A couple of Sundays ago while we were on the way to church, Kristi noticed some rain to the south, heading right toward our church building. And sure enough, a block away from the building the rain began to pour. So, I drove under the portico, dropped Kristi off at the front door, and then parked. Since I am not exactly fleet of foot, I got drenched on my way into the building. A few minutes later, the rain stopped.
After worship was over, we were about to head to the car, when all of a sudden it started raining – again. So, I waddled out to the car and got soaked – again. As soon as I picked up Kristi and turned out of the parking lot, the rain stopped. It was like a scene from a sitcom!
I wasn’t alone, of course. Many other husbands were doing the same thing – they just had the good sense to have umbrellas (how long have I lived in Florida without remembering to get one?!?). Those fortunate enough to have teenage boy could foist the job onto them. But it was almost always men who were “braving the elements.”
This doesn’t mean that women are incapable of doing so. Many of our ladies at church are single, like my Mom was, and had to park for themselves. One of our ladies is married to a man who uses a walker, and so she had to drop him off and pick him up. And our young mothers routinely have to fend for themselves and their children as they run various errands through the week, especially if they also work outside the home . But all things being equal, if a husband and wife were driving together during that Sunday’s downpours , it was the man who sacrificed for his wife and walked in the rain, not the other way around.
Why is this the case?
Is it a matter of an arch-conservative religious culture? Well, I see commercials and TV shows all the time that depict men holding umbrellas for women, and I assume these portrayals aren’t all written by Bible-thumping fundamentalists! Is it merely a matter of social convention? I don’t think so. While everyone agrees that gender roles and customs vary from culture to culture, even the most “woke” feminist would have been troubled if wives were the ones trudging through the rain instead of their husbands.
The reality is that men and women are different, and those physiological differences substantially (though not exclusively) account for many of the different roles we fill. The mantra of the radical progressive movement is that sex is based on biology but gender is determined by social convention and personal identity. No one questions, of course, that the expression of masculinity and femininity varies greatly from culture to culture. But it is also indisputable that many social customs are largely determined by the biological differences that intrinsically exist between men and women.
On average, men are larger, stronger, and faster than women. There are women who tower over me (like my wife), who can bench press more than me, and who can outrun me (all women, in fact!). But generally speaking, by virtue of biology, men have the edge on women when it comes to size, strength, and speed. And that is why, generally speaking, in culture after culture, it is men who are expected to fight in wars, investigate strange noises in the middle of the night, and endure the rain after parking. Biological sex creates many of our social conventions.
There is a dark side to these biological differences, however. Since men are stronger and larger than women, it is all too easy for men to exploit their physical advantages. Women are three times more likely to experience abuse, rape, assault, or stalking than men. Are men sometimes abused by women? Of course. But on average, it is men rather than women who are far more prone to perpetrate this sort of violence, and the simple reason is biology.
This is also why, in culture after culture, there have been gender-specific activities. In more primitive times it was the first big hunt. For millennia it often involved athletic contests. In many cultures right up until today it has taken the form of boy’s and men’s clubs and societies. These male-only activities are not inherently designed to denigrate women (although they can be perverted into doing precisely that). To the contrary, they serve the purpose of helping to channel male energy and aggression into virtuous responsibility and respect. They also create an environment in which men feel free to open up as men without the additional complication of male-female dynamics, which paradoxically makes men more open and available to women. Done well, these kinds of clubs and societies make better men, husbands, and fathers.
What I have just summarized reflects the wisdom of thousands of years of human tradition. And I can testify personally to the powerful affect my participation in sports, in camps, and in fraternal organizations has had on me as a man. Many of you can as well. And while I haven’t explicitly said this, it should go without saying that many of my female readers can testify to the same blessing they have received from various girl’s and women’s organizations. This is what true diversity looks like – celebrating the flourishing of men as men and women as women for the common good of both. Vive la différence!
Who could possibly object to this tradition of boy’s/men’s and girl’s/women’s hobbies, activities, or clubs? Only those who are in the grip of ideology (which one writer has defined as “the systematic way of ignoring reality”). In this case, the ideology is extreme egalitarianism which allows for no genuine differences between men and women, and therefore cannot tolerate the notion of male-only or female-only organizations or activities. This radical egalitarianism is intolerant in the extreme in its pursuit of sterile conformity. Like the Borg in Star Trek who go from solar system to solar system demanding assimilation into the collective, egalitarians poison everything they come into contact with because of their narrow and dogmatic fixation.
There is a deep internal incoherence embedded in this ideology, however. It claims to support the notion of equality, but it inevitably undermines equality. How so? Here’s one example. Egalitarians purport to support women’s rights. But radical egalitarianism denies that there’s any true difference between men and women. If that’s so, then does it even make sense to speak of women’s rights? Obviously not. Gender is just a social construct, remember? But all ideology eventually gives way to biology. Remember the famous line from Animal Farm (a novel about egalitarianism). “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than other’s.” Radical egalitarianism inevitable leads to a crass power struggle, and when it comes to gender, who does that tend to favor? Radical egalitarianism always exacts a heavy price from women.
You can actually see this playing out right now on a very modest scale in the recent decision of the Boy Scouts to change the name of its parent organization to just “Scouts” in order to include girls as well as boys for membership. From what I can gather, the organization still intends to offer boy-only and girl-only activities. I hope that this is the case, given how vital they are to the development of young men and women. But it should be no surprise that the Girl Scouts perceive a threat in this move:
Girl Scout leaders said they were blindsided by the move, and they are gearing up an aggressive campaign to recruit and retain girls as members…
The overall impact of the BSA’s policy change on Girl Scouts membership won’t be known any time soon. But one regional leader, Fiona Cummings of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, believes the BSA’s decision to admit girls is among the factors that have shrunk her council’s youth membership by more than 500 girls so far this year.
She said relations with the Boy Scouts in her region used to be collaborative and now are “very chilly.”
I have no idea how this will all play out. Maybe the organizations will find a way to resolve this in a manner than truly is the best for all the children involved. But I think it is fair to say that this decision by the Boy Scouts illustrates the collapse of many cultural institutions that once helped to affirm and enhance the unique and diverse potential of young men and young women.
It is paramount for Christians to intentionally fill the gap left behind by this cultural collapse. Older men need to mentor young men, and older women need to do the same for young women (Titus 2:2-6). And more than ever in this age that is hostile to boys (as books from a wide array of authors attest, such as this one and this one and this one), mature Christian men need to step up as fathers and older brothers to help guide young men into the unique responsibilities God has assigned.
And that task is a noble one. It is the call to love, serve, and give, just as Christ loved us. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). This is what it means to “act like men” (1 Corinthians 16:13). More than ever we need to be a “band of brothers” to build in one another the gallantry and courtesy Christ demands of us as men.