Girls are fragile.
I don’t really remember who told me this, but I heard it a lot when I was a kid. I mean a little kid. A kid just big enough to understand why he shouldn’t hit people. Especially girls.
This stuck with me.
Fast forward to May 2009. I’m in my first year as an elementary music teacher. I’m in a 1st grade class that is about to make me lose my salvation. It’s a small classroom. There are lots of children. And there’s a lot of, shall we say, physical contact.
And I remember one little guy, who got fed up with the girl next to him poking him in the ribs and decided to take matters into his own hands.
And I said it, too. I can’t believe I said it. God help me.
Don’t hit girls. Girls are fragile.
Fortunately, I have had many, many chances with those same children to tell them a different story, and hopefully, I’ve undone any damage.
Don’t hit girls. Don’t hit anyone, because they’re our friends, they’re our classmates, they’re our equals.
I don’t really believe girls are fragile anymore. I’ve encountered enough strong women since my childhood to know that. I even married one of them. And I mean she’s a strong woman in every sense. She’s strong physically. She’s strong mentally. She has strong character. Truth be told, most of the time, she’s a stronger person than I am.
The problem is that when we tell boys that they are; when we tell them men should be the leaders, the guides, the protectors, the providers, we’re not telling them to respect women. No, quite the opposite.
We’re telling them to see women as something less than, not quite, almost enough. We’re telling them women aren’t equal.
Unfortunately, this message isn’t any different in the church.
- When the church tells women they can’t be leaders, it’s telling them they’re not equal.
- When the church tells husbands they are the providers, we’re telling them their wives aren’t equal.
- When the church tells fathers they are the spiritual leaders of their families, it’s saying mothers aren’t spiritually equal.
- When the church tells wives to submit (not mutually, solely), it’s saying they aren’t ontologically equal. (Patriarchalists love to say women are “ontologically equal.”)
And all of these statements are contrary to the gospel.
My dog’s not my equal, and that’s why I need to do so many things for her. I have to open doors for her and carry her around and feed her. I have to lead her when we walk around the neighborhood. Am I respecting my dog by doing those things? No, I’m exercising my authority over her.
I would actually kind of like the church to take a stand against chivalry, and not just because I love my blazers and suit coats WAY too much to cover up puddles with them. (Evidently, chivalry holds that women are incapable of turning.) Because chivalry reinforces those subliminal messages of inequality under the facade of respect.
So let’s rethink the whole concept. Maybe it’s time we do things for each other out of kindness. Maybe men should open doors for women and men alike out of kindness. And maybe men accept the same kindness from women.
Some of you reading this might not understand all this chivalry stuff, but I’m from Texas. I was raised with the belief that my ancestors would come up out of the grave and get me if I didn’t offer a lady my chair, or open the door for her. It was my solemn duty as a guy. Well, I think duty is the least honorable reason to do anything, and doing chivalrous things out of a sense of duty doesn’t show respect, it assumes inferiority.
What do you think? Is it time we rethink the idea of chivalry? Should we instill in boys the sense that girls are equal instead of the sense that men have power over women?