I never thought I’d write a blog about gender—or McDonald’s for that matter. I love McDonald’s, but not enough to write about it. I’m all for gender equality, but I’ve never really had any reason to add my voice to the conversation. Yet here I am, writing about them in the same piece.
A few nights ago I drove through McDonalds to pick up dinner – an act I do more often than I care to admit. I usually act like a normal American adult and order a moderate size meal from the Value Menu. But on this night I wasn’t as hungry and decided to save a couple of bucks by ordering a Happy Meal. I’ve done this before in my adult life, but every time it feels silly and embarrassing—especially being in the car by myself.
So I ordered my 6 piece chicken nuggets, a Coke, and BBQ sauce, and say that’s all. Then the order taker asked a question that caught me off guard.
“For a boy or for a girl?”
“If I’m being honest, it’s for a man” is what I wanted to reply, but I doubt he would’ve appreciated my dry humor. What did it matter? Do I get more food if I answer one way or another? Are they keeping track of their happy meal buyer demographics? And then it hit me.
Ahh yes, the infamous happy meal toy. I quickly replied “boy” without even looking at what the toy options were. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less because I was just going to throw it away anyway, but some thoughts started sinking in:
What if I was 7 years old and thought the “girl” toy was better? Would that make me a girl? Would that make me less masculine in any way?
I know these are questions no normal 7 year old would ever ask, but it raises a good question. Are we ingraining predefined roles into kids even through something simple like a Happy Meal? Why couldn’t McDonald’s simply ask “Which toy would you like?” I can imagine a young boy’s confusion when told he’s supposed to get the ninja turtle, but he really wanted the pony. Until that moment, I’d never realized how prevalent and “normal” it was to have gendered toys, until I looked back on my days as a child. Our parents gave us boys swords—they gave our sisters easy bake ovens (and though I never would have admitted it, sometimes I just wanted to bake a dang brownie).
I thought about it more as the evening went on, and for the next few days. Gender roles are engrained into us as children from just our toys. We grow up being told what box to fit into, what toys to play with, what clothes to wear, how to fix our hair; so of course it’s easy to buy into the idea that as men and women we have different jobs, different ways to serve, and different roles in our in marriages, families, and churches.
Are you a boy? You can do whatever you want for a job, except be a stay-at-home dad, as long as what you do provides enough for your family and for your wife to be a stay-at-home mom (because that’s her toy).
Want to lead in the Church? Sure! Are you a boy or a girl? Girl? Ok, you can do whatever you want—as long as it’s teaching Sunday school or leading a women’s group.
We ask for our “Happy Meals” but don’t get the choice if we want the boy toy or the girl toy.
I want to be a part of a body of believers that embraces diversity and encourages the freedom of choice. One that doesn’t tell me what I can do based on my gender, but asks how I feel called by the Spirit to serve and love those who are on the journey with me.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 (NIV)
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