No Girls Allowed?

Did you see the Youtube video, “Riley on Marketing” that went viral? Diane Sawyer later interviewed little Riley, who ranted right in the middle of the toy store about how little girls like her get relegated to only pink princess toys while boys get all the other colors—and only the boys get to be superheroes.

Riley, who loves to dress up as Batgirl, pushed back against the kind of thinking that says “girl = only princess; boy = superhero.”

In a related conversation, my friend Rhonda expressed frustration that Crayola had a similar marketing mentality for their Story Studio™. Crayola’s web ad featured only boys for the superhero story lines. Rhonda wrote, “Of course, there is a princess story line. In pink. You know. For the girls. I think I should send Crayola Riley’s marketing advice.”

I see a similar version of gender stereotyping in the church. Two examples come to mind: first, only boys were made to be the communicators of truth; and second, that husbands only are designed for final decision-making.

First off, if only men are content providers and women made to receive content, why did any women in 1 Corinthians 11 exercise the gift of prophecy in public? Why did Paul assume women would speak truth at all? And why was it considered a beautiful sign of the Spirit’s presence when women prophesied on the Day of Pentecost (Joel 2, Acts 2)—a sign that will reach its fulfillment in the future? Was it only to men that Paul exhorted, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom” (Col. 3:16)? Was it only about males that the writer to the Hebrews lamented “By now you should be teachers” (5:12)?

As for the husband making all the final decisions, a lot of Christian marriage conference instructors tell couples who habitually make mutual decisions that the husband needs to man-up. As part of such teaching the couple is told that the husband should listen to his wife’s input and then make the final decision as “head.” Such instructors understand “head” as the top of an org chart, not a head connected to a body, operating as one unit with the goal of unity. (Notice sometime how Paul differentiates between “head of” and “head over.”) The teachers even sometimes explain their logic behind “man has final say” teaching by insisting that the couple would have a hopeless power struggle if they shared equal authority, so somebody has to make the decision. Yet some of these same teachers are elders in churches where all elders hold the same level of authority. And these groups of elders somehow manage to come to a consensus.

I saw an example recently of two mature Christians disagreeing. “You sit in the front seat next to the driver,” the husband told his young wife.

“No,” she said. “You sit up there.” She opened the door to the back seat.

They went back and forth another time, each insisting the other have the better seat. Seeing they were at an impasse, they both agreed that the husband should take the front because it had more leg room. That is how a mature disagreement looks. Both consider the other as more important. And they can work it out and come to a place of mutual agreement.

Let’s consider the only New Testament examples given for when a couple actually needs to make a decision. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says the husband does not have final say about his own body; his wife does. And the wife does not have final say about her own body; her husband does. No hierarchy there. In fact it sounds a lot like mutuality. And when it’s time to abstain so they can devote themselves to prayer, the husband as the spiritual leader determines they should do so. Right? Wait. No. What? That’s not what Paul says?

The apostle assumes a mature couple can decide mutually, doesn’t he? He says nothing about the male taking spiritual initiative, being the spiritual leader or priest, having final say, manning up, or exerting his masculine influence. We see no princess and Superman here. It’s more like Batboy and Batgirl.

Some use Romans 5:12-21 as their basis of the idea that the husband has more spiritual authority than the wife. In this section of scripture, Paul talks about how the entire human race sinned through Adam. From Paul’s silence about Eve, people conclude she was held less responsible because Adam takes the heat. But that’s not at all the argument Paul is building! Instead, he is making a case about the first man and the Second Man—with the Second overturning the legacy of the first. Adam and Jesus were both sons of God in ways no other humans can claim. Both had their generation directly from God: Adam had no need for a belly button; Jesus’ biological Father was God. And the Second shall be First.

May we as women be filled with the Word so we may teach and exhort with all wisdom. And may the wives among us be all about unity with our husbands, standing side by side together with them. As we honor one another by Word-filled teaching and decision-making, we will do a better job of glorifying our Lord, who is the Head over all things (Eph 1:22).  

Sandra Glahn, who holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a PhD in The Humanities—Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/Dallas, is a professor at DTS. This creator of the Coffee Cup Bible Series (AMG) based on the NET Bible is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books. She's the wife of one husband, mother of one daughter, and owner of two cats. Chocolate and travel make her smile. You can follow her on Twitter @sandraglahn ; on FB /Aspire2 ; and find her at her web site: aspire2.com.


  • Natalie

    Good summary of arguments.

    Great summary of several "mutuality argument" points, Sandra. Please flesh out for us more, perhaps in another post :), in all your spare time, about what you mean by "And the Second shall be First." You've been mulling over the primogenitor idea for some time. Please share more. 


    And, I have two daughters. One is all princess pink; the other, every color under the sun. Let's get some more colors in there for all girls, and more colors besides Superman blue for my son.

  • Sue Bohlin

    Hating Pink

    I have a dear friend who DETESTS pink. She won't even buy food if there's pink on the container. Naturally, I, being a pink-lover, thoroughly enjoy waving my scarves in her face and hugging her when I'm wearing it.

    I treasure the fact that she abhors pink because all colors should be open to all females!

    How's that for completely missing the point of your blog?! 😉 Carry on. . . and keep preachin' it.

  • Sandra Glahn

    Last Shall Be First

    Some thoughts… First, Sue, you made me laugh. Out loud. Literally. 

    Also, just for the record, I like pink. I have two pink suits and two more pink jackets. I am not dissing pink. But you'll notice I don't say ALL my suits are pink or ALL my jackets are pink. Pink is one of a number of colors I like to wear. And I'm glad I get to wear green and blue and aqua and gold…. 

    As for more on the last shall be first thing, 1 Corinthians 15 has some words on the second Adam. The first was from dust; the second was from heaven.  Verse 45 says the first Adam CAME to life, but the second Adam GAVE life. So the argument is that the second is superior. In a big way. 

    I wouldn't mix this with promigeniture. Much, at least. I do see a cultural phenomenon, esp. in the ancient Near East, that the firstborn got bigger privileges. The birthright. The inheritance. All that good stuff. But God never commanded that it be that way. We must never confuse cultural practices that God used (like polygyny) with His ideal. God often overturned that and chose the second. So it's not like a natural law or a founded-in-design deal that the first shall be, well, first. 

    Next, if you're thinking about promigeniture as it relates to male/female relations, there are at least four views on the ramifications of Adam appearing on the scene before Eve. One is that male therefore has authority over female because he was created first (think Piper/Grudem). One is that male does not have authority over female, but he does have preeminence–like, more honor. Think of how the father of a grown man is still honored by the son in a way the son isn't by the father. It's about honor, not authority (think Cervin). Some translate "aner" and "gunh" in 1 Tim 2 as "husband" and "wife" rather than "man" and "woman," so while they might still see authority in the relationship, they limit it to within marriage (think Geo. and Dora Winston), not churchwide. Yet others see Paul's reference to the male as formed first, then Eve, as  referenced in 1 Timothy 2 as having ramifications of authority, but only in the church, not in society (more moderate complementarians–maybe Saucy?). So to them a woman could still be president of the USA without violating something essential established at creation. Egalitarians usually see no power/authority/male-has-more-honor in current male-female relationships, whether outside the church or in. I am not trying to weigh in on any of these positions in my post. I think if we're all honest with the text, no matter where we stand on gender and authority in the church, we can agree that Jesus' statement that "Mary has chosen what is better" suggests woman should know her God. And not just to soak in the info and keep it to herself. She is a content provider. The woman in Prov 31 has the "teaching" of "hesed" on her tongue. 

    As for mutuality, again, I hope no matter where people land in their views of male authority in marriage, we can agree that Paul envisioned a mature Christian couple making decisions together about a lot of stuff, including their spiritual practices. I hope we can also agree that the male priesthood was eliminated when the priesthood of all believers was instituted at the Cross. My husband is my partner, my brother, my friend, my companion, my love, and the head of my body. But he is not my priest.  

    My goal here is not to advocate for any one camp in the debate. I think both extreme ends of where people fall on gender in the church and home have glossed over some key texts so their puzzle pieces will all fit together neatly. I sometimes like to pull out those pieces and wave them a bit so we're sure to get the whole picture.

  • Janet Kendrick

    Listen to God’s call, not “no girls allowed”

    Thank you for your encouragement to listen to God rather than give in to "no girls allowed" and my desire for acceptance by earthly family and acquaintances. Your "be filled with the Word so we may teach and exhort with all wisdom" gives peace and resolve to more fully use His gifts for His service.

  • lisa simmons

    no girls..

    I'm am thankful that my husband and I have always mutually submitted to one another in decisions. Most of the time we come to the same conclusion but when there's a decision that we cannot agree on, we usually defer to the one who either 1. has the most information or experience in that area or 2. who cares most about the issue. 

    As for the church…that's a tough one… a lot of cultural/doctrinal teaching to overcome. What I'm learning as my husband ventures into politics in Texas…women basically run the world! So I'm not really worried about who gets the credit! 

  • Gwynne Johnson

    Thoughtful and helpful as usual
    What I most appreciate about your insights is that they represent various perspectives with integrity and honesty, leaving a bit of the mystery for us to grapple with. Thanks as always.

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