Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I've read lots of articles and blog posts about teachers and parents who are trying to teach children to place less importance on classical gender roles. You even hear of parents who raise their children to be completely "gender free" (like that little boy in Britain who didn't know if he was a boy or girl. His parents just wanted him to be himself... or um, itself?)
Anyway, for every teacher that tells their students that girls can play with Hotwheels and boys can play with dolls, I've heard of exactly no one ever refuting that and saying that it's unfeminine or emasculating or whatever. 
Because I think that everyone in the entire world agrees that girls can play with cars and boys can wear pink. It's not a big deal anymore. It's like whatever. 

Which is, of course, a good thing. 
But that being said, I do think that Gender is important and when my little boys grow into probably-very-tall men, I want them to be men. 
There are a few classic gender roles that I want them to embrace, and a few that I want them to ignore. 
Recently, while reading I came across this description, "And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times" and in the margins of the book, teenager-Becky had written the words "Future Husband." (Alma 53:20)

A day later, I read {this article} about the role of men in society, family, and the world (pertaining specifically to men of God). It's so good and you should read it. 
The author quoted this line from the book Manning Up,  "It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that whereas girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess, or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors of women and children; this was always their primary social role. Today, however, with women moving ahead in an advanced economy, provider husbands and fathers are now optional, and the character qualities men had needed to play their role—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete and even a little embarrassing.”

Guess what. I expect my husband to be able to protect me, with courage and strength. I expect him to provide for me, through his abilities, determination, and work ethic.  I definitely expect require fidelity to myself and our marriage. 
I want him to fulfill the classic roles of manliness. 
(Likewise, I think it's acceptable for him to expect me to fulfill classic roles of womanhood. I can run our home, nurture our children, and you know... mend things and cook.)
But I also think that the beauty of relationships between men and women, is that I may be "super womanly" and cry during all movies ever, and he can be "super manly" and shovel our driveway when it snows, but we we have a partnership. 
If he really hated shoveling, I would tackle it. (Or use my wily ways to convince other people to shovel in exchange for cookies.) If he cried during every movie, I wouldn't mind - in fact, I'd probably like it.
I certainly want my sons to be able to cook, to clean up after themselves, to be gentle and kind, to be good with children - and with all people, I want them to be sensitive to needs and feelings of others, and to be artistic and creative. 
(Likewise, I want any daughters that my future may hold to be able to provide for themselves, to be hardworking, and courageous, etc.)

Society is hard to live in. In the past, women struggled with their inability to work, to vote, to even think for themselves or be taken seriously. But I think that now, men and women struggle with their right to be men and women. 
I get a surprising amount of flack, (and I'm pretty sure that a lot of my high school friends and extended family members are quietly horrified) by my adherence to classic gender roles. 
I want to be Ma Ingalls. I don't want a job or career. I don't want to wear pants to church. I want to stay home and clean up after my kids, and make them dinner every.single.night. I want to praise my husband's athletic and physical abilities, while mostly hanging out at home doing nothing physical ever. I want to cry during movies, and I want to knit hats for my children. 
I don't want to be independent. At all. I hate the very idea of it! I want to be dependent on Travis forever. 
But I want him to be pretty dependent on me. 
I want to be a woman. I want my talents and skills to revolve around my ability to care for others. I want my husband and sons to be men, and for their skills to revolve around their ability to protect and provide for others. 
When I put it that way, it seems like both of our talents and uses are the same: we take care of each other and our families, but we do it in different ways. 
And that's good. Because food isn't enough to live on, but trust me - neither is fort-building and kisses. 

I saw this really lovely video last week. I'd actually already started writing this post before I saw it. 

So what are your thoughts? What do you want to be, and what do you want your children to grown into? How do you feel about classic gender roles?

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Boni Lady said...

Great post & oh so true! I have always said that I wish "women's lib" had never happened... that I love the opportunity to be mom & wife to my kids & husband! I love being able to serve them! I once heard a woman say that her God-Given Ministry is to be able to serve her family! I love that!!

Jessica Smith said...

I agree with so much of what you said (minus the religious affiliation) I just want my children to know that I CHOSE this and if I ever have daughters that they are not EXPECTED to stay at home and cook. They can want a career and that's ok, too. And my son will know how to cook and do laundry! :)

Nana B said...

Awesome post Becky, I really like men to be men and women to be women but they can then choose whether to have a career or to stay at home. Neither choice makes them less a woman. And men do need to take care of and protect their family if they choose to become family men. And children should be free to play with any toy they want, be it cars or dolls, they will eventually grow into their role in life, with the help of good parenting. And most of all faith in God will help bring it all about.

Betsy Hite Reddoch said...

My favorite thing that you said in this post is "we take care of each other and our families, but we do it in different ways." which is the whole point of families I think. My husband and I have a real partnership going, which is the only way we can make our family work with our careers, our kids, our relationship, our faith, etc. Traditional gender roles aren't really a "thing" around our house, but respect is. And so is love. As long as my boys learn that, I think they'll do just fine in their future families. And btw, I super respect your (and other women's) choice to be an at-home mom. Each parent must consult his/her soul on the career/family balance question. I'm happy whenever a family finds the right fit.

Emily said...

Thanks for your thoughts and video. I loved it. Have you ever heard of the blog The Art of Manliness? It's a website dedicated to teaching men how to be real men, with articles about anything from how to treat a lady to how to shave like your grandpa. One of my favorite articles is called Teaching My Son to be a Man (http://artofmanliness.com/2008/12/02/teaching-my-son-to-be-a-man/). I think there's a lot of stuff on there that will come in handy when my son's a bit older.

amberly said...

Amen. I'm a junior at BYU studying family life, and everything that I've learned/heard/read/discovered is that gender is important, and that when gender becomes ambiguous, things get weird. Sounds like God knew what he was talking about when He said, "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual identity and purpose."

jo said...

Wow. What an incredibly interesting post! I so completely disagree with you but I really really appreciate your post! This is so eye-opening to me and I love when someone can eloquently express their opinion.
I tend to shun gender roles. I'm not quite to the extreme of raising my kids to not know what gender they are but I definitely don't go out of my way to associate them with any "traditional" male activities or roles. There are qualities, as people, that I want them to have and I don't go so far as to differentiate them based on gender.
That said, I don't dress them androgynously or buy them gender neutral toys. I just base things on what they (and I) like.
Also - hopefully its not offensive to so blatently disagree in this forum. I just thought you might appreciate such a different opinion, like I do yours. :)

madamelinae said...

Just like jo I disagree with you.. Or well, disagreeing might be the wrong word - because I am in no position to agree or disagree with what you're doing. It just would not work for me.
Big part of it is because I was raised by a single working mom who taught us that everyone has to do what they feel is right for them. For her it was having a career and thus sacrificing precious time with her children in order to stay (primarily financially) independent. I am currently staying at home with our first daughter born in November. Not necessarily because I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, but because anything else would not have been feasible for us at the moment. My boyfriend would like to stay at home with at least one of our future kids for at least one year (normal time frame for m/paternal leave in Germany) and I would like to get my master's - so it's all just some kind of puzzle of finding ways that could work.
I like knowing that both my partner and I could survive independently, but that not having to creates more space for the things we want; that we don't have to be independent. I like that our daughter is taken care of and protected and provided for and all these things in total, not because I do it or he does it. I love being at home with her at the moment because it gives me the chance to indulge in hobbies I completely neglected while studying (like sewing), so somehow I am using the potential I have to be creative and caring. But this is not the only potential I have and I would like use the other(s) for at least some time in the future. Part of the reason I am so madly in love with my boyfriend is because I know he has all of these potentials, too. I don't really believe in gender roles as such.. And I love knowing that we both can take on either role this life has to offer.

gillian claire said...

love this becky. "i want to be ma ingalls" -i love it!! ;)

Angela said...

HALLELUJAH!!! I am not the only one who thinks like this anymore! However, I wear jeans to church when I want to. ;-)

You should read Wild At Heart by John Eldridge and Captivating by umm....his wife and Him. I can't remember her name!!! All I can think of is Joan and that is SO not right. Anyway...it talks about God's plan for the genders and how it's ok (and even good) to live up to gender roles for the most part. I LOVED Wild At Heart. Captivating was a little too frou frou for me, but that's because I still have a bit of feminism running through my veins! (Not the liberal definition...just the "I can do it myself if I need to" version of feminism.)

Anyway...let me know if you read them!! :-)


Angela said...

Stasi Eldredge is her name!!! (John's wife...co-author of Captivating.) I should've Googled it before. I'm a dork sometimes...

MARCIE said...

I love the comments. Some are Opposing , but not rude about it. Good discussion. Certainly women often need to take on many roles, whether they choose to or not.