30 January 2011

Are Women Human?

My friend, Dave over at 42 has just pointed to a brilliant blog entitled Are Women Human? which, according to it's subtitle is dedicated to "Debunking complementarianism and other myths of gender"

For those who don't know what complementarianism is, it's the view that men and women are equal in the eyes of God except that God has reserved leadership for men and "followship" (my word) for women. Or to slightly misquote George Orwell's characters in Animal Farm it's the idea that all people are equal but some are more equal than others. I think that the sound-bite "Are Women Human?" captures this idea perfectly. Check out the blog.


J A Y B said...

Thanks fot that Pam - very intersesting blog. I do get tired of the whole man breating of chest woman flickering of eyelashes thing. With anything, or anyone, other than that sending some evangelicals into the desert to put their heads in the sand or to run around with their hands over their ears going la la la. Or in some cases screaming at stamping of feet. DOH!

So those of us who do not behave and think the same as the Driscollites are going to hell for sure - nope, don't think so.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Pam, not to be contentious... :-)... but what is your response to women who are complementarians?

Just so you know, although I think you already do, I am not a complementarian.

I am just curious as to how you would respond to a woman since it is difficult to throw out the sexist charge in response.

PamBG said...

I actually find that to be something of an odd question but my answer would be women have a right to be complementarian just as men have a right to be complementarian.

And I think that the complementarian view is wrong and significantly misses some very central principles of Jesus' teaching.

So I believe that women who hold this view are wrong and men who hold this view are wrong. But, of course, I could be wrong and so could you.

If you are asking me what I think of women who choose to submit themselves to their husbands, I'd say that an extreme version of submission sets up a codependent relationship. I will grant you that many people advocate relationships whose descriptions are "healthy" and I then wonder why these people bother to be complementarians as it often seems to be a question of "in the letter of the law only rather than in the spirit of the law."

Does that answer your question?

Grace said...

Pam - thanks so much for linking to the blog!

Allan - I grew up in complementarian churches, and while I never completely bought into the culture of complementarianism in those churches, I did accept some of it.

There's the question of what one would say to a woman in complementarianism, which is different from the question of why women embrace complementarianism. Re: the latter, well, a huge part of it is that these women are told they have to be complementarians to be true bible-believing Christians. Also, some people find it psychologically comforting to be told exactly what their roles are and how to fulfill them, even if that means sacrificing what they really want or suppressing what they really think.

As for what I'd tell a complementarian woman, it would depend on whether we could really have an honest conversation about it and how entrenched they are in complementarian culture. I know women who will claim that husbands who can barely dress their children or change a diaper are the best and most involved dads ever. There's not really any debating with someone who's that committed to the idea that whatever her husband does around the house or to take care of their kids is a favor to her (because it's not his role to do that). Probably the best thing to do in such a situation would be to bite one's tongue unless she brings it up herself. In a different situation I might try to have a conversation about the implications of their beliefs in terms of the value and equality of women.

I think it's perfectly possible for women to internalize misogynist beliefs. Misogyny couldn't persist otherwise, in fact.

PamBG said...

Grace, I grew up under male headship. In those days, even many in the secular world would talk about women being obviously less capable than men.

That particular denomination still holds the same theological views about women but I don't know whether they have tried to dress them up now as "complementarianism". I don't see them using the word "headship" any more but I haven't seen the word "complementarian" either.

You make some good points, thank you.

I really love the title of your blog which I actually think makes a pertinent - albeit ironic - point.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Pam (and Grace), thanks for your response. The context of my question is based some of the angry critiques I read of complementarianism as being promoted by a bunch of sexist males, and no doubt some are.

But I know some men and women who hold a complementarian view and they do seem to hold it genuinely without any duress. Of course, I cannot get inside their heads to know for sure, and their well-adjusted viewpoint does not speak to its truthfulness. I have just met more than a few Christian women who are happy with the complementarian point of view, and have a hard time understanding the anger of those who disagree.

I was just wondering how you might handle a discussion with such an individual.

PamBG said...

I don't really think that one can argue anyone out of a dearly-held viewpoint, so I hope I don't try to do that.

I think that in many relationships I observe, there is one partner who is more of the "get up and go" partner and another who is the "let go and let someone else" partner. If the latter happens to be a woman and the couple are happy with their respective roles, why not?

Equally, if the gender roles are reversed or more equal? Why not? These latter two types of relationships would have been considered undesirable when I was growing up.

My "anger" is not that the woman is happy in being the more laid-back individual in a relationship. My "anger" over this theology is nicely summed up in the title of Grace's blog. There simply is no such thing as "ontologically equal and functionally subservient". It IS, ultimately, a question of whether women are fully human. Or as I used to put it, whether women are adult human beings. The headship model really does treat women as if we are not quite adult and not quite compis mentis.

Allan R. Bevere said...

"Equally, if the gender roles are reversed or more equal? Why not?"


I went to seminary with a guy whose wife's profession paid much more of a living wage than he was able to find. They decided she would work full time and he would stay home with their children.

There is no reason to reject that arrangement on biblical grounds. Nor is there any reason to view her role as somehow more equal than his.

PamBG said...

Nor is there any reason to view her role as somehow more equal than his.

Good point.

A core problem, IMO, with headship and complementarianism is the exhalation of human hierarchy as reflective of God's Kingdom order. That's where I think it fundamentally departs from what I understand as one of the core concepts of Christianity: that God does not create or endorse power-over status between human beings.

PamBG said...

"exultation" even....LOL!