Micah J. Murray
Pictured: The godless future of America

Boys and Dolls: A Father’s Response

February 27, 2013 93 Comments

What would you do if you found your boy playing with a doll instead of a bulldozer?

This is the scandalous premise at the heart of a recent Sesame Street clip. As a guy who aspires to Biblical manhood, as a father of two sons, and as a regular viewer of Sesame Street, this debate falls right in the middle of my Venn Diagram of interests. So lets get right down to the nitty gritty details…



Last week, Owen Strachan, Executive Director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, wrote that a recent Sesame Street episode is an “assault” on our “Protestant worldview” and “is subtly but directly overturning long-held conceptions of manhood”. I looked up the offending Sesame Street clip and found this:

Pictured: The godless future of America

Pictured: The godless future of America

“Baby Bear and Curly Bear are playing with dolls, and Telly comes by with his bulldozer. But Baby Bear’s embarrassed to be playing with dolls, so he tells Telly that the doll is Curly’s… Then he runs off, embarrassed. Later, Gordon explains there’s no reason things have to be just for girls or just for boys, and playing with dolls is great practice for Baby Bear when he becomes a daddy.” (from SesameStreet.org)

Methinks the complementarian doth protest too much.

In this instance, Strachan’s self-proclaimed “gender battles” are more harmful and offensive than Baby Bear’s “disastrous teaching on sexuality and gender.” According to Owen, this Sesame Street moment is “unbiblical and socially disastrous… in open denial of sex roles and gender distinctions.” It is “social engineering” that is “harmful and offensive to God (and his people).” He states that “boys playing with dolls is foolish.” But come, let us reason together.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

At the heart of Owen Strachan’s argument is the idea that Baby Bear’s actions are contrary to Biblical manhood and womanhood. I’ve read the Bible. And I agree with Owen that God created men and woman as equal but distinct, with unique strengths and callings. The problem is, “biblical” as Owen Strachan uses it, really means “Protestant America in the 1950’s according to Norman Rockwell” (my words, not his). The Bible never says “boys shouldn’t play with dolls.” That’s a cultural construct that Owen is projecting back onto the Bible.

You know what is Biblical? God says that He will comfort His people “as a mother comforts her child.” (see Isaiah 66:13) Jesus says that He longed to gather the children of Jerusalem “like a mother hen gathers her babies under her wings” (see Mathew 23:37). The Apostle Paul described himself as a mother in labor, struggling to give life to the church. (see Galatians 4:19).

The concept of gender differences is Biblical. What’s un-Biblical is the idea that caring for a baby is somehow not masculine. Which brings me to this:

Your “manly man” is more John Cena than Jesus. 

There is, in some corners of American Christianity, a “manly man Jesus” movement. It carries with it this idea that Biblical manhood is all fists and blood and taking names. As Mark Driscoll famously said, “In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed….I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” This is a very incomplete picture of masculinity. When boys are told that cage fighting is good and Godly and biblical but talking about feelings and crying and painting are not for real dudes, (Mark Driscoll’s words, not Owen Strachan’s) they’ll grow up to be warped, weak, incomplete men.

This is why boys, in Sesame Street and in real life, should play with dolls. Not because there’s no difference between boys and girls, but because boys and girls both need to learn to be gentle and caring and compassionate as well as strong and adventurous and brave.

jesus as a boxer

Who Would Jesus Fight?

A real man changes diapers.

When Baby Bear sits down for a heart-to-heart with Gordon, he learns that dolls aren’t just for girls. Gordon explains that there is no difference between men and women, that there is no God, and that life has no meaning. Wait, that’s not what happened at all, because that’s not what this episode is about. Gordon explains that it’s ok for boys to play with dolls because it’s good practice to be a daddy someday. And there is literally nothing more “Biblical” and “Gospel-centered” than the concept of a loving father (see: the entire Bible). If you want to be a good father, you’d better make sure you know how to change diapers and make a bottle and cook and clean and fold laundry.

Too many fathers have adopted a “manly-man” attitude that has left them unable to show compassion for their children, unable to wipe away their tears or change their diapers or say “I love you.” Too many husbands lay on their couch in full Homer Simpson mode expecting their wives to bring them a steady stream of beer and sandwiches. We don’t need anyone reinforcing this artificial manliness construct by arguing that “dolls are just for girls.” If it’s Godly for me to care for my kids, don’t say it’s ungodly for young boys to learn those same skills.

This is me rejecting Biblical manhood, apparently.

This is me rejecting Biblical manhood, apparently.

You’ve become the straw man.

This is why it matters, Owen. Because you and the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womenhood are in the midst of a very important conversation about how to live out our masculinity and femininity in the twenty-first century. But instead of approaching it as a conversation, you’ve defined it as a battle.Those on the other side of the issue from you sometimes accuse complementarians of wanting to revert to outdated patriarchal notions of gender roles. And when you write things like this, you validate their accusations.

Because this isn’t about “what the Bible says about masculinity”, it’s about your assumption that “dolls are for girls” and your assertion that anyone who disagrees is attacking our moral foundation. If you want to blog about that, about your opinion that we should raise our kids according to some rather arbitrary gender stereotypes, that’s your business. But you dragged the Gospel into it. You claimed that the Bible supported your assumption. And it doesn’t.

The Gospel is the most important thing, the most beautiful story ever told, our roadmap to find our way home. Don’t muddle it with this stuff.

This matters too much to get it wrong.

There’s a common assumption amongst many of my fellow Christians that everything we hold dear is under attack. We mourn the loss of “traditional American values” and circle the wagons tighter to protect ourselves from the evils of the culture. The problem is that we leave many of our brothers and sisters and friends and neighbors outside that circle, turning our attention inward to protect elements of our sub-culture that were never really Biblical in the first place. And when you do that, when you claim that the challenging of an arbitrary gender role is an assault on Biblical sexuality, you lose your credibility. Rather than speaking prophetically into the culture about things that matter, you’re wasting your breath on things that don’t. And soon, nobody’s listening.

Dolls aren’t just for girls, and trucks aren’t just for boys.

I cook and clean and wash laundry and tuck my two boys into bed at night. I’m doing my very best to raise my sons to good men. Sometimes they’ll stomp in the mud and play football and punch people in the face. Sometimes they’ll put on make-up and help cook and play house. Someday, with the help of God, they’ll grow up to be loving and caring and strong and brave fathers who can teach their own sons to do the same.

(But right now, we mostly watch a lot of Sesame Street.)

My son mimics unhealthy behaviors he learned from Sesame Street.

My son mimics unhealthy behaviors he learned from Sesame Street.

From other Bloggers:

Caryn Rivadeneira: “God Made Boys to Play with Dolls”

Jason Morehead: “Leave Baby Bear and His Doll Alone”

Rachel Held Evans: “The Absurd Legalism of Gender Roles”

  • You sound like a terrific father, Micah. That’s more than enough for now.

  • I love this. Currently in the middle of Rachel Held Evans’ “A Year of Biblical Womanhood”, I’m coming to realize that I need to be vocal with my kids about what “biblical” means, what the Bible is, so they won’t be so persuaded by the large movements that have no firm foundation, or have used “cherry-picking” to build it. Thank you for your words.

    From a mother of two (with the third due any day) who really appreciates the loving, caring, affectionate and not-afraid-of-housework father to her children.

    • Thank you, thank you for this post. A biblical man is someone who isn’t afraid to truly love those around him–and this might mean rocking a child to sleep or actually caring about what his wife thinks and feels. There’s nothing wrong with the “gentler” side of masculinity, either. King David himself wrote songs, cried over his friends’ deaths, was real about his emotions in the Psalms, and danced before the Lord. And yes, he was a mighty warrior, too, who fought with the best of them, and was a skilled leader (who made plenty of mistakes and admitted to them, too). That’s a well-rounded version of masculinity, if you ask me! Your boys will grow up to fine men, I’m sure.

      • Thank you!

        • You had me at the Princess Bride quote. (nah, you had me way before then, but I appreciated it) This reminds me of the song “William Wants a Doll” (and the book that inspired it) from the 70s. We all figured this out back in the 70s. Sounds like Mr. Strachan needs to get with the times.

    • Yes! So many people say “biblical” just to support their own opinions or preferences. It’s so much more important than that.

      • Thank you for this. I’ve grown terribly weary of the 50s paradigm you eloquently highlighted. The 50s weren’t ideal, particularly for people of color and even women. Why make that the ideal in terms of biblical manhood/womanhood?

        I have a son who is amazing. He helped dig a well in Africa in the sixth grade (all his initiation) and he plays the euphonium with stunning beauty as a sixteen year old. He played with all sorts of toys as a boy. And I know he’ll be an interesting, interested adult and husband someday. He may not “fit” the standard of hollering men who assert their manliness, but he, to me, is a reflection of Christ. As is my husband who also cooks the best creme brulee of any restaurant.

        What I also love about my husband is that he is not intimidated by me. This is huge because I intimidated the heck out of guys as a teen and twenty-something. He’s secure, which I believe is the hallmark of good Christ following.

        Plus, he walked me through this: http://deeperstory.com/the-sexy-wife-i-cant-be/ –a very painful and arduous journey.

        So thanks for your post. I have a huge crush on it.

        • Thank you. That means a lot coming from you.

          • That picture of you with your son? Holy crap, that is beautiful!

          • Anonymous

            Beer guns murica

          • BOOM!!!

          • Awesome, awesome post. Thank you for sharing so much. I’m looking forward to having boys of my own so I can teach them these values.

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          • Anna M

            “A gentle and quiet spirit” does not implicate certain ACTIONS or INTERESTS; it implies that a woman should be of a certain spirit, that all of her should be unified by her “new heart.” Jesus was also gentle, Jesus was often quiet, and may women who are praise in the Bible were fierce as well as these things. You have taken this one verse and basically said that women should be ONLY these things. How dare you. I am sure your wife is wonderful, but I garauntee you, since you have children, that you have seen her be more than just quiet and just gentle. She is more than what you and others like you have labled her. And the world is not made up merely of things that are for men and things that are for women. I love to ride motorcycles and to kill myself at the gym; I also enjoy picking wildflowers, gardening, and baking cookies for the men in my life. Women were also made for adventure, my friend. God made us to be fiercely loving and loyal, to be warriors for Him and for those we love. As His tenderness does not make Him feminine, so my “manly” qualities and enjoyments do not make me masculine. And you ought to be ashamed for suggesting that they could.

          • God the Father speaking of himself (metaphorically):

            When Israel was a child, I loved him, […] It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms […] To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11)

      • Using “the Bible teaches” as a synonym for “I think” – granting divine status to your own opinions – if that’s not taking the Lord’s name in vain, what is?


    • Jon

      Held-Evans’ book should absolutely not be used as a means of clarifying the word “biblical.” Any woman who takes Proverbs 21:9 to mean that she should confine herself to a rooftop and has the audacity to to call the distortion (and all her other ones with it) a legitimate expression of her opponents’ view of “biblical” womanhood has absolutely no authority at all to speak on what “biblical” means. I heartily recommend that you throw Rachel’s book in the furnace and read your Bible.

      • Dear Jon,

        Please refrain from making assumptions about my biblical knowledge based on a single comment I left on a blog post.

        I have taken several post-secondary classes on the topics of both the Old Testament, the New Testament and even the Dead Sea Scrolls. I have done two years of biblical Koine Greek. I actually own, and still occasionally refer to, a Koine Greek New Testament. All of these were completed at a top-of-the-line Christian post-secondary institution that competes with secular institutions and provides quality education taught by people not only with qualified degrees but experience in their fields. In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls classes were taught by one of the world’s leading experts on the topic, and the director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute.

        We also have copies of traditional Jewish writings in our house, including a bible that has been translated from a Jewish perspective.

        And I am by no means an expert on the Bible, but I think I have read it often enough to be aware of its contents.

        Given your statement about Rachel’s roof-top experience, I would assume that you have not actually read her book. But, I don’t like to make assumptions based on a single comment left on a blog post.

        Oh, but since you’ve already left several other comments that indicate your biblical knowledge is perhaps less than thorough and that your stance on the subject of “biblical” is quite narrow-minded, I think it’s a safe assumption to make in this case.

        I can appreciate that people have different points of view, but as one of my philosophy professors was fond of saying “Not ever opinion is worth being entitled to.” (And yes, that was at the same Christian institution I mentioned earlier.)

        Now, if you’d like to engage in a real discussion instead of posturing and flaunting your “superiority”, I’d be glad to participate. But, on the grounds that each participant of the discussion is to be respected as a human being, regardless of gender or viewpoint.

      • Jon

        If I wanted to flaunt my superiority I’d reel off my academic accomplishments and tell the little people how I can tell from reading ten sentences that their biblical understanding is “less than thorough” and that they are narrow minded. That’s what I’d do, yes, sir.

        • Oh, so you don’t want to actually discuss anything. You just want to be right.

      • Laura

        Dear Bekka. on, snap. that was awesome.

      • Fred Johnson

        You just had your rump handed to you on a platter. You should just go home and try to get it re-attached.

  • Jon

    “My wife rides motorcycles and horses and tears stuff up and goes to the gym every night and lifts more weight than most dudes I know. I cook and clean and wash laundry and tuck my two boys into bed at night.”
    My wife doesn’t ride motorcycles or “tear stuff up” or lift more weight than most dudes I know. I’m glad she doesn’t. And, while I agree that the Sesame Street episode doesn’t rise to the level of a full-blown freak-out, I’d like to point out that Strachen doesn’t either. In the article, he says, “I know Christians freak out over stuff sometimes. I’m not encouraging you to spaz about ‘Baby Bear’s Baby Doll.’ I don’t think the world is ending as a result of this episode.”
    Nevertheless, there is something poignantly bothersome in your comments about your wife, as well as in the Sesame Street episode. The thought of a woman revving her Harley, ripping stuff up, and pumping iron to a level that puts most men to shame should give Christian men and women (to use a precise theological term) the willies. It should do so because it flies squarely in the face of God’s counsel to cultivate “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,” which, it should be pointed out, is “very precious” in the sight of God. Frankly, I hope your comments about your wife were hyperbolic. If they were, you should seek her forgiveness. If they were not, you should both repent.
    As for the Sesame Street episode, I’m left wondering if you’re left wondering if God messed up when he gave only women the equipment to bear and sustain children. If you are, I see why the Strachen blog bothers you. If you’re not, then you clearly see (whether you want to admit it or not) that there is a distinctly feminine element to caring for children. This does not mean (and I’m confident Strachen would make the same assertion) that men don’t change diapers or hold babies or help out around the house. Strachen doesn’t make that jump, so your implication that he does is dishonest (as in the caption of the pic of you holding a baby).
    I have three sons, and only one of them ever has an inclination to play with his sisters’ dolls. When he does, I don’t tell him “dolls are for girls,” but I do tell him, “Hey, why don’t you go put that back in your sister’s room and go outside and play?” His model for learning how to be a father isn’t brushing a doll’s hair. It’s watching me as I do my level best to love him, his siblings, and his mother with the love of Christ–a love that is willing to live and/or die for the very holiness of his bride. This is a tremendous responsibility. Sometimes it means changing a diaper, and sometimes it means encouraging my son to put down a doll so that he is aware of a contrast to a culture that will work very hard to sell him a lie about the God-ordained differences in men and women.

    • Thanks for the link to my Christ and Pop Culture article, but the name is Jason Morehead, not Justin Morehead.

      • Ah! I my clumsy fingers/brain. So sorry. I’ll fix ASAP.

    • “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”
      (Proverbs 31:17)

      • Excellent response. I was going to reply with less kind words.

      • Jon

        Strength, gentleness, and quietness can go quite well together. I’m not disputing that. What’s your proof text for the ripping stuff up element?

        • Have you ever remodeled a house or planted a garden?

          Also, what’s your proof text for proof texts?

          • Beth

            I came over here because the blog where the original article was posted didn’t have a comment feature… Completely puzzled by Owen Strachan’s objections to having a childish male character merely playing with a doll. How is this “unBiblical”? Yes, God created men and women as unique but equal beings, and we have different vocations as a result. But the stereotypical gender roles he sees as “Biblical” are more cultural than anything else. What is biblically feminine is motherhood – to include pregnancy, breastfeeding, and lots of hands-on childcare. But is that to the exclusion of any nurturing by a father? Did Mr. Strachan ever change a diaper? Feed a baby? Rock a baby to sleep? If he has children, I sure as heck hope so. Otherwise, he (and his children) surely missed out. And his wife was overworked. Vocations – like fatherhood and motherhood – are like our very skin. They are given to us by God, and are a part of who we were created to be. Gender roles, on the other hand – such as changing diapers, cooking meals, etc. – are like the clothes we wear. They can change with the times and still be appropriate. My husband works outside the home. I am a homemaker and mother to our three children. One could argue that we are quite “traditional”. But my husband changes diapers, wipes noses, sings lullabies and kisses boo-boos. And he is not the least bit unmanly for doing so. Now, if Baby Bear and had been putting the baby doll up his shirt and pretending to be pregnant, or putting the baby to his chest and pretending to breastfeed – and the other characters were telling him that was okay, boys can be pregnant, too – now that would be wrong. But playing with dolls? Gimme a break. My sons have played with dolls and I love it. They will be great dads someday.

          • Thank you so much.Rock on!

      • Please be careful to consider the context of any verse you quote. Proverbs 31:17 is in a section that is talking about women in the role of marriage. These traits that are mentioned here all pertain to this ideal woman’s “wifely duties.” In the time that this was written, the wifely duties were much more physical than they are today. She was strong because she had to be to do the manual labor required of her. The writer here is not praising a woman who spends her time away from home pursuing other things, but is instead praising a woman who cares for her household with everything she has. This glorifies God.

        I’m not saying your wife shouldn’t work out… we are commanded to keep our bodies healthy as a living temple. However, this particular verse does not support your beliefs on this matter.

    • Jon

      I’m really excited to understand the relevance of either of those questions, so:
      1. Yes and yes.
      2. totally confused by that one.

      • Only that “tearing stuff up” is an essential step in the process of remodeling a house or planting a garden.

        It’s also a slang expression that means “to engage in an activity with enthusiasm.”

        Regarding “proof texts”, I generally reject that method of interpreting Scripture. The Word of God is a tapestry, and when you attempt to “proof text” using a single thread, you often wind up far from God’s heart. (see: Slavery)

      • Jon

        Ok. I can live with that. I agree about the proof text thing–that’s why I made the comment. And, given the remodeling and gardening context for the tearing stuff up comment, I have no qualms with it. What I have a harder time understanding is why you would intentionally describe your wife in a way that conjures up an image of the incredible hulk(ess) in biker leather ripping stuff up just for the fun of it. Just like Scripture has a tapestry and a context, so does human language, and the ways we handle both have consequences. That’s the point of the article that you linked to. It’s not that a boy playing with a doll is the end of the world. It’s that when Sesame Street says “So what?” they’re likely intending something far, far different than when you say “So what?” And we need to be ready to articulate that difference.

        • I agree with you that there is a difference between guys and girls.

          I disagree that this diffference is evidenced in all the external things that you mentioned. Meekness and gentleness are not just feminine qualities, they’re important for men too. My whole point is that “gender roles” shouldn’t be nearly as constrictive as they are. Guys should be free to paint and cry and play the harp and cook and sew and take care of babies, and women should be free to lift weights or ride bikes or chop down trees or learn swordplay or anything else they want to do. None of these activities are inherently off-limits to either gender.

    • Anonymous

      hey jon.. how about this… your a douche bag whos intimidated by a woman who lifts, rides, and is basically a whole lot cooler then you ,,, or could whoop your ass!!!! thats what i see… hey bro how bout you live in the 2013,,, love god love ppl how bout that you judgmental lil piece….. if you dont like my response there will be now imma tuffy on a blog post… i live in harrison arkansas and am easily found… hi im wudi :) have a nice day

      • Well spoken! When our second son was born, our oldest was 16mon. We gave him Cabbage Patch boy doll to take care of while I took care of baby brother. It helped build their relationship, eased new baby transitions and taught him responsibility and patience. When our third, a daughter, was born, the boys were 4 and 5. They helped care for her and continued on into her older years playing dolls with her. Of course the dolls needed to do something sporty-have snowboarding contests- but hours were spent, the three of them in a pink room creating stories. Now at 18, 17 & 12, they take her on dates, listen to her friend dilemmas and give her fashion advice. Having a doll to care for when they were little has been an invaluable ingredient into the men they are today.

    • Brian

      “And, while I agree that the Sesame Street episode doesn’t rise to the level of a full-blown freak-out, I’d like to point out that Strachen doesn’t either.”

      Jon, perhaps you missed the part right after that where he says “Having said that … I don’t want to leave you thinking that this sort of social engineering isn’t harmful and offensive to God (and his people). It is. Satan has influence in so many places, including those that seem harmless and fun.”

      Owen is trying to build in some cushion room that softens what he is trying to get across. But he definitely thinks this is serious business and something we should be concerned about. Saying “don’t freak out” and “the world is not ending” is just a rhetorical device to make him sound more reasonable. But the issue is, there should not have been an issue at all. The fact that he brings this up at all makes him extreme and I’m glad that there are more “Biblically” minded comps out there wiling to call him on it.

      • Yep. If it really is inspired by “Satan’s influence”, then Owen SHOULD freak out. Can’t have it both ways.

        • Anna M

          I have found that the only label which doesn’t cause discomfort is Christ. All other terms and highly researched words eventually remind us, usually in the form of embarrassment or anger, that they were chosen to represent men by…men. And a flawed people will never create an organization, Body, or whatever that is unflawed (This post, however, was excellent! (: )

    • Pam

      Repenting because a woman rides a motorbike and can lift weights. Welcome to crazytown.

    • Sounds like you are someone who holds to the “men should be strong; women should be beautiful” theory, which, in kindness and generosity, I shall call a gross oversimplification.

      Here is what I shall ask you: who is the best biblical role model for men? who is the best biblical role model for women? if they are different, please explain.

    • This, this right here… This attitude… This frame of mind… this is why I left the church. I no longer claim to be a Christian, because people like you do, and I do not want other people to think of me like they (or I) think of you. I cannot believe that Christians do not think more about what they are saying before they say it. I cannot believe that Christians go to such lengths to discriminate and hate and highlight every difference. This is not love. And what little I have left in me that might possibly believe in a God… This is not what he is.

      • ^That comment was in response to Jon’s comment on exactly what women are allowed and are not allowed to do.

        • It’s really sad when people take things that are supposed to be good and beautiful and safe (like the Church) and turn them into something ugly and destructive.

          I think many of us (myself included) have had some terrible experiences with churches and individuals who spouted lies and nonsense in the name of Jesus.

          I hope you will find Jesus outside of all the garbage that people attach to His name.

      • I’ve been there.

        I wrote this a few days ago, for you and me and all of us who are trying to figure all this crap out….


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  • JackieO

    I think that a lot of Evangelicals still believe that people are not born gay but are “made gay” by things that they see and experience. I think they believe that this is propaganda being spewed by the “left” to try to get their boys more like girls and therefore gay. They live in fear of their children being “turned gay.” If we would just live in truth, that people are born attracted to one sex or another, this can’t be created, then we know that seeing a boy play with a doll is not going to make their child gay. This stuff would not threaten them.

    • You sound as if you rely on science a lot. Would you mind showing me the scientific studies that prove your argument here? Also, following scientific studies as closely as you do, do you believe in evolution? I only ask because your belief that people are born gay is incompatible with belief in evolution. Think about it.

  • Amanda B.

    It seems to me that boys will grow up much more comfortable in their masculinity if we don’t drill into them that there are only certain activities/interests that qualify as “manly”. If real men think it’s dumb to play with baby dolls, what happens to the heart of the little boy who actually wants to? He concludes that he’s failing as a “real man”. He buys the lines of the bullies who call him a sissy or a wimp. He feels like he fits in better with girls than with boys. How have we at all served him in training him up as a godly man?

    When I was young, I liked playing with Hot Wheels. My mom handled it (IMO) brilliantly–she did mention to me that those were made for boys, but affirmed that it was fine for me to like them and play with them, too. Lots of toys are just fun for everybody. So when my friends found out I actually owned my own toy cars, and yelled, “Those are BOY TOYS!” I would shrug, “I know, but it’s okay for me to play with them, too.” They had nothing left to make fun of me about, and I never questioned my femininity.

    It seems to me that Strachan has a consistent pattern of seeing cultural collapse in otherwise innocuous statements (e.g. his article “The Dad-Mom and the Man Fail”). I fear that he may actually injure gender identities in doing so.

    • Yes! Many conservatives make a habit of seeing cultural collapse in innocuous scenarios. The problem with this is that it not only dishonest, but it destroys whatever credibility they may have in an important conversation. And then when they drag the Gospel and the Bible into it… don’t get me started. :)

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  • Great article.

    A man lovingly holding a precious newborn is the manliest man of them all.

  • canigetanotherbottleofwhine

    This is so well said. Amen!

  • Laura

    Most times when complimentarians write stuff, I cringe repeatedly as I read it. But if I’m reading you correctly, you consider yourself complimentarian. But I didn’t cringe when I read this. I’m intrigued. I’m wondering if you could clarify maybe how you define this term or what it means to you a little more. I’m fascinated. And hopeful for more of a bridge across what feels at times like an uncrossable chasm.

    • Thank for not cringing, Laura. I’m happy about that. :)

      In answer to your question, I think I used to consider myself a complementarian, until I found myself wincing along with you at many of the things leading contemporary complementarians wrote and said. So, as I said in the comments on Rachel’s blog post, if the label no longer works I have no qualms about discarding it.

      So, I don’t think I’m really qualified to answer your question about complementarian definition. Sadly, what it means to me is all too often that someone has taken an idea from the Bible and blown it way out of proportion or conflated it with their own cultural and personal assumptions and repackaged it as the only way to honor God.

      I like your picture of a bridge. That’s kinda where I see myself these days. Having been raised far-right conservative / complementarian, I certainly understand the philosophical framework from which they are speaking. But I’ve also seen first-hand the destructive results of some of their teachings. I’m also very sympathetic to the egalitarian side of the spectrum, as it seems like there are some very healthy relationships and some very well-reasoned arguments from Scripture there. (I’m using “very” way too much in this paragraph. I just realized that. Oh well.)

      That said, I’m hesitant to apply either label to myself because labels tend to quickly snuff healthy dialogue, and that’s what I crave. Also, because I reserve the right to evolving beliefs as I continue to study Scripture and follow Jesus. =)

      • Laura

        thanks for replying. I like this. I too was raised far right/complimentarian and feel the same way about the destructive results. I am trying (struggling??) to find a comfortable place for myself. This really resonated with me. Thanks:)

        • Kelly

          Amen Brother!
          And this is coming from a proud father of a boy and girl…and a Dad who does laundry, cooks, sews, irons, watches his wife tear it up on the soccer field and does all of this while still living…teaching…breathing…and sharing the Gospel.

      • emsolideogloria

        Love your response and could ditto everything Laura has just said. My home had a lot of mixed messages about gender but my church for the first 12 years of my adult life were spent in a hierarchial complementarian church.

        The more I’ve learned about Scripture and even bible translation the more firm my convictions have become. Now, I suppose I’d call myself a very, very soft complementarian, if a label is needed. That is, I believe in egalitarian relationships in the home (DH & I are equals in every way and we both serve and support and lead and yield to one another in love). In the church, I believe women and men can and should serve together in every way and all positions should be open to both men and women, except that the pastor/elder(s) should be male.

      • Anna M

        If this helps, Laura, God recently spoke to my heart something I always knew but never realized…and it has brought me so much peace: His blood and His resurrection have secured my spot. Whatever He has called me to be, I already am in His eyes. I don’t have to fight for a spot at the table, I don’t have to figure out where my niche is just yet, but if I keep looking at Him, submitting to His authority, seeking His face, and drinking in His beauty and His love, I’m going to wake up every morning (or most mornings, anyway; we all have rough patches) and realize that I. Belong! I am right where I’m supposed to be, and I no longer need an explanation for things which used to break my heart. And usually it’s right then that He grants us understanding, right when we no longer need it because we are so content…just with Him. (: Peace be with you on your journey.

  • Alyssa

    When I stumbled onto the original Strachen article, I left with a big, complicated, yucky feeling of frustration and sadness and hardly knew from which angle to begin examining my response. I was desperate to put my dismay (and anger) into some sort of elegantly worded rebuttal. Thank you for your kindly thought out and exceedingly well-written piece!! Just what I needed.

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  • Really enjoyed your perspective in this post. Of course, I have three girls (and a-gender-yet-to-be-named) on the way, so I’ve pretty much perfected the art of doll-play. If this one turns out to be a boy, I intend to use the term “action figure” rather than “baby doll,” but I will definitely keep your thoughts in mind.

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  • Just found your blog today, Micah. I really appreciated this post. Thanks.

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  • I realy enjoyed your blog you shared almost every thing i feel about this topic, thanks for give astrong voice to the subject

  • Ruby

    This. Was amazing. Thank you for writing this.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! (It was one of the most fun posts I’ve written so far.)

  • Christina

    I love your blog…so refreshing and so far, so true. :)

  • Bob

    Thank you. I have also raised a son and a daughter, am married and monogamous (for 24 years). I am Christian but am often hesitant to declare it because of what so many “professors” of Christianity have said and done in the name of Jesus. I played with dolls as a child and encouraged both my children to play with whatever toys they wanted to. I think they are both happier and healthier for the freedom to explore.

  • dianasaur

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post on a mcontroversial topic. We have a six month old boy and have talked a lot about gender roles and stereotypes that we are okay with breaking. We have gotten some flak for things like putting our son in a pink swaddle (he outgrew his newborn swaddles and we couldn’t afford new ones but got some used pink ones for $2 ech!). But I recently read a fascinating kind of child psychology book called “It’s Okay Not to Share” and really enjoyed their take on gender roles. One thing the author brings up is that when we constantly tell little boys, don’t do that, only girls do that, not only are we keeping them from becoming compassionate loving men, we are also giving a subconscious message that girls are bad or lesser. Quite possible that this contributes from a very early age to a lack of respect for women. I’d never thought of it that way! They stated it much more eloquently then I have but this is the best I can do on my phone in the midst of a nursing session that’s already gone 45 minutes :)

    • “we are also giving a subconscious message that girls are bad or lesser. Quite possible that this contributes from a very early age to a lack of respect for women.”

      Wow. That’s great. I hadn’t even thought of that. Just one more reason to let boys play with dolls, I guess. =)

  • Kenny Pierce

    Micah, as usual you rock. I almost thought I was going to have to call my therapist that I started seeing, because I loved the color purple about 10 years ago (not the movie-I don’t cry, let’s be clear on that), and because Teletubbies with purses who were a girly color were a similar affront to being a guy’s guy. I’ve been working out my issues over that one for years. Longer even.

    OK so, regarding all that you said. I’d go with the Jesus as “Biblical Manhood Warrior” thing if a) Jesus were Vin Diesel and b) Someone in Hollywood had written the Bible. Actually I probably wouldn’t go because I really kind of GOT “Silver Linings Playbook” and was flipping through Facebook and couldn’t get into “Iron Man 28” (or wherever they are now). AND I play flute and piano, think T.S. Eliot is genius, and couldn’t bat my way out of a giant wet paper bag if the umpire outside said “We have Domino’s Pizza waiting here if you’ll just do it already.” But I digress. And remember. I don’t cry.

    You so inspired me that I had to run to the laptop that I already had on my lap and google “Jesus” and “Manly.” Aside from the first “Jesus Ain’t No Sissy” article from Mr Rapture Ready, who really is supposed to be in the kitchen helping his wife clean up the dishes after the mess that she said that HE made at dinner, with his stirring and inspiring storm that forecaster have been waiting for for, like, 2013 years. the only thing that he left out were the words “BRING IT!!!” Anyways, thank god for internet sanity. this gem from “Yahoo Answers” popped out as a “Good Answer”:

    “You are an effeminate man. Human males have been designed (by evolution, not a magical sky daddy) to be the dominant sex, to protect the females and to do the heavy lifting and tasks that need physical exertion. Females are inherently attracted to men with that dominant component (mostly). Being gentle, kind, and compassionate are also good traits, but too many guys that are those things are wimpy, and therefore unappealing to the female sex.”

    Someone has to ‘splain some seriously un-Rambo like behavior in that Bible (that can’t really be edited out because, well, it isn’t a script – it’s scripture), if they’re looking to Christ and/or the Good Book for “Biblical Manliness”. These come to mind as I gaze at the walls of my loft for answers:

    – JESUS, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that whole “If possible, let this cup pass me by” thing. Maybe fearing what was to come? Surrounded by flowers? What was up with that? Couldn’t he at least have been praying out by a goalpost or something?

    – JESUS, going on about how blessed the peacemakers, the meek, and what not are. The next thing that you know, he’d be rattling on about peace and turning the other cheek. I’d be yanking my sword from my holster if that was all of the ACTION I was going to hear about.

    – JESUS, calling his church buddies out at dinner because a WOMAN came running in and threw perfume on his feet and cried on them and dried her tears. WITH HER FRESHLY SHAMPOOED hair, for Godsake. I’d be mortified if I were a real man, hanging out, maybe watching a game on my 50″ 1080p Sony Bravia, and that happened. I’d have security on speed dial ready to drag her out and set loose into a shopping mall if I were a real man.

    – JESUS and his endless stories. Like that one about the runaway kid of some guy who came home to a happy dad and a pissed-off, jealous brother. Dad (apparently) was overjoyed (I think Jesus was trying to make a point) and tried to get the manlier brother to deal with it. If I was a father to that wussy kid that wouldn’t stand his ground and get a life (if he couldn’t cut it in the household), and came sniveling back when things got too hot out there, I’d hand him the “Apartments for Rent’ section of the paper (or refer him to Craigslist online), wish him luck, and go back to my episode of “Mad Men” (on pause this whole time).

    – The whole Philip baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch thing. Wasn’t Philip sort of the one who was converted in that embarrassing incident with that sissy-man? I don’t know why THE APOSTLE PHILIP would have been sent to Heaven as opposed to a more appropriate eternal punishment worthy of that crime. Like maybe playing a recurring (weekly) role singing Barry Manilow cover songs on “Glee.”

    – This one is the WORST. Well, a general thing going on with JESUS. He wouldn’t just leave the “Love” thing out of anything. Just went you think that he’s going to let loose some serious ammo, he opens his mouth and that love thing comes falling out, like some purse that he was chewing on. I want to see him breathe fire. But this one, in the manliest book of all.. Revelation. OK, I can always look there for my YES! He TOOK THEM OUT! moment. But this has always bugged me. His talking about the Ephesians leaving “Their First Love” early on in that awesome, action-packed book. What are are we dealing with “The Notebook” here? I had to look that one up, I wsas so upset (but I didn’t cry – let’s get that straight). OHMIGOD. He was, like, SAD. The word “left” could apparently be translated as something like “depart, leave alone, forsake, and neglect.” OK. Um, if my girlfriend was that needy, I’d stop answering her calls. What’s next – him handing the lyrics to “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” over to St. Philip, who’s probably learning new dance steps over on the set of “Glee”?

    Wow. I don’t get it. Where are the real men in the Bible??

    For those who thought the above was serious and are ready to burn me at the stake, then, um, maybe major in something unmanly, like English Literature or Philosophy. I really enjoyed those studies in college. And yes. I did cry. Still do.

    • Erin

      This was a c rack up!

  • Kate

    I agree that a boy playing with a baby doll is fine. It helps them to be compassionate, gentle and patient when the moment calls for it. What got me is when you said they play with makeup! Makeup is for sure a feminine thing depending on it’s use. Are they trying to make there cheeks look rosy and there lips red and full?…or are they just using it like face paint because kids like face paint and face paint is fun?
    Please clarify this along with what ways you think God made men and women uniquely different.

    Thanks a million!

    • I just meant that young kids – boys and girls both – love to play with makeup because it’s fun. They see Mommy do it all the time and they want to try too. That’s not something to be shamed or discouraged.

  • Love this! So much!

  • John

    Did you or others who commented below read the full original article?

    Did you notice some inconvenient things he said that don’t fit your narrative of what he was saying,

    Boys can play with all kinds of toys, but it is right and good to train them in masculine, not feminine, ways. It’s wrong to train them in such a way as to blur the sexual boundaries God himself created.

    That is the main thrust of the article, and the issue. Even Luther and the CBMW say dads should change diapers… it seems a bit unchristian and uncharitable to take a single article (and ignore parts that don’t fit your possible agenda) and run with it, ignoring other information/evidence the person or group shares.

    • If it’s ok for dads to take care of babies, then why would Strachan argue that the depiction of this behavior (a bear playing with a doll for the purposes of learning good dad skills) is an assault on our protestant worldview?

  • Jeannette

    AWESOME! my 3rd grader SON still sometimes takes his little baby doll to school. He loves his doll. Sometimes the boys chuck it down the hall way in a violent game of catch, but often I see my 8yo cuddling it in a nurturing pose. He learned that from his Daddy. <3 <3

  • this is so incredible (how am I just now seeing this post?).

    thank you for speaking up. it’s needed.

  • Catherine Gordon

    Micah – I came across this post while perusing through your post from today with its various links. I really appreciated this line:

    “But instead of approaching it as a conversation, you’ve defined it as a battle.”

    I realized, this line not only applies to Owen, but also to me. I realize so often I have defined things as battles in my head and my heart before I even realize it…and it’s hard to undo definitions that have been built up like that. Anyway – the post is really great as well, and very encouraging. Thank you!

  • ReconsiderYourBroadStrokes

    I think your definition of masculinity is identical to the gospel-centered masculinity movement. You’ve just mislabeled it because Driscoll is attached to the reformed resurgence (of which the gospel-centered masculinity movement is a product), however, the two are not one.

    Look into Tim Keller. His definition of gospel-centered masculinity, which spawned the movement, is strikingly similar to your own definition of masculinity.