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Being faithful to the Bible does not mean reinforcing gender stereotypes

According to the BBC, the Advertising Standards Agency want to conduct a review into whether adverts are portraying gender stereotypes and limiting how we see ourselves. This is likely to result in tougher standards and stronger regulation.

Rather patronisingly, they suggest that it is acceptable to show a woman cleaning and a man doing DIY tasks (how else are you going to sell power tools), but unacceptable if a family was shown making a mess and the woman left with the sole responsibility of cleaning it up (because of course that never happens!).

It does seem rather ironic to focus on this issue rather than the many much more damaging images, programmes and adverts that bombard us every day in the media. Adverts mostly encourage an obsession with self-fulfilment and material possessions and programmes such as Love Island make entertainment out of real life immorality but no-one seems to be concerned. It’s part of the current societal obsession with a particular brand of gender and sexuality ideology.

However, as Christians whilst supporting Biblical descriptions of male and female roles in the family and the church we need to make sure we are not condoning extra Biblical gender stereotypes. There is nothing in the Bible to discourage women from becoming engineers or men to become pre-school teachers. There are exemplary women in the Bible doing big business, influencing government and working out in the fields all day. In fact, God gives us great liberty within the framework of his word to use the gifts he has given us to work for his glory and for the good of the community. In Bible times, and for most of history in most places, the concept of the stay at home housewife would not be at all the norm. It is rather a middle class concept and an idealised view of the last century.

This is not to deny the clear teaching on male headship in the family but to encourage us to work that out in the breadth of options, including stay at home parents, that the Lord gives us.

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