When reacting against one rigid mould only leads us to another

Written by Melanie Beerda

The warmth of spring sunlight clung to the afternoon air. I’d spent the morning roaming the neighbourhood, climbing trees and digging through the dirt on the hunt for worms. Now, I sat on the rope carpet in the family room and began to rummage through the toy bin—cars, marbles, barnyard animals, a few stray Lego pieces.

I pulled out a doll and inspected its frizzy hair that once promised glamour, hips that bent the doll backward if you tried to make it walk, high heels that made my feet sore just looking at them, thick make-up, and flawless smile.

Dried mud caked my jeans and bits of broken sticks were tangled in my curls. Part of me knew the doll wasn’t realistic. Another part of me wondered how I could ever fit into the feminine role she represented. Were girls supposed to grow up to look like that? I wondered.

I couldn’t imagine myself liking the same clothes, makeup, and glamour. I tossed the doll back into the toy bin and headed outside. My cars and trucks were waiting in the sandbox.

I didn’t have to be a grownup to notice the differences between genders. My mom was the one to cook my family dinner, pack the kids’ lunches and get us ready for bed every night. My dad managed the finances, fixed the leaking sink and checked the car oil. Among my friends’ parents and older siblings, I saw different career goals, extracurricular activities, general interests, and even topics of conversation between men and women.

When I started skateboarding, boys at the skatepark told me, “You’re a girl, you can’t do that.” My blood boiled with an overwhelming sense of insecurity coupled with the desire to prove that girls could skateboard.

I began fixating on the differences between men and women. I believed men had it easier, and this caused me to hate the female role I felt stuck in. I couldn’t identify with the female stereotypes I saw in the music videos my sister watched. I didn’t resonate with being a quiet housewife.

I wanted adventure and I wanted freedom. I wanted to explore the world around me and try activities that interested me without hearing, “You’re a girl, you can’t do that!”

As I surveyed a few of the women in my life, I learned I’m not alone in my feelings about gender roles. For many women, the scales feel unbalanced. We didn’t see variety in responsibilities and interests among women and men when we were growing up. Some women still don’t.

When I was 24, I had an urge to make strawberry jam. I felt like God was prompting me to let go of my anger and embrace the gifts of my gender. Not that jam-making is specifically womanly—but to me, it was an invitation to stop running away from myself and start learning.

Peeling back the layers of my bitterness, I had to untangle myself from my comparison game and allow God to renew my mind and understanding of what being female can mean. I discovered that despite my constant internal battle to prove myself capable of the same activities as boys, I still felt out of place. As a child, I’d tossed aside that doll in the toy box, determined to reject her high-heeled mold. Instead, I’d opted for a new mold—one shaped by constant comparison to men.

There is such diversity among women, with varying interests, careers, hobbies, and sports. As I’ve spent time in the Bible, I’ve come to see the variety of the women recorded there too—from Queen Esther, who stood up for her people against a king who could have easily had her killed, to Martha, who gave her best to serve her guests. Or Deborah, the only female judge among 11 other male judges of Israel.

In the process of pursuing my relationship with God, I now understand that God’s intention is for me to embrace my gifts, not lose them in a sea of comparison. I think I am finally able to appreciate the incredible value women bring, wherever they show up in society.

God’s intention is for me to embrace my gifts, not lose them in a sea of comparison.

Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” I wasted years tearing down my own “house,” instead of embracing the gifts of my gender and exploring the diversity within it.

I had to change my perspective and stop believing the lie that I had to compete to prove my value. God created men and women and saw that both were very good. The differences between us are not meant to hinder the opposite sex, they are meant for us to flourish together. 

When we struggle with our gender differences, we are invited to come to our Creator and ask for God’s perspective. The challenge is being willing to evaluate our motives and expectations, surrender them to God when they are wrong, and accept the goodness of God’s vision for us as divine image bearers.

We are invited into a life-long journey of discovering the heart of God. Through that process, we learn to trust that God created gender differences not to constrict or curse us, but as part of a beautiful and purposeful design.

Melanie Beerda is a writer and speaker located on the West Coast of Canada. She is the founder of Rekindled Faith Ministries. You can find out more on Instagram. Read more from the “Making love matter(s)” column.