, so she got him his own.

**Lesbian erasure is also a real thing and very bad.  So are assumptions that women will all be happier if they are married with kids.  No woman was ever happy being single, and all women–being such natural nurturers–want children, right?

***I could write a whole blog post on why I think speculating about our kids’ sexual orientation is a really, really terrible move on the part of parents.  Perhaps I will.

What our boys learn

Yesterday, Emily Wierenga apologized.  I’m glad, because she owed it to those who were hurt by her original post about relationships and submission.  There were several reasons why I didn’t respond to the first post.  First, I was late to the game.  I’d been on vacation when it appeared, so I missed it–all I saw was the fallout.  Second, plenty of others had already written what needed to be said.  Third, I already didn’t care much for her theology or her title of “Everyday Radical” (she’s not particularly radical); I really couldn’t figure out why everyone was so surprised by her words.

I don’t want to go around and around about the original post.  I will say that no matter how “heartfelt” or sincere-sounding her apology, she still has problematic theology that she refuses to acknowledge.  I’m glad she understands how hurtful her words were, but she also needs to examine her beliefs a lot more closely.  Her original post was addressed to people like me–Christian feminists.  It was not a rallying cry for people who share her views but something written to those of us she feels are outside that theology.  Therefore, I see no need to extend some kind of olive branch in her direction.  I don’t stand with Emily or people who share her beliefs, despite the fact that we may all call ourselves Christians.  As a woman, as a feminist, and as a Christian, I have a responsibility to address things that contribute to the way women are seen in the church.  That includes speaking out against the patriarchal leanings of other writers–whether those people are men or women.  The fact that we both have vaginas in no way obligates me to some kind of womanly solidarity.

When I saw that Emily was offering an apology, I was glad; I believed she was doing the right thing–until I read a couple of paragraphs down.  These words made my blood boil:

I didn’t know the way I would cry at night for fear of sending my boys to school, for all of the school shootings and drugs but not only that: for the way they wouldn’t be taught how to be strong leaders, but rather, would be questioned about their gender, made guilty for the way their kind had treated women in the past, and told that they could be attracted to either males or females because there was no male or female: there just was.

I’m not going to waste time on the rest of her apology; it wasn’t bad, though I think she still needs to consider the implications of her original post beyond its triggering effect.  No, I want to address what I quoted above.  I am the mother of a nine-year-old boy who attends public school; there has never once been a time when I have been afraid that he would be taught any of those things Emily mentions:

1. They wouldn’t be taught how to be strong leaders

First of all, that’s not the job of the school.  The job of the school is to teach our children how to read and write and do sums.  If we want any of our children–sons or daughters–to be “strong leaders,” then we must take responsibility as their parents.  Not only that, this desire to have (in particular boys) become strong leaders ignores the fact that not everyone has a personality suited to “leadership” (at least, not the way it’s defined in conservative evangelical circles).  As for what I think Emily might actually mean–that boys need to learn to be strong leaders so they can lead their wives–that is most definitely not something I want my son learning at school.  If that’s your religious belief, you’re welcome to it, but don’t impose it on my kid.

2. They . . . would be questioned about their gender

As far as I know, this is a made-up concern.  I have yet to meet a teacher or school employee who questions my child’s gender.  I’m not entirely sure how Emily means this, but if she means that girls are given unfair advantage because there’s a sudden backlash against boys, she needs a pretty serious reality check.  Boys are still more frequently called on in class, and boys are more often encouraged to explore math and science.  What gets questioned is when boys fail to live up to that expectation.

If Emily means that suddenly boys won’t be boys and girls won’t be girls, that’s also pretty ridiculous.  Is she assuming some mass takeover of our schools by an imaginary army of transgender people and their allies?  Or is she just lamenting that now it’s okay for boys to like pink and take ballet?  (I doubt she’s having the same questions about whether girls can climb trees and play with trucks.)

3. . . . made guilty for the way their kind had treated women in the past

My son hasn’t yet come home telling me that girls are good and boys are bad for hurting them.  Again, this is not a thing that happens in schools.  I just don’t understand where Emily’s deep fear of feminists is coming from.  We’re not staging protests on the high school campuses or storming the gates of district offices.  We’re not making impassioned pleas at school board meetings.  No one is telling our boys that “their kind” are heinous beasts that have perpetrated evil on womankind.  This smacks of feminist stereotypes.  What I hope my son is learning (and I believe he is, if his behavior is an indication) is that girls are equally intelligent, interesting, strong, brave, and fun.  Through his friendships with girls, my son is learning things that will eventually make him a better man.  The adults around him are encouraging this–and that’s a very good thing.

Also, let’s be clear on this: Men being assholes to women? Not so much a thing of the past.

4. . . . told that they could be attracted to either males or females

Damn skippy, though I doubt this happens at age nine.  I certainly hope that my son is aware that whatever sexual attractions he feels are normal.  I learned at church that sexual attraction was bad unless it was within marriage between a man and a woman.  Because I live in a conservative city, the most “sex ed” I got there was a very brief, embarrassed, “Um…uh…use some birth control so you don’t get a nebulous disease we’re not actually going to describe for you.  Now, watch this video of a woman giving birth so you’re too disgusted to get pregnant.”

Anyway, Emily is wrong about this one too–is she not aware that kids are still being bullied for their sexuality?  Even if schools are teaching an inclusive sex education (which they’re not in most places), the horror of having your kid know gay people exist is a lot less scary than being the gay kid who gets threatened or beaten.  Priorities, people.  Sort them.

5. . . . because there was no male or female: there just was.

This is also foolish.  No one teaches or believes this.  It’s fear-mongering.  I do not know any person–cis or trans–who believes or teaches this.  For the love of God, please go look things up before you start spouting off on them.

Oh, wait.  She probably means proper gender roles, not actual genders.  Er…I hope.  What she seems to possibly mean here (?)–though I honestly can’t tell; I’m still confused–is that it’s okay for men to be attracted to men or women to women because the lines between their roles have gotten too fuzzy.  I can’t decide which interpretation of Emily’s words is more offensive.  In either case, gross stereotypes are being perpetuated here.  Whatever Emily’s intent, it changes nothing.  There are no schools teaching these bizarre things about gender.

When I send my son to school, I worry that he might have forgotten his lunch money.  I worry that he might be bullied (or worse, engage in bullying behavior).  I wonder if his ADHD is making him struggle through his day or if he’s getting enough stretch breaks.  I think about whether he’s learning to work cooperatively with all kinds of people.  I hope fervently he doesn’t get hurt on the playground or in phys ed.  I think about ways to make getting his homework done a priority on nights he has ballet class.  I pray that today is not the day a troubled young man decides to show up at his school and shoot a classroom full of children.

I do not worry that he won’t grow up to be the right kind of man.

 

Little Girls and Little Ponies

By Chaorama (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s less than a week until the official launch of A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  I hope you have all ordered your copy.  Starting next week, I will review the book and then go through it with you chapter by chapter.  I would love to know that you are all reading along with me as we go.  Until then, continue to enjoy my musings on womanhood, feminism, raising a daughter, and all things in between.

When my daughter was born, as with my son, I determined that I wasn’t going to raise her in a way that pushed her to believe that only a certain way of playing, acting, or dressing was acceptable for a girl.  Like with Jack, we stuck with a lot of toys that any child would enjoy.  I explicitly avoided the “girl” versions of toys, such as the pink Fisher-Price Little People and the pink Bubble Mower.  I was certain that I was going to have a daughter who wasn’t afraid to be whoever she chose to be, and it wouldn’t be based on silly notions about lipstick and purses and princess gowns.

I got my wish, but it didn’t turn out exactly as I had expected.

It’s true that I have a girl who doesn’t play with Barbies; in fact, she doesn’t like most dolls.  She has never asked to be a fairy princess for Halloween, and she doesn’t stick exclusively to pink and purple clothes (she prefers her brother’s outgrown t-shirts paired with neutral-color skirts).  In her world, a purse is a storage compartment for toys, not lipstick.  She has virtually no interest in her hair except to complain when I comb it.

But she does like make-up, which she discovered when she had to wear it for a dance recital (for the record, my son does as well; stage make-up was required for everyone).  She likes fancy dresses; she likes to twirl for us and ask how she looks (the answer is always, “You look beautiful”).  She is a big fan of anything with Hello Kitty on it, including her favorite pair of rain boots ever—vivid pink with Hello Kitty’s head right on the toe.  And as I type this, she is watching an episode of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”

Which brings me to my real point.  The new version of My Little Pony is something I can get behind.  Sarah and I like to watch together.  (The reason I’m writing while she watches is that she’s chosen an episode she’s seen at least 3 times.)  Sure, the show includes all the typical girl stereotypes: the Jock, the Brain, the Beauty Queen, the Tomboy, the Ditz, the Wallflower.  But what I like is the rather atypical way that plays out in the show.  (I also like that it’s a show even my husband and son like, which proves that having strong female lead characters is not something that puts boys off, any more than having a strong male lead puts girls off.)

I like seeing a fresh, fun show that has girls in mind, yet doesn’t resort to typical girl-on-girl aggression themes or require them to solve only problems related to “caregiver” scenarios or popularity and beauty contests.  I also have the feeling that the usual personality stereotypes are not so much because a girl can only be any one of those things but because each of us has all of those qualities in different measures.  The number of times the show makes reference to needing the different gifts each of the ponies brings to a situation underscores that, as well as reinforcing the idea of accepting our differences and using them to work together.

Part of the way my own heart has softened is in understanding that there is a big difference between a girl wanting to wear pink and play princess and a girl feeling like she has to do those things in order to be a “real” girl.  The first is a matter of personality and style; the second is imposed on us by an unyielding culture.  Understanding that my daughter, despite my efforts and despite her lack of school-related peer pressure, enjoys lots of things that are intended “for girls.”  There would only be a problem if she rejected anything else because she stopped believing that it was okay for a girl to deviate from the marketing.

What my daughter has is, I think, a rare gift: the ability to enjoy whatever she wants, without fear that anyone will think she’s not a “real” girl.  I suppose, in the end, that my efforts to shield her from societal pressures on girls has paid off.

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Don’t forget to submit your essays! Only 8 days to go!

Being the Girl

I’m continuing my countdown to the official launch of A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.  (I know; I’m like a kid at Christmas.  I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since I first read about it.)  Since I can’t offer a full review (having yet to finish the book), I will sustain you with other topics related to womanhood (Biblical or otherwise) until then.  Today: Our obsession with gender roles.

Have you ever experienced that awkward moment when someone asks, “So, are you the girl in your relationship”?  Yeah, me neither.  See, that’s because for most of us heterosexual cis-women, that question doesn’t even make sense.  Well, okay, I think I’d rather be thought of as a woman than as a girl, since I’m an adult.  But otherwise, I can’t think of a single time when I’ve been asked such a stupid question.

On the other hand, I can think of plenty of times when people have thought it was appropriate to ask me that question about my friends.

I’m not kidding.  I have a disproportionate number of non-het and non-cis friends for someone of my religious background.  For whatever reason, on more than one occasion and regarding more than one friend or family member, I have been asked which of my friends represented “the girl” in their relationships.  This usually happens after I’ve introduced them to someone, say, at a party.

What the heck is the obsession with figuring out what presumed gender roles a couple takes on?  I mean, when I’m with my friends and family, I don’t waste my precious minutes with them contemplating a) what their “roles” are in their relationship or b) whether or not they even have them.  I’m actually not sure why I should care.  Even back in my pre-ally days I never considered that sort of thing.

What surprises me even more is that it’s often people who don’t seem themselves to conform to strict gender-based societal norms who ask such nosy/inappropriate questions.  One of my less Hollywood-style-feminine friends suggested that her lesbian friend’s preferences for dresses must mean that she’s the “girl” in her relationship with her partner.  Resisting the temptation to ask whether this friend’s husband is the “girl” in their relationship, I politely suggested that I didn’t think that was the way it worked—both of them are women, not girls, and they are not role-playing at 1950s husband and wife.

It occurs to me that this is part of what bothers so many people about anything that isn’t heterosexual or cis.  I think it might be at the root of why so many strong women are often referred to as “bitchy,” “shrill,” or “emotional.”  Those are all things that challenge our long-established notions about what it means to be women.  Sometimes, we feel we have to know who’s the girl because we want to revert to something we can understand, something familiar.

How about we make some effort to become more comfortable with the unfamiliar?  I appreciate my friends who fail to conform to anyone else’s idea of what they ought to be or do.  It makes me feel far less of a failure at being a “real” woman when I see that non-conforming women are successful, happy, and fulfilled in who they are.  One day, we can let go of the notion that there are only two ways of being—”boy” or “girl”—and accept that there’s a whole lot more variety than that, even among those of us who consider ourselves entirely straight and cis.

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Be sure to check out the essay contest here on the blog, and don’t forget to order your copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood!

Notable News: Week of September 29-October 5, 2012

Lots of around-the-web goodness for you all today.  This week’s best posts are all over the map for content.  Enjoy!

1. Roger E. Olson on “Evangelical Inquisitions”

This timely post is spot-on about the way that some Christians like to play Doctrine Police with other Christians.  At our house, we call it doctrinal purity.  It’s the idea that there is one absolutely correct way to interpret Scripture and if you don’t do it that way, you are in error and must be disciplined.  I have to admit, I’m not fond of the term “evangelical” in this context.  This is not necessarily a hallmark of evangelicalism, only of extreme conservativism.  There are plenty of wonderful evangelicals who hold Scripture in high regard but don’t adhere to a strictly conservative reading.  Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, and Mel White come to mind, for example.

Which brings me to…

2. Denny Burke is an idiot

Or at least he isn’t very kind to Christianity Today’s article on women to watch.  Instead of appreciating the diversity of women on the list, he goes off on how CT didn’t do enough to highlight the differences in belief about women’s roles.  Well, of course, Burke, you fool.  The point of the CT article was to honor Christian women and what they’re doing, not point out their doctrinal error (see above).  I don’t normally read the comments, but the first comment says, “Rachel Held Evans — what do you mean, ‘non-evangelical’?”  This got my attention, so I read on—only to discover a long, long discussion about whether Rachel Held Evans is or is not evangelical.  Because that’s the real point, of course.

And speaking of women…

3. Slacktivist shreds Kent Shaffer

Oh, Slacktivist.  You are so many, many kinds of awesome.  This post quotes Shaffer’s disgusting response to Christian women bloggers and links every single word to a blog written by a woman.  And in case you missed my mad tweeting about it, I’m on that list too!  (It’s in the last set of links, the final word “always.”)  I am honored to be counted among the likes of Alise Write, Andrea Cumbo, Grace, Kimberly Knight, Crystal St. Marie Lewis, and others.  Many thanks to my cousin for pointing this out to me, I would have missed it otherwise.  (And double points for this being posted on my birthday!)

4. If only

If only this were a sign that Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill were moving into the 21st century.  I agree with this woman’s points, but I doubt that her actual presentation at Mars Hill will be anything outside of the narrowly defined roles that church expects from women.  Still, nice to see another woman who doesn’t like women’s conferences.

5. On juggling

Shannon M. Howell says it nicely.  We all have a lot of plates to keep in the air.  If anyone figures it out, please email me.  I’ll get to your message sometime next month.

6. Boy Scouts of America are idiots too

And right here, folks, is exactly why my son is not a boy scout.  (Not that he is or isn’t gay, but I won’t give my money to an organization that actively discriminates against people who are non-het and non-religious.)  Keeping a hard-working kid from being awarded his Eagle Scout is just not cool, I don’t care what your policies are.  Seriously, BSA? Get a new hobby.  Also, if your kid is a scout, sorry, but I’m not buying your popcorn.

7. Jonathan Zeng: heartache and hope

This piece is beautifully written.  It breaks my heart that there is still such discrimination against people for who they are.  At the same time, Zeng captures the spirit of creativity and working out our pain.  I am reminded again of the importance of standing alongside people in the midst of trials.  I hope that we are teaching our children to do the same.

I hope you all have a great weekend, see you Monday for the next installment of 50 Shades!

A Line in the Sandbox

We love to categorize, don’t we?  There are rules, lines we’re not supposed to cross.  Increasingly, we’re seeing that in popular culture.  Being a mom, I see it mostly in the toy aisles.  There are rows and rows of pink and purple toys, dolls and stuffed animals, dress-up clothes and cooking supplies for girls.  There are cars and trucks, action figures, and power tools for boys.  Every single store I’ve ever been in that sells toys has them arranged this way.  Yes, there are a few gender-neutral toys that get their own aisles.  But not as many, and even those tend to be arranged with some gender segregation in mind.  For example, craft projects “for girls” are usually separated from the rest.  Packaging and marketing also have an impact, often featuring either boys or girls depending on the target audience for a particular item.

The following videos from January and February 2012 illustrate nicely what I have been saying about kids’ toys for a long time:

 

I really have nothing against the toys that are available for my kids to play with.  I don’t object to the fact that my son (despite his love for all things dance) enjoys monster trucks.  I’m completely cool with my daughter playing with My Little Pony.  But let me make it clear: I would be just fine with it if it were the other way around.  In fact, sometimes it is.  They often play with each other’s toys, or play together with one set or another.  It was my daughter who came up with the idea to make My Little Ponies go flying using a Hot Wheels car launcher.

The real issue is not the toys.  It’s not the cookware or the cars.  It’s not the pink or the blue.  The problem is that we’ve tried to give toys and colors a gender.  We’ve marketed toys to boys or girls as though it’s inappropriate for them to play with whatever they want.  We’ve color-coded them so that everyone is clear who it should belong to.  As a result, even the toys that are supposed to be for everyone, such as Legos, end up being labeled “for boys” or “for girls.”

Instead of trying to fight the toy companies, I have a better idea.  Let’s just lay off the stereotyping in our own families.  If we stop making a big deal over a boy who wants a cook stove, a Barbie, or anything that comes in pink, or a girl who wants an Incredible Hulk action figure, a remote-control helicopter, or something with swords and skulls on it, we’re already doing better than the companies that produce such things.

I’ve never told either of my kids that there are things they can’t have because boys (or girls) don’t play with those things.   Just like I don’t tell my daughter she can’t have wilderness adventures or my son that he can’t dance, I refuse to dictate their playthings.  And the best part is, it doesn’t change anything about what anyone else does.  If you have a daughter who loves pink and princesses, she is every bit as wonderful as a girl who likes mud pies and baseball (or one who likes mud pies and princesses).  If your son prefers football and monsters, he is just as awesome as if he enjoys ballet and dolls (or football and ballet).

What do you say, can we stop making toys (and life) all about gender?

Notable News: Mutuality Edition, Week of June 1-8, 2012

My apologies for posting this so late in the day.  Here are my favorites from the week of synchroblogging inspired by the week of mutuality.

1. First, kudos to Rachel Held Evans for her outstanding work.  She will be continuing to post over the weekend, so be sure to check out what else she has in store (including her own highlights of the best).  Her series has been fantastic.  Here are the posts, in order of appearance:

2. Christian Marriage: Fail?  Pam Hogeweide is one of my favorite bloggers.  In her post My Failed Christian Marriage, she talks about the struggle to fit the ideal for Christian marriage and the joy in finding freedom from those restraints.

3. Fabulosity on Alise Wright’s blog.  Another blogger I just can’t get enough of.  First, Alise catches our attention by reminding us that You Don’t Have to Take Your Clothes Off to Be Egalitarian.  Then, she has the always wonderful Sarah Moon share her thoughts on Too Much in a fantastic guest post.  If you don’t read anything else, read these posts!

4. A couple of men weigh in.  I always like the way Travis Mamone shares his heart.  This post is a good way to introduce some deeper theological constructs without getting bogged down with terminology; it’s nicely put.  Through the trending topic #mutuality2012 on Twitter, I discovered Jonathan Aigner’s post sorry, little girl: a patriarchal response.  Great thoughts on the deficiency of the female gender and faithfully following God’s gifts in our own lives without causing guilt in others.

5. The Best of the Rest.  I could go on and on, listing everything I like and why.  Instead, I will simply list the several other posts that I found meaningful.  Even though we’re all writing on the same thing, each person has a unique voice, an interesting perspective.  What an amazing week it’s been!

Feel free to leave a comment with any blog posts you like on the subject of mutuality/egalitarianism, whether they’re from this week or not.  Don’t forget to link to your own if you wrote something!

 

Another view on Biblical submission?

Since the last post was short, here’s another brief one to round out my own thoughts on mutuality (see footnote).  You can read the other three here, here, and here.  Tomorrow, I’ll recap the week with my favorite posts from around the web, so don’t go anywhere.

My final thought on this subject has to do with same-sex relationships.  As many of you know, this is a topic I love to challenge the Church on.  Today is no exception, but it comes in the form of a question.

How do Christians in same-sex long-term relationships/marriages handle the issue of submission?

Okay, I get it.  The majority of complementarians probably also believe same-sex marriages are outside God’s will.  Fine. But for those who don’t subscribe to that view, this is a teachable moment.  After all, being complementarian doesn’t mean being conservative in all ways (though the correlation is probably pretty high).

According to complementarian theology, men and women have certain roles within marriage.  These roles can be very conservative, encouraging women to stay home, care for the household, and be the nurturing spirit of the family while men work and are strong and masculine.  But these roles can be more flexible, recognizing that women can work and men can stay home, that household chores can be divided equally, and that children are everyone’s responsibility.  The main point is really that men are the spiritual head of the household and that women should respect them as such, trusting their husbands to lead the family.

I am not certain this would work in a same-sex relationship.

Honestly, I don’t know.  I’ve only ever been a woman married to a man.  I’m not trying to be irreverent, nor am I trying to be ignorant.  I’ve never asked this question before.  I guess I never thought about it much.  Come to think of it, I’ve never given much thought to what my role in my own marriage is “supposed” to be, much less anyone else’s.

I do wonder if this is what some people object to when it comes to same-sex marriage, though.  Is it the idea that two men or two women couldn’t reflect or represent God’s relationship with the church properly?  I suppose that is an issue, in some people’s minds.

Anyway, I am sincerely interested in the answers.  I would love some of my Christian friends in same-sex relationships to help me out here.  How do you read and interpret the Bible on the subject of submission?  Is it irrelevant to you, or do you choose to read those words in a way that is meaningful within your particular relationship?  Have you ever heard a message given on this subject that you found applies to you?

Chime in, don’t be shy!  I’ll bet there are a lot of people interested in the responses.  And be sure to let me know if I’m overstepping the bounds of being appropriate here—I’m not above loving correction and I will be happy to remove this post if it’s offensive.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.

A new view of submission

This is the third post on the subject of mutuality (see footnote).

I got some nice responses to my first post in this series, including a mention in this post (which I enjoyed reading; I appreciate the writer’s generous, loving tone).  On my Facebook page, one friend wrote,

[To] us that word [submission] doesn’t mean authority it mean[s] “source.”

I found myself thinking about that, because I liked it, but couldn’t place exactly why.  Then I realized that I liked it because it has profound implications for both complementarians and egalitarians.  In other words, we can both be right, because in our unique marriages, we can figure out with our spouses what to do with it.

I looked up the word “source” and found the following definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary:

  1. The point at which something springs into being or from which it derives or is obtained.
  2. The point of origin, such as a spring, of a stream or river.
  3. One that causes, creates, or initiates; a maker.
  4. One, such as a person or document, that supplies information: A reporter is only as reliable as his or her sources.
  5. Physics. The point or part of a system where energy or mass is added to the system.

Each one of those definitions can hold meaning within a marriage.  Each one can be a point of blessing for a couple, depending on how they view their roles and how they are seeking to honor one another and Jesus.  The beautiful part about the word is that when it’s applied to the passage about mutual submission, it can take on a whole new dimension.

Personally, being kind of a geek, I like definition number 5.  It suits us well, as my husband and I both score major Nerd Points, both in our marriage and in life generally.  If marriage is a system, then it certainly makes sense that “mass” would have been added when we entered into it!

I would encourage you, with your spouse, to engage with this concept of “source” in marriage.  What does it mean for you?  How does it work in practical terms?  In what ways does this make you feel either more free or more restricted?  I hope that in digging deeper, you will be able to find peace with how your relationship works.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.

What if a man can’t lead?

I’m continuing my posts this week on the subject of mutuality.  Today’s topic: Exceptions to the rule.

Whenever I hear the words “Biblical womanhood” I want to do several things:  Throw something large, heavy, and preferably breakable; scream; hide until whoever said it goes away.

I understand that a certain kind of relationship is to be expected when you take a particular female personality type and a particular male personality type and put them together in a marriage.  And you know what?  That’s awesome for them that they have figured out how to make their marriage work, honoring their natural styles.  But I’d rather they keep their opinions about my marriage to themselves, thanks.  My marriage isn’t built on obeying a certain set of rules, goals, traits, or what have you.

Anyway, one thing that always concerns me is the number of people who are left out of the equation.  I can handle it.  I’m used to being a non-traditional woman among traditional Christians.  Story of my life, for many, many years.  No, I’m more frustrated by the traditional people left out in the cold by people hawking Biblical womanhood.

There are a lot of women who can’t fulfill this role even if they want to.  As one friend put it, “I don’t like hearing all the time about how I’m supposed to submit to my husband.  I don’t have a husband.  Am I supposed to go find one so I can submit to him?”  Another friend asked, “What am I supposed to do?  I’m a single parent.  I have to be both mom and dad to my kids.  Who do I submit to?”

Last night, my husband and I generated a list of people who might have some difficulty with the typical conservative marriage expectations:

  • Women whose husbands have died or abandoned their family
  • Women who have never been married
  • Women whose husbands are ill or injured and unable to “lead” their families
  • Women whose husbands have left the Christian faith and cannot be the spiritual authority
  • Women who became Christians but their husbands did not (see above)
  • Women whose husbands are deep in addiction
  • Women whose husbands are abusive
  • Women whose husbands are doing things that are morally corrupt or illegal
  • Women whose husbands are incarcerated
  • Women whose husbands spend large amounts of time away from home (due to work or military service)

That’s an awful lot of exceptions to the rule.

I am sure that conservative people would have some snappy answer for all of it.  Or else they might say that of course there are exceptions, this applies to “regular” people.  That’s fascinating, but it doesn’t do much to help the people who are in the midst of those situations.  It doesn’t help the woman who has lived her entire marriage being the kind of Biblical wife she believed she should be, and now finds herself without a spiritual rudder because her husband has Alzheimer’s.  It doesn’t help the woman who suddenly finds herself a single mother of three because her husband has left her for another woman.  It doesn’t help the woman who has given her whole life in service to others, believing her highest calling wasn’t marriage but the mission field.  It doesn’t help the woman whose husband returns to her every night, blind drunk.  It doesn’t help the woman whose husband has spent the better part of their marriage beating her and calling her names.

Instead of labeling those women “irregular” and “exceptions to the rule,” why not make a point of helping those women gain strength in Christ?  I know there are support groups for people dealing with life issues.  However, shouldn’t the church be another place they can turn?  There are more women in these situations than you know.  Instead of reminding them of the ways they are different from all the “normal” families, where Dad is the strong head of the household, can’t we do more to empower those people who don’t fit that mold?

If we really want to build healthy marriages and healthy families, we need to start by removing language that says or implies that proper, Biblical marriage is the pinnacle of existence.  We need to talk more about how families can be strengthened in God-honoring and people-honoring ways that have less to do with gender roles and more to do with respecting each person’s needs within the home.  When we can do that, we will bring hope and healing for all women, regardless of relationship status.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.