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.|
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.