What’s the most important thing about you? Oh right.

Vision Forum. When the catalog hit our counters we kids always crowded around. Or, I should say, catalogs. There were three. The first included books, mostly on theology and family living. Also videos and CDs. Mom and dad bought a lot of things from that catalog. The second was the All-American Boys Adventure catalog. That’s the one we kids fought over. Wrist rockets, science kids, water canteens four outside explorations . . . just about every item in that one ended up circled as Christmas neared. The third and final one was the Beautiful Girlhood Collection catalog. I have to be honest. That one was boring. I already had cross stitch supplies, I was too old for the tea sets and dolls, and the hope chests were too expensive. Seriously, look at the website – the boys get this and the girls get this.

To Vision Forum, the post important thing about a child is its gender. This has changed in mainstream American society. Sure, it’s far from perfect – as the mother of a daughter growing up in a princess pink girl culture, I know this better than some – but we no longer blink at the artistic boy or the athletic girl. Skills, talents, and interests matter. But not for Vision Forum. No. For Vision Forum, your gender matters first, and any skills, talents, or interests that don’t fit your gender, well, you can just forget about those.

There is something incredibly regressive about Vision Forum. In the early twentieth century, toys were aimed at helping children prepare for their roles in life. Boys got blocks and building sets, girls got mini washing boards and dish sets. Boys were encouraged to build miniature cities and girls were encouraged to play with dolls. Those who didn’t fit these roles were viewed as a problem in need of fixing. This is the world to which Vision Forum seeks to return us.

This post calls for images.

Below are the images associated with the All-American Boys catalog and the Beautiful Girlhood Collection catalog. Notice the differences – the boy is on an adventure outside with his bow and arrows and his dog while the girls are sitting together with their dolls and wearing pink dresses.

Let me give you a comparison of father/son and father/daughter retreats. The father/son retreat, you notice, gets to be a “hazardous journey” in a “mountain rendezvous.” The father/daughter retreat, in contrast, featured things like tea parties. Last year’s retreat even featured an event where girls got to shave their fathers. I’m thinking the things the boys’ mountain rendezvous had to have been a bit different on that score.

Rather than just featuring books for children, the Vision Forum website has a separate page for books for boys and a separate page for books for girls. Here is the description for each:

Modern culture frowns on biblical femininity, belittles faithful motherhood, and misinterprets true beauty. At Vision Forum, we think differently. We believe girls should aspire to godly womanhood and the noble callings of wife and mother. The books we carry reflect these themes, inspiring daughters to embrace virtuous womanhood through character-building biographies, delightful novels, homemaking handbooks, and much more. From stories of bold Christian princesses and American pioneer daughters, to wise encouragements from modern young ladies and Titus 2 women, you will find a wide range of excellent books for girls.

“He who reads, leads.” Boys will grow up to be family, church, and civil leaders, and the books they read today will form the foundation of their thinking tomorrow — for good or bad. The books in this section encourage boys to embrace biblical manhood by promoting adventurous living, sound theology, useful knowledge, and practical life skills. From manly adventure tales by G.A. Henty and “Ballantyne the Brave,” to father-and-son devotionals and exciting missionary biographies, our books will help boys become the men God wants them to be.

Sons are to lead. Sons are to explore. Sons are to build and create. Daughters are to stay at home and nurture children. Daughters are to cook, clean, and sew. Daughters are to follow. For Vision Forum, gender roles are more important than who people are as individuals. It’s blatant. It’s intentional. Vision Forum’s products and book selections reflect this strict divide.

Here’s an excerpt from a post on the blog of a family that follows Vision Forum:

How-To Help Kids to Embrace Biblical Gender Roles

We are dedicated to helping our children to embrace who God made them to be.  He has made us both male and female, different, yet equal in His love for us. Teaching our children to embrace what God created them to be in Christ is essential, the next step is to help them understand the differences in responsibility and dominion that God has given us as men and women.

We have been dedicated recently to not only teaching our children how to embrace their specific gender roles, but also to teach them how to relate to one another in those gender roles.  …

There is nothing particularly new, or even creative about some of the methods we are using in teaching our children about gender roles.  The girls learn to sew, crochet, latch-hook, bake and organize a home.  The boy camps out with dad, learns to whittle and work in the wood-shop.  The girls learn to be meek and gentle, chaste keepers of the home (P.S.  Mom, has not even got that one down . . . yet).  The boy, learns to work, while being a provider, strong and courageous, ready to lead.  That is just where the training begins, though.

Now it is time to “step-up our game”.  How do we teach our children to have a Christ-like heart for serving and helping the opposite gender?

1.  Use gender specific curriculum to help your child cultivate their talents within their given gender role.  Then encourage them to see when they have similarities and why they have them.  A little girl who builds a fort alongside her brother will be far more likely learn that, as women, we can support the vision of our husbands by working with him, not just shutting ourselves in a cookie baking, “sweet-tea”, powered-sugar pink lady world!

2.  Help your child understand differences in our responsibilities as male and female.  God put differences there for a reason too. …

3.  Cultivate gender roles within the home as a way for helping children to learn to be good husbands and wives in the future.  The more that parents project their own biblical gender roles in a consistent manner, the more the children will learn to appreciate their own gender roles, and emulate what they see at home.

Biblical gender roles is something that is taught, and it’s not just lip service. The boys go camping. The girls have tea parties. Even how boys and girls are taught to relate each other depends on gender. Girls are to see their brothers as future leaders, and boys are to see their sisters as future homemakers. I remember this part being the most maddening part, to be honest. Being treated differently from my brothers, and being expected to relate differently to my brothers than they were expected to relate to me, stung. Fortunately, this differentiation was not as strict in my family as it is in some.

What I can’t get over now is the extent to which Vision Forum and the mindset it cultivates looks at gender first, and individuals second. Given Vision Forum’s emphasis on hierarchy and order, this perhaps shouldn’t be surprising. But from my vantage point to day, it makes little sense. We are all individuals. There is more variation within each gender than between it. Trying to push people into prescribed boxes makes no sense to me. But that, quite simply, is what Vision Forum and other the rest of the constellation of organizations that comprise the Christian Patriarchy movement set as their goal.

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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.


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