I suppose I am a sexist. At least, depending on how you define the term. Just as every other heterosexual man in the western world, I have been called the S-word at various points in my life. Maybe I earned the term unfairly at times by merely pointing out that men and women have different, but equal roles. Perhaps on some of those occasions I actually did lapse into a sexist comment or two. Don't look at my blog that way. No one is perfect. Besides, women can be sexist too. However, as a man I have to admit, it's starting to become pretty unclear how to act.
According to a new Daily Mail article, Boston researchers have determined that there are two kinds of male sexists in the world. Some are "hostile" while others are "benevolent," both are equally just awful. Hostile sexists are the ones that are obviously so. The stereotypical misogynist is categorized by the research as "hostile." Fair enough. On the other hand, men who smile more, wait patiently for women to finish activities, are nicer, hold doors open for women and "Say a good woman should be put on a pedestal," are involved in an even more "insidious" form of sexism. These are the "benevolent sexists."
In light of this article, I'd like to point out four culturally damaging things that will likely result from Christians continuing to embrace this way of thinking.
Men Won't Know How to Act
I found myself chuckling as I read one genuinely confused voice in the "comments" section at the end of the article exclaim, "There's a lot of confused young boys out there . . . on one hand they're being taught that smiling or talking to a woman could land them in trouble and on the other, millions of women are flocking to see a film about a man who ties women up and is physically dominant [referring to Fifty Shades of Grey]." This does lead to some genuine confusion - as well as a very, very fair question. Namely, how are men supposed to respond to today's feminist attitude? Notice, I'm not asking how men should respond to the philosophy of modern 21st century feminism. I'm asking how men should treat women in light of its presence. It seems that no matter how a man responds he is in some sort of danger. This led one of our enrollment officers at Trinity to recently utter the depressing possibility, "With all this politically correct stuff that's changing day to day, I'm gonna end up getting arrested at some point and not even know why." Indeed he might.
Add to this that I was raised not only to hold doors open for women, but rather, to hold doors open for anyone (stranger or otherwise) as an act of kindness. If you think this is an oddity, just go to any Cracker Barrel in the south at a busy time and try - just try - I defy you to end up walking through that door on your own (male or female - young or old). There will, no doubt, be a boy, a man or an older gentlemen to get the door for you and insist that you take him up on his offer of kindness. Yet, since moving to Indiana, my male friends of similar age do find it a bit surprising that I always hold the door for them. I suppose by following the assumptions of the author, I am doubly sexist, offending both men and women.
Now, like most guys from my generation (though not all), referring to a female as "sweetheart," was never a part my practice. Yet, would this be sexist? Is it possible that in my old age, I may naturally refer to a waitress as "sweetheart" as a natural part of my communication because of decades of rightfully addressing my two daughters by the term? Maybe. And guess what - I don't want to intentionally offend anyone, but I doubt I'll be very apologetic about the matter. After all, I can introduce you to a number of very masculine, heterosexual, flannel wearing men in McMinnville, Tn, who naturally refer to other men with the term "hun" (yeah, I know its a little weird, but that's really how it is).
Masculinity Will Have Little Value
Scripture teaches, "male and female created He them." Regardless of what my egalitarian friends have to say about it, men and women have separate roles in this world. They each represent aspects of the imago Dei (image of God). Though these roles are different, they are equal in value. I have grown weary of liberal and conservative Christians bending over backwards to manipulate the text into supporting some laughable form of androgyny. Women can't do everything men can do. Sorry . . . that's how it is. There's good news though. Men can't do everything women can do either. Everything from human physiology to temperament to insight demonstrates that men and women are different. The problem results when Christian men interpret this to mean that women are less valuable (or when that is what women hear when the difference is discussed). Yet, I don't think we hear many Christian men saying this anyway.
The church has been so impacted by several decades of feminism that now masculinity has been devalued in the culture and in the church. Shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement, Last Man Standing, How I Met Your Mother and a host of others (sorry I can't give you a comprehensive list - I don't watch many sitcoms) have represented husbands, fathers and single men as bumbling idiots who can do nothing for themselves (unless the man represented is gay - gay men in pop culture are presented as having the greatest insights of human anthropology). Men are not represented in culture as wise patriarchs (I'm not saying wisdom is merely the proper of men - chill out) or purveyors of sagely wisdom (like Andy Taylor was for Opie). The church has reinforced this perception. Listen at random to a sermon on some subject relevant to gender differences by almost any conservative or liberal evangelical minister. It will be clear that Tim "the tool man" Taylor is the stereotype of the modern family man. Don't get me wrong. I like the humility pastors are showing. I also think we should be able (as men and women) to laugh at our own shortcomings and silliness. Nevertheless, as a man raising two daughters I see this as getting out of hand.
Women Will Pick Their Mates for the Wrong Reasons
If men are the idiots that our culture portrays them to be (or even if they just don't have anything to offer that women can't already do for themselves), then what qualities are young women supposed to look for in a man? Sagely wisdom, leadership ability, protectiveness, kindness, chivalry and the like are all out the window. In such a case young women may merely pick a man based on his physical attractiveness, bank account or some other superficial trait. Is that what we want?
We Will All Miss Out on A Greater Understanding of God
Here's the bottom line. I was raised with the impression that females were these beautiful, angelic beings who were of the greatest value. To say that I had a high view of women would be to put it far too mildly. As I have gotten older, what I have recognized is that the reason I have always used the word "angelic" is because what I see in women is an aspect of the very nature of God (because we are all made in His image). Men represent no less. They just represent different aspects of God's image. What I want is for my daughters to be raised recognizing what they can learn about the nature of our God from godly men in their lives. I don't want this selfishly. I want this because it's right. It's good for them. It's good for the church. It's good for the world.
How to Be What God Made You to Be
In the end, my advice to men of every age is just to live out the masculinity that God gave you. Be a man. Be protective of the wonderful angelic ladies who are a part of your life. Smile . . . a lot. Be nice. Hold doors open for men and women alike. Become wise and then impart that wisdom. When you get old if you happen to refer to a young lady as "darlin'" or "sweetheart" don't feel bad. My advice to women is just to live out your femininity. This doesn't mean that you are less than men. It means you are different than men. If it's God's desire for you to marry, don't marry a man who doesn't display the Imago Dei. Do not date feminine men. Do not date men who are not at least trying to become wise. Do not date men merely because they have money or are good looking (all though you should know that bald men are the most attractive). Do not marry a man who doesn't view you as an angelic being. Likewise, do not play into a culture that denigrates and is afraid of masculinity. God did not make a mistake when he created them male and female.