“Better to be a dainty girl than a dainty boy.” This is what a woman said to me in a conversation after learning how small Maleia is for her age. I didn’t get a chance to respond because the conversation moved on right away, but my heart hurt. I’ve been diving deep over the last year on rethinking my theology on gender roles in a marriage, and I’m realizing how much expectation can be placed on specific genders to be and act a certain way too.
Being small doesn’t make you less of a man. Being small doesn’t make you more of a woman. I see Maleia getting praised for being a certain way because she’s a girl, like her small size or pretty smile or “sweet” demeanor, and then receive subtle comments on “less feminine” aspects about her, like her short hair or any time she’s not wearing pink or purple or a bow. She can’t control any of these things, but why are these the definitions of femininity or masculinity for her right now?
Wearing pink, having long hair, playing with tea cups doesn’t express femininity any more than wearing red, having short hair, and playing with trains. Working on cars and being interested in sports doesn’t express masculinity any more than loving to cook dinner and being a full-time stay at home dad.
Maleia gets called a boy all the time. I can understand why because, ha, she’s a baby and let’s be real most of the time it’s hard to tell just by looking when there aren’t context clues. Every time I hear “oh he’s so cute! How old is he?” I think about the future. I think about how I’ve felt silenced or lesser-than, or have been treated differently because I’m a woman. I’m desperate to change that for Maleia. I want her to know that her voice matters, her education matters, her thoughts and ideas matter. Her creativity matters. That she’s capable and responsible for her own spiritual life. That she can lead well. That she’s equally as important in the world. She deserves mutual respect and mutual love, and should offer the same to others. These remain true no matter what she’s wearing or what she looks like.
I think back to my theology of marriage when we first got married. Besides changing my name (which I should have taken more seriously), I don’t think we’ve lived out the theology we professed then, and it never really made sense in practice for us. We’ve been talking about it constantly over this last year, and we’re embracing a different idea that encompasses what our relationship actually looks like: mutual respect, mutual love, mutual leadership, mutual submission.
There’s a lot to process still, and I’m in the middle of uncovering what it all means. I have a lot more thoughts that I’ll post here in time. Y’all, sometimes parenting is terrifying. How are we supposed to raise a human being well when we’re still learning and growing in a broken world too? Clearly I don’t have all the answers but I’m grateful for a God that is persistently changing me and giving grace. I know everyone has different beliefs on gender and/or gender roles in a marriage, and I respect that and I’m learning to love it. I believe there’s beauty in that diversity and that maybe we can have a fuller view of who God is because of those differences.