Do Little Girls and Little Boys Need Different Bibles?

One of the things that I’m keenly aware of as a recently published author on spiritual practices for families is how I’m now part of the world of Christian marketing. As I’ve written about before, I believe only people can be described as Christian. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “Christian music” or “Christian books” or “Christian art.” There’s only music, books and art by and for Christian people. As much as marketers try and label everything from breath mints to financial services as “Christian,” what they’re trying to do is get Christian people to buy their products which may or may not be any better or different than products by so called “secular” retailers.

My desire to write and publish Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life was born out of a desire that I think most Christian parents share: to connect with our children, pass on our values and provide meaningful ways to practice our faith together. Since its release, I’ve been interested in other books and products that I might be able to recommend to readers of Seamless Faith. I perked up whenever I find a new book, CD or game aimed at helping families practice their faith together. Enter the Little Girls Bible Storybook for Mothers and Daughters and the Little Boys Bible Storybook for Mothers and Sons:

littleboysandgirls

Suffice it to say, I have a few concerns about these products, but I’ll focus on the two most troubling:

First, in a world where every single product marketed to children is gender specific, it makes me cringe to see a Bible storybook following this trend. In the introduction to the Little Boys Bible Storybook, the author even explains that raising boys and girls are different and that the little boys storybook is more “rough and tumble” than the little girls Bible. I think this is extremely problematic thinking. While my boys may or may not be more active than their girl classmates and friends, the faith that I want to share with them is a faith where gentleness and kindness are of utmost importance. Similarly, I want the girls I minister to (I don’t have daughters) to know that they are free to be strong like Queen Esther and trailblazers like the Daughters of Zelophehad. Incidentally, the story about Queen Esther in the Little Girls Storybook Bible is “Esther Wins a Beauty Contest.” This fact made me simultaneously laugh out loud and and want to cry. What is the message we want to send our little girls?

The second problem I have with the Little Girls and Little Boys Storybook Bible is that both products are marketed to mothers only. Though I’m certain the authors would agree that fathers, grandparents, stepparents and other family members have an important role in sharing faith, the fact that the title of the work is “for mothers and sons” and “for mothers and daughters” implies that it’s the mother’s job to pass on these stories. I much prefer a model whereby the whole family is involved in sharing faith together, and I know many families do too.

For those looking for a great storybook bible for boys and girls, moms and dads (and everyone in between) I recommend

The Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu.

tutu

What do you think? Does the Little Girls Storybook Bible for Mothers and Daughters and the Little Boys Storybook Bible for Mothers and Sons serve a purpose, or are there some real problems here that need to be addressed? 

 

 

 

Traci Smith is author of Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life which was published earlier this year by Chalice Press. You can sign up for her monthly email newsletter with practical faith tips for families here

  • Julie Hoplamazian

    Thank you for shedding light on this problematic and sinful trend that has made its way to vulnerable, impressionable children. Everything about this makes me recoil.

    First there is the issue of ridiculous assumptions about the nature and character of boys and girls. I happen to be married to a man who cries at Hallmark commercials and loves to crochet. His whole childhood, he was persecuted for not being “manly” enough, and was constantly questioned whether he was gay. I continue to marvel at the compassionate, tolerant human he has become because of his childhood experiences, all of which are rooted in narrow and misogynistic assumptions about what it means to be a “man” and what boys are supposed to like and be interested in, and how they’re supposed to act. Creating products marketed to a narrow, misguided, and often false assumption of what appeals to “boys” and “girls” is sinful. It gives no room for the diversity of individuals that God creates, and instead forms people into our narrow and often false human image for them, rather than allowing for God’s image to be revealed in them.

    Second, How do the marketers of these “gendered” bible stories deal with Biblical characters like Deborah and Jael? Or Judith, or Susanna? Are these strong women warriors and leaders omitted from the girls’ bible because it’s not ladylike behavior? Are they omitted from the boys’ bible to reinforce sexist stereotypes that men are the hunter-gatherers, warriors, strong ones, etc.? What do they do with the stories of David and Jonathan, or John the disciple, whom Jesus loved, and who took Mary in as his mother after Jesus’ crucifixion to take care of her? The major problem here is that male and female characters in the Bible do not conform to the gender stereotypes that exist in 21st century conservative Christian culture for men and women. How do these bibles deal with that dissonance?

    And this isn’t even touching on the problem with this being marketed to mothers only. The list of problems here is so long I don’t have time for it.

    Simply put: these Bibles are appalling, sinful, and should be immediately removed from the shelves.