Thursday, August 20, 2015

Please, Just Stop. Please.

So I saw the news last week that Target is taking out the gender specific signage for its kids toys and bedding. I took it be a universally praised great first step. Yet somehow, some people found a way to make it controversial and, what do you know, according to my Facebook feed, it's broken down along political and religious lines.

For some reason, people (and yes, they are MY people, God love us) seem to think this is some push for transgender rights of all things?

I'll just say, from my perspective, Target's move doesn't go far enough. When we had a girl, my wife and I were pretty adamant about trying not to push "girliness" (or at least society's view of girliness) on her. We didn't necessarily want to draw those pink/blue lines, but were dismayed to find that, short of making our own clothes for her, there was no choice. If we wanted a blue shirt or a green one, we had to go to the "boys" section (and boys onesies even snap differently than girls so everyone can be sure to tell the difference!). The clothes were virtually identical - same bears or turtles or whatever - but on the "boy" colored ones the animals were wearing baseball uniforms and mechanic coveralls and stuff and the "girl" animals all had tutus and bows in their hair.

Now my daughter has grown (at three) to love princesses despite me being pretty careful to keep as much of that stuff out of her life as possible. However, she also likes soccer and building with blocks and racing matchbox cars along the floor. So far, at least, she seems to be choose what she likes - AND WE"RE REALLY HAPPY ABOUT IT!

This move from Target is something I and many other parents have been calling for for a long time. It's GREAT news. It's not something to get all in a huff about.

Speaking more in depth, though, many people seem to be upset because they believe that there are different roles for boys and girls to play - army trucks and tea parties if you will. That really pisses me off more than anything. (I wrote a lengthy post about this at one point.) People are people. They can like what they like. We do not have to be boxed in. The last thing I want for my kid is for her to be molded and shaped by someone else's idea of who she is or who she should be. Much of what's wrong with society is our human need to categorize people and our human need to try and meet those expectations. ANY move away from that system is overwhelmingly positive.

THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS GENDER ROLES. There aren't. Sorry if I'm stepping on toes here, but it's important.

In a society where so much of what we do and say to each other, the way we treat each other, the way we collectively pressure each other to act is dead wrong, harmful, and outrageous, please, please don't take one positive move in this system and run it into the ground. Especially don't do this if you're a Christian. At the very heart of the gospel is the message of love - that each and every one of us is loved just as we are; we don't need to change for anyone. We do change, of course, because that kind of unconditional love changes people. But we need to get the notion out there that people don't have to fit some mold to be loved.

Yes, it's just toys, but it ends up being so much more.

I can't count how many times MY people (us odd evangelicals) end up on the wrong side of things like this. Maybe we won't agree on politics or larger societal issues, but please don't be on the wrong side of this one. You're doing real harm to people and working against what's good and right.

How about we let our kids be kids and stop trying to tell them how to do it.


Anonymous said...

Sure, gender roles were just made up, I guess. All these millennium of people acting in certain ways because of gender were just fabrications duplicated across societies that had little to no interaction until modern times.

You can believe what you want but you might want to source something reliable, like a scientist or the Bible. You can't really destroy gender roles without some sort of evidence or reasoning. But hey, if you don't need a reason, this blog makes a great case.

Ryan said...

I linked to it in the piece, but perhaps you missed it - I wrote a much longer exploration of gender a while back. You can find it here - - my understanding of gender roles comes largely from my study of the Bible.

Anonymous said...

When I read proverbs 31, it sounds like there are definitely gender roles to me, and I try to live up to that woman of noble character, which includes preparing food and taking care of the house and my husband's needs. What are your thoughts on that?

Ryan said...

I think first and foremost people should fill the roles they're called and gifted to fill. No one should feel obligated to do something because it's "a man's job" or "women's work."

I believe firmly that we're created equal - complementary and communitarian sure, but not necessarily along gender lines.

Now there are certainly things men are more physically capable of doing, but as we've seen this week with two women finishing Army Ranger school - those things don't have to be limited to men.

Girls can like blue and trucks and getting dirty and our society shouldn't make them feel odd for doing so.

As for scripture, yes, there has been thousands of years of partiarchal rule, with pretty strict gender roles. I don't believe those are God's desire for humanity. Like many thing we've done for a long time that God doesn't like (war comes to mind) I believe in a patient, loving God who works with us as we develop and learn over time, constantly calling us to be better than we were and more like we're meant to be.

Part of that, I believe strongly, is to allow each person to be an individual - not trying to box them in to some role or position because of some trait they may share with other. This goes against our biology - we naturally categorize people and try to understand them by grouping, but this is an instinct we can and should work to overcome.

In a marriage, two people need to get everything done. However that works for you or anyone else, is good by me. I hope everyone can enjoy a marriage with mutual submission where no one spouse is "in charge," but I'm not about to lecture people who have great lives doing things that way.

The biggest thing for me is that we treat each person as an individual.