Lego and the Gender Powder Keg
You may have heard the news about Lego this week:
The Lego backlash was perhaps inevitable. When the maker of countless little coloured bricks sold all over the world decided to create a line of products designed specifically with girls in mind, it was broaching a delicate subject.
Sure enough, as Lego Friends was being rolled out this month, sets in which the girls of Heartlake City can do things like visit the vet and hang out at an ice cream café, criticism descended upon the Danish toy giant.
The problem is that this new Lego isn’t gender-neutral. It used to be back when Lego was freestyle, but now it’s sold in kits and marketed mainly to boys. This is the first time in recent history that it’s been marketed to girls, and it’s an issue.
Gender is a powder keg.
I’ve seen a couple of things this week that have reminded me that gender is a powder keg for the church as well. We need to be thoughtful as we approach this important issue.
I don’t want to get into the whole gender role debate (egalitarianism vs. complementarianism) in this post. Instead I want to touch on two truths that we need to hold together as we face this explosive issue.
Men and Women Are Equal
Both men and women are image-bearers of God, equal before him. Wayne Grudem, a well-known complementarian (someone who believes that men and women are equal but have different roles and functions), writes:
…men and women have been created by God to be equal in their importance and personhood. When God created man, he created both “male and female” in his image (Gen. 1:27; 5:1–2). Men and women are made equally in God’s image and both men and women reflect God’s character in their lives…
…certainly men and women are equally important to God and equally valuable to him. We have equal worth before him for all eternity. The fact that both men and women are said by Scripture to be “in the image of God” should exclude all feelings of pride or inferiority and any idea that one sex is “better” or “worse” than the other. (Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
We have to be clear that men and women are absolutely equal in value before God. Both men and women bear the image of God. Both genders are needed to reflect God’s image as human beings.
I’m concerned that we don’t always communicate this. This can’t just be lip service. We need to pay attention to the subtle ways that we imply a lack of value or an attitude of superiority to either gender. Both men and women are equal in their importance and personhood before God.
Men and Women are Different
This is a controversial statement these days. Of course, men and women are different physically. But they’re also different in other ways. One psychologist writes:
Women … have four times as many brain cells (neurons) connecting the right and left side of their brain. This latter finding provides physical evidence that supports the observation that men rely easily and more heavily on their left brain to solve one problem one step at a time. Women have more efficient access to both sides of their brain and therefore greater use of their right brain. Women can focus on more than one problem at one time and frequently prefer to solve problems through multiple activities at a time. Nearly every parent has observed how young girls find the conversations of young boys “boring”. Young boys express confusion and would rather play sports than participate actively in a conversation between 5 girls who are discussing as many as three subjects at once!
What I like about this paragraph is that it focuses on some of the ways that women are ahead of men. The same can be said in other areas. What makes a team smarter, according to the Harvard Business Review? More women. Not a bad finding.
Some will argue that the differences between men and women are socially constructed, but I think most will agree that men and women are inherently different. The differences are not only significant, but they are a source of great joy.
Some who emphasize the equality of men and women tend to downplay the differences. And some who emphasize the differences tend to downplay equality. We somehow need to embrace both truths, especially when this issue is such a volatile one.
- Churches of all stripes should be known for valuing both men and women, both in belief and practice. Sexism has no place in the church.
- Churches of all stripes should celebrate the differences between men and women. This doesn’t mean catering to stereotypes. It does mean that we’re honest and winsome in how we express the differences.
What do you think? Does this make sense? How can the church flesh out these two theological truths in the context of so much gender controversy?