In the past few months, I’ve been receiving an increasing number of emails from articulate young women who seem convinced of the superiority of men. One thing these messages all have in common is a high appreciation of physical strength.
I had no intention of writing a blog post on the topic of male strength and its supposed connection with superiority. I’m not especially interested in the fact that, generally speaking, men are physically stronger than women. I’m not interested because women, generally speaking, are better at some other things and have other strengths. But I received another email today and it made me realise that the “male strength equals superiority” idea is more widespread than I had previously thought.
Comments about Biological Superiority
Here are a few comments made in emails recently sent to me by young Christian women.
“Men are unquestioningly biologically superior. Their bodies are built for work.”
“Women seem to be a mediocre being whose only purpose besides birthing children appears to be relational and social.”
“There is not a single area in which women surpass men as a result of our biology.”
I don’t agree with these statements or the sentiments behind them. As well as holding male physical strength in high regard, these women have a low view of qualities associated with being female; the ability to give birth and “relational and social” abilities are downplayed. It is disturbing that these vital and valuable faculties are regarded as mundane in comparison with male muscle. And it is disturbing that these harmful ideas on gender are being taught and modelled in some churches, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly.
Comments Expressing Pain and Grief
Here are a few more comments made by the same women.
“I write this from a place of deep grief and fear, to be honest.”
“… it’s caught me in a bit of a psychological and spiritual tailspin because I feel so lost when it comes to what my identity is supposed to be.”
“I just feel so unloved by my creator, I feel like I cannot pray to him, I cannot touch my Bible. I feel paralyzed in worthlessness. Like there is no room for daughters at his table. I don’t know what to do.”
“Sometimes I feel like being a woman is almost like a curse.”
This is not good! So, spurred on by the email I received today, I’ve put together this blog post. This is not a comprehensive look at the biological differences of men and women, far from it, but I hope it might ease the pain that comes when women are unappreciated and men are elevated for no reason other than their biological sex.
Jade’s Email and My Reply
Here’s the opening paragraph, a short excerpt, of an email I received from a woman who I’ll call Jade (which I’ve used with her permission), followed by the reply I sent back to her, slightly edited.
I recently saw an informative chart about the biological differences between men and women. The chart title caught my attention, “Fit but Unequal,” and it compared the differences between a male and female athlete. Then I thought, if the only difference between men and women are their bodies and men are stronger, have greater endurance, more power, are less susceptible to leg injuries, and have more power pound for pound… wouldn’t this mean that men are superior to women?
Here’s some of my reply to Jade.
I know the chart you are referring to. [See here.] I don’t know any egalitarian who thinks, let alone asserts, that men and women have the same muscular strength. This difference is obvious.
What is perhaps less obvious is that women often have better hearing and eyesight, as well as a better sense of smell, than men. Women have more nervous pathways between the two hemispheres of the brain. They are much less prone to some genetic conditions and diseases (e.g., colour blindness, male pattern baldness, haemophilia, certain kinds of muscular dystrophy). Women often have a better immune system than men and usually live longer. And many women can bear and nurse babies which is something men cannot do! [More sex differences in humans here.]
Having strong muscles can be an advantage for some tasks. Though in modern societies, we have machines that do the hard work and the heavy lifting for us. But we are more than our muscles. We also have minds—we have thoughts and feelings. These things, as well as our muscles, are who we are as people.
If a person thinks the most important, most desirable, trait in humans is muscular strength, then sure, men will seem superior.
If, on the other hand, a person thinks empathy in human relationships or the ability to bear and nurse babies are the most important, most desirable, traits in humans, then women will seem superior.
But I don’t see it as a contest.
Men and women are not exactly the same. We have some differences, but we are essentially equal as human beings and as children of God (Gen. 1:26-28; Gal. 3:26-28). The fact that my husband can open the lid of a jar that won’t budge for me, or can push around the lawnmower more easily than me, does not make him a superior human being. (And note, not all husbands are physically stronger than their wives.)
I’m thankful for the physical strength of my husband, and my husband is thankful for the abilities I bring to our life together. There are some things that I am much better at than my husband, but neither one of us “surpasses” the other. We work together, we contribute our talents, we share our God-given gifts, we serve each other, we don’t compete.
Both sexes have essential and vital contributions to make to broader society, to churches, and to their families. And for most of us, these contributions have little to do with muscular strength or having babies, they have to do with our intellect, our talents, our experiences, our passions, our personalities, our spirituality, our empathy.
Men and women need each other and should stand side by side and work together. And each of us should have the opportunities to develop and contribute our individual God-given talents and gifts without contrived restrictions.
I do not know of any non-biological trait that is exclusively male or exclusively female. Rather, both men and women are capable of great intelligence, creativity, and resilience in all spheres of human endeavour and understanding, especially when both sexes are given the same opportunities for development which has rarely been the case in the past.
Jade and I have exchanged a few more emails where we discussed what the Bible says about women. Here’s an excerpt from one of her later emails. It’s pretty wonderful!
I thought about my initial brushing off of the ability we have to bear children. And then I realised something: this unique ability of women, while beautiful in and of itself, is especially significant in that Christ was conceived and brought into the world by a woman, a feat no man could do. And even in that, Mary’s faith and character is what is upheld. Mary is described as a young woman of great faith and obedience to God. Not a young, but ultimately faceless, womb, but an inspiration to both men and women in how to trust God.
I think of the women in Christ’s life, Mary Magdalene, especially, who recognized the voice of her Saviour (John 10:27). I thought of their faithfulness at Calvary to the very end. I thought of the fact that the first human beings to witness the Resurrection of the Messiah were women, unreliable witnesses as they were in that time, laden with all the weight of subjugation and invisibility, of being the “other,” and yet their eyes were the first to see the Resurrected Son of God. Their ears the first to hear his voice. Their voices the first to proclaim the Gospel that he is alive. And it makes my heart soar.
I say all this with hope that there will be such an outpouring of realization on women today, young and old, those in all corners of the world and especially those who truly believe that they are worth-less or worthless. I pray this message finds them. That they can experience this liberation of knowing that God sees what the world has cast down and trampled on. He uplifts them. And I pray for myself, that my bitterness and anger toward men be dissolved. I do not, like so many who have gone before me, only want to joyfully embrace half of the body of Christ.
These are my hopes and prayers too!
Let’s not fall for the lie that physical strength is the mark of superiority or the lie that men are superior to women. We need to appreciate the various abilities of others and of ourselves. Men and women need each other (1 Cor. 11:11 CSB).
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