Monday, June 20, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen

This post is the first in a series (of indeterminate length) looking at gender roles through the lenses of Christianity and society. This topic has been on my mind a lot recently without any clear conclusions. I will be using this series to sort out my own thoughts while hopefully providing some insights for you to ponder as well.

My husband and I recently received an email from church with a link to Into The Wild Weekend. This program is coming to a location near us in the fall, so our pastoral associate shared the information with my husband. If you imagine a Catholic manly man, this program is for him. It includes "Fishing, Spearing, Food & Wild Game Preparation, Altar Building, Outdoor Church Building & Preparation." Seriously. The weekend also includes daily Mass, Rosary walks, and ample opportunities for hiking and using the archery range.


At first glance, I thought this was funny. As I think about it more, though, I find my initial reaction to be rather sad. Why shouldn't men have an opportunity for male fellowship, doing activities that interest and challenge them? If women gain a sense of community and accomplishment through feminine activities (potluck suppers, knitting clubs), why is it silly to give men a similar opportunity?

Little House on the Prairie The Musical

This will be the theme of the series: God created us male and female, distinct genders with different strengths, so that we may complement each other. Our culture, however, pushes for homogeneity. Women who wear long skirts, raise children, and work as a homemaker are old-fashioned. Men who hunt to eat (rather than for sport), do manual labor, and feel protective of their families are laughable stereotypes. Gender roles are seen as oppressive, relics of the time before feminism. At the same time, language becomes more coarse, dress codes become lax, and sex appeal is used to sell everything. Are these related? I think so. Join me this week (and maybe longer) as I explore these topics.

Images via Flickr


  1. You might be interested in this article which caused quite a sensation recently:

    When my son was born last year, I confess to being terribly disappointed because I really felt that I didn't know how to raise a boy. The ideas of the family in that article have really given me something to think about when it comes to how gender influences how we raise children.

    I will be tackling this topic too in the next month. It will be interesting to read your thoughts.

    Keep 'em coming, sister!

  2. Liana, we've been on a similar wavelength as of late. You can see some of my thoughts over at Working To Beat Hell. But I also think you and your husband should read Save The Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care by Kathleen Parker.


    Fr. Brian

  3. @Patti: Yeah, I read that when it hit Facebook... I think it would be very difficult to raise a genderless child. It reminds me of a post I read about unschooling, in which the author claimed he was not teaching his values to his children because he wanted them to have their own values. You can't raise kids in a vacuum. If you don't teach them (by modeling, explaining your choices, etc -- not a curriculum), someone else will. :-/ Certainly kids shouldn't be forced to follow strict gender roles, but I think part of having a strong 'sense of self' is understanding how you're made. - Cat ;-)

    @Fr. Brian: Hm, great minds think alike and so do ours! I enjoyed your article. I read a review of the book you mentioned and have been meaning to read it. It's at one of our local libraries, so maybe I'll get it soon. Thanks for the recommendation!