Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why I Appreciate Help, but Don't Appreciate Chivalry

I just read two different articles on the topic of chivalry.  This one from Matt Walsh and this one from The Time Warp Wife.  I've only ever read a few posts from either site, but I've greatly enjoyed and shared some of those from Matt Walsh's blog.  So this response is not written in an argumentative or debating spirit.  Just as dialogue for anyone who thinks that maybe those of us who object to chivalry actually *do* have a reason for it and would like to know what it is.   

So here are my thoughts on chivalry.  

I appreciate respect, generosity and help. I just don't appreciate it in the form of benign sexism. If a man holds a door open for me, I say "Thank you!" Much more so if I'm carrying something heavy or wrangling kids. But I choose to assume that he's doing it because he's a kind, respectful *person* helping another *person.* If he tells me he's doing it because I'm a woman and he's a man, I lose some respect for him. Because those are the same kind of men who tend to have beliefs about submission and leadership and what jobs women should hold, with which I strongly disagree, and because I know they do not respect me as a full human being since I'm a woman. I can still think they are great people in other ways, and I can still have relationships with them, and I probably won't even tell them my beliefs on the topic (unless they ask), but I cannot respect them as much as I respect a man who is a courteous man just because he is a courteous man, without gender qualifiers about to whom he is courteous.

I have heard many times, and I just read in the comments of both articles, about women who get angry about men being courteous to them.  Women who "don't allow it" or "punish" men for it.  The Time Warp Wife starts out by apologizing to men for women making it seem like we don't want their respect and kindness. 

The thing is- I have never actually met one of these women.  I don't doubt the stories of those who claim they've been berated by women for holding the door open, but I wonder if there is more to the story.  Were they really being berated for holding the door open?  Or were they being berated for some sexist comment or attitude that accompanied the act?  

Even Matt Walsh says:

 "...men who forgo chivalry often do so because they’re afraid that being gentlemen might seem “offensive” to some women. Meanwhile, only a small fraction of women actually report being offended by chivalrous deeds."

Exactly.  Most people are not offended by common courtesy.  What IS offensive, however, is the attitude behind *some* acts of apparent courtesy. 

It comes down to intention.  I'm not going to grill the random stranger in the store on his intention when he opens the door for me.  I simply accept the kind gesture, say thank you and move on with my life without giving it another thought.  But I do want to know the intentions of the men my daughters will marry.  The intentions and attitudes that are *behind* the actions of opening the door make a huge difference when the topic changes to "Who is the head of the house?" or "Should women work?"  The same men who believe they should open the door because they are stronger and the woman is weaker, are often the same ones who believe they should make the final decisions in marriage for the same reason.  That's a problem for the woman seeking an egalitarian partnership. 

Matt discusses the history of chivalry, saying:

"Knights could use their strength and wealth to dominate and oppress, but they were called to utilize it in the opposite direction. They were called to do with their power what Christ did with His. They were called to love in the manner described by Paul in Ephesians 5. That’s chivalry. We might not wear suits of armor anymore (unfortunately), but there’s nothing suddenly irrelevant or unnecessary about the spirit of chivalry."

What he fails to mention is that during the same time period, women were not allowed to be land owners, receive as much education as men or have the same rights as merchants.  One of those chivalrous knights could woo the lady to marry him (or just buy her as a teenager from her father), and then he essentially owned her.  He could expect sex as his right and the term marital rape was unheard of.  He could legally hit her.  If she resisted these social customs, she might be determined to be a witch and burned at the stake.  Chivarly did nothing to prevent or remedy any of this.

To compare Ephesians 5 to chivalry, really cheapens the message of Ephesians.  The whole book is about unity, working together, and everyone striving to have a heart for what God wants, which then translates into us all wanting the same thing.

Chivalry was probably a much needed concept for knights who were going into war where rape and pillage was common place.  It's a very base starting point for not acting like a savage animal.  It's hardly a goal worth striving for if you're already a man who's not raping women and beating your wife.      

Matt says:

"Chivalry calls for the strongest to serve and honor the weakest, realizing that the other option is for the strongest to dominate and abuse the weakest.... In the mean time, as a routine matter, chivalry is still essential. Men should carry bags, and hold doors, and pull out chairs, and offer seats to women, not because women are incapable of standing or opening their own doors, but because of what these acts represent — what they say. And what they say is simple: “I am bigger and stronger than you, but I will use my strength to honor you and protect you. I will not hurt you. I will not take advantage of you. I will humble myself before you and serve you.”

And a wise commenter on his blog named Jason responds in part:

"And it is here that we get to the heart of the problem of chivalry. Chivalry defines who is strong and who is weak by gender and age. You may see yourself as saying (later in your post) “I am bigger and stronger than you…” but let’s change the adjectives while retaining the same meaning “You are smaller and weaker than I am…” What if someone did something for you based on this rationale? How would that make you feel? Can you see how someone may take offense to this?"

Yes, how *would* a man respond to the same rationale thrown his way?

Let's try it out....

Women, I'm calling for us as the gender with higher emotional IQs to serve and honor the less emotionally capable.  We should rescue men from awkward social situations, mediate between our husbands and their bosses, and intervene when we see two random men communicating to each other to make sure they do it in a healthy way.  Not because men are incapable of navigating social situations or solving their own problems or conversing in healthy ways, but because of what these acts represent- what they say.  And what they say is simple: "I am more emotionally intelligent than you, but I will use this intelligence to honor and protect you.  I will not belittle you.  I will not manipulate you.  I will humble myself before you and serve you."

Now, I'm sure not a single man will find that at all offensive, right?   

(For the record, I do not believe that women are innately more emotionally intelligent, I'm just making a point.)

 Finally, Matt uses the Titanic to illustrate this point:

"If we adopt an “every man and woman for him/herself” then no woman will ever escape a sinking ship again. The men could quite easily shove the women aside, jump on the lifeboats, and get outta Dodge."

The problem is that chivalry sets up a dynamic in which all the women on those lifeboats will die anyway.  Why?  Because when you always have someone doing the heavy lifting for you, you get weak.  When you always have someone running to your rescue, you become dependent.  When you always have someone protecting you, you never learn to protect yourself.  When women never have to be strong or protect themselves or learn skills that might save their lives while they sit on that lifeboat for weeks waiting for more men to rescue them, they are always helpless and beholden to a man.  This creates the very dynamic both Matt and I would like to avoid.  One where "...just the physically strongest survive. Women can only be slaves in a world like that, as history has proven many times."

I can't think of a single shred of objective criteria one could use to say women were better off socially, educationally, financially, or better protected physically during the era of chivalry than they are in more equal societies todayOr that they were not much closer to the status of slaves then, they they are now.   

Is it exaggerating to say that chivalry goes hand in hand with patriarchy?   Even the Time Warp Wife can't discuss chivalry without starting her blog post with a story about a woman who's husband is the leader of their home and the woman is happy to obey him.  Of course, she's talking about a much more benign version of patriarchy than what existed in the days of knights on white horses, but it's still damagingAnd Matt can't help but refer to "physical superiority" as if greater strength equals being a superior human being.  It makes me chuckle at the mental image of a man who spends his days in an office pushing papers, feeling good about using his superior physical strength to help a woman carry her groceries to her car, not knowing that the woman is a Marine in civilian clothing.  There are just too many exceptions like that to go about your day constantly judging others' abilities by gender, and expect not to routinely insult people.
Both benign versions of patriarchy promotes the typical false black and white dichotomy.

EITHER it's every man/woman for him/herself.
OR we turn to prescribed gender based roles to tell us how to support and protect one another.

Fortunately, there is an option C.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

 Ephesians 4:1-6 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There are no gender qualifiers on who should exhibit the fruits of the spirit, and even our enemies should receive our prayers and good works.  So I'm not condemning courtesy, kindness, generosity, or helpfulness. Those are all good things, of which the world desperately needs more.  I'm just saying it's important to examine our intentions.  It should be the intention of us all to help those in need, not to show off the areas in which we excel (or those in which we assume we are excel, whether or not that is the reality).  It should be the intention of all of us to unify the body of believers by building each other up, not to divide the body of believers by gender.         



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Excellent Teaching by Pastor Dave Ward "The Church, The Truth and Women in Ministry"

He's not Messianic and I don't know how much of his other teaching I would agree with, but this sermon is excellent.  I think it's especially poignant that he refers to himself as a "recovering chauvinist."  This is not a man who was raised to believe that women should be in ministry.  He came to this conclusion after a year of studying every verse in the Bible on women, studying the original languages, referring to lexicons, learning history, and seeking out those more knowledgeable in theology and Bible study than himself.

Think: The Church, The Truth & Women in Ministry from Central Wesleyan Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Differences Between Men and Women

When I was five years old, a scorpion ran through my classroom and went right under my teacher's chair.  Her robust body flew backwards, along with the chair, her neat grey hair suddenly bounded out of place, and her Pentecostal length skirt landed inside out on top of the pile of indignity into which she'd been instantly transformed.  She screamed at the top of her lungs for her husband, the church Pastor and school principal, to come rescue her.  He rushed fearlessly into the room, helped her up and heroically crushed the threat.

The girls in the class all squeeled and shuddered and started looking around for the next creepy crawly thing that might appear from the cracks in the walls and attack. 

The boys all ran to see the squished scorpion, pumped up with excitement and thrilled to be free of reading lessons.

I was reminded once again (yes at 5 this was already a reminder, not new information), about the differences between boys and girls.

Except, I really wanted to see that awesome looking scorpion, and thought the whole thing was hilarious.  

But what I wanted or could do or how I thought was never noticed as being any different from the rest of my designated group.  I was a girl and there are certain things girls just do and don't do, think and don't think, are and aren't. 


We encounter them every day, in a million different ways.

I've heard people say things like, "It's not WRONG to say that in general men are physically stronger than women. It's not putting women down, we still have our own strengths in other ways.  But that is just a fact."   Depending on the conversation, I might still want to clarify what type of strength they are talking about (upper body vs. lower or speed vs. endurance), but I would normally just agree that yes, in general, men are physically stronger than women.

There are a lot of stereotypes that are true *in general* when looking at one large population of people versus another.

Men are physically stronger than women.
Blonds are more fun.
African Americans don't get sunburned.
Americans are overweight.

This information is interesting trivia, and good for historical records of what different groups of people are like, and even useful to society in some ways.   For example, when I was doing market research for a store I considered opening, I looked at reports that told how much different races spent on clothes, on average, annually, per household.  Asians spent the most on clothes, but because my town has a very small Asian population, it made more sense for me to base my projected sales off the money spent on clothes by the average White and Hispanic household.

So, why do I object when people bring this kind of research and stereotypes into conversations about Biblical gender roles and marriage? 

One reason is that the biggest flaw in some of these studies is that even the ones that can objectively tell us that there IS a difference, cannot tell us WHY the difference exists.  It's the age old nature vs. nurture argument that will simply never be settled during our time on this earth.  We can have our opinions and I certainly have mine, but ultimately, without a large control group of babies completely uninfluenced by human interaction, we will never be able to parse out which behaviors are innate to gender and which behaviors are learned from parents and culture.

On the other hand, some of the studies CAN be done in a way that both objectively determines the facts and explains the reasons.

For example, a study might show that men can do X number of pullups and women can do Y number of pullups, because men have greater upper body strength, because of higher testosterone levels.  Awesome!

And entirely useless information to almost any individual. 
Found on this blog, which I know nothing about, except this post is really good.
Which is why I object to stereotypes and even scientific studies being used as proof for those differences between men and women that "we just all 'know' to be true, but for some crazy reason Egalitarians won't admit."

The only way I've ever seen this information used, is in a damaging way, thanks to this one little word, said or implied:


Blondes are more fun, therefore less intelligent.
African Americans don't get sunburned, therefore God designed them to work outside, therefore slavery is justified.
Americans are overweight, therefore we should limit their freedom of choice by making laws controling the free market and telling restaurants what they can and cannot sell.

Once, a friend of mine was afraid that I would be offended, because she let it slip that women in the country in which she used to live sat around and talked more than the men did.  That was a stereotype about the differences between men and women that she was just sure would be information to which I would object.

In reality, it didn't even cross my mind that this was anything more than passing information about the culture relevant to the story she was telling me.  Group generalities can be useful information.

But if you're going to go on to use that generality as proof that is the "just the way God made men and women differently," and say or imply that anyone who falls outside of those generalities is sinning.... well, I have a lot more scorpion stories for you.  Not just mine, but the stories of many men and women who don't fit the mold.  

Just as it would be insulting and illogical to speak extra slowly and use small words when talking to a blond,

Just as it would be insulting and illogical to say that slavery was justified because African Americans don't get sunburned,

Just as it would be insulting and illogical to say that American's should be required by law to stop at one Big Mac,

Just as it would be insulting and illogical to walk up to a random Asian person and ask where to buy designer clothes,

So it is also insulting and illogical to assume that any individual woman you know can't do a certain number of pullups,

Or worse, that because she can't do as many pullups as her husband that this somehow proves heirarchy and gender roles in the Bible,

Or worse, that if she can, in fact, do more pullups than her husband that she is obviously not happy in her Biblical role and trying to take over her husband's (supposedly Biblical) job of protecting the family.

Pull ups and physical strength might seem like a trite example, but insert the stereotype of your choice.

Men are more logical and women are more emotional.

Men are more aggressive and women are more nurturing.

Women talk more than men.

Women's hormones affect their thinking more than men's hormones affect their thinking.

Women are better at relational skills.

Men are better at spacial skills.

Even IF any of those things can be proven objectively and scientifically, even IF that proof removes the slightest doubt about those findings being influenced by nurture, there is still the big, blinking, neon sign that says "generally" or "usually."

Meaning that it is just a red herring to the two important questions:

Does the Bible actually say this and more importantly, does it command that this is the way God says we should be?

Does this information help THIS man and THIS woman live in echad/unity with each other and with God?

If the answer to those is no, than leave the stereotypes and studies to the sociologists and anthropologists, and leave them out of discussions about Biblical gender roles and marriage.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review of the movie Brave


The gist of the story is that Scottish princess Merida is supposed to marry a man from one of the other 3 clans.  They all gather to compete for her hand in a contest of strength and weapons proficiency.  The final test is archery and Merida breaks tradition by competing for her own hand and besting all 3 of the contenders with her superior archery skills.  Her mother, however, is very angry about this and they have an argument.  Merida runs off into the woods where she finds a witch's cottage.  She asks the witch to give her a spell that will change her mother.  The witch puts a potion into a cake which Merida gives her mother.  When her mother eats the cake, she turns into a bear. 

This is especially disastrous because Merida's father lost his leg in a fight with a bear and has been hunting it ever since.  So Merida tries to hide her mother from her father while searching for a way to reverse the spell.  The whole experience brings mother and daughter closer, and it all ends in a battle where Merida stands between her father and mother to protect her mother (the father believes its the bear who took his leg), and they all work together to kill the real bear.  The spell is broken and Merida's parents and the other clans accept that she will not marry one of the other men unless they win her heart. 

There were a lot of great things about this movie:

A strong female character- physically, mentally, emotionally
A moral to the story- mother and daughter both learn to listen to each other and gain greater respect and understanding for each other
It doesn't revolve around marriage/love- even though it was the attempt to arrange her marriage that sparked the rest of the story, most of the story is about her growing up and her relationship with her mother.  In the end she it is left open as to whether or not she will ever marry one of those men or at all.  (Not that there is anything wrong with stories about marriage and love, just that it has become a tired old storyline and little girls need to see there are other things to life). 

There was one thing that I was disappointed about however.

All the men in the movie were bumbling idiots.

The three men she was supposed to choose from for a husband were dorky and weak.  Even her father who was a king and a brave warrior was clearly whipped by his overbearing wife, right down to saying the cliche "Yes, dear."

This is disappointing for two reasons.  First of all, it's insulting to men.  I don't mind the occasional goofy character (male or female) in a movie. After all, it's that variety of personalities that keeps things interesting, and it can be especially fun when it's overly exaggerated for a kids' movie.  But this movie had 3 female characters and about 100 male characters (most of them warriors from the other clans), and not one of the men was intelligent.  I see this trend too often in sitcoms and movies that try to give women a more prominent, intelligent, strong role.  They swing too far the other way and make all the male characters weak, wimpy and stupid.  

The other reason it bothers me is that it is insulting to women too.  It implies that women could not be the brave, strong, intelligent characters in the story if there was a man to fill that role.  For example, Merida was an excellent shot with a bow, but the three men she was competing against weren't much competition either.  She wasn't interested in marrying any of them, but it leaves you wondering if one of them had been a Prince Charming might she have fallen for him?  

I've only seen two animated movies that did a decent job of portraying strong female AND male characters, and those are Tangled and Mulan.  The men in those movies were strong, handsome, intelligent characters, and that didn't detract at all from Rapunzel and Mulan being strong, brave and intelligent in their own rights.  Of course, they ended up getting married, which was fine for those stories.  Brave could have been better, though, if there had been a strong male character, and the story was STILL about Merida and her growth and relationship with her mother.  She could have still chosen not to get married, at least not right now.  At the very least, her father could have been a stronger character.

Overall, I gave it 3.5 stars.  It lost a star for it's lack of strong male characters.  It lost half a star for the witchcraft, which I don't like being portrayed so cavalierly, but at least it showed in the end that witchcraft was not the solution.    


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Manhood and Womanhood Before (after) Sin Part 3

John Piper titled this sermon Manhood and Womanhood Before Sin.  In the beginning of this sermon he said,
"The other reason I think this is a good question (i.e., God's intention for manhood and womanhood before sin) is that in the New Testament Jesus and Paul, when they use the Old Testament to answer questions about how man and woman should relate to each other, go back to what things were supposed to be like before the fall. They don't take the messed up relationships of Genesis 3 and make them normative. They come back to Genesis 2 and talk about how it should have been from the beginning."

He makes a valid point that both Paul and Jesus refer back to Genesis 2:24 when speaking of marriage.  The rest of the sermon focuses on events that occurred after sin, which according to his own statement this messed up relationship of Genesis 3 should not be taken as normative.   This means that his entire argument hinges on what we have explored in the last two posts-  man was made first (maybe) and God only gave his instructions to man (probably not.)  Even though there is nothing *in the text* to indicate that either of these statements, if they are even true, have any significance to the intended relationship between man and woman, this is what complementarians use as their foundation for "biblical" marriage roles. 

The Man is Interrogated First  

Piper says:

"Make no mistake: God does hold the woman accountable for her actions. She is a personal, morally accountable being in the very image of God. And what man does or fails to do relieves her of no personal, individual responsibility to know and to obey God. But in their relationship to each other God looks to the man and says, "Have you been the moral and spiritual leader you ought to have been?" 

Is that what God said?

In Genesis 3:9-11 God asks some pretty straight forward questions:

Where are you?
Who told you that you are naked?
Did you eat of the tree that I commanded you not to?

Basic, clear, personal questions.  No hint of anything about leadership or any responsibility for Eve's actions.

Why did God talk to Adam first?  I don't know, because it doesn't say!.  Maybe he flipped a cosmic coin.

Does it matter who God spoke to first?  I think if it did, he would say so. 

  Let's assume for a minute that Piper is correct and the order in which God spoke to Adam and Eve has some meaning.  

God goes on to deliver the serpent's consequences before Eve's and Eve's before Adam's.  

God continues to show no discernible pattern throughout the Bible, and here is one example:

In Luke 1:27 an angel comes to Mary to tell her that she will give birth to Jesus.
In Mathew 1:18-1:20 an angel tells Joseph about the baby, after Mary is already pregnant.

Manhood and Womanhood Before Sin Part 2

The Man is Given the Moral Pattern

In this sectioin, Piper claims that Adam was given the instructions for how to behave in the garden (Genesis 2:16), because he had a "primary responsiblity" for their actions.  He says that God trusted Adam to pass these instructions on to Eve.

In my last post, I raised the strong possibility that Adam was a man/woman being that was separated into man and woman distinctly in Chapter 3.  If this is true, than God did, in fact, give both man and woman the instructions in verse 16.  Let's assume for the sake of argument that God only gave these instructions to Adam and that Eve was created after that.  Does this have significance?

Piper claims that this indicated Adam's "primary responsibility (not the only, but the primary responsibility) to receive and teach and be accountable for the moral pattern of life in the garden of Eden."

What does that mean?  Really?  In practical terms?  Some patriarchs believe this and take it to an interesting extreme.  They go so far as to believe that as long as a woman obeys her husband, she is off the hook with God for anything they do, because it is *entirely* the man's responsibility to make wise decisions.  Obviously, this is not true, as we see later that Eve bore consequences as well as Adam.  Complementarians see this logic and try to find a middle ground- Adam is only *mostly* responsible.  But what does that mean?  If someone has a good (or any) argument from a complementarian source on this I would love to see it, because I have yet to find one.  I have seen multiple proof-texted arguments that attempt to show that Adam *does* bear most of the responsibility, but none that show what that means in practical terms.  If Adam bears 51% of the responsibility and Eve bears 49%, is she 2% less dead than him at the end of the day?

Romans 6:23
"For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

So, did God tell Eve the instructions?

I believe he did, whether they were formed at the same time or not.

Genesis 3:8 
"And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day:"  

I'm just speculating here, because the text doesn't actually say, but do you think this was a new occurrence?  Do you think God just happened to show up that day after leaving them alone since the day of creation?  Or maybe this was a regular thing, for him to walk and talk with Adam and Eve.  I don't imagine that the one sentence of instruction was all he told them either.  They both got to WALK and TALK with God, getting to know his character, and learning his instructions for life.

But the text doesn't actually say, so let's look at the rest of the Bible.  Who does God speak to when he gives his instructions.

Exodus 6:6
Exodus 14:2
Exodus 27:20
Exodus 30:21

These are just a few of the examples of God speaking to "the children of Israel."  He didn't call the men together and speak to them so they could tell their wives.  He spoke to everyone.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Manhood and Womanhood Before Sin

This post is in response to Manhood and Womanhood Before Sin by John Piper.  It was written in 1989, but conveys some beliefs that are still quite popular among complementarians.  In this post, I'm only addressing his first argument.        

The Man was Created First- Or Was He? 

Genesis 1:26-27
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

Scholars have offered several explanations for the placement of this creation account, since it is before Eve's apparent creation from Adam's rib.  The Talmud offers this explanation:

Midrash Rabbah 8:1:

Rabbi Yirmeyah ben El'azar said: The Blessed Holiness created the first human being with both genders, as it is written, "Male and female [God] created them" {Genesis 1:27}.
Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman [agreed and] said: The Blessed Holiness created the first human being double-faced [with two fronts of the body], and then sawed them apart and made backs for them, a back for one and a back for the other.
Other scholars objected: It is written "[God] took one of his ribs" {Genesis 1:21}! [The word understood as "rib" is tsela- see Hebrew text below]
[Rabbi Shmuel] answered: It means "one of the two sides [of the double being]". As Scripture says, "For the tsela of the Sanctuary..." -- where the translation of tsela is "side".

This is the most likely explanation.  The word used for man in Genesis 1 is Adam, which is used for humankind.  It is not until Genesis 2:23, after the man/woman Adam was separated, that the word "iysh" is used for the first time to distinguish man from "ishshah" (woman).  In addition, we are created in the image of God, and God is Echad or plural One, with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This explains how a man and a woman are to "become one flesh."  In the beginning, they were literally one flesh, and marriage should be a picture of that unity.  

1 Timothy 2:23
"For Adam was first formed, then Eve." 

Does this contradict the explanation of the man/woman Adam?  No, I don't think so.  Adam got to keep the body that was formed first before Eve got her newly formed body.  Paul's purpose in stating this was to refute a teaching that was circulating that woman was the originator of man. 

1 Timothy 2:12 
"I most certainly do not grant authority to a woman to teach that she is the originator of a man." 

But let's just say that John Piper is correct and Adam was, in fact, formed first.

He claims, "Now God wants to say something more about the relationship between man and woman. And what he wants to say is that when it comes to their differing responsibilities, there is a "firstness" of responsibility that falls to the man."

There is nothing in the text to indicate that the purpose of this passage is to show us anything about who has more responsibility before God.  This is entirely his opinion.  All the Bible does is state the facts of who was created first (if Adam was indeed created first), but does not say why or that it has any meaning at all.  He acknowledges that other teachers have pointed out that the animals were created before humans, so if being created first automatically implied a position of leadership, the animals should lead the humans.

He brushes this off by pointing out that "When the Hebrew people gave a special responsibility to the "firstborn" in the family, it never entered their minds that this responsibility would be nullified if the father happened to own cattle before he had sons."  Of course not.  Because being firstborn doesn't necessarily mean God will call you to be the leader.  If you're an animal, you just might get sacrificed.  If you're a human, there are special blessings and inheritances for the firstborn, however example after example shows that doesn't mean much when it comes to who God calls to leadership.  

Abel and Cain
Noah's son Shem was the forefather of Jesus, even though Japeth was the oldest (Gen 10:21).
Jacob and Esau
Joseph and his brothers
Manasseh and Ephraim
And so on...

Mark 10:31
"But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

What do the Hebrew word pictures say?

According to Dr. Frank Seekins in Hebrew Word Pictures, the word for Father is ab or Alef Bet.  "The word picture tells us that a father is the leader [first] or the strength of the family." (pg. 14)

 The word for Mother is em or Alef Mem.  "The word picture tells us that a mother is the strong [or first] water... the life giver."  (pg. 62) 

So there is strong evidence to indicate that man was not, in fact, formed first, rather Adam was a man/woman being who was later separated.  Whether this is true or not is irrelevant to challenging the complementarian argument, however, because there is nothing IN the text to indicate that being created first has any significance.  Certainly, if woman had been created first, patriarchs would have believed that indicated something as well.  They would have said, "Of course the woman couldn't manage on her own!  That's why God created man, because the poor helpless woman was lost on her own until God created the man to rescue her."  Can't you just hear it now?