Missing the Target

I've been thinking a lot about gender over the last few years.

I'm a 35 year old white male and I am realizing I know nothing about it aside from what I was taught in high school biology & what I've "caught" about gender growing up in society.

One news story caught my eye this week. To be more accurate one response to a news story caught my eye.

Grant Castleberry, the executive director of the Council for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW), wrote a post called “Missing the Target: Some Brief Thoughts on Target’s Cultural Capitulation.” In his words:

Over the weekend, Target became the next corporate power, after Amazon, to rid themselves of all gender designations and labels for children’s toys and bedding.

Many of the assertions in this article bother me but none greater than this:

The Bible teaches that men are wired by God to protect and to pursue, so it is not surprising that they naturally like toys that by-and-large involve fighting, building, and racing. Women, on the other hand, are wired by God to nurture and to be pursued, so it is also not surprising that they largely enjoy playing with American Girl Dolls, Barbies, and Disney princess dresses.

Does that bother you?  If so, why?

I could write a lot of words about the binaries, dualistic thinking & stereotypes that I see in this article but I want to focus on this idea of MALE = PURSUER and FEMALE = PURSUED

I believe that the Bible has a lot to say about this but I don't feel that I'm reaching the same conclusion as Grant.

My good friend Tanya Riches posted up a powerful sermon last week on Bathsheba and points out that the "story of Bathsheba is a story of control and domination."

In this story David is no doubt cast in the role of pursuer and Bathsheba as the one pursued but is the Scripture trying to paint a picture of God's ultimate desire for how human relationships should operate?  Is the Scripture trying to condone what happens to Bathsheba?  Hear Tanya's words on this:

It is a story of willful disobedience to God, silenced voices, and gender power imbalances. It is a story of violence. And in this, it relates to our context today. Control, domination and violence are well known to many Australians. 1 in three Australian women (and many men also) have experienced violence from the hands of their loved ones. Two women are killed each week in our nation – and a woman is hospitalized every three hours. The Luke Batty foundation states that 95% of reported incidents are committed by men – against women, children and other vulnerable people. [MY NOTE: At the bottom of this post I've included a link to domestic violence statistics in the US] But here, Bathsheba’s story is not the stereotypical one of poverty, alcohol and screaming, but of riches, celebrity, power and deeply calculated violence – far more insidious. She is summoned by the King, and, and she is kidnapped from her life as she has known it.

The David & Bathsheba story is not an isolated story in the Bible but probably the most famous.  Sadly David's firstborn son Amnon continues this story of gender power imbalances by deceiving and then raping his sister Tamar.  And Amnon's story, like his father David's, ends in bloodshed & violence.

As a staff we recently read "Disarming Scripture" by Derek Flood.  Many times Derek asserts that as people of faith we cannot ignore or dismiss the violence found in our sacred text but rather faithfully question what voice we are hearing it from.  As Tanya points out in her conclusion:

There is no doubt that God intends to call David to account on behalf of his misuse of the powerless, the vulnerable, the marginalized. He hears the voices David has silenced. And so, Bathsheba’s story is an encouragement to oppressed and oppressor alike that there is indeed an end to this cycle of violence.

I believe that clinging onto an idea of MALE = PURSUER and FEMALE = PURSUED continues to misrepresent Scripture and drives home an idea that sends, in Tanya's words, "a clear message of who was the lead actor in this story – and who was simply a side character, left to revolve around the anger and desires of the other."

In light of the story of Bathsheba is it possible that we could see what Target is doing as a step forward into a world where males are not taught that violence and domination is their birthright and females are encouraged to be equal in their right to control their own bodies?

I'm hoping that as we go through FCQ you'll be encouraged to challenge some of your assumptions about how you see yourself and your identity in Christ and that together we shape a holy imagination that brings about a restored vision of what it means for us to be a church that is "one in Christ".

Further reading:

"Pink & Blue" - The Liturgists.  Amazing piece on God & gender roles

30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics That Remind Us It's An Epidemic - Huff Post

When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? - Article Jen found on Smithsonian Mag

Hear Forefront Brooklyn community member Hannah Johnston retell the story of Esther & talk a little about how Esther's world is eerily similar to today when it comes down to women controlling their own bodies: