This new Dockers ad campaign was brought to my attention today. It's a clever and provocative piece of marketing, a "man-ifesto" of sorts (get it?), and it's already starting to stir up controversy in the blogosphere. On the right, there are those who are celebrating the campaign and its apparent embrace of distinct gender roles. On the left, there are those who are calling it homophobic and sexist.
As usual, I find myself caught in the middle.
In case you can't read the graphic above, here's the full text:
"Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that's what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It's time to get your hands dirty. It's time to answer the call of manhood. It's time to wear the pants."
Well, of course it's time to get our hands dirty and step away from our complacency. The call of Christ is for us to love and serve our world like He did. I applaud any attempt to stir men to take initiative and do the right thing. And I think there is a genuine need in our culture to help children grow up into men and women. I'll never forget reading Wild at Heart by John Eldredge for the first time. I don't care what you think of him, he tapped into a very real need... to understand what it is that makes us men, over and against women.
But really? Was the world that much better "once upon a time" when gender roles were so much more clearly defined? When a woman couldn't open her own door and a man drank his coffee black, dammit?
Of course a woman couldn't get the same pay for doing the same work as a man back then either. If you ask me, this campaign is nothing more than a blatant attempt to make money and sell pants by appealing to peoples' nostalgia. Of course it is. Everything always looks better in the sepia-colored rearview mirror.
As for me, I'm glad my daughter is growing up in a world where she actually could grow up to be President. You've come a long way, Baby...
But I will give Dockers credit for raising some provocative and genuinely good questions. What is gender? Are there roles for men and women to play in our society, and are they interchangeable? What about in the Church? Is there such a thing as "man's work?"
I'm going to raise these questions over the next few days and try to lay out my thoughts... I'm not an expert on the topic, but I have read and talked and thought a lot about it. I have moved from one position on the subject to a very different position, and I can share about my experiences and convictions. I would love your interaction.
I grew up in a home with traditional gender roles. My mom stayed home with the kids while dad went off to work. Dad generally did yardwork and anything having to do with tools. Mom cooked and cleaned and did the laundry. These roles were further reinforced in our church and Christian school, which were a part of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Women were not permitted to teach the bible to men. Women were not permitted to be elders in the church. Some families went so far as to have their mothers and daughters wear head coverings (usually a doily of sorts pinned into the hair) when they were going to serve publically in any sort of church ministry. In our bible classes and Sunday sermons, this was taught as clear biblical teaching. I was highly suspicious of the motives and real spirituality of any woman who was a pastor. They clearly were liberals and not to be trusted in matters of faith, doctrine and conduct.
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Tomorrow I'm going to describe how I moved from this background (complementarianism - the different genders "complement" one another as they work within their distinct, God-given roles) to where I am now (egalitarianism - women and men are truly equal in Christ, not only in position before God, but in our roles in the Church, family and society).
Then on Wednesday I'll bring up some of my questions and thoughts about gender in light of egalitarianism. I'm really wrestling with some of these things, and maybe you can help me out.