Separate is not Equal & Together is Awesome

1010073_10151428607366735_362495096_nThis is a concept you have heard over and over if you were raised in church; you may have even heard it in some other marriage book or seminar. It is a distinction without a difference (a type of logical fallacy where an author or speaker attempts to describe a distinction between two things even though there is, in fact, no actual difference) and that as my wise husband said upon seeing this meme, “I don’t know whether this is accurate or not. But it seems to me that if men do derive more self-esteem by being respected instead of loved, this is likely due to men’s psyche evolving in a patriarchal society. And it also seems to me that many Christians have taken one small comment made by Paul and blown it up into an entire doctrine. I think everyone should be loved and respected and everyone wants to be loved and respected. Mutuality is the way of Christ.”

Because of this doctrine we as Christians (and others) often divide up like junior high kids at the roller rink or a school dance, boys on one wall and girls on another. So without further ado, here are my top reasons why all this division stinks and why togetherness is effing awesome.

1. Separating the genders fosters misunderstanding and fear and also contributes to the “battle of the sexes”. Togetherness shows us that we need not be afraid of each other and that men and women should not be in competition. Moreover it shows us that we should be in cooperation and community with one other. ONE BODY. Not two bodies, one male and one female.

2. Separation of the sexes during bible study fosters the idea that men and women are not equal in God’s eyes and that women cannot teach men about the Bible. For TONS of amazing FREE material on this check out CBE’s Biblical Equality 101 page. Penis≠Power.

3. Separation also confirms the fallacy that we have nothing to learn from hearing how others feel and encourages us to “tune out” when we are together and someone from the opposite sex is speaking. We can all benefit from another person’s point of view no matter what equipment they have.

4. Keeping boys and girls apart (or single men and women apart) will not stop them from having sex. Take a gander at these bullet points lifted from a Christianity Today article…

  • Three surveys of single Christian adults conducted in the 1990s determined that approximately one third were virgins—meaning, of course, that two thirds were not.
  • In 2003, researchers at Northern Kentucky University showed that 61 percent of students who signed sexual-abstinence commitment cards broke their pledges.
  • Of the remaining 49 percent who kept their pledges, 55 percent said they’d had oral sex, and did not consider oral sex to be sex.
And this is with keeping the genders separated most of the time. If we put the genders together in almost every context what we would find is less fear, more respect and more understanding. When we have that, we may not have lower rates of premarital sex, but we probably won’t have higher rates either. At the very least we will have people who are able to communicate, love and respect one another, which will make (at the minimum) casual sex rates decline.
5. But what about separating when it comes to talking about the deed itself? Surely then Michelle you think we should divide up based on parts, vaginas to the left and penises to the right. But seriously…my answer is no, not even then. When we discuss sexuality separately it encourages secrecy and says that sex and sexuality is something to be ashamed of. We train our kids and ourselves to be ashamed/afraid to discuss intimacy with even our spouse. I know for me (and most of my friends) the way we were raised to keep such issues quiet and certainly not to discuss them in mixed company. It took me YEARS to undo the effects of this training with my husband and I am STILL working on it. When we stigmatize sexuality the way we have we do serious harm to our marriages. All we teach our girls right up until they are engaged is only how to say no. Oh wait, we also teach them how they are like a chewed piece of gum or a glass of water every boy in the room has spit in and no one is willing to drink if they fail to do so. And then we condemn these same women when they are sexually clueless and have nothing but negative thoughts about sex. Also, separating the sexes by parts has another issue. NOT EVERYONE IS HETEROSEXUAL. Sooo, yeah. There’s that.
6. Lastly, for now, it plays into the myth that women cannot be understood by men and/or men cannot be understood by women. Perhaps the reason we can’t understand each other is because we have been separated since the day we were born. Ironically, especially at the times it matters the most. Do you want to know a secret? The way to get to know someone is to SPEND TIME WITH THEM! Shocking, I know. We learn about each other when we stop dividing ourselves into us and them, boys and girls, mars and venus. We learn about each other when we listen and speak even when we are uncomfortable or afraid or even mad. We must overcome the awkwardness that we feel because of how we have been taught and allow our children to know a better way. The way of togetherness.
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Gendered Virtue or Is This Bench Taken?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there virtues exclusive to women?
Are there virtues which should be exclusive to women?
Don’t the scriptures make a listing of what it is to be virtuous?

This week I was prompted to read a blog entitled “Militant Virtue” by Rachel Janovic at the Femina blog. Rachel makes all sorts of assertions in her post about “female virtues” and how we as women should have an “active defense” against men who would “leave a mark” on us (yes, like a dog marks its territory).

Sigh.

First let us look at the definition of the word virtue. Dictionary.com defines virtue as:

vir·tue [vur-choo]

noun

1. moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.
2. conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.
3. chastity; virginity: to lose one’s virtue.
4. a particular moral excellence. Compare cardinal virtues, natural virtue, theological virtue.

5. a good or admirable quality or property: the virtue of knowing one’s weaknesses.

The word virtue is not used in the Old Testament rather, the word virtuous is. The word for virtuous in Hebrew is chayil (which you will recognize if you have been following this blog for long).
Chayil is defined by Thayer’s Lexicon (Strongs #2428) as:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you catch that? Chayil is used 243 times and translated:

  • army
  • man of valor
  • host
  • forces
  • valiant
  • strength
  • riches
  • wealth
  • power
  • substance
  • might
  • strong

Chayil is used 3 times specifically of a woman or women.
Ruth 3:11  – And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.
Proverbs 12:4 – An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
Proverbs 31:10 – An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

We have been through this before, but the Proverbs 31 list is not viewed in the Jewish tradition as a list of things all good wives (read “women of virtue”) must live up to. But rather it is a listing of examples of ways that women can show their Chayil. Just a bonus, if you read Proverbs 31 and compare it to the list above these are all different ways women can show valor or virtue. I will assert here again that there are as many ways to be an excellent wife as there are women. I would also assert that even these examples of virtue can have application to men as well. Could you not (gasp) reverse the genders in the Proverbs verses and still have truth? Let’s try it and see…

An excellent husband is the crown of his wife, but he who brings shame is like rottenness in her bones.
An excellent husband who can find? He is far more precious than jewels.

I know my excellent husband is like a crown to me. I am a very blessed woman. And I know plenty of women who can attest that a man who behaves shamefully is “like rottenness to her bones”.
Second one, once again, true. As the saying goes, “a good man is hard to find” and honey if you find one as good as mine you better hang on to him tight! He is more precious than a big ass engagement ring.

Okay, for grins, now let’s look at the word virtue in the new testament and see what it has to say. The word for virtue in the new testament is Dynamis. Dynamis is defined by Thayer’s as:

 

 

 
Dynamis is used 120 times and translated the following ways:

  • power
  • mighty work
  • strength
  • miracle
  • might
  • virtue
  • mighty

Dynamis is never used to exclusively describe men or women but rather God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom, miracles and even the strength of sin.

Ok, enough background (sorry about the length of this post but I felt like proper background was needed), on to the article. Ms. Janovic lists what she considers to be “female virtues” at the beginning of her post: gentle and quiet spirit, modesty, chastity, faithfulness at home. She states that, “Scripture does not define virtues in terms of empty space; it is defined in terms of fruit.” First of all I feel compelled to point out that I am unable to find a verse in the Bible that defines virtue in terms of fruit. I am also unable to see where virtue is delineated along gender specific lines. I do see in Galatians where it lists the fruit of the spirit for both men and women.  I do see in scripture where it says that in Christ there is no male or female.

It would seem that the author subscribes to the gendered virtue model embraced by Rousseau. This model asserts that there are special virtues characteristic of each and arising out of their different basic natures. This model is extra biblical. P.J. Ivanhoe of the University of Michigan summed it up this way in his paper Women and Virtue,

In his work Emile, he describes the ideal education that a young man should receive, an education that will develop the set of virtues that are the full manifestation of his manly nature. In this same book, though not occupying as important a position, is a description of the proper education Emile’s sister, Sophie is to receive. It too is described in terms of developing virtues that fully manifest her basic nature. But while Emile’s virtues concern life in the public realm of a citizen, Sophie’s virtues concern life in the private realm of the home. According to Rousseau, women not only have special virtues that are theirs alone, they lack many virtues that are seen as exclusively male. And virtues that women are thought to lack are those required for public, political life – the realm of a great deal of power.

Ms. Janovic or other Christians I know who take her positions in this article might say they disagree with my characterization, however I think her post belies that assertion. First of all her use of the Fairie Queene as an illustration points directly to the division of the virtues into masculine and feminine. Chastity in this story is represented as a female Knight or female virtue. As she says, a “militant virtue” that “requires an active defense”.

What happens next and throughout the article I find patently offensive. She decides to use the imagery of men as dogs who simply go about “marking their territory”. She states:

“…if you have ever watched a nature film, or seen a dog on a walk, or really paid attention to life at all, you will have noticed a certain tendency among the male of the species. They mark their territory. They make a claim. They fight over the girl water buffaloes. Men do exactly the same thing, starting somewhere around the sixth grade. They like to impose on women around them in a way that builds their territory, or their prestige, or their ego.”

So guys, here it is, you are nothing but a beast who cannot be trusted to control himself when wanting to…
wait for it…
wait for it…
SIT NEXT TO A GIRL ON A BENCH IN A PUBLIC PLACE!
ASK A GIRL FOR A RIDE!
HAVE AN INSIDE JOKE WITH A FRIEND WHO HAPPENS TO BE A GIRL!
TEXTING HER TOO LATE

But it is ok, “it is not necessarily springing from any deep nefarious desires. Sometimes, it is just an accident. Sometimes it is a bad habit, or a different culture. Sometimes they aren’t actually paying attention when they impose. So don’t take this post as an accusation towards the men who impose on, or attempt to impose on you. These are all excellent opportunities for you to practice virtue.”
You see, you don’t even know you are being inappropriate, you are simply clueless. But that is ok too because it is all the woman’s responsibility to have a strong defense! She must not allow herself to “be imposed upon”. She should not “just let these things happen.” It is her fault if she stays on the bench when you sit down to chat. “Simply not resisting is how [she lets]a mark be made.”

Of course it is also her responsibility not to be shrill. According to the author, “Young women have a great deal of trouble with the fear of being shrill, and if that doesn’t scare them they probably are shrill.” So ladies, it is also your job not  to”overreact, but to be perfectly firm and cheerful. Someone unwelcome joins you on a bench? Unjoin him. Stand up. Walk away.”

The author also appears to think the women are clueless. She writes:

I know another problem for the unmarried women is that they might think that the young man, or young men, are all interested in them seriously. They feel like these things would not be happening in Christian circles if the men involved had no intentions. They would not be getting rides with me, walking me to my car, making a show of having inside jokes with me, or otherwise giving me attention if they were not actually interested in me.

Perhaps *gasp* the man and the woman are JUST FRIENDS! Perhaps they just want to get to know each other.

In the end her advice is this:

So if you are a young woman in this kind of situation, practice cheerful resistance. If the world of interaction between the sexes was a billiard table, be a bumper, not a pocket. Cheerfully, firmly, rudely  enforce your standards. You don’t owe him an explanation. Don’t get caught up in reasons you can’t give him a ride. Just say no. If he insists, pushes, tries harder, say, “Have a nice walk!”
Do not be afraid that this kind of defense will keep anyone from ever seriously being interested in you. If it is the right kind of man, this sort of behavior will bless him deeply.

Again guys, if this kind of behavior is off putting to you, if you think that when you sit down to chat with a girl on a bench and she gets up and walks away that she isn’t interested, you just aren’t the “right kind of man.”