Cultivating Femininity in Our Daughters: On Sports and Culture

Cultivating Femininity in Our Daughters: On Sports and Culture May 30, 2007

There is no perfect standard by which to measure which sports girls might play, as Stephen suggested (check out his interesting blog here). With this subject, we’re going to have to do what we do on a constant basis as Christians: discern. Think. Cogitate. There aren’t necessarily easy answers to this question, and so we’ll need to think wisely about how we can cultivate a gentle, beautiful femininity in our daughters.

In doing so, we will be going against the cultural grain. Women in cultural media today are shockingly aggressive, tough, and take-charge. The image sold over and over again in films and tv is that women should be all of these things, that they essentially have no need of men, and that their fundamental disposition should be hard-nosed, independent, and aggressive. Just take a look at popular television shows and high-grossing films and you will see this type of character pop up continuously. Whether they all seek to do so intentionally or not, the media of our country parades before us countless female characters who exhibit everything but biblical femininity.

Sports comes into our discussion because it is one of the primary training grounds for aggressive, hard-nosed femininity. Coaches treat girls much like boys, develop their bodies in similar ways, and develop attitudes that smack of independence and toughness. This may work for winning games, but it doesn’t help to develop godly femininity. As Christians, we don’t our girls to be just like our boys. We don’t them to be tough and bulky, hard-charging and gritty. We want them to be sweet and gentle. We don’t them to be aggressive in a physical or even social sense. We want them to learn to follow, to be sweet-spirited, to be kind. We don’t want our girls to bulk up like guys, to physically resemble men save for a few differences. I know I’m speaking a bit directly here, but I very much mean what I say, and I suspect that others share my opinion. A girl can’t help her natural build, but she can avoid packing on muscle and girth in the way that guys do. Sports encourages girls to be tomboys, which is a telling word, because in entering into lots of high-contact athletic activity, girls do indeed become more like boys in many ways, some of which I’ve outlined here. Watch the WNBA or some other such league, and you see just this: women who look and act more like men than women. This is not a good thing, and we should guard against it in our homes.

As I said yesterday, there are some sports that I think are fine for women. Tennis and volleyball come to mind. Should I ever have daughters, and should be they be athletic, I’m going to encourage them to head more toward these sports than the high-contact sports. Should I have boys, I’ll push them more towards sports like basketball, baseball, or soccer. I want my boys (should I have any) to be tough, strong, and take-charge. I want them to have the smell and look of boys. On the other hand, I want my girls to be gentle, sweet-spirited, and decidedly girly. Somewhere along the way, it became a bad thing for a girl to be girly. It is my hope that Christians will reclaim this special space, and that we will raise our girls to be feminine, kind, and beautiful in mind, body, and soul. Our girls will be quite different than those around them, but isn’t that sort of the point of Christianity to begin with?

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