Part 2: Contradictory Expectations For Both Sexes by Christian Gender Complementarians: Are Women Weak, Vulnerable, Or Strong?
I should have included this point under my Part 1 on this topic, but I had forgotten about this argument, one usually raised by those who are complementarian, one which I’ve seen brought up on other blogs before.
(I find this to be a really shoddy argument that should not even have to be addressed at all; it’s self-evident why it’s a sloppy argument, but here we are.)
I think those making the argument misunderstand the non-complementarian position or are deliberately playing obtuse.
Those making the complementarian argument seem to think that non-complementarians (with the “non” position possibly being comprised of people under varying labels, which may or may not include descriptors such as, “gender egalitarian,” “Jesus feminist,” and “gender mutualist”) are saying that all women, at all times are always emotionally or psychologically (or physically) strong.
NCs (Non-Complementarians) are not maintaining that all women every where at all times are always strong in every situation.
The NC position recognizes that there are differences from man to man, or from woman to woman. NCs treat people as individuals, generally, and not as a big monolith.
It is much of the complementarian position that lumps all men together in one box, as if to say,
“All men are X. God designed all men to be X. God designed all men to want to do X. All men will always be and do X for all time, or all men should be and do X. All men are better at X than women are.”
It is much of the complementarian position that lumps all women together in one box, as if to say,
“All women are Y. God designed all women to be Y. God designed all women to want to do Y. All women will always be and do Y for all time, or all women should be and do Y. All women are better at Y than men are.”
For example, complementarians might argue that God created all women to be, or want to be, girly girly feminine and wear pink dresses.
The problem with this view is that not all girls and women want to be girly girl feminine, they are not that way by nature, and not all girls or women want to wear pink dresses.
I’ve stated numerous times on this blog and elsewhere that I was a tom boy as a kid, and as an adult, I am still not into a lot of things that complementarians argue that God designed women to be interested in.
I have never enjoyed wearing pink dresses nor have I felt compelled to wear one, nor do or be other things complementarians argue God “designed” me to be, or design me to desire.
The complementarian position does not allow for differences among people in one respective group or another.
That some men may enjoy acting macho, taking karate lessons, or watching NASCAR on television, does not mean that ALL men enjoy acting macho, want to take karate lessons, or want to watch NASCAR.
As a matter of fact, some men may naturally have a more gentle, quiet nature and prefer to play piano, or write poetry, and have no interest in karate or NASCAR.
Even among men who may usually enjoy acting macho, practicing karate, or watching NASCAR, or participating in other stereotypical masculine pursuits, one may observe that these same men at times get bored with, or tired of, machismo, karate, and NASCAR, and decide to take up stereotypically less-masculine pursuits of baking cookies, poetry writing, or ice sculpting as hobbies, even if just for awhile.
Many complementarians like to believe and teach that God designed ALL women to ALWAYS be mentally and physically weak ALL THE TIME (and hence, this is why all women supposedly “need” men to guide them in all areas of life, especially spiritually).
There are generally no exceptions recognized or tolerated for any of this; complementarianism is pretty rigid as a rule.
(This may depend on the type of complementarian one is speaking to; on one end of the spectrum are “soft complementarians,” who may not hold as rigid views about gender as moderates or hard core complementarians.)
Women are not all identical to other women.
Women do not roll off a factory assembly line as did Model-T cars. Women are individuals who have varying traits.
Some women may be born more shy than others, while other women may be born with a more “bold” disposition.
The default, standard complementarian view I’ve seen growing up complementarian (and I still sometimes see this on current day complementarian sites, in their articles), is that all women, for all time, in every situation, are…
Weak, stupid, frail, illogical, too emotional, and it is supposed by some complementarians, that God intentionally designed girls and women to have those very characteristics.
The answer to the question, “Are Women Weak or Strong,” would be, “it depends.”
It would largely depend on the particular woman we are talking about, not usually on women as a whole.
It would depend on the situation, as well.
It also could depend on women in general terms if we are talking about, or consider, how girls are socially conditioned to adhere to cultural, religious, or societal expectations for females, and how that may inform how a specific woman, or women in general, react to a situation.
There are times when a woman who is usually strong may go through periods of weakness in her life.
This particular question of “are women weak or strong” has arisen on spiritual abuse sites that cover stories of CSA (clergy sexual abuse).
One reason CSA is even a category for concern, and why some states have laws against clergy entering into sexual relations with their parishioners is the same, or similar, reason those who work as school teachers are forbidden to enter into sexual relations with their students, or psychologists are not supposed to develop sexual or dating relationships with their patients:
There is a power and influence differential at play, where it would be quite easy for the person in position of power, authority, or influence, to take advantage of the person in their care.
The person in their (clergy man, teacher, psychologist) care may be too young and hence lack life experience, making them easy to take advantage of; or, the person may be a patient who is emotionally vulnerable to being sexually exploited, because he or she is under emotional duress due to life stress of some sort.
After my mother died several years ago, I was in extreme grief for a few years afterwards, and I was very psychologically weak as a result.
Though I was always devoted to remaining sexually abstinent until marriage, had I started visiting an understanding, caring male pastor at that time during my grief for support or grief counseling, and had said pastor been a sexual predator, it would have been so much easier for that person to groom me and exploit my temporary emotional weakness to take sexual advantage of me.
It does not follow that because I was “weak” in the years after my mother’s death that I am always weak all the time in every other area of life – because I am not.
Anyone, man or woman, who is undergoing stress in life, whether it’s a divorce, job loss, a death in the family, a move to a new city, or whatever it may be, will perhaps experience moments of emotional or psychological weakness, where they will be easier “prey” for sexual predators or other unscrupulous people.
I mentioned on Julie Anne’s blog that some elderly people are targeted by financial scammers at times.
Sometimes these elderly are simply naive, or, they have dementia and are therefore unable to think clearly, or, they do not understand how phone scams work, or they may be ignorant of how the internet works, which can leave them wide open to being easily exploited.
“Grandparent scam” explained: What you need to know – April 2014
Selections from article:
In a CBS News investigation, an admitted con artist has revealed how a scam targets and steals money from grandparents.
The scam begins with something most grandparents don’t get enough of — a phone call from a grandchild — or so the caller says. But it almost always ends with a desperate plea for money, and the criminal CBS News met used to be on the other end of the line.
Shackled, and in federal custody, the 31-year-old conman is awaiting sentencing in California for his role in what’s known as the “grandparent scam.”
He agreed to let CBS News in on how he did it, but only if we wouldn’t reveal his name.
…Part of elaborate scheme run out of Canada. He would call senior citizens in the U.S., impersonating a grandchild in distress, begging for cash.
Asked how a typical call would go, he said, “You just say, ‘Hey, how are you, hi grandma, hi grandpa… I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. If I tell you, just keep it between us, I’m on vacation, but I got into a little accident, and I was arrested for a DUI.’ You tell them, ‘Things got out of control, and I need you to send me the money.”
So how many people would fall for it? “One out of 50 maybe,” he said.
// end snippets
I would not deduce from such news stories of senior citizens being duped by scammers that all seniors are easily duped.
I would not argue that “God designed all elderly to be easily deceived, manipulated, and taken advantage of. Therefore, the elderly, anyone over the age of 65, should not be permitted to hold church leadership roles.”
I’m not going to define an entire group of people – say the elderly in this example – by the actions of a few and assume that all elderly are prone to being naive or easily duped.
Some may be, both men and women, but not all. That’s because they are individuals with varying circumstances, life experience, education, wisdom, and physical and mental health problems.
The same is true of women. Not all women are identical and have the same strengths or flaws as other women.
Even in the same women, traits can vary over time or circumstance: there have been times over my life, when I, as a woman, have been strong, and other times when I have been weak.
There have been times I have been afraid, and other times when I was courageous.
I, a woman, have not been 100% weak over my life.
I have not been 100% strong over my life.
I have not been 100% brave over my life. I have not been 100% cowardly over my life.
Life is a roller-coaster with ups and downs for everyone. Most of us are not always going to react to every situation in the same way every time.
However, many complementarians view all (ALL) women as being one big block or undifferentiated mass, with no differences among them, with no variance in any of their reactions, tendencies, or behavior.
One glance around you at the women you personally know and have interacted with over decades is all it takes to see how inaccurate and wrong such a static view of women is.
Complementarians want to assume that all women for all time have the tendency to be weak or easily deceived, and will remain so for all time, and some of them may try to justify this sloppy thinking by pointing to a Bible verse that mentions that a serpent deceived Eve once.
So, one woman gets deceived in one situation, in a story that may or may not be allegorical, literary, or historical, and from this, some want to paint all women, for all time, in every scenario, as being easily deceived, weak, or frail – it just does not fly.
Men and women are both vulnerable at times to deception, flattery, or stress. Nobody is tough all the time.
However, it does not follow that occasional lapses of “toughness” means that a person is by default weak, frail, or that God designed that person (or his or her gender) to be weak and frail for all time.
However, one does not see complementarians making allowances for any of this.
No, in a lot of complementarian thought I’ve seen and was exposed to growing up, women (ALL women, not just some) are more often than not presented as being perpetually weak, ineffective, and frail, all the time, in all cases, while all (ALL, not just some) men are pressured, or thought to be, strong, decisive, all the time, in every situation.
Yes, some women can and do fall for manipulation and can be weak at times, but this is true of men also.
Yes, women can be weak or vulnerable at times, but this does not mean that all women are born weak, or that God designed all women to be weak, or that women all react the same way to everything in life.
I’m surprised I’d have to explain any of this. This isn’t rocket science. I think it’s pretty common sense.
Not A Contradiction
It’s not a contradiction to mention that women can, and often do, possess qualities of strength and competence, but to also mention that when or if a woman is in an emotionally vulnerable phase of her life
(e.g., in the midst of a divorce, job stress, cancer diagnosis, dealing with a death in the family, or maybe she never learned to have boundaries in the first place because she was abused as a child),
that during those times, she may be vulnerable to being exploited by a sexual predatory pastor, or by whomever else.
That a woman may be emotionally vulnerable at one stage in her life, perhaps due to stress in life, or previous abuse as a child, does not mean that women are innately vulnerable, prone to deception, or are weak, or are more so than men.
On other sites:
Snippets: by Peggy Warren:
There are many myths regarding clergy sexual abuse that must be dispelled, the foremost being that little boys make up the majority of clergy abuse victims. The reality is that experts have concluded and research shows that adults make up the largest number of victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Richard Sipe, psychotherapist and former Benedictine monk and priest, estimates that four times as many priests prey on adults as on minors.
The reason behind the myth is silence. Silence embedded by shame and instilled into the adult victims by their perpetrators and by faith communities.
Shame initiated from the thought that they must have done something in order for this “man of God” to be driven to sin, and reinforced by the churches when the first response is to announce that the relationship was a “consensual affair”. There is nothing consensual about a clergyman having sexual relations with a parishioner under his care.
The act is a violation, a sexual exploitation, an abuse of power and in 9 states it is a crime.
It is a breach of the clergyman’s fiduciary duty to his parishioner, very similar to other professionals that hold a position of power.
In professional relationships such as a doctor/patient or student/teacher relationship breaching that fiduciary duty is criminal offense in numerous states.
A fiduciary relationship is one based on automatic trust, where a professional holds the highest standard of care upon another individual in need. A trust that does not have to be earned but a trust that is instilled in a person from a very early age.
Which leads me to another myth regarding sexual assault in general. A sexual assault does not have to the violent, broken bones, scar leaving assault, which is what usually first comes to a person’s mind when hearing of a sexual assault. I believe all sexual assaults are violent whether the scars are obvious or not.
The majority of sexual assaults upon adults by clergy are preceded by a grooming process that lays the foundation for an unsuspecting victim to be easy prey.
The psychological scars that are left when a clergyman sexually exploits his parishioner are deep, life altering and life everlasting.
Clergy Sexual Abuse of Adults You Tube video