How Both the Right and Left Are Wrecking the Ways Men and Women Interact With Each Other
In a world where everything should be equal, I hate that I feel that I am still forced to make very calculated decisions about how I interact with women.
Okay, I’m jumping ahead a bit, so let’s rewind. As you all know, I grew up in a Christian household with very tight Christian virtues. If you go and pick up a Bible today, the biblical view for how women are supposed to be treated sucks, quite frankly. Women are often treated as subservient and even regarded as the property of men in certain places. Even though we can sort of make excuses by stating that those were different times, the reality is that cultures shift, and our culture has shifted enough that these views should be wholly discarded.
This has put the modern church in an awkward position. While some of the more stringent rules have been discarded — like viewing women as property — others have stuck around in various forms. I know many people who would espouse that women should not be able to hold any leadership position in a church context, using the words of Paul as their backing. That’s more of a negative lingering, but there persist some more “positive” forms too, like complementarianism. If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s basically the idea that men and women have separate roles in a household — the man still maintaining the “head of household” rite — but the man holds his wife and family in such a high regard that the woman is honored and loved in every decision the man makes.
As wonderful as that last position can be in proper loving relationships, there’s still a big problem: women are still not seen as equal to men. So even complementarian relationships can quickly turn sour if the man inclines himself at all to truly believing he is more special or important than his wife. Personally, I grew up in a more complementarian context, and I’m glad to say a majority of the Christian men I know treat their wives with a lot of love and respect.
But… it was sort of a weird context to grow up in, now thinking retrospectively. Because the church doesn’t know what to do with these biblical teachings about men and women, it’s been hyper dichotomized in terms of sexual purity. In youth group, it was extremely stressed to us the importance of remaining sexually pure by abstaining from sexual activity. At the Christian undergrad I attended, these ideas got ratcheted up by the fact that men’s dorms were wholly separated from women’s dorms, and never the two shall mix. (Except for once a week during a 2 hour evening block where all doors had to remain open and all lights turn on at full brightness. Because it’s not like people didn’t go make out in their cars off campus, anyway.)
There’s a pure thought in there that we want to protect and respect women given the gruesome accounts of men raping women throughout history. (More on that down below.) But what I don’t think those youth groups and Christian colleges understood is that it was driving a further wedge between the genders. Because it got limited to “be pure and don’t have sex,” the church unintentionally cultivated this view in men that women are sexual objects.
It’s no secret that I’ve spent the last few years deconstructing and reconstructing my beliefs, and this is one that remains difficult for me to know what to do. Not that I view the women around me as insubordinate, because that most certainly isn’t the case. Remember — I’m the guy that grew up in a house with three sisters and worked at Bath & Body Works in high school. Heck, you have no idea how grateful I am to have daughters and not sons. I have far more in common with women than I do men! But the fact remains that it is still a sticky situation where I am constantly scrutinizing all my decisions with a fine toothed comb.
My background already made me question all my actions around women from the more right wing Christian lens… but now we have an emerging trend on the radical left that is also destroying how men and women interact. I’m referring to things like the #MeToo movement and other similar movements. Just as the right wing Christians sought to honor women with things like complementarianism, I have to note the fact that stuff like #MeToo is honoring women who have been rightfully understood to have been mistreated by specific men.
But… I know I’m not the only man that feels this way… it can honestly feel like a bit of a witch hunt at times. In many cases, we have thrown out the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” and instead immediately condemn men without any sort of hard inquiry into the matter. Again, there is positivity in the fact that men like Bill Cosby are rightfully being brought to justice, but if all it takes is a woman to merely state that a man has harmed her in some way… what makes us think men are going to want to do anything at all with women? I know men who choose to meet with women in only very public places in fear of later being accused of something that happened behind literal closed doors. That sentiment comes from an honorable place, but this idea means that men and women are still not being treated equally. If a man can meet with a man behind a closed office door, then shouldn’t a man be able to meet with a woman in the same way?
Frankly, this sucks for both men and women, probably women even more than men. From my male lens, it means I have to scrutinize every single one of my actions to make sure I am being fair and honorable to every woman around me. For women, this means potentially losing out on equitable opportunities. Even for the man who thinks he is being honorable by limiting his interactions with women, he’s simultaneously limiting the opportunities women have at things like job opportunities.
This is unfortunately one of those posts where I have no hard answers to give to both sides of the aisle other than to say, we need some change. From the right wing Christian perspective, we need to turn a different lens on the Bible that gives lesser weight to some of those things Paul said in favor of embracing a more modern view on gender equality. From the left, we need to balance justifiably honoring women without turning the system into a witch hunt. Again, I’m at a loss for concrete steps on moving toward these high level aspirations.
If anything, I hope this post at least gets you thinking about the topic in this light. I write this post directly as the result of having made a decision that I do feel is right, but I hated the fact that I even had to think about it. Thinking about that same situation where I only interacted with men, it would have been a total no brainer. Instead, here I am at 3:00am writing this post because I lost sleep over the decision. (And it was a super minor decision at that.)
Alright, let’s wrap it there so I can try getting some more sleep before going into work later. See you all in the next post.