I came across this blog post – “On Masculinity.” It’s short and worth a read. Please read it. The main point is that we run into all kinds of problems by defining male or female based on the contrasts between the two. But we don’t always need to contrast them. They are more the same than different. We are the image of God together, male and female. We should start by thinking about how both males and females are human and are much the same. And only then do we go to the Bible to see how God shapes the way we should live out of our sex/gender.
When we don’t do this, and we focus on finding contrasts between male and female we end up with really stupid and sometimes harmful gender stereotypes. Men are men because they are not women, and vice versa. Masculinity becomes a set of rigid cultural traits, and so does femininity. Men get made fun of for seeming to be like women. Femininity becomes the ultimate thing to avoid, and the ultimate shame for boys. And ultimately this rigid gender dichotomy I think leads to problems like crossdressing and transgenderism. We are forced to act outside our natural personality. Boys hide or are forced to hide their gentleness, kindness, or sensitivity. Girls hide or are forced to hide their aggressiveness, energy, and strength. Then some boys start to feel more like girls, even though they aren’t, and some girls start to feel more like boys, even though they aren’t. This gender confusion could end up resulting or at least contributing to various problems such as homosexuality, fetishistic crossdressing, or transgenderism.
Our culture is one of openness and tolerance and great change recently, but still we live in a culture that tends to favor seeing HUGE differences between men and women. Our dress is more the same than it used to be, but there are still large differences. Stereotypes about personality have gotten better in the last 100 years, but there are still many stereotypes. There is beauty in the differences between male and female, and that I something I heartily champion. I think I’m more attracted to my wife when she highlights her bodily differences through her clothing. But pushing and highlighting general differences of behavior and personality is more damaging. Our culture and some others enjoy those general differences so much that they push them to the nth degree and for those of us that aren’t on the extreme sides of the differences between male and female, we end up being in the confused middle.
But if we start with our sameness, and recognize that men and women really aren’t that much different, except for their bodies, then we start in a better place. There are some other general differences to be sure, but mainly men and women are just about the same. They have different bodies and maybe think slightly differently, and women can have children and men can’t, but we are both human, all made in the image of God. Traditional stereotypes about masculinity and femininity are largely unhelpful and should be largely forgotten or at least watered down a lot.
If we focus on the differences, and go back to traditional gender stereotypes than we tell our sons, “be strong and courageous!” and we tell our daughters, “be gentle and compassionate.” But what does the Bible say? The Bible speaks to men and women, without division, telling us all to be strong and courageous and gentle and compassionate. The fruits of the Holy spirit, (who lives in Christians), though traditionally all or almost all feminine traits, are spoken of as something that all men and women should have. Galatians 5:22-23 – 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.