The pinkification of the Bible

Friday, 29 October 2010

Proving that absolutely nothing is safe from 'pinkification' is the slightly nauseating My Princess Bible that I came across this morning. With cover artwork not dissimilar to Disney Princess branding, the 64-page book focuses on 19 biblical women including Eve, Deborah and Miriam. It frames them as princesses, using their stories to teach young girls about desirable character traits.

I appreciate that the 'women as princesses' narrative is a common one in Christian culture and that for a lot of people it is encouraging and affirming to see themselves as princesses based on the fact they are 'daughters of the King'. What I do have a problem with, however, is the way that this has become bound up with pink and sparkles and Barbie-esque artwork, just like everything else aimed at young girls.

The women featured in My Princess Bible were not princesses. They came from very different backgrounds and achieved many great things. As role models for girls they have so much more to focus on. Deborah was a prophet and the only female judge in the Old Testament. Lydia was a businesswoman and a key figure in the early church. Obviously it's necessary to simplify their stories in a way that girls can benefit from but you have to wonder if the diversity of their gifts and experiences is lost.

According to one review of the book, some of the messages given by the stories include "A princess prays for people", "A princess is kind and thoughtful", "A princess loves her family" and "A princess takes care of God's world". I think there are good intentions behind this and I also think it's really good that there are some books out there focusing on the women of the Bible as role models, but I don't think going down the 'pink' route is the way to do it. There's more to faith in God than being 'His special princess' and a whole lot more to being a woman of God than tying your self-worth up with tiaras and Prince Charming.

Members on Amazon have offered several negative reviews of the book - one such review included observations such as:

"...1) It lacked depth and the true Biblical narrative, 2) the stories were written to moralize, and in some cases incorrectly, the biblical accounts and 3) the book consistently promoted a physical beauty of all the women that was Barbie-esque."

My Princess Bible isn't the only book to get in on the act, however. And this next example of bringing present-day stereotyping into Christianity is possibly even worse. Behold, I give you the God's Little Princess Devotional Bible and its boy-orientated counterpart, God's Mighty Warrior.

The boy's version includes Bible stories broken down into the following topics:

* The Belt of Truth (Article on values)
* Guard Your Heart (Manners for boys)
* Stand Strong (Sharing the Good News with friends)
* Shield of Faith (How to make right choices)
* Helmet of Salvation (Knowing right from wrong)
* Sword of the Spirit (Scripture memory)
* Mighty Warriors (Bible heroes)
* Adventure Quest (Encouragement for imagination and adventure)

while girls can benefit from wisdom shared under some different headings, including:

* Down in my Heart (scripture memory)
* Beauty Secrets (how to be "beautiful")
* Bible Princesses (girls and women of the Bible)
* My Hero (scripture promises)
* Take a Bow (dress-up and role-playing ideas)
* I Adore You (kids songs and worship ideas)
* Princess Charming (teaching manners, poise and charm)
* Worthy of Love (ways to love your family and friends)

This is a book which comes with a blurb stating 'Girls long to be loved and adored, and give their heart to their hero'. It's a book where, as one reviewer of GoodReads details, girls are advised to 'Put on a favorite piece of your jewelry, such as a ring or a bracelet. When you look at it throughout the day, remember that you are God's little jewel.' And it's a book which teaches 'poise and charm'.

At Feminism in London I listened to a nine-year-old girl talk about how she thinks there should be better role models for girls in fairy stories, because (to paraphrase) 'the girls just have to be pretty but the boy characters get to do fun stuff and look cool'. I'm currently undertaking a theology course on gender in the Bible and the message is clear. Women of God aren't bound by stereotypes and convention and maybe it would be good for the people writing these books to remember that. There is so much more to life than pink, glitter and princesses, even for little girls. You wouldn't believe it from going into any toy shop or children's clothes shop, but it's true.

Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals has got it right when she says:

"I'm not anti-princess...I’m not anti-girly. I’M ANTI-LIMITATION. I want my daughter to be bold. I want her to be unafraid to be intelligent. I want her to be respected for her accomplishments. I want her to know that she can be an astronaut, a soldier, a pilot, a carpenter, a firefighter. She will not be raised to think that the world belongs only to boys."


RedHead said...

I'm going to play both devil's advocate and the chicken and egg card - I think wrapping this up in barbie colours is a shrewd move, but marketing, not religion motivated. I also think that little girl is right - I never liked the princesses. I liked how Ted riding hood walker in forests, but that's about it. I don't mind this book, I think its teaching the right values at the appropriate age group, but I do think they need to make more of the brave biblical women.

RedHead said...

Whoops, missed the chicken and egg bit - if it wasn't pink, little girls wouldn't want it. It's the barbie culture trying to fight back against what it itself created.

emily shorette said...


There's the Bible, then there's the BarbieBible. Unfortunately, neither one is very good. One is very problematic if you even begin to read it closely, the other stripped down, sanitized, and made to look like, well, Barbie.

One very glaring of the first instance comes from the story of Abraham. The story goes that the men of Sodom and Gommorah wanted the men to have sex with. Not really very nice(unless they thought it was cool). But the truly outrageous fact is that they offered their women instead. Kinda like sheep.

There are bits and pieces of the Bible that are worthy of consideration, but that's the problem - they're just bits and pieces.

I would appreciate if you read my blog, The blog is a virtual compendium of articles from newspapers, newsweeklies, and magazines, both popular and scholarly. The articles have a viewpoint toward transgender / transsexual news. If you like it, please put
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Hannah Mudge said...

Yes, you do wonder whether or not this culture of everything for young girls having to be pink has led to a demand for pink Bibles!

Emily, it's interesting you use that example actually - I am currently doing a theology course focusing on gender in the Bible and on one of the weeks we were looking at these instances in the Old Testament, where women were attacked or killed so that it did not have to happen to a man. It raises a lot of questions, obviously, about OT culture. I'll take a look at your blog :)

Mommy of Monkeyshines said...

This is a great post! I couldn't agree with you more. My biggest problem is that is seems to suggest that a little girl, is somehow less of a girl if she can't find a "hero" to give her heart to. The idea that they would market this to little girls and cover up the fact that these Biblical women were strong, borderline femininsts, is nothing short of disgusting. Right wing women all too often buy into the lies about Biblical feminity and also the lie that says that you are somehow less of a woman if you can't find a husband or have children.

Blackbird said...

The Biblification of Barbie??!!!

Liking your blog! :-)


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