Yesterday someone was telling me about this study that was done on subtle gender biases in society that make women feel inferior to men – like the fact that all of the bathroom signs for women indicate a stick figure in a skirt. Apparently this makes women feel subconsciously inferior to men because figures in pants have more of an appearance of authority.
I don’t know where the study came from. I don’t know what kind of research was done or how scientifically it was carried out. And perhaps it’s true – for some women.
But in general I despise said “studies” because I don’t like being lumped into a generalization, and I usually set out to prove that I’m the opposite.
In this case especially.
First of all, I can’t recall a time when I ever felt inferior to someone simply because he was a man – prompted by a bathroom sign or not.
I realize that I have been protected from many kinds of hurt, abuse, or just plain insults from men because of the environments in which I have grown up, worked, and went to school. There are many women who constantly face being made to feel inferior because of their gender, and I absolutely agree that that is wrong.
In my experience, though, if I have felt inferior to someone, it usually has to do with my perception of their personality, talent, ability, or beauty being more than my own – and nothing to do with if they are male or female.
I have also been surrounded by godly examples of men who have encouraged me and inspired me to achieve quite a bit and take on leadership roles – believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. I look up to those men as mentors and role models of the best type of leadership.
That kind of leadership from a man should make a woman feel valuable because of her own skills and abilities, because she is created equal with a man in God’s eyes, even if her role in marriage and the church looks a little different than a man’s.
Secondly, I resent the implication that a skirt or a dress representing a woman is a bad thing. This, of course, coming from the one who, as a little girl, practically lived in dresses. I wasn’t exactly fashion central as a child, but I definitely knew what I liked, and I wore it no matter what anyone else thought.
In fact, the evening I decided to wear my poodle skirt to church, I marched in with my best friend right up to the pastor’s son (of my own age) who was handing out bulletins. He said to me, “I’m not going to give you one until you go take that off.” And I merely raised my eyebrows at him and replied, “Well, I guess I don’t need one then.”
That was little Lydia – rather on the headstrong, freewheeling side, determined to do things her own way. When I grew up, I discovered that such things could actually be channeled into positive leadership traits, but it did take a while to break me of my stubborn, “I’m always right” mentality (and yes, maybe I still struggle with that!).
I still love the feeling of wearing a dress or a skirt, though. I feel like it does define me as a woman – and I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
There is beauty in that soft curve of femininity that cloaks a woman, and not for a minute do I think that that makes a woman “weak” somehow. Like I mentioned earlier, it makes her different from a man, but different doesn’t mean inferior. Different doesn’t mean incapable. Different doesn’t mean less worthy.
Different means different.
It means I admire the strengths of each gender without thinking one is better than the other. It means that I believe those strengths were meant to complement each other. It means that I can wear a skirt and heels and walk down the hallway at work with confidence, knowing that I know how to do my job well and that I feel like I’m going somewhere with my life.
It doesn’t mean that I am reduced to just a skirt and heels. There’s definitely a thinking brain that goes along with that – a thinking brain that doesn’t allow others to make me feel inferior because I know I have worth and value in God’s eyes.
In the societal struggle to not allow girls to feel inferior to boys, girls have also been made to feel that anything stereotypically “girly” isn’t acceptable – because that’s a sign of weakness and insecurity.
But I want our girls to grow up knowing that they can like science and lipstick.
I want them to know how to change a flat tire and how to set a beautiful table for a dinner party.
I want them to love reading and feeling good about the outfit they’re wearing.
I want them to be able to stand up in front of a crowd and give a speech with confidence and also be able to cradle a baby and tenderly kiss its soft head.
I want them to know that it’s okay to be a lawyer – and it’s also okay to be a stay at home mama. And sometimes you’ll end up being both in different seasons of life.
But whatever those girls grow up to be – I never want them to think that wearing a dress is a sign of weakness. God created us feminine and masculine – and He is glorified when we display the evidences of those traits – not try to hide them or blend them into one.
And the confidence that is displayed when those traits are boldly lived into will start to destroy any attempts to make someone feel inferior. One can’t feel inferior when one fully believes in the role to which she was called.
And for some of us, that role is leading others. In a pretty dress with some stylish shoes.
Image from Pinterest.