Contradictory Expectations For Both Sexes by Christian Gender Complementarians
INDIRECT COMMUNICATION AND MANIPULATION
Quoting in part a commentator at Wartburg Watch blog, Darlene, who wrote:
…Because at the root of this system [complementarian “Spirit of Eve” teaching] is the idea that women, in their weakness, are always attempting to find a vulnerable spot in men in order to manipulate and control them. Men, therefore, must be vigilant and not let their guard down lest ‘Eve’ succeed and overcome them.
(The quote above is from the December 2017 Wartburg Watch thread, “What is the Difference Between Nouthetic and Biblical Counseling? Just the Spelling.”)
I notice that complementarianism sets up a few no-win scenarios for women, or complementarians create the very problems they complain about.
I explained in an earlier post how Christian gender complementarianism is much the same thing as codependency, just with a few Bible verses sprinkled on top to make it appear biblical.
Codependent people feel uncomfortable expressing themselves directly, or are afraid if they are too blunt with people, it may hurt people’s feelings or make them angry.
In my case, my mother brought me up to think that behaving in such a fashion – not expressing my opinions to others and communicating indirectly – was the only proper, lady like, Christ-like way of behaving.
American secular society is no better.
American girls and women are socially conditioned to be indirect, passive, and soft spoken, because if they’re not – if they do not express themselves, gently, quietly, and sugar coat everything they say – they will be branded as bossy, bitchy, or as “ball breakers” by boys and men.
Other girls and other women may feel that, or tell, assertive females they are being bitchy as well.
(Sometimes women pressure other women to conform to societal gender norms. Mary Kassian is one complementarian woman who plays this role for complementarian sites and groups – she exists in the complementarian world to pressure or market complementarianism to Christian women who may have reservations about it, or to reassure them they made the right choice if they already chose it.)
On the one hand, complementarians, their teachings about womanhood, and secular American culture, all pressure, encourage, or condition girls and women to be docile, quiet, passive – all the opposite of outspoken, assertive, openly opinionated, and direct (qualities which these same groups encourage boys and men to have).
Complementarians teach girls and women to be quiet and indirect, but, they will, under the “Spirit of Eve” type teachings that commentator Darlene was mentioning, then also FAULT and shame girls and women for being indirect (manipulative).
We have two complementarian (and secular) gender expectations going on: women are to be simultaneously indirect but not indirect.
Complementarians such as John Piper think women should be indirect when talking to men, otherwise, men’s delicate sense of masculinity or their ego will be damaged. Piper and others like him encourage women to “beat around the bush” or to “sugar coat” any and all communication.
Yet, when women carry through with this, and act in a manipulative manner to get their concerns, opinions, or needs known to men, these men (and the Pipers out there) turn around and accuse women of being manipulative, deceitful jerks. It’s a no-win situation for girls and women.
You can read more about this topic on another site:
Complementarians (and secular culture) really want it both ways. Women are held to two opposing standards at once.
This also applies to emotions.
YOU’RE TOO EMOTIONAL – NOT RATIONAL ENOUGH
American girls and women are permitted, or even expected by the culture, to express emotions (except for anger) openly – we ladies are allowed to cry and act “weak” in public, in front of others.
A lot of us ladies were raised being told it’s okay to be So Emotional.
(At least I got this teaching from my mother, religious teaching, and the wider culture – that it’s acceptable for me to feel or show emotions openly since I am female, but I did not get this teaching from my father.)
However, some American men, including Christian complementarian ones, criticize women on the very basis they are supposedly “emotional.”
(Pause here. If God designed women to be emotional, as some complementarians assume, who are they to then ridicule or criticize women for being emotional and not “logical” enough? Why mock or criticize something God created? It makes no sense.)
American men will say that women are not logical and rational – but are too emotional.
Society (and men) tells women it’s acceptable for women to be openly emotional, but when or if they are, society (and men) turns around and says, “women are too emotional and not rational like men, and this is wrong and bad.”
This is perceived as being inherent in the female biological sex, but I don’t think so. It’s a case of nurture vs. nature.
I don’t think women are more emotional than men, but rather, women are told it’s more acceptable for us to break down and cry publicly but that it is not acceptable for men to do.
Stand-up comics used to make a lot of lame-o gender stereotyped jokes off this sort of thing in their comedy routines, and Christian preachers also like this sort of humor as well.
A lot of preachers love injecting their sermons with gender-based observational humor, like how all women love to shop, are terrible drivers, and so forth.
Women definitely do get penalized in culture for living out the very gender norms they’re told since childhood they should be living out.
COMPLEMENTARIANS: MEN ARE EMOTIONALLY WEAK BUT SHOULD BE LEADERS
While complementarians like to believe or teach that women are weak and too emotional, they also teach, in an indirect way, that men are emotionally weak creatures.
I say this because I often see complementarians insisting that women support the men around them. I’ve seen them apply this to all women in any and all relationships to men, not just to marital relationships.
Complementarians implore women to constantly validate and affirm men.
As but one example, Wartburg Watch bloggers quoted complementarian Mary Kassian telling Christian women the following (via a Nov 2017 post, “Can We End Violence Against Women by 2030?,” which they in turn got from the Desiring God site):
“Love your brothers. Respect them. Affirm them. Encourage them in their pursuit of godliness.”
– complementarian Mary Kassian to Christian women Re: how to treat Christian men
I’ve seen similar attitudes by other complementarians on other complementarian sites. I’ve heard it from complementarian preachers on Christian television shows on Sunday mornings.
Complementarians are always asking girls and women to support and affirm the boys and men around them.
This absolutely clashes with secular and other complementarian sexist views that women are “more emotional” than men.
If men need all this constant emotional support and validation from women, that’s a form of emotional weakness.
I don’t have a problem with men or women needing emotional support. If there’s a God, I think he designed all humans, male and female, to be this way. Everyone falls apart at times (emotionally) and needs encouragement and support from someone else.
However, according to most secular culture and complementarians, women are the emotionally weak ones, and they should therefore (among other reasons) submit to male leadership.
If men are emotionally weak and need constant affirmation from women as complementarians suggest they do, they should not be leaders, or the only ones permitted into church leader roles.
MEN ARE SEXUALLY WEAK BUT SHOULD BE LEADERS
Complementarians believe that boys and men were designed by God to be visually stimulated more so than women, that men supposedly want sex more than women do, and that men are incapable of sexual self-control. They teach and believe that men are more easily seduced than are women.
(As to men supposedly lacking self control, this is an un-biblical belief: see Galatians 5: 22 – 23)
Therefore, complementarians promote this one-sided teaching of female modesty, where they beg Christian girls and women to “dress modestly.”
(I have yet to see complementarians asking Christian boys and men to dress modestly, so as not to cause a “sister in Christ” to stumble.)
If it’s true that men and boys are so sexually weak and are not capable of controlling their sexual urges, then they should not be entrusted with leadership roles at all, or only in conjunction with women leading along side them, but this conflicts with the un-biblical belief of “Male Headship” (male-only rule) that complementarians adhere to.
WOMEN ARE NOT REWARDED LIKE MEN ARE UNDER THE CONTRADICTIONS
Even though complementarians believe or teach in a round about way that men are emotionally or sexually weaker than women, they still insist that only men be allowed to be in leadership positions.
Men are rewarded for their failings and flaws. Not so women under complementarianism.
As far as the complementarian expectations for women go, those are a little more annoying, in that, complementarians teach girls and women to be one way (such as show emotion or communicate indirectly), but when they behave in these ways, complementarians tell women, or mock them for, being illogical and manipulative.
Some complementarians may even insist that God “hard wired” or designed women and girls to be emotional (illogical) and indirect (manipulative).
As to any complementarians who argue that God created women to be passive, emotional, indirect, or to act as emotional supports for men, if these behaviors or qualities are all innate to the female sex, then why oh why are complementarians constantly badgering, imploring, and asking girls and women to do those things?
Should you really have to remind, lecture, beg, or scold girls and women to be passive, docile, supportive, openly emotional, and so on, if God supposedly designed them with those traits in the first place?
Complementarians ask girls and women to live and act in ways that they then later turn around and then criticize them for.
I don’t consider complementarianism biblical in the first place, but if you’re going to ask women to live by this set of rules and norms (ones that you made up – they’re not biblical, you just say they are), the least you can do, complementarians, is make those rules fair and consistent, and not fault or mock women for following them.
The gender norms complementarians ask people to live by are secular, cultural ones; they are not ones dictated by God.
We have American (secular) cultural gender norms being read back into the Bible by American Christian gender complementarians and assumed to be God’s intent for the biological sexes, and then, we also have complementarians wrongly assuming that all ancient Middle Eastern (or ancient Roman or Greek) gender gender and marital cultural norms are applicable today.
Even in the course of the New Testament, where we see apostles Paul and Peter making comments about asking husbands to honor their wives as the weaker vessel and so forth and the like, it’s because in the culture in which those texts were written, men had legal and social control and power over their wives.
Therefore, the apostles were asking the men of that day and age to not abuse their secular power, to lay it aside, and give their wives equal consideration.
Complementarians, though, have to assume from these texts that God designed women every where to be weaker than men – physically and mentally weaker – though the text is addressing cultural realities of the time in which they were written.
LISTS AND RULES
I really do not see any place in the Bible where God defines manhood or masculinity one way, and womanhood or femininity one way.
Evangelicals, and other types of Christians, love rules and clearly delineated lists of things to live by. I suppose they find it too difficult or taxing to have to wake up each day and make decisions on their own.
Men and women don’t fit all these gender norms and rules that complementarians say that they should, or that God designed them to be. Complementarians want to put all boys and men into a blue box, and all girls and women into a pink box.
I myself never fit in that pink box for girls and women.
I didn’t like dolls or wearing dresses when I was a girl, for one thing. As a kid, I preferred to wear cut-off jeans with t-shirts. I preferred to climb trees, ride bikes, and do other activities considering more “boyish.”
I’ve never felt maternal or cared if I had children or not, yet complementarians like to bray from their blogs, sermons, books, articles, and such, that God designed all women to be maternal, to be wives and mothers, to want children, and that a woman’s “highest calling” in life is to be a mother, and so on.
According to complementarians, I’m supposed to be a, or aspire or want to be, a Susie Home-Maker type who sits at home all day reading crock-pot recipe books and knitting doilies (this is the sort of content one can find for women on many a complementarian site for women). None of that has ever held interest for me.
I also have zero interest in being or acting like a docile, quiet, passive doormat, or, should I marry, engaging in a “one way submission” to a spouse, where he gets all the “final decision making ability” due to the sheer fact he was born with a penis. (A penis does not trump ovaries and a vagina.)
I do not fit into the Pink Box complementarians have constructed for me to fit in, and I have no interest in fitting in to it. They can keep their box (or better yet, burn it).
Complementarians make no room or exceptions for men and for women who don’t fit up to what they define as “biblical manhood and womanhood.”
If complementarians could drop their insistence that all girls and women must be, do, act, and think like X and just allow them to be the individual God created them to be – whether that fits X or not – then, we’d be getting biblical.
I feel sorry for anyone still trying to live by a complementarian philosophy or outlook.
If you do live out the complementarian world view, you’re going to be held to a standard or set of rules that if you follow, you’ll be criticized or ridiculed for by the very people who told you to do so in the first place.