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Why Christian Gender Stereotypes Can Be Harmful

March 9, 2022

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 

Genesis 1:26-28 (NRSV)

So often in our culture, and oftentimes more so in the Church, we see a stark division between genders. Now we can, hopefully, all agree that men and women are different, biologically, psychologically, etc. However, we tend to gender every aspect of life to the point that everything is either masculine or feminine. I would argue that most of what we experience is neither masculine nor feminine. And in the beginning, when we see God create humankind, He actually gives the first commands without differentiating between genders. But then sin came and God cursed men and women separately. 

From then on we’ve seen humans try to almost completely separate men and women. Men are strong, smart, aggressive, etc. Women are weak, meek, submissive, etc. And while there are general differences between the genders, men and women are more alike than they are different. Not to mention there will always be exceptions. 

Before I dive into some of these harmful gender stereotypes, I want to pause to say that men and women are equally created in God’s image. So often we see masculinity portrayed as more holy and Godly. I just want to clarify here that femininity is an equal portrayal of God. Femininity comes from God. Though He is referred to as “He”, God does not have a gender and both masculine and feminine traits come from God.

But let’s talk about some gender stereotypes that really aren’t accurate, or are used in a harmful way.

First, money.

Money is a huge part of our lives, we can’t avoid that. Historically, men were the breadwinners. There were reasons for that and that would be a whole different discussion. Today, however, women also work and earn money. In a marriage relationship, the husband or wife might make more money. That has nothing to do with how “manly” the husband is. It has to do with what careers our society values. If a woman is a doctor and a man is a teacher, obviously the woman will make more. Is that bad? No! They are both using their God given talents to provide for their family in their way. Along with that, depending on your relationship, the man or woman might handle the finances. That’s totally fine. Some men are good at math and financial planning, some aren’t. And the same goes for women. So let whoever is best suited to it handle the responsibility.

Second, as I’ve already mentioned, natural talents aren’t inherently masculine or feminine.

If a woman excels at STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), she shouldn’t hide that. She should celebrate that and use it to glorify God. If a man is wonderfully creative and talented in an art form, he should enjoy it and use it to glorify God. You will hear pastors say that women shouldn’t pursue certain careers (police officers, politicians, doctors, business jobs, etc.). But there’s no good reason for that other than saying that women shouldn’t have a career and should instead be homemakers, but that’s no longer a necessity!

Third, parenting roles.

We have this classic view of men being the tough, somewhat distant, father and women being the nurturing, caring mother that lives to take care of her children. Again, that’s not the necessity. Even more so, when we look at the story of the prodigal son, who do we see running to greet the son that returns? The father, hiking up his robes, degrading himself to show love to his son. Some women are natural born nurturers. But some men are as well. I’ve known plenty of dads who love being stay at home dads, and plenty of women who would go crazy being stuck at home with their children all day. Use the skills that God gave you to be the best parent to your children, not the parent others expect you to be.

Lasty, I just want to say this list could go on and on. We could talk about hunting, fishing, backpacking, sports, music, reading, and all sorts of things. God created you, He knitted you together in your mother’s womb. If you have interests, skills, desires that don’t fit what your society says your gender should enjoy, don’t let that stop you. Across time and space gender roles have changed dramatically. Did you know that makeup and high heels were originally created for men? Did you know that 100 years ago pink was a masculine color and blue was feminine? There are differences between men and women. But most things in life aren’t gendered. Don’t let someone else box you in and tell you who you can be. If God gave you a talent, use it to glorify Him. 

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