Gender Stereotypes in Church and Why Women Should Avoid Them

This morning I was getting ready for work and the phrase “strong men” echoed in my head. For years in my cult, Master’s Commission (with subsequent time at Our Savior’s Church, another destructive force in my life) I was told that I should only date and marry a ‘strong man.’

What does this mean, exactly?

The overall message is this: Conform to gender stereotypes and “biblical” messages. The man should be the head of the household and the woman should be his subordinate. If you’re a man, there’s only one way to be a man–by being the boss of your wife, unafraid of anything, and making every decision related to your wife and family. If you’re a woman, you must submit to everything your husband says, even (and sometimes if) your husband abuses you or is disrespectful to you, you must sacrifice all your dreams for childbearing, and you must not depart from these things.

As many times as I’ve written about this subject, I don’t think that it has ever left my mind because it’s so unnerving especially now that I’m out of that group, and have separated myself from all of those people’s influence in my life. I’m living happily in sunny California and listening to birds chirping outside my window right now. My cat is lounging on my bed next to me.

I love my life; however, there was a time when I prayed for a “strong man” to marry because I thought that was what I needed and wanted in life. What was I thinking?!

Here are some advice of my own–to women–contrary to the Marry a Strong Man mantra:

Become a Strong Woman

My own philosophy is not to make a man responsible for being your boss, your leader, or your guru but to be able to be those things to yourself. This will only make him feel pressured with added responsibility and might even make you seem pretty co-dependent.

Not to mention, it’s nice to dream something up and be able to do it yourself. Not that we don’t need mentors, teachers and guides–but Christian fundamentalism makes those people our gods instead of our guides.

Work on being a wholesome fully capable person because you want to be the best version of yourself you CAN be; not because some pastor told you that in order to find a “strong man” you have to be a “strong woman.” Because that’s just bullsh*t.

Never be Anyone’s Subordinate

There’s just no reason (except for archaic & sexist thinking; which hopefully you have discarded) to be someone’s subordinate. If you’re a woman, you don’t belong UNDER a man–whether it’s your father, your pastor or leader’s authority, or your husband. I’m not writing to little girls here. I’m writing to women (young and old) who’ve had an oppressive pastor, father, or husband.

You’re not below anyone. You’re not less than anyone.

Success is also for women

Years into Master’s Commission and Our Savior’s Church Staff, I was dreaming big things for my life. I wanted to help all kinds of people and really actively live out my faith (faith that I had at the time). I had plans and dreams of what I could accomplish.

Yet, I was told that women didn’t do those kinds of things. My future husband might and I could help him. But, women didn’t do that. Women didn’t go oversees to run missionary movements. They didn’t start humanitarian efforts to help provide food, clothing and water to AIDS patients in Africa.

Men did.

Well, contrary to what I was taught is what is true–success is for women, too. If you are a Christian, as I once was, or a non-Christian success is not something that is determined by your gender nor is success something that is measured in dollar signs.

Follow YOUR dreams

If you’re alive, you have some kind of ideal or dreams about your life. Something you want to accomplish with your life. Something YOU want to do that would make you happy.

Don’t spend your entire life living your husbands dreams, or your pastors dreams. Take a moment to evaluate what you’d like to do with your own life–what are your dreams and hopes?

Now go get them. It’s not wrong. 🙂

Don’t forsake your dreams and desires to your mans

Marry a Partner, not a Leader

I was always taught to marry a leader because those who taught me thought a man must be a leader and a woman could not be a leader.

Since then, I’ve discovered that marrying a leader would put things grossly out of balance. Women aren’t to be led. We’re not horses. We’re human beings who happen to have tits. That doesn’t make us an animal.

Normal Men are Best

Men who are normal are best. They’re better than STRONG men. Designating a man as strong or weak, in fundamentalist terms is simply a way to belittle men and women who don’t fall under antiquated gender standards.

The point is: be yourself and toss out the garbage your pastor is teaching about gender stereotypes.

It’s not the 50’s.

There exist in our world hyper-masculine men and feminine men, and everything in between. Whether it’s a product of our culture, family upbringing, or social conformity, men are who they are. I don’t believe they should have to change into becoming what a pastor tells them they should.

The same for women. Some women are tomboys, some are feminine, some a little bit in between.

But so what?

Don’t let your church define what type of man or woman you should BE or what type of man or woman you should MARRY.