Beautiful Girlhood v. Courageous Boyhood

Remember how I centered my story, The Beautiful Girlhood Doll, on Vision Forum’s qualities of beautiful girlhood? Well, I just today found out that Vision Forum also has a list of the qualities of courageous boyhood.

Before I begin my side by side analysis of these qualities, can I say how much it bothers me that girls are to be “beautiful” while boys are to be “courageous?” Of course, when they speak of beauty they are speaking of the inside not the outside, but still. This dichotomy is revealing, for it is in no ways accidental; rather, it exemplifies the difference between boys and girls that Vision Forum and Christian Patriarchy in general so emphasizes.

Note: I have paired these six qualities, a boy quality with a girl quality, as best as I could, but they don’t always seem to match up perfectly.

Girls: Faith & Fortitude

The spirit of beautiful girlhood is alive in the girl who, with courage and fortitude, perseveres through the many challenges of life. She realizes that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” and consequently, strives for the principled course of action.

Boys: Faith & Fortitude

The first principle of courageous Christian boyhood is faith. True courage is an outgrowth of confidence in the sovereign will of God, the reflection of an abiding faith in Christ. The spirit of courageous boyhood is alive in the boy who perseveres through the many challenges of life.

Not too much difference here, besides the obvious girls get to be “beautiful” and boys get to be “courageous” thing.

Girls: Femininity & Grace

The truly beautiful girl is one who radiates that inner grace which only comes from the confidence in being a woman of God. She enjoys dressing like a lady and being about the business of women. Because of this, others think of her with respect. Her very comportment communicates a gentle, gracious spirit.

Boys: Vision & Honor

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The same is true of boys. Without a vision for manhood, boys will perish. But true vision is cultivated by honor. The courageous boy longs to honor his father and his mother and to not just succeed, but to succeed his godly parents.

Girls get to “radiate inner grace” while boys get to have “a vision for manhood.” Girls get to have a “gentle, gracious spirit” while boys get a “true vision.” Girls are to dress as a lady and be about “the business of women.” Boys get to be courageous and have a vision. Note that the girl’s picture is a girl playing a harp while boy’s picture is boys headed for the moon. The difference is important.

Finally, note that the boy is to “honor his father and his mother.” This is the multigenerational faithfulness ideal. the boys vision is to be his father’s vision. The girl is not given the same command because she will naturally adopt the vision of her future husband.

Girls: Purity & Contentment

To be pure in body, mind, and spirit is more precious than all the promises the world offers. Young ladies who experience a beautiful girlhood guard their hearts against anything that would rob them of purity and are content to wait upon the Lord and trust the leadership of Mom and Dad.

Boys: Virtue & Duty

It takes courage to be a virtuous boy in an impure world. But the truly courageous boy is steadfast in his commitment to remain pure in body, mind, and spirit. He will not be governed by undisciplined passions, or swayed by dangerous peer influence, and learns to stand alone and unmovable in his convictions.

The boy is to learn to “stand alone and unmovable in his convictions.” The girl is to be “content to wait upon the Lord and trust the leadership of Mom and Dad.” Boys are to remain “steadfast in their conviction” while girls are to guard against “anything that would rob them of purity.” Enough said.

Also, the girl picture is a mother and daughter in pretty dresses while the boy picture is a boy in buckskin with a bow and arrow. Girls are pretty and passive while boys are courageous and active.

Girls: Joy & Friendship

The woman of God is joyful and seeks companionship with those who share the same vision. For the daughter who has embraced the beauty of Christian girlhood, the richest friendships begin within her family, where she learns to love and honor, and first learns the joy of belonging to another.

Boys: Adventure & Evangelism

The courageous boy is one who longs for the thrill of adventure and eschews the life of ease and sloth. This desire is not a pagan quest for self-glory, but is in pursuit of a higher cause—the advancement of the Gospel and Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

The girl is to “love and honor” her family, and to have friends who “share the same vision.” They boy is to be “courageous” and “long for the thrill of adventure.”

Once again, though, the boy’s goal is to be the dominionist “advancement of the Gospel and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.”

Note the pictures: girls in flowing dresses v. a boy soldier ready for battle.

Girls: Home & Hospitality

One of the defining qualities of beautiful girlhood is a love for home and hospitality. A young girl watches her mother and looks forward to the day when she, too, will have a family. While other girls are driven by wanderlust, the hospitable girl finds true contentment at home.

Boys: Loyalty & Patriotism

Behind the courage of a truly faithful boy is gratitude for his family, his nation, and for the tender mercies of God in his life, motivating him to demonstrate an unflinching loyalty. Therefore, he has the heart of a son and the spirit of a patriot.

Notice the different spheres here: The girl’s sphere is the home, the boy’s sphere is the nation. The girl’s role is hospitality, the boy’s role is to be a patriot. The girl is to guard against “wanderlust” and to “find true contentment at home.” The boy is to be loyal.

The boy’s role may be in the public sphere, but his loyalty to his family includes having “the heart of a son.” Once again you see multigenerational faithfulness at work.

And again, the girl picture is in the home while the boy picture is off to fight a war.

Girls: Enthusiasm & Industry

Proverbs tells us that a virtuous woman “works with her hands with delight,” and “does not eat the bread of idleness.” The truly beautiful girl is one who sees her life as a mission of service. What others view as a burden, she views as a blessing and opportunity.

Boys: Dominion & Scholarship

The courageous boy is on a mission from God to take dominion over the earth. This is why he loves to learn, to investigate, to master disciplines, and to search out the mysteries of creation. His basic textbook for life is the Holy Scriptures.

Can I say how much this one bothers me? The girl gets “a mission of service” while the boy gets “a mission to take dominion over the earth.” Furthermore, boys are told “to learn, to investigate, to master disciplines” while girls are to see “what others view as a burden” as “a blessing and opportunity.” Remember the whole taking dominion by doing laundry ideal? That’s what’s going on here.

Also, the girl picture is a girl sewing while the boy picture is boys reading a big book and discussing it.

“Different but equal” begins to seem a bit hollow when you realized what it really means is “girls stay at home and do laundry while boys go out and conquer the world.” And yet, that is exactly what Vision Forum’s qualities of beautiful girlhood and courageous boyhood make clear.

Finally, can I point out that once again the pictures used do not generally appear to be at all recent? You once again see a fetishization of history going on here. You also see the fetishization of the pretty picture. “You follow our teachings and buy our literature and materials,” Vision Forum promises parents, “and your daughters will be beautiful and have a heart for the home while your sons will be courageous, loyal, and set out to conquer the world.” There is no consideration, none whatsoever, of what the daughters and sons themselves might want. There is no room for difference or individualism. It’s all about conformity, and more specifically conformity to the parents’ beliefs and vision. And parents eat it up.

Steve Is a Man: On Minecraft and Gender
What Courtship Was for Me
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
A Matter of Patriarchy
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Disillusioned ex-Homeschooler

    Ok, I realize that this pales in comparison to the very real problems outlined above, but can I say that Vision Forum propagates the most god-awful fashion sense? Those puffed sleeves and pastels make my girlhood collection of ankle-length jumpers look like haute couture.

  • Lola

    I was actually really noticing the pictures and their old-fashionedness before you mentioned it. All the boys in the Revolutionary War era clothing and soldiers uniforms. I understand the obsession with the Revolutionary Period, but is that one boy wearing a WWI uniform? Or maybe a bad WWII version, small image, hard to tell. What an interesting way to symbolize going out and conquering the world. I'm not going to lie, as someone who has only recently been introduced to Vision Forum stuff (didn't grow up in it, have friends who did) I am absolutely fascinated by the imagery and artwork that they use. Also, like Disillusioned ex homeschool, I realize this is fairly trivial, but visual symbolism is a key aspect of what I study and Vision Forum excels at using vague but pointed images to show things.

  • Cake

    It’s hard for me to read this… coming from central Europe, I had believed that such thinking was long, long gone, perished before the time of my grandparents…Libby Anne, thank you for doing all this work. You are courageous, have a vision for humanity, and take dominion over your world in a way that is so much better than what the people writing the creepy paragraphs above will ever achieve in their small, narrow-minded lifes.

  • Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    It truly is all about the "culture war" for them. You can definitely see that by the boys being dressed as soldiers or in buckskin. Also, I couldn't help but notice in the "Joy and Friendship" paragraph for girls, that she's supposed to "learn the joy of belonging to another." How can that be taken as anything other than "females are property?"

  • shadowspring

    Great post. Great comments. It's insane how much money Vision Forum makes and how many people fall for this propaganda. I wish it were less popular, and as marginalized as Cake believed it was.Unfortunately here in the good old USA it is getting more popular, not less so. The war imagery is definitely having its intended effect. The (few) male home school graduates I have encountered in cyberspace definitely see people from outside their "worldview" as enemies to be defeated. Their sad petty educations have made them feel invincible, and when they get out in the big wide world and it ain't so, it only serves to reinforce their sense of being in a way against nefarious enemy forces. Heaven help our country if they succeed in the political domination they have been groomed to believe is their rightful destiny.On the plus side, they are many times (much to my dismay, as a home school mom) woefully educated. They must all have to sit in debate classes though, because when they are clearly losing, they like to throw out terms like "straw man fallacy" at their opposition. They don't use the terms correctly; it's just a sort of general insult directed towards people making more sense than they are.It cracked me up initially, but more and more I am feeling like the lead character in Swing Kids. What was initially laughable may very well become life-and-death serious before my eyes. Let us hope (and in my case pray) otherwise, and do our best to prevent it from happening.

  • shadowspring

    *way= war "it only serves to reinforce their sense of being in a WAR against nefarious enemy forces." Oopsies.

  • lucybeebee

    Almost all of the models seem to be white. I know that Vision Forum has a prominent black spokesman (Voddie Bauchman), but other than him and his daughter Jasmine there don't seem to be too many people of color in the Vision Forum world. I would be interested to read an article that explains race in the patriarchial world. How are things like slavery and the Civil Rights Movement explained?

  • Wendy

    It's not that boys (rather than girls) are told to learn that irritates me; it's more that boys (rather than girls) are told they love to learn.

  • Wendy

    Well, I mean it does irritate me; but I think I would internalize the message "only boys love to learn" in a more subtle and damaging way.

  • Melissa@Permission to Live

    Awesome!Notice how the girls are "designed" for servitude and submission and the boys are to be groomed for leadership and education. It's so frustrating that I bought all this hook line and sinker. Also, I think they ran out of ideas for the pictures of girls. Notice the pattern? Boy hunting- girl in a pretty dress, boy defending his country-girl in a pretty dress, boy reading-girl in a pretty dress… etc.

  • Libby Anne

    Lucybeebee – This is an excellent question. A good number of them – generally the same proportion as overlaps with the reformed tradition – are actually southern apologists. For example, Doug Wilson (not to be confused with Phillips) actually wrote a book on how great slavery actually was. Oh yes. Melissa – I agree, they did seem to run out of image ideas! You know why? Boys do the exciting things, girls are just supposed to sit and look pretty!

  • brokendaughters

    I'm a bit surprised by the pictures. Where's the girl doing laundry?!I love these posts, they are a great reminder why I left and why I despise the movement so much these days.

  • M.E.

    This post reminded me of the Christian Charm book I grew up to emulate. I recall trying so hard to suppress my urges to do something more meaningful to me because "it was not a woman's place." I spent hundreds of hours trying to rationalize how "having a meek and quiet spirit" at home was my highest calling. I was brainwashed. That's all there is to it.

  • Anonymous

    As an individual who has a passing acquaintance with playing the harp the picture paired with Femininity and Grace bugs me. To play properly you have to put the instrument between your legs *le gasp*. I know it's hideously un-ladylike, but the arm of the shoulder you lean it on (usually the right but there are some traditions that have it lean across the left shoulder) is at enough of a disadvantage in reach playing with the harp between your legs that the idea of putting it off to the side just boggles my mind. It may not look as feminine and graceful, but if you want to get the most out of the instrument you can't contort yourself like the girl in the picture./rantSorry about that, it bugged me more than I thought it did when I started

  • Anonymous

    Same anon as above, but what I hope is a bit more pertinent to discussion. Basically the girl "playing the harp" isn't playing the harp, she's playing at playing the harp. The instrument is just a prop that looks pretty and angelic due to cultural associations. It doesn't actually matter for Vision Forum's purposes that the girl be actually musical, just that she can take up an appropriately pretty pose. Their version of femininity isn't even capable enough to play a musical instrument which, to me, just adds insult to injury when it comes to both femininity and music.

  • Sonja

    What is truly offensive about all of this is that it has absolutely zero grounding in Scripture. Where on earth does it ever say that any one of us is to have any love for our country of birth in the sacred writings? Denying children their right to become who the Creator meant them to be so that the parents can feel good and safe? It is all pure blasphemy, based upon contortion of the sacred books. Horrible. Just horrible.

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm….the Vision Forum materials would be excellent props for a Victorian bondage scene…

  • Saturn500

    Okay, all of the pictures of boys dressed as soldiers has me thinking of THIS:"War. War never changes."-Ron Perlman