Some gender role defenses are easy to understand, whether I agree or not, but others simply baffles me. This, for example, was originally from an advertisement, but was quoted by Mary Kassian in an article to defend gender roles:
“Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that’s what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their Khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. .. For the first time since bad guys, WE NEED HEROES. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It’s Time to get your hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of manhood. IT’S TIME TO WEAR THE PANTS!”
I agree that the world need men. The world need men as much as it needs women, and elsewhere (it is not this blog’s topic) I have strongly disagreed with women who feel fathers are just another disposable nursery item.
But even though the world needs men as much as it does women, what has opening doors got to do with anything? My door-opening capacity as as good as any man’s. * (Unless it is the kind of door that needs Hagar The Horrible and his crew with a battering ram, but I digress.) And it says nothing of masculinity in general, as there was no worldwide, as-long-as-history exist, tendency for men to open doors for women. Doors existed in the time of Jesus, but I don’t think he opened literal doors for women any more than for men. It was not their custom.
As for little old ladies, some of them may need help across streets. But then, a 10-year old girl scout is up to the task. We don’t need men to do that either. Okay, indirectly, all other things being equal, children from 2-parent homes turn out more decent on average, and may be slightly more likely to help, so there is a “maybe” on that one. And old men are as likely to need help, but there are fewer old men than women.
Speaking of which, “step away from the salad bar” is ironic – if men ate more vegetables and fresh fruit, they would most likely live longer. We need men, but that is no reason for men to step away from the salad bar. And a man who eats enough salad usually looks, superficially at least, more manly than one who does not watch his diet.
Or consider this statement, made by a male on the Internet while arguing for man-as-leader roles at home:
I guess I should not teach my two boys “ladies first”, but “equality” in who opens the door for who. … I have never bowed the knee to kiss the hand of my boys. I have bowed the knee to kiss the hand of my daughter. Wow, male supremacy just gets more and more extreme, eh?
Regardless of hand-kissing, it remains true that domestic abuse is sometimes the result of, or aggravated by, gender role preaching in churches. 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse somewhere in their lives (probably more in countries that have less laws to protect them than the western world), and some studies find wife beating is more than 300% more like to happen in traditional marriages than in egalitarian marriages. Kissing girls’ hands neither cause nor solve this problem, but it is certainly no argument in defense of practices that sometimes cause/ worsen the problem. If I had to choose between:
a) A world where all daddies kiss their daughter’s hands and not their sons, and 25% of those girls grew up abused by a man, and
b) A world where no daddies kiss only their daughter’s hands, and only 6% of girls ever end up abused by a man,
… I know what I would choose.
Now, daddy who read here, would you choose any differently?
If you want to open doors for us, please open the door to a world where none would look down on our teaching because we are women, where nobody would think me a lesser Christian for not being married, where no woman is told to allow abuse by her husband (what a distortion of Christian submission!) just because she is a believing wife.
* No, I am not the belligerent sort of “feminist” who would argue with a man if he opens one for me – I’d say a polite thank you and move through the door. Of course, as this has never been part of the African idea of manliness, and I live in Africa, this rarely happens.