This week I traveled with a team to South Sudan. Four men and two of us gals.
The conversation came up about masculinity and femininity. Where ever I am, it “tends to come up” because I can rarely ignore passing statements such as:
“Men are more visual therefore … ”
“Men are more sexual or less monogamous therefore …”
“Men are less relational (emotional) therefore …”
It drives me nuts when I hear men and women make these stereotypic statements. I don’t think it’s helpful. I’ve heard (more than once) how men are more visual therefore women must cover up to keep him from sin. What exactly is that message saying about men (and women’s) sexuality? I’ll tell you. Men are animals that can’t control themselves and women aren’t sexual beings. My problem with this conclusion is it isn’t biblical. Jesus was male. So was Paul. And what do we do with the Songs of Solomon. Check out who’s advancing on whom.
Whenever I hear that statement, “Men are more visual” I chuckle then respond, “Well I gotta tell you, put Brad Pitt in this room and I’m telling you the women are having trouble.” It’s just not helpful to tell men they are animals who can’t control themselves and it’s not helpful to tell women they aren’t sexual beings. And it’s not helpful to say men are less relational than women. How does that statement impact men, marriages, friendships and community? Again – what do we do with Jesus? And Paul? I worry that our statements, said as facts, are actually causing men and women to live “unbiblical.”
Here I am in Africa with four men and two of us women listening to several men throw around “statements of fact about men and women” while observing the opposite. Sitting right there observing the contrast to what they are declaring as fact.
Hands down the most “emotional” person on the trip was a rough and tough cowboy (literally a cowboy who grew up on a ranch and went to college on a rodeo scholarship). He wept. More than once. He was up one minute and down the next. Emotional.
We all sat on the porch of our friends Johannes and Jona, a young married German couple working in Yei South Sudan. You should have seen the look on the men’s faces when Johannes shared he had taken his wife’s last name instead of the other way around.
And then I finally connected to the internet (it was out most of our stay in Yei) and read out loud how my son’s high school wrestling coach posted on Facebook that he was going to continue his grandmother’s tradition of crocheting afghans for all the grandkids.
I want us to admit, perhaps our “statement’s of fact” aren’t facts at all. Perhaps my being female and your being male is more complicated than a list of characteristics. I am assertive, a characteristic usually associated with masculinity. I used to say I was more “male than female” until I realized I too was saying “stupid” statements that didn’t help us live biblically. I’m fully female. I have female parts and I am assertive. That means assertiveness can be a characteristic of both males and females.
Perhaps it’s more complicated, and that makes us uncomfortable, but I’m willing to live in the tension. I’m assertive and emotional and cowboy is emotional and assertive. It’s all good.