I was raised hearing that slogan, “Whatever a man can do, a woman can do better.”
You know, I think I actually believe this. At least, at the level of the individual I think that somewhere out there is some woman who can do whatever specific task usually considered as something a man does better.
An age old question that most people trace back to Jurassic Park is, “Just because you can do something, does it follow that you should do it.” In actuality, we can trace this sentiment back further, to the Apostle Paul, who said: “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.”
Even if we conceded that women can match and even out-perform men it doesn’t follow that they should.
I don’t know where I heard it now, but one of the most compelling arguments that I have heard for why women should not be pastors comes from simple human nature: if a man knows that someone else will do something, he’ll let them do it; if a woman knows that if she doesn’t do it, no one will, she’ll do it. The net effect is that over time, women will take on any and all tasks and men will let them do it. This will start a reinforcing cycle, where men keep dropping off and women keep pitching in, until at last men will leave it all to the ladies.
I don’t know if this has played out in full in denominations that allow women to be pastors but it certainly seems to be true in my experience about things in general. When I worked at the church, most of the activities were carried out by female volunteers. We often wondered where the men were. I am pretty sure I knew the answer to that. But, then, what was the alternative? To suspend the activities?
Yes… perhaps that’s exactly what should have been done.
But this isn’t a post about women in ministry, believe it or not. It’s an inquiry into a deeper question: if men can do what women can do and women can do what men can do, does it really matter who does anything?
I really think it does. Let’s start with a lesson in biology:
Men have penises. Women have vaginas.
Humans, they both are. And yet different. We deny these differences at our peril for the simple reason that denial of reality at all carries great risk. You can say, “I will step out in front of this bus going 50 mph and won’t die if I get hit” but reality is reality, and is not to be trifled with.
The different biological, psychological, emotional, and even spiritual, makeups of men and women will tend to have an impact on ‘Activity X,’ or whatever it is we’re talking about. The way a man approaches a problem and solves it will tend to be different than how a woman does. You might say that each gender produces a solution that, while identical in many ways, nonetheless has a different flavor.
I like different flavors. I think sometimes, a solution is best when it is sugar and spice and all things nice. Other times, snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails is what we need. Sometimes when the children fall and scrape their knee they need to be told to walk it off. Sometimes they need that mother’s touch. How far and to what extent do these differences matter?
I don’t claim to know. I only know that even if I concede to the ladies that they do all things well, we men will be happy to lounge around on the couch eating chips, drinking beer, and scratching ourselves- and we really don’t know why you’re surprised that we’re letting you do all the work when, well, the reason we’re sitting here is because you’re doing all the work.
I know that men and women would be happiest if we figured out a way to give expression to our own uniquely flavored way of doing things. Can women reconcile themselves with the solutions of men, flavored sometimes with spices that they would never have dreamed of using, if it means that at least men are doing some of the cooking?
Doesn’t it follow that if men abandon everything to women then we will be left with everything coming at us with just one flavor?
One more thing I know: flatly denying that there is any difference at all, generally speaking, between men and women and how they live out their lives in the world, or that the differences are unimportant, is a recipe for misery…
Comments are welcome. Please leave your flamethrowers on the table in hall before coming in to post your comment.