It ends with us: the toxicity of gender roles

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Whether you’re male or female, you received messages growing up about gender. Maybe they were spoken out loud, like being told that “women want love and men want respect”, or maybe they were more subtle, like the way you were supposed to dress or whether your boyfriend had to ask your dad permission to take you on a date. Messages about our manhood or womanhood deeply shape who we perceive ourselves to be and our confidence in our interactions with the opposite gender.

To write this article, I posted a Facebook status asking what messages people received about gender. Here are a few of their responses:

For women:

  • “Don’t be too successful or don’t share your opinions too freely or else you will scare men away.”
  • “I was warned against ever making the first move or pursuing a man; it’s the woman’s role to wait patiently and passively and the man’s to pursue. If you, a woman, go after a guy, you are a slut, and you don’t know how to wait on the Lord. (Also, men don’t like it and won’t date you.) I kissed him first. There were no objections.”
  • “Men want respect; women want affection.” . . . Being told that as a woman I didn’t want to be respected was actually very hurtful (and a little insulting).”
  • “Only guys have strong sexual drives and struggle with sexual sin.”

For men:

  • “You should have more friends who are boys, otherwise you’ll start acting like a girl.”
  • “‘If you like romcoms, you’re probably gay.’ Good romcoms are pretty amazing. Sue me.”
  • “Always beware of sexual sin, which amounted to, be afraid of the woman you love at all times. I have since chilled out after realizing that being afraid of my girlfriend wasn’t loving to her or to me and was no way to live.”
  • “The idea that young men and women can’t be friends seems to have led at least a few young men in my life to be completely unable to have a female friend without either developing romantic feelings for her, or developing delusions about said friend having romantic feelings for him.”

You or I may not have experienced all of these messages, but they all have one thing in common: the restrictive boxes that exist around gender in our Christian community hurt more people than they help. When we tighten our grip on definitions of manhood and womanhood, we make people who deserve to belong in society—a 30-something single, a full-time working mom, a guy who doesn’t like sports—feel like untouchables instead of equally valuable members of our church community.

The only party that benefits from suffocating gender roles is the fear inside of all of us; fear that society will change if we relinquish the rules we’ve clung to for hundreds of years.

And these messages are passed down from generation, to generation, to generation. Do you know how they’re being spread? By the generation that came before them. You’d think we would learn, having been wounded by the same messages, but somehow we keep repeating them instead of nipping them at the bud.

It needs to end with us. Let’s make this the last generation that ever has to deal with that crap, because it really doesn’t do anything to positively benefit society. Why inflict the same pain on your future kid that you experienced now? I am convinced that in order for the next generation to be better off than we are, we must intentionally work to rewrite the narratives that we receive—if we don’t, we will unintentionally pass them on. Because apathy is not a neutral attitude; it positively benefits the structures that already exist in society.

And maybe, one day, we will wake up in a world that has taken another step toward loving others better.

Tables in the Wilderness: A spiritual upheaval

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I know very, very little about Christianity. It’s almost embarrassing how little I know. I was raised in a Non-denominational church, memorized the Bible verses, knew the Sunday school answers, and worked the system flawlessly.

I always assumed when I graduated college and settled down I would go to a church like the one I grew up in. I never considered that I would want anything different.

And then I read A Table in the Wilderness. And I was challenged to reconsider.

Preston Yancey is young to be writing a memoir, but that doesn’t mean his words don’t have value. You don’t have to be a Millennial to be moved. He tells the ageless, time-told story of finding everything and realizing you have nothing. Watching it all slip through your fingers, and then rebuilding your life brick-by-brick.

Preston is the most honest writer I know. I am continually moved by his courage to paint himself in a less than respectable light, because that is what makes me trust him. He is a reliable narrator, freeing us to read without doubt. He tells the story of the disenchanted, the hardened, and those who have been wounded by the flaws of the Church. Those of us who have thought we were alone can find a place in his story.

Because of stories like Preston’s, I have been given permission to seek. And I will, until I find the place I’m looking for.

I pray I will know when I get there.

 

 

You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

1 thing adults should know: Thoughts from a Millennial

I’ve seen so many posts lately titled things like “Why You Shouldn’t Get Married Young”, “Why College Students Are Disengaged in the Classroom”, and “Reasons Why Millennials are Obsessed with Technology/Leaving the Church/Angry with the World”**. I used to read them out of curiosity, but I’ll be honest: I don’t even bother to click on most of them anymore. They all say something along the same lines: “we” (either Generation X or older Millennials) see similar behaviors occurring in this age group but we don’t know why, so we’re going to formulate an explanation on their behalf.

Speaking to an entire generation is really dangerous. Whenever your audience is a whole age group, you have to allow for many exceptions. People have entirely different backgrounds, family situations, and life experiences by the time they are even in high school. I rarely relate to the majority of nineteen year olds, regardless of the fact that we’re all the same age. Whenever I see articles directed at telling me things, they’re usually assuming I’m immature and telling me stuff I already know.

So, from a nineteen year old girl who is a Millennial: please stop.

Stop telling me why I have a problem, whether or not I have a problem, and who is responsible for my problem. I appreciate that you care, and I appreciate that you want to help, but the beauty of advice is that it is most meaningful when sought out and asked for. I remember very few blog posts that told me how to live my life, but I remember almost every conversation when I asked for the opinion of someone I admired and they told me what their life experiences taught them. When you have a personal relationship with someone, it frames the background for a deeper understanding of their advice and the life choices behind it.

When an opinion is given as a fact, or as a recipe for a successful life (“Follow these 5 steps to have [fill in the blank]!”), there is no allowance for the fact that life does not have a One-Size-Fits-All. What worked for you might not work for somebody else, and that isn’t anyone’s fault–it’s just the recognition of reality. We’re all different. Let’s celebrate that instead of fearing it.

Instead of sitting around speculating about why we behave the way we do, feel free to ask us. I, for one, would be eager and completely willing to share my thoughts if I believed it would increase my chances of being understood instead of criticized.

I’m not saying you can’t be an adult and share your life experiences in the blogosphere with a younger audience–it’s how you do it. If you’re preaching, chances are good that no one will hear you out. If you’re telling your story, an experience that is yours to tell and what you learned from it in a vulnerable and genuine way, you could make a huge impact. It’s all in the delivery. I can’t speak for all Millennials, but I know being preached at feels completely different from reading someone’s story. It’s the stories that make an impact.

I recognize that this blog post would be entirely unfair if all of the blame was cast on the older generation. I acknowledge and accept responsibility for the fact that Millennials can be childish, entitled, ignorant, and cocky. Sometimes I think I know more than I actually do. But everything we learned as children, we learned from you. If some Millennials are disengaged and can’t maintain healthy relationships, chances are healthy relationships were never modeled for them by the adults in their lives. If some are lazy, chances are they were never taught to have good work ethic. The older generation is not entirely responsible, but it would be ignorant to cast all the blame on “kids these days”. If you are concerned and frustrated with the younger generation, remember that it is a two-way street.

I know letting us speak for ourselves takes a lot of faith and trust, and maybe you don’t have that in us. If that’s the case, I’m sorry. There are a lot of immature children in my generation. But there are also a lot of awesome young adults aspiring to go above and beyond where the bar has been set. Just like any other adult, we need trust and encouragement, but we also need to be able to make mistakes. Trial and error is the best way to learn, and my favorite way to learn, even if it hurts sometimes.

For those of you who have put your trust and faith in me, let me screw up sometimes, and didn’t tell me how to live my life: thank you. Because of you I am well on my way to adulthood, and your trust in my intelligence and wisdom is what gave me the confidence I needed to make it. I wouldn’t be able to become an adult without you.

 

**None of these are actual articles, but made up titles that are very similar to ones I have actually seen. My intent is not to point fingers or cast blame on specific bloggers, but to give examples.