Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gender Equality VS. Gender Sameness

"Men of quality are not threatened by women of equality."--unknown

Equality. It conjures up different meanings for different people. Although most Christians would affirm that men and women possess equal worth, the term equality makes some uncomfortable because they feel it connotates gender sameness; a sort of scary, dreaded androgynous approach to the sexes that will eventually lead to a church full of transvestites or something. :)

Egalitarians are often accused of propagating this gender sameness. Since I am trying to convey the egalitarian perspective on biblical equality, I feel it's important to further define what exactly is meant by this term and make distinctions between gender equality and gender sameness, according to an egalitarian worldview. I have noticed some confusion among some of the comments and e-mails I've received so far. Just because egalitarians advocate women's full participation within the church and home does NOT mean they deny the unique and intrinsic differences in men and women. In fact, it is these differences and specialized strengths found in each sex that compel egalitarians to ensure both men and women have a voice in the church: so each sex can benefit from the unique insight and input of the other. So the church can become a Body that is diverse, equipped, and balanced. A Body that utilizes the beauty, creativity, and communal leadership that both femininity and masculinity bring to the table. While egalitarians recognize distinct differences between the sexes, they also believe that these differences have been used as a smokescreen to justify discrimination against women.

J. Lee Grady sums up these concepts nicely in his book 10 Lies the Church Tells Women:

The word equality is used often in this book to describe the relationship between the genders. That's because the Bible teaches that men and women in terms of their worth and value to God, their shared spiritual inheritance, and their shared role in governing creation. This does not mean that men and women are not uniquely designed. God created male and female with inherent physical and emotional distinctions, and the New Testament declaration that there is no male or female in Christ is not a biblical endorsement of androgyny. Paul's words in Galatians are a fundamental acknowledgment that while men should be masculine and women should feminine, a person's gender does not limit him or her from enjoying the benefits of salvation or the Holy Spirit's empowering grace.

Here is an excerpt from Rebecca Merrill Groothuis from Christians For Biblical Equality elaborating on egalitarian concepts of gender equality.

Evangelical egalitarianism, or biblical equality, refers to the biblically-based belief that gender, in and of itself, neither privileges nor curtails a believer’s gifting or calling to any ministry in the church or home. In particular, the exercise of spiritual authority, as biblically defined, is deemed as much a female believer’s privilege and responsibility as it is a male believer’s. Biblical equality does not mean women and men are identical or undifferentiated. Biblical egalitarians recognize average differences (both learned and intrinsic) between women and men, and affirm that God designed men and women to complement and benefit one another. Although it shares with feminism the belief that unjust treatment of women should be remedied, biblical equality is not grounded in feminist ideology, which is derived from cultural factors and philosophies. Rather, biblical equality is grounded simply and solely in the properly consistent interpretation of God’s written word. On this basis, biblical egalitarians (a) affirm that the gifts and callings of the Spirit are distributed without regard to gender, and that all believers in Christ stand on equal ground before God, and (b) repudiate the notion that the Bible grants to men spiritual authority and
other religious privileges that it denies to women.

I thought it was important to more clearly define some of these concepts before proceeding with the rest of the series on unusual women of faith and before we get into New Testament scripture and interpretation. The less confusion, about what each side actually believes and is working towards, the better!

Next Post: Huldah: The Lost Prophetess


Terry said...

Okay, now that we've got that straight...wait, didn't we do this in the first post? :) Just kidding, I know you're just further clarifying the point that egalitarians don't promote androgyny. Got it! Gotta go iron my hubby's shirt, now. ;-0 Looking forward to the next post!

catrina said...

I commented on Deborah, but forgot to mention that I absolutely believe that God gives women significant roles and gives them the same "gifts" as he does to men. I tend to be more complimetarion about my role as wife than I am about it in church. More to say, talk to you later. love ya!

DeeAnn said...

I guess this comment is more for the "Eve" post. I have found peace, love and comfort in my role of Helpmeet. If my husband feels respected by me and our children, then my job is being done well. I want to please him by making his home a restful place at the end of his day. He is very proud that I stay home to raise and educate our children. I haven't changed myself in an insecure "to make him love me" kind of way. I do this out of obedience to the Lord as in Titus 2:4,5. I don't feel like I am inferior to him in any way and he doen't take advantage of my submissiveness. I feel like we have 'become one' now that our proper God-given roles are complimentary and not both trying to be equal in all areas. I've lived in my own marriage both as a co-leader and as a helpmeet. As a helpmeet I feel more like an equal partner and less like an enemy. I have also noticed that I am a lot happier than the bra-burning women in my family.

Tia~ Feel free to stop by any time to loan me that book. We can chat in real life, too.

Tia Lynn said...

Yeah, I hate having to be so repetitive, but you do not even know the volume of e-mails I have gotten from all kinds of people about this series, saying “don’t you know men and women are different,” “egalitarians want women to behave like they have penises,” and all kinds of other equally preposterous stereotypes. So for these people who are continuing to read, I wanted to cater to them and make it a little more clear! But I am going to post the next post now! :)

Love ya too, Catrina..... :)

Deann, I hope you know that I would never think that just because a woman is a stay at home mom/housewife, that she is somehow “less” or not using her full potential. I have NOTHING but respect for women like you who are devoted to their children, husbands, and homes. I also believe in the role of help meet for women (as well as men), just that it’s not our only role. I also don’t believe husband and wife are equal in all areas. The difference is, I don’t think all roles are determined by gender, but by gifts. My husband supersedes me in MANY areas: math, construction, art, physical strength, cooking, etc. We are not equals in the sense that we can do all the same things or have to do all the same things or split everything down the middle. The equality parts comes in with making our decisions about who does what, when to do what, how to do what, together, based on giftedness, preference, and not “your a man, so you do this,” or “your the woman your suppose to do this.” So it looks different for us. And it looks different for a lot of families.

I’ll get you that books soon! I’ve citing some of it for these posts! But soon, I promise! :)

DeeAnn said...

I do man things like mow the lawn, but that is to lighten my husband's load, but I guess that would fall under being his helpmeet. I do wear pants and he does wear a skirt (kilt).

catrina said...

Hey, how come so many are lurking in the shadows of email. The whole point of me commenting openly is so that constructive dialogue can take place, I truly want answers/opinions to my ?'s/thoughts.

Tia Lynn said...

LOL Deann!

Hey don�t worry Cat. All the emails I have gotten, except from Christy Fritz, have been from really complementarian people and you already know their viewpoint, so your not missing anything. :) I�ll do my best to present the egalitarian perspective. That�s why I�m working from Old to New Testament. To be thorough.

catrina said...

I was only whining that I am the only one with my butt sticking out. Where are those other chickens. lol

musicmommy3 said...

You've gotten emails? I can't believe it? Seriously...Are people who profoundly disagree with you, all of a sudden, too nervous to comment? What's up with that?! That's never seemed to be a prob here before. :)

DeeAnn I enjoyed your comments. :)
Good perspective for me in this discussion.

Catrina-You've never cared before. :):)

Tia- This is fun!
I am enjoying this immensely.

Tia Lynn said...

Oh this is nothing new, I get emails all the time. Some of them are great and are from people who also comment here. But I don’t encourage the crazy ones to comment here, I get enough of those. :)

I'm glad you are having fun!

catrina said...

Ang, No I don't usually care what I look like, I just didn't know that there were so many lurkers to afraid to come out. lol

musicmommy3 said...



Anonymous said...

What I struggle with when I read christians attempting to explain equality is that there isn't a challenging of what it is to be masculine and what it is to be feminine. I feel like this isn't often looked at.

Tia Lynn said...

Do you mean that masculinity and femininity is not clearly enough defined?

Tia Lynn said...

Anon, I’ve been thinking about your comment. While I definitely believe there are difference between masculinity and femininity, I am hesitant to designate non-overlapping qualities that are only assigned to men and others only assigned to women.

One could say, “men are more logical,” and “women are more emotional.” But then you enter the realm of oversimplified stereotypes that assume because a man is logical then he can’t also be emotional and because a woman is emotional she cannot also be logical. There are men and women who share both these qualities in different degrees. It’s the same thing when we try to say “leading” is masculine and “nurturing” is feminine. Members of both sex have proven themselves to be good at both without abandoning their intergrity as men and women. I’d love to hear what qualities you think should solely be attributed to men and women. It’s an interesting concept, I’d love to gain more insight into it. :) Thanks for coming by.

Anonymous said...

I actually don't believe any quality should be attributed to one gender. It is still a concept that I am mulling over but I think that gender and sex are somewhat seperate. I think that a man is both masculine and feminine at the same time. I think we've linked masculinity with maleness and as a result have denied men's feminine traits. What I'm trying to say is that I believe men and women as individuals each uniquely have traits that are both masculine and feminine. I find that Christianity often limits what a woman or a man can be when it comes to gender. So while we will never be the same (men and women that is) neither will all women. I don't think there is much bible backing for specific gender attributes. I think some can be more prominant in either maleness or femaleness but I think that is because we cultivate it to be that. I guess I am arguing is for nurture instead of nature.

Tia Lynn said...

I concur. :)

Anonymous said...

Tia Lynn:

I found your comment on CBE and came over here. Congrats on making the switch to Biblical equality!

For those who believe that equality must equal sameness or that somehow people must give up gender distinctives: I willingly wear more pink stuff and more feminine stuff now than I ever did as a gender traditionalist.

I say "willingly" because there were 12 years of Christian school dress codes that required skirts and dresses; but even then that didn't make me look particularly feminine. Being obviously female and having to force myself into "roles" was a handicap, not a blessing. It was better to look shapeless and try to be invisible than to look feminine and deal with all of the negative stereotypes attached to it. Only once I was free to be the whole person God made me (as opposed to cramming into an ill-fitting "role") to be was I also free to be feminine.


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