There is a war in America. No, an enemy has not landed on our shores. No, there isn’t another civil war. No, something is happening in culture. I’m not talking about the “culture war” between Christians and secularists. No, it’s something that is in every American’s daily life, regardless of creed, age, or race. It’s the gender war. Likely, it should be called a gender discussion (I don’t think hostility is the way to ‘win’, if ‘winning’ is even something to obtain). And maybe ‘gender’ should be ‘human’, since we all are, in fact, human. Whatever you want to call it, there’s a discussion/debate/trending topic/war concerning gender/humanism.
I recently read two articles, one by a ‘humanist’ another by a leading ‘feminist’. One says there is no war against ‘masculinity’ proper while the other said there certainly is. They both agree that mistreatment is going on and there is a severe problem with our culture today regarding both genders. We, as Americans, have made great strives, with the continuing increase of female CEOs (while that number is still insignificant in Fortune 500 companies). However, these two articles point to the fact that something is under attack.
Masculinity is under attack.
So is femininity.
And, most significantly, humanity.
Humanity Under Attack
If there is an idea of masculinity and femininity (which I believe there is), then for one to be under attack is for the other to be under attack as well, and ultimately humanity. Men and women have more in common than we sometimes think… or remember. We are of the same substance. Whatever you believe, you cannot deny that we are formed through the same process, that we are all made from human flesh and are all human. Lest we forget our origins, man and woman are not completely separately created beings. Woman was not made out something separate from man. Eve was not made from dust, but from Adam’s rib. Had God made her from a separate substance, we would be totally different species, unrelated in every way.
Before anyone tries to claim that this puts woman in some sort of lower state of being, need I remind you that the narrative emphasizes the similarities rather than the differences, specifically in regards to the animals.
…But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
She was made to be the same as him to be his helper. Animals were not fit companions to Adam, so God made Eve. One of the hottest discussion points of this passage is the term ‘helper’. While there may or may not be theological importance to this term, we often skip over the similarities. In 1:17 the greatest similarity is their being created in the image of God.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Ultimately we are all human.
We are all created in the image of God.
We are all image bearers. To not treat another as a human being, to not see that they are in fact carrying the image of God, is disastrous. A question could arise, “did we lose the image of God after the fall?” A valid question. One which I will not go into length to answer now, but I do believe the image, though tarnished, has never fully been blotted out.
Though we are all created in the image of God, we are created male and female. Whether gender adds up to humanity, is different expressions of humanity, or something else, I do not know. I do know that there is a difference, a difference deeper than just biological. To say it is only biological and that we should escape it is Gnosticism.
C. S. Lewis in Perelandra explains this difference through the planets Mars (Malacandra) and Venus (Perelandra). The protagonist, near the end of the book, witnesses them both in their pure forms.
Both bodies were naked, and both were free from any sexual characteristics, either primary or secondary. That, one would have expected. But whence came this curious difference between them? He found that he could point to no single feature wherein the difference resided, yet it was impossible to ignore. One could try- Ransom has tried a hundred time- to put it into words. He has said that Malacandra was like rhythm and Perelandra like melody. He has said that Malacandra affected him like a quantitative, Perelandra like an accentual, metre. He thinks that the first held in his hand something like a spear, but the hands of the other were open, with palms towards him. But I don’t know that any of these attempts has helped much. At all events what Ransom saw at that moment was the real meaning of gender… Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex…The male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine.
The quote goes on much longer, but you can read the book to learn more. I want to make a few observations.
- Both seemed similar. Ransom, the protagonist, could hardly tell the difference between the two. They were incredibly similar, and both of the same sort of being. Neither had clear indicators as to it’s gender (masculine or feminine), even lacking the signs of sex (male and female).
- There was nothing definitely masculine of feminine. He could point to no singular feature wherein they differed. While Lewis explains that somethings express more masculine or feminine characteristics, he notes that there is no one distinguishing factor.
- Gender is beyond sex. It is beyond physical organs. God explicitly created them male and female. Though he did not at that moment say what femininity and masculinity are, they were created.
In the end, these two beings are of the same kind, they are both Oyarsa, governing bodies of their own planets. Both genders are human, something that we must not forget.
It seems to me that while we have been focusing on the virtues of individual genders (how should men act/ how should women act), we have been neglecting the larger field of shared virtues. Have we been teaching both genders, humanity, how to love and respect others? What about all the other virtues? Again, C. S. Lewis is The Problem of Pain points out our deficiency in teaching the virtues. We have elevated ‘kindness’ to the point that we do honor the other virtues. What about the carnal virtues of temperance, courage, wisdom, and justice? Or even the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love?
Instead we fight these battles separately as genders. Surely, there is a time and place to face issues as related to genders specifically, but I believe there is more discussion that can be talked about with humanity.
Beauty has mostly been fought on the feminine front. I, being a male, don’t read of a ton of posts about feminine beauty, but I see them all over Facebook and Twitter. One campaign that I think is doing well on this front is Dove’s campaign for real beauty. Watch these two spots and you’ll get what I’m talking about.
While both of these ads deal with feminine beauty, a fight that will be centered on the feminine body in both genders’ eyes, I wonder if there is discussion on masculine beauty, and, more importantly, human beauty.
For masculinity, there are some activities that are ‘inherently’ feminine. One such activity is needlework. I have a friend who I viewed as the epitome of masculinity, as Malacandra himself, you could say (needless to say, placing the weight of ideal anything on anyone is never a good idea). He also knits. Some people like to pick on him because he knits, saying it’s a ‘feminine’ activity. However, this didn’t alter his masculinity or even his humanness at all, much less in my eyes. In fact, it made him more human, possibly even more masculine. Lewis said that while things may have a draw to one gender or another, there is no clear feature that distinguishes them. Virtues and activities do not belong to one or the other completely. They are human things.
I think there are things that are good for each gender to discuss in their own context. However, we should keep in mind that every war we wage will involve the other gender. My friend once noted that discussing things exclusively separately creates mystery between the genders, too much mystery. If we are ever to win these wars, we cannot fight behind closed doors as single genders, but united as one humanity.
Some may be wondering if I’m feminist, humanitarian, complementarian, or something else. I may even have angered some or many of you. If you feel that way, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. While I do have a descriptor for myself (which I will not use here), I believe in women in leadership, including CEOs, but I also believe there is a difference between the genders. Maybe you thought I was too rigid, or perhaps you thought I was too soft. I don’t claim to know the differences, but what I do know is that I am a human, an image bearer, born a male. My hope is that this will bring forth more discussion about the shared virtues of humanity than about what separates the genders.