Created or constructed?

This is from a previous post on our last website, posted August 16, 2006. I wrote it while I was still pregnant with my daughter. My husband moved the website and didn’t take my writings with so now I need to cut and paste quite a few. Here is one I was very proud of…PS- there are suppose to be links but our new site isn’t quite as straightforward as the last one so I’m unsure how to set it up….

This is an excerpt from a very interesting article that a friend sent me. The author is commenting on the new book Captivating by Sheri Eldridge. You may have heard of her husband John Eldridge who wrote Wild at Heart, the book that made every man want to wrestle a bear. But for those men who love to bake and play with children you may have found yourself questioning your gender identity. Did I just write that? Perhaps I have strong opinions on books like this.

Agnieszka Tennant writes:

I may not be an Eldredge kind of lady, but I know beauty when I see it. And the most regrettable failure of Captivating is its tame idea of beauty. “Beauty is core to a woman—who she is and what she longs to be,” Stasi Eldredge writes. “Beauty is what the world longs to experience from a woman.” She gives examples: “Pioneer women brought china teacups into the wilderness, and I bring a pretty tablecloth to eat on when my family camps. We wear perfume, paint our toenails, color our hair, and pierce our ears, all in an effort to be ever more beautiful.” Sure. But there’s so much more.

If you want to read the article and let me know your thoughts I am very curious. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/008/25.60.html

I really appreciated Tennant’s commentary and I must admit that I haven’t read the actual book yet so perhaps I shouldn’t even have an opinion on such topics. But I do! I have been frustrated to no end on the stereotypical, evangelical construct of gender roles in this culture.

As I see it God made man and woman with an equal mandate, to rule and take dominion. I don’t see Him establishing roles, in the traditional sense, or even portioning out character traits that are specific of one particular gender. “Women are more emotional so they will always ‘feel’ more. Men are more visual so they will always struggle to some degree with lust.” How many people have comments such as this set up for a life of constant defeat and unending struggle?

While I do agree that genetic make plays a role in gender behavior (i.e. woman have more estrogen so therefore their emotional hormones can come into play while men have more testosterone and different “bits” that keep sexual desire at more of the forefront) I do not at all believe in attributing certain personality traits to one gender or the other. Nor do I believe that we are locked into our genetic make up. If the cross is to give all authority then surely our daily physiological struggles can bend their knee as well. I believe that such a dogmatic approach to defining gender “roles” has led to sexual confusion on a massive scale, specifically in Western culture which makes such absolute distinctions.

What does a man do if he has no desire to marry and loves art and beauty; if he loves to garden and bake? What category does he belong in if he has no desire to rescue a damsel in distress or to overtake the powers of a wild animal then eat it’s heart for dinner?

Likewise, what category does a single middle aged woman who enjoys reading or watching movies like Jackass rather than The Notebook, and never desires to have children so she owns a cat, or 10 of them? Where does she fit? You all have seen them…these are the women most of us “wonder” about when we see them walk into Starbucks with their tapered jeans, mullet hair cut and stone washed jean jacket. Are these women less beautiful and less of a woman because they do not fit this “role” of womanhood. Is it curious to us if they don’t break down and cry when watching a romantic movie? Is it eyebrow raising when a man does?

Are women really more emotionally driven and therefore need a practical man to “balance” them out. Dude, if I hear the word “balance” again while referring to men and women….well, I guess I’ll just deal with it. Probably not the best thing to scream and beat my breast during a sermon.

What about a man or woman who remains single forever? Are they not balanced? Do they have no other relationships in their lives to “balance” them out; anyone who will challenge and quicken their maturity? Are they incomplete because they do not possess “both aspects of the character of God”? Well if that is the case then all of you parents with a brood of children who are all boys need to have a girl soon so as to create some balance in the home.

Recently I had a discussion about the role of the Elder in a church and asked the question of why women aren’t allow to be Elders. Again, I am not interested in equality because everything has to be “fair”. If that were the case Matt would be having this baby. I had the last one! I was just curious as to why this group didn’t feel a woman could be an Elder of a church. Remember an Elder is someone who is committed to the spiritual journey of the church and who is there to pray and counsel the members in times of need. In my mind both men and women would be, as John Bender put it, “outstanding in that capacity”. Shouldn’t a role be based on qualification rather than gender? I sure am grateful that my pastor isn’t threatened by my physical design and has asked me to teach on Sunday morning. I even got through it without crying. Just kidding.

The question I have asked over the past few years is whether or not our gender views are created or constructed, a title I borrowed from a fascinating book I read. I highly recommend it. I wonder where we get such views of men and women. Are they created by our maker who put certain characteristics in us from the beginning? Or are they constructs of our culture that either affirm or shame us in our journey through the adventure we call life? Both? Which ones? Who defines them? The Eldridges?

Have these “roles” perhaps created confusion in those who do not fit into the specific box or caused others who do fit to judge and repel those who do not? Have they created more walls and barriers than entry ways of understanding and affirmation? I have my opinions but maybe not the answer. Just a line of questioning to make us all think.

Do not misunderstand me. I see there are differences. My son is already playing with blocks just for the sake of knocking them over and stepping on them while our friend’s daughter draws and colors quietly in the background. She is happy to sit with her mum in a strangers house while Oliver has already touched everything in the house that he isn’t suppose to and yelled at the items that he has fondled. However, my son also loves animals and flowers. He loves being outside and doesn’t just want to kick something. He cuddles, kisses and caresses a newborns face. He even comes to put his bare cheek on my tummy and sweetly says, “Baby!” He is who God made him to be. It will change and morph as his life matures but I want to see who he becomes rather than making him into the traditional image of what a male should be and I fear for him growing up in a culture that ostracizes someone who refuses to bend to the stereotype. This is most likely, for our kids and any of us on this journey, the road less traveled.

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