Thursday, February 14, 2008

TOBOT part deux: The Gender Bender

Another happy hour. Another deep conversation delving into the depths of the mystery of human sexuality. Another opportunity to experience, firsthand, the fallout from a 4-year degree's worth of bad philosophy and poor catechesis. It's fascinating, the kinds of conversations you can get into in a bar. I was really missing out all those years I spent concentrating more on consuming drinks rather than conversing with my friends and coworkers, but I digress.

This conversation bore striking similarity to an aforementioned encounter which I posted about a few weeks back. Same bar. Same beer. Same high-top table, even. Same awesomely terrible 80's music blaring overhead. But that's where the comparision ends. Though I was face to face with one of my dearest, oldest friends, I felt at times as if I were talking to a stranger. There are some things money can't buy, but for the very reasonable sum of around 70 grand, you can undo 18 years of spiritual formation in a fraction of that time down at the trusty local state university...

This friend of mine? He's a great guy, one of those rare few truly humble and unassuming types who are brilliant, athletically inclined, and hilarious. Unfortunately, he's also been somewhat, shall we say, disillusioned by the present state of affairs that surrounds human love and sexuality. Gender roles, even, are suspect and arbitrary in their assignment, inflicting more harm than good on those whom they seek to oppress by their small-minded stereotyping. And finally, I am oppressed, because my eventual ambition to stay home and raise my children is a prison sentence that mocks the sacrifice of those brave women who struggled valiantly to ensure my freedom to choose... as long as I choose rightly, I suppose.

I didn't quite follow. Neither did he, and as we patiently circled each other on the issue, examining the physical, social, economic and even emotional ramifications of a woman choosing to work in the home, it became apparent that our disagreement was derivative of more than just semantics.

The great difficulty in our exchange seemed to lie in the very fundamental philosophical disagreement over what it means to be 'woman' or 'man', and what significance, if any, our genders play in our vocations. I backpedled at this realization, probing for an acceptance or an awareness of the reality of an engendered human soul, meaning that if it were possible to separate my body and soul (aside from death), I would still maintian my femininity even outside of my physical body. Hence the infeasibility of sex change operations and gay marriages. But that's another post (or two) entirely. Did he agree?

Well, yes. That seemed reasonable. And his soul, inherently masculine? Yes, that's right. Whew, some common ground.

We continued, exploring the social qualities which present society extols as being virtuous or desirable; aggression, willingness to sacrifice, ambition, a cut-throat business savvy, strength, sexual prowess, vigor, stoicism... after a minute or so we stopped, and we agreed that our list of attributes was heavily loaded with some pretty macho characteristics.

He was quick to point out that there are girls out there who are stronger than him. I agreed, reminding him that his present company included a particularly passionate specimen of femininity inclined to more agression than he probably ever exerted on the football field. Laughing, he had to agree. But was the list we'd just compiled a list of traditionally masculine attributes? Well, yeah.

I started on a new list: compassion, humility, tenderness, a proclivity to cry during movies and really good hallmark commercials, sensitivity, ability to nurture, modesty... submissiveness ( I knew I was pushing it with that last one.) What about these attributes? Why haven't they (for the most part) made the "cut" as socially acceptable or worth striving for? When's the last time you heard someone being favorably described as sensitive and modest, especially in the workplace? Isn't that a little, I don't know, girly?

Well yes, actually. But I'm being awfully gender-biased here, to imply that there might be some innate qualities attributed to one sex or the other, and to suggest that a woman might somehow seek (and find) fulfillment according to a very different standard than that which is presently accepted by our culture? Well that's downright chavanistic.

But, then, I'm just a silly little girl. What do I know?


  1. Another wise post! It has taken me 38 years (and some very deliberate steps away from Feminism) to find that, indeed, submission is a beautiful thing. It is most emphatically not becoming a doormat, but a giving of oneself that is beyond the petty balancing of scales that we often allow to consume our view of relationships. Motherhood is an especially effective vehicle for learning this sort of submission, but of course the place it really comes into play is in relation to who we are with God.

    I am enjoying your blog!!!


  2. Obedience, something I'm trying on for the first time as a wife & mother at 33. Kudos to you for being so wise in your 20s.

    I know that it must seem so hopeless to watch a close friend become unraveled in college. Keep praying for him & for all men & women in your generation.

    While, it's never good to wander off the path. Remember Christ is the "fisher of men". There's a lot of "on ramps" back again to smooth male/female relationships & religion in general.

    Keep up the good writing!

  3. Love it love it love it!!! And this is spoken by someone who left her career as a trial lawyer to stay home with the baby. How many times have I had the conversation: "but what about your career?" "It prepared me for what I am currently doing!"

  4. We are now into the "second generation of feminism." As the mother of 7, with a Master's Degree in Counseling, I ignored the "sirens of the world," that called loudly for me to "fulfill myself." God honered my decision and sent other children for our family of 9 to love as well. Wealthy children, all "causalties of the culture of death," whose "working parents" did not have time for. If women knew that their influence as mothers would reach down to the future generations...for good or evil, they would run to the daycares of the world and take back their little ones who have the potential to grow up and be Jenny. Love, Mary (AKA "Jenny's mom).


No trolls allowed.