Hmm. Maybe I should stop listening to Christian radio host Mefferd (her show is online here). The show title was “Mefferd speaks to Dobson,” with no indication of what the topic would be.
I clicked and listened. The show I listened to online is (Link:) here.
Most of her show topics are pretty interesting, but occasionally, she veers off into views I don’t agree with, or she interviews guests whose views make me want to puke.
As it turned out, Mefferd was interviewing Christian author Dobson about a book he wrote a few years ago called “How To Raise Girls.”
I’ve addressed in previous posts how most American churches and Christians are stuck in a 1950s time warp, where they continue to judge all behavior and culture by TV shows from the 1950s.
These types of conservative Christians look upon such television shows or the 1950s itself too, too fondly. I agree that the culture today is vulgar and coarse, and probably more so than it was in the 1950s.
However, and alarmingly, some conservative Christians consider 1950s American culture an ideal one, one to be emulated at all cost – they don’t hold Jesus Christ as the prime example to be emulated, mind you, but 1950s American culture.
Among other topics, I mentioned in the post “American Women Serving in Combat,” that one possible reason Christianity is failing today in the United States and church membership is lagging, is that American Christians spend more time wagging their index fingers at liberals and liberalism, and talking about the evils of contemporary culture (such as the existence of abortion and so on), than in actually helping people – specifically helping other American Christians.
If American Christians spent more time actually meeting the emotional and practical needs of other American Christians, instead of ignoring them in favor of pontificating on abortion, the legalization of homosexual marriage, concern about feminism, or on raising funds (for the billionth time) for rice and beans for starving orphans in Africa, maybe more Americans would find being a Christian more rewarding, practical, beneficial, and want to attend church regularly.
I listened to Mefferd interview Dobson concerning his book “How To Raise Girls,” and was completely turned off.
Gender complementarians (such as Mefferd and Dobson) over-empahsize their view that males and females differ.
Biblical gender egalitarians, such as myself, agree there are differences between males and females.
However, the older I get, I no longer buy the view that males and females are polar opposites across the board.
I think the genders have a lot in common, and both genders are expected by God to imitate Jesus Christ.
There is no “pink” Jesus for girls and no “blue” Jesus for boys.
Anyway, Dobson spent some time telling Mefferd on this radio show that Christian parents ought to raise their little girls to be “lady like.”
That term is rather sketchy and vague, and I don’t recall him clarifying what he means by it. Maybe he was more clear what he means by that term in his book.
I am going to assume for the purposes of this post that I understand what he was getting at with the phrase “lady like.”
I was definitely raised by a “June Cleaver” (1950s fictional television character) type of mom myself – all the way.
I crossed my legs when I sat down, wore panty hose under dresses, did not use cuss words, never wore pants to church services, didn’t sleep around, was never blunt or confrontational – I was a sweet, helpful little doormat who repressed all anger.
I can’t even begin to describe how being raised to be so “lady like” did so much damage to me, how many problems it created.
I am now trying to un-do the years of beliefs and behaviors I was taught was proper, godly, or lady like for a Christian female.
And it’s that very “ladylike” behavior that was so crippling for me (and other Christian women) that Dobson wants other girls to strive for.
There’s this assumption by these Dobson types – the ones who think little girls should be taught to be “lady like” – that if a female is raised to be a gentle, soft spoken, coy, compliant little thing, that this will attract men to her as she ages, and she will be able to get a husband.
I can see how that sort of thinking was true when my mother was a teen ager, but it’s not true for women like me who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.
Being coy, passive, meek, modest, mild, self-effacing, totally selfless, nurturing, and compliant (“ladylike”) does not guarantee a girl a spouse any more, and is actually a lure for abusive men, which gender complementarians don’t seem to realize – or care about.
Being “lady like” also stunts a girl’s ability to become an independent adult.
After listening to Dobson’s interview with Mefferd about his book about girls, I went to a book review site and looked Dobson’s book up.
I read reviews by people who read Dobson’s book, and they interestingly echo some of the views I expressed in my post the other day, over conservative Christianity in general.
You will see some of those views here, ones that I’ve brought up before about the state of contemporary Christianity, that these reviewers repeat about Dobson in particular, like how these reviewers notice that….
- Dobson idolizes 1950s American culture;
- Dobson, like so many other biblical gender complementarians, portrays un-biblical codependency as being desirable in a female, or mistakes codependency for being some kind of biblical standard for femininity;
- spends more time complaining and bitching about liberalism than he does in actually dispensing useful parenting advice, etc:
From reviews of Dobson’s book “How To Raise Girls”
Review by Aaron Thompson
(who gave the book a 2 star out of 5 star review):
I’ll just say I’m not a fan of James Dobson, but I have a habit of reading books even if I don’t think I’ll like them. I got this for free, so I thought I’d give it a go.
True to what I expected, I thought the book was far too negative. The majority of the book is spent talking about how the world is terrible and getting worse by the second. He spends a lot of time recounting “the good ol’ days”, which I assume is when he was a young person. I think it’s safe to say the world was just as bad then, just in some different ways.
I also think he is far too old-fashioned. Call it what you will, but I don’t think it’s necessary for a man to walk on the street side of the sidewalk or order for his date. Those types of behaviors would drive me crazy. In general, I don’t agree with the 1950’s housewife idea he has for women. If a particular woman wants her relationship to work that way, fine. But many don’t.
And lots of men don’t want that, either.
And guess what? We are dedicated Christians. I do like a little romance to be sure, but if my husband acted the way Dobson advocates for, I would feel completely smothered.
Dobson also makes himself sound outdated by comparing piercings to self-harm, such as cutting, and saying that it means you hate yourself.
No, Dr. Dobson, I didn’t hate myself when I got my tongue, nose, lip, and whatever else pierced. I just liked the style at the time.
It had no bearing whatsoever on my relationship with God, and it did not mean I was sexually abused, drank alcohol/did drugs, or had promiscuous sex. In fact, none of those things were the case with me.
I also disliked his assessment on Disney Princesses. He’s a big fan. He says girls love them because they’re beautiful, have it all together, marry Prince Charming, have an unlimited wardrobe complete with fancy dresses, and everyone loves them.
They are the epitome of femininity and represent wanting to feel beautiful and loved as well as secure.
I don’t think those are very Christian attitudes, to be honest.
I would rather be focusing my life on whatever God calls me to, even if it’s hard. Even if it’s dirty. Even if it calls me to be lonely, ugly, poor, or unmarried.
I think the Princesses give the wrong idea that desiring security and beauty is more important than desiring God. Would I completely ban a daughter from playing with Princesses? Of course not. It’s fun to dress them up. But I do worry about her “looking up” to them.
Honestly, I don’t think Dobson includes enough scripture. When he does, the majority is from the Old Testament. That’s not bad, but I would like to hear the words of Jesus and his disciples. To me, the book (and Dobson, for that matter) is about Traditional America first, Jesus second.
There are a few things I found worthwhile in the book. Dobson had interesting information on warning signs to look for in teenagers with things like sexual abuse.
This is helpful, because my husband is a youth pastor. I also appreciated the ideas for daughters and fathers to strengthen their relationship. I know that a lot of girls don’t have fathers in their lives, or if they do, their fathers are distant, so I think this is a great thing for fathers to hear and possibly be convicted about.
All in all, I think there are far better parenting books, but in most books, you can find a few worthwhile things.
(Please click the “read more” link below to read the rest of this post)
Review by Anne (2 out of 5 stars):
…This week I sat down with Dr. Dobson’s book Bringing Up Girls.
Seven years ago, I would have picked up this book and responded a certain with to Dobson’s words. This week I responded in a completely different way than I would have then. Seven years ago, I was in my early 30s and the mother of one little girl with one on the way.
My husband and I had only just moved to a new state and were adjusting to a completely different place with no family or friends to walk with. I know I would have read this book and been scared, alarmed, and fearful of what was ahead for my children. I would have wanted to hide them in a bomb shelter with me and at the same time been deeply fearful of how I could potentially and fatally wound my children for the rest of their lives.
Seven years later, two kids later, five years of homeschooling later, and seven years older–this book struck me very differently. I recognized the alarmist tone of the book. I saw some good things in the book–like the intention of making parents aware of how the things they say can affect their daughters.
A review by gclaheh (reviewer gave the book a 2 out of 5):
….The last thing that I wanted to focus on is that this book seems to believe that all girls should get married and become stay-at-home moms. The reality is that sometimes men don’t earn enough to support the family and wives have to work. The other reality is that God doesn’t call all women to marriage. In either case, there is a strong possibility that my daughter might have to work outside of the home to support herself and her family.
Therefore, I am going to raise my daughter to have a balance between the relationships that she has in life, her responsibilities, and other fun activities.
I want my daughter to have outside interests and goals other than her friends and boyfriends.
That is the real key to purity not purity dances. Since my daughter may have to work outside of the home, she shouldn’t be raised to be really sensitive.
Fathers shouldn’t try to be super sensitive to their daughters because they might have to deal with pissed off customers or insensitive bosses when they grow up.
Review by MD Mac
This basically is a book about why Girls should be raised in an old fashioned traditional way. For the most part I think it’s a nice change after all if you want your teenager to act like a young lady you should treat her that way
But…We all know we want to have our girls grow up to become moral young ladies, and that’s why we got the book. It doesn’t really tell you How to do it in today’s world.
It also bothers me that it hints toward working moms not affording to stay at home because they don’t want to give up the fancy cars; that working mothers are unwilling to make sacrifices…What??? Really??? (Of course this isn’t offered as the opinion of the author but that of a stay at home mom.) Why put it in the Book??
I am all for being a stay at home mom but the silly war of stay at home moms vs. working moms is kind of …crazy . Each woman had their own set of challenges and they are trying to do the best for there family.
Maybe we should support each other instead of criticize …stay at home moms are NOT lazy …Working moms aren’t Greedy and unconnected. Anyway it comes up in the book, and like most topics the author never offers his opinion but offers opinion of others. I don’t want to be harsh but it is a book that is badly needed and it fell terribly short.
Review by Jeremy R Stoll (who gave the book a 2 out of 5)
The book is not just overtly religious, which is fine in and of itself, but it is culturally insensitive and out of touch with the reality of youth culture. Dr. Dobson paints teenagers and youth culture as uniformly negative, assumes any family that doesn`t look like a 1950s nuclear one is bad, and promotes WASP ideology as the only way to raise a daughter.
Review by janateach:
I was really turned off by Mr. Dobson’s condemnation of behaviors (like pink hair dye) that I just don’t find that dangerous. He constantly refers to the “MTV generation” when that’s not necessarily the equivalent of evil to me, either.
While I do think that it is important to accept differerences between males and females, it is also important to recognize that not all girls fall into neatly defined gender lines and that this is not a cause for concern or condemnation but an opportunity for Christian acceptance.
I was very turned off by his condemnation of the Girl Scouts for “discussing a quote from the Buddha” and building meditation circles. I do not feel that looking at thoughts of others is a challenge to faith; I know many churches that have labrynths and meditation opportunities.
He consistenly quotes what young people want as defined by attendees of his leadership institute.
I fear that he leads parents to an attitude of close mindedness rather than acceptance, and he gives few tools for handling day to day issues other than simply insulating girls from our (I’ll agree) often disturbed culture.
Review by Sven F Pride (1 star out of 5):
Ick. This was dreck.
Take them [little girls] to church so they can learn to be meek and subservient?
Strike them if they don’t?
The “liberal media” is trying to turn girls into hookers?
This reads more like a right wing fantasy land rather than a practical guide for bringing up a strong woman of sound moral character.
Review by Carrie Walker (1 star out of 5):
It [the Dobson book] starts out telling about all the horrors of raising a daughter in this day – lack of morality in our country being the main topic that invades so much. I found it quite depressing, but figured that the book was just opening up that way to emphasize how important our roles as parents are in raising our daughters.
Unfortunately, it just continued. I was almost 200 pages into the book and it was still just doom and gloom! I was disappointed.
Where was the “practical advice and encouragement for those shaping the next generation of women”?
This book was anything but practical or encouraging. The majority of this book I felt more and more depressed that I’d decided to have a child in this world that we are living in.
But unfortunately (and no I’m really not upset I have my child – she brings such delight to our lives!) I already had a child and didn’t read this book ahead of time so I’d know that I shouldn’t have a child.
There were only 3 maybe 4 chapters that I felt even talked about how to raise your daughter. The majority of the book was just article after article about the decline in morality in this world.
Review by brian:
The opening starts with typical bible belt finger-pointing saying how the liberal media is trying to turn our little girls into hookers.
Page after page is filled with biblical references and the importance
of “dragging your girl to church every week.”
Again, if that’s your cup of tea, great, but the book was not advertised
as being for christians only nor was it clear from the few pages I could preview on amazon.
… Oh yeah. one more thing. If you’re gay, bisexual or a single mom or dad, this book hates you (and tells you that in no uncertain terms).
If you’re a single parent, a lesbian or gay couple, or simply someone who doesn’t think in terms of set, archaic gender roles, this book isn’t for you/us. A much better book is “Girls Will Be Girls,” and I’m also a big fan of “Playful Parenting.”
By amazon fan:
I am disappointed in what thus far appears to be nothing but an attack on liberals. This book leaves one wondering how anyone but a Focus on the Family supporter ever managed to successfully raise a daughter. Get over your right-wing agenda Dr. Dobson and offer some real parenting advice.
Review by American Ex Pat (who gave the book 3 stars out of 5)
I’m a big fan of Dr. Dobson’s, so I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed. It seemed that there was little practical advice. Instead, there were pages upon pages of warning about how depraved our culture has become and how toxic it is to girls.
It was filled with discouraging statistics. There is a place for such warnings and such statistics, but I thought that this book focused on them without providing the counterbalance–the advice of how to help our daughters grow strong and healthy, avoiding becoming one of those statistics.
Despite this, there were a few gems in the book. The one that stands out the most for me was the early emphasis on the role of the father–too many fathers do not realize how important they are in their daughters’ lives, right from the beginning. The early part of this book did a good job in pointing that out.
After those couple of chapters, however, it was all negatives and no advice for how to avoid them. I hoped for better from Dr. Dobson.
By Eskypades (who gave the book 3 out of 5)
While most of the book was somewhat informative on the psychological level, I found it to be lacking in practicality. Additionally, Dobson’s conservatism constantly came across as overblown hype, decrying the decadent culture in which we live.
While our modern culture is most assuredly headed in the wrong direction, it seems that Dobson can’t help but highlight the most discouraging and depressing aspects of it, even while attempting to point out “the good news.” He often seems to go overboard in denouncing things that aren’t necessarily wrong, but that he simply doesn’t like.
…This book should not be read as coming from the standpoint of Scripture, but rather from the standpoint of moral and social conservativism.
Review by LuvMy2QTz:
I was so looking forward to reading this book. I have not yet read Bringing Up Boys (because up until 7 months ago, I didn’t have a boy) so I’m not sure how the two books compare, but I had heard great things about it from friends.
I found Bringing Up Girls to be filled with all the reasons WHY we need to “shape the next generation of women,” but it seemed ultimately lacking in the HOW department.
The statistics, studies, and trends Dr. Dobson relays are certainly alarming, but I was already aware of most of them (as I would think many Christian parents who are striving to rear their daughters as modest, polite young women would be)…that’s why I bought the book. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the “advice and encouragement” I was hoping for.
Review by Patricia Carey:
First, let me say that I am a supporter of Focus on the Family and have turned to Dr. Dobson’s works many times for wisdom and suggestions to enhance my Christian walk and life. With a 10 year old girl who’s quickly approaching teen years and starting to show typical tween attitudes, I was anticipating some good practical suggestions on raising her.
However, after reading this book, I must say I was let down and disappointed. The title, “Bringing Up Girls: Practical advice and encouratement for those shaping the next generation of women” was misleading. I found very little “practical advice” in the book. In fact, I had a hard time finishing the book. Much of the book is rehash of his previous writings on differences between boys and girls and the importance of a father’s influence on the development of a young girl, the deleterious influences of the culture on our children (old news) and the misdirected emphasis of beauty in the lives of girls.
The problem I had with the book was the over reliance on excerpts from Focus on the Family radio broadcasts (which he simply reprinted in the book) and writings of other psychologists, sociologists, doctors, etc. which Dr. Dobson simply reprinted (with permission from the authors).
Reading the radio broadcast scripts was painful….like reading the script from a play in 11th grade English class.
In addition, I found the frequent interjections of poems and lyrics from secular songs to be sappy, irritating, annoying and a distraction.
By Ryan Boomershine:
Secondly, this book was exceptionally discouraging. There was a lot of doom-and-gloom-speak pointing to the realities of what the modern, current American girl looks like on the inside and outside.
That wasn’t big news though. The highly disappointing thing is that Dobson gave almost no hope to the dilemma. It’s not that he didn’t have solutions, but his solutions were advice-oriented.
The glorious Gospel of grace was almost entirely missing. There was a little bit of Bible-speak in the last chapter (The Last Word), but it really should have been used in heaps to offset the misery that a portion of the chapters spoke to. It should have been used liberally throughout to be the harbinger of hope.
Part of my critique of the book is that while Dobson is quick to point out the sex saturated world we live in, he fails to provide a robust biblical and theological paradigm for understanding sexuality.
At times you almost get the picture that certain activities are evil in and of themselves and have no redeeming value.
In other words, there is a strong pietistic strain in the book that pushes us to remove ourselves from culture rather than seek to change culture by the power of the gospel. I believe part of his critique of culture, however, is due to his experience in seeing the destructive nature of sin in girls’ lives.
By F Murrell:
The premise for this book is explained in the title. It’s a book about raising your daughter in a changing world. The world around us is becoming more addicting and dangerous for our daughters and this book is supposed to show us how to navigate through this.
Let me start off by saying that I’m a fan of Dr. Dobson and enjoyed his book Bringing Up Boys. This book, however, is incredibly long and filled with facts and data about our society and its depravity.
Some of the information seems pretty dated even though the copyright in my book says 2010. This book just couldn’t hold my attention.
I don’t think a review should be written unless the book is read so I plowed through. It was very tedious reading for me. It was heavily slanted in favor of the dad as far as instruction goes.
As a mother I felt I was reading a book meant for my husband. There just didn’t seem to be anything that I could walk away with and use. It was mostly scaring me about how bad our world was and how easily my daughter could be harmed and damaged for life.
Bringing Up Girls was written by Dr. James Dobson, the author of Bringing Up Boys. I understand that he promotes a Christian lifestyle but I had hoped this book would have more practical advice. It instead focuses on what the author believes is right and wrong.
On the back cover it doesn’t even talk about conservatism yet the entire book is based on it. Someone unfamiliar with Dr. Dobson would probably be disappointed; someone familiar with his teachings would probably enjoy it.
Unfortunately, contrary to Dr. Dobson’s view not all ‘liberal’ parents, or for that matter any parent who isn’t in what he considers traditional households, practice immorality.
By Knowlton Nast
This book did cover many of the challenges in raising girls, but did not offer enough practical advice.
I was very overwhelmed and downright afraid of the raising my daughter with the issues that were addressed in this book. I was hoping for more encouragement and practical advice, but I was loaded with devastating statistics and terrible culture trends that I will have to face with my daughter.
By A Gift For You:
I have to say that I’m in the middle of reading this, but I felt the need to comment. I appreciate the “facts” about girls and the differences between boys and girls that Dr. Dobson supplies in his book. However, when I come across a bible verse I have to suppress my gags. Yes, this is totally my fault for buying this book and not noticing that his advice is based on “biblical principles.” I agree with some of his views on modesty, but for the most part, they are a bit excessive. He seems to imply that a woman’s only place is in the home and should wait on her husband (provided he says “please”). It’s too much for me, but if you are willing to pick through this commentary, there is some useful information. I recommend “The Female Brain” much more than this book.
By Ethan Longhenry (a 4 star out of 5 review):
…. While I can understand Dobson’s emphases on the depravity of culture, he often becomes too sensationalistic and proves willing to stretch the truth at times in order to achieve maximum effect.
Yes, the influence of the 1960s and the 1970s have led to many societal challenges, especially as they relate to the roles of the two genders and sexual conduct. But, as Ecclesiastes 7:10 indicates, it is not as if the former days were really better. They were different.
I noticed with interest how Dobson lamented how fewer than half of Americans believed premarital sex was sinful, but passed over the fact that three-quarters believed racism was. While it is no doubt true that more people in the 1950s would agree that premarital sex was sinful than do now, would three-quarters have admitted that racism was sinful then? Other “conclusions” of Dobson will not square with the experiences of many, especially in his connections regarding sexual misconduct and other consequences.
I would hate to see people write Dobson off for the times when he stretches the truth and thus discredit many of the valuable warnings he does provide.
He also provides enthusiastic support for the “purity ball” concept, which I personally find rather off-putting.
We cannot condemn dancing as lascivious and be known in society as condemning dancing as lascivious and then promote a dance between fathers and daughters without wondering why people find it creepy. One can achieve the merits of the “purity ball” without the dancing and the facade.
Review by Harmony78:
I think another thing a tad bit annoying for me is the generalization [by Dobson] that all girls like dresses, dolls, etc. I consider myself feminine, but I equally enjoyed playing with cars, and video games growing up. I was unbiased to the toys I played with. A toy was a toy.
I think though the book doesn’t deny that women are more complex than men. It isn’t a bad thing, but our constant changing hormones fuel it. I think it’s great that someone can put this into understanding. Just know that your daughter probably isn’t always going to want to be over the top frilly.
I liked how this book navigated some issues, but not all. It focused a lot on sexuality, and I would honestly like to read the book about raising boys to see if they discuss it in that one just as much. I think the book indirectly puts more pressure on women to stay pure without realizing it.
….I wish Dobson would have focused a lot less on how dangerous the world is for women, and instead on how to empower girls into respecting themselves without letting others define them.