This has been a strange week on the blog and social media, with a bunch of new male commenters flooding this space complaining about women.
The complaints were prompted by two things: our continued discussion about the Psychology Today article and the fact that women are developing higher standards for husbands (which we also talked about in our podcast this week); and this Fixed It For You:
No, Kevin Leman, her period is not a difficult time “for her husband.”
It is a difficult time for her. And if he has difficulty, it’s nothing in comparison to what she is experiencing.
This inability to see life from her point of view is actually quite astounding–and even more astounding to think that he wrote it in a book and announced it to the world.
Is there an inability to see things from women’s point of view in the church?
I have a number of thoughts jumbled in my head, and I’d like to try to express them today as I process our discussions this week.
About 20-30 years ago I remember hearing around election time that conservatives in general have an easier time getting the other side to listen to their message because they understand the liberal message because most media tells the liberal message. Conservatives can articulate the liberal message easier than liberals can articulate the conservative message, and so conservatives can talk to liberals better because there’s an understanding of what they think.
Because the liberal message is articulated more in public, conservatives hear it argued more, while liberals tend to only be exposed to a caricature of the conservative message.
(This doesn’t hold true anymore with modern politics and the polarization of news outlets, but we did study this decades ago in university when media was different.)
I think there’s something similar going on with gender.
When people try to explain to me that the Bible says man is the head of the household (which it actually doesn’t), and that man being the head means that he is in charge, and they try to convince me like I’ve never heard this before–it kind of makes me laugh.
Do they not realize that all of us grew up with this our whole lives? We can teach it backwards and forwards. The problem is not that we don’t know the arguments; the problem is that we have heard all the arguments and found them wanting, because we have seen a way to interpret Scripture that pays attention to the original language, the original context, and most importantly, the words and heart of Jesus. And it’s much more faithful to Scripture than proof-texting verses out of context, away from the original language.
The problem is not that I don’t understand their arguments; the problem is that they absolutely will not consider any other ones. They refuse to see with any other point of view, even though we are quite used to looking at this from various points of view.
And so it is with the conversations we were having on the blog this week.
The comments on the blog and on social media this week were among the most misogynistic I’ve ever had on the blog. (One commenter said something he regrets and he apologized, and so I’m not talking about him). But I had to delete some absolutely horrid ones from men claiming to be Christian, and many of them had the same themes:
Women were selfish. We only wanted to take from men. We had way too high standards for men. But most of all, we didn’t have sympathy for what men went through.
Here’s the thing: I know that this cultural time is a difficult transition for many men. They used to have what was needed in the economy and in society to do well. They were stronger, so they could do the more physical labor.
But what is really needed in today’s economy is people who can work in teams; function well in relationships; have strong verbal and written skills; can think from multiple points of view. Physical skills aren’t required as much. This has meant that the things women have been socialized to excel at are more in demand than the things that men have been socialized to excel at (none of this is biological remember–it’s all socialization, except for the physical skills).
And so women are having an easier time financially supporting themselves than they did in the past. Women are finding that they don’t need to settle for someone just to be looked after, because they can look after themselves.
Therefore, if a woman is going to marry, a man must bring something to the table. He must be a real partner. He must do the emotional labor to carry the relationship too. He needs to carry his share of the household.
A lot of guys fit that bill and more, and they’re excelling and doing wonderfully. There is absolutely nothing biological about being male that means you can’t be emotionally mature and healthy.
But there is a subset of guys who were not raised to do those sorts of things. That’s not those guys’ faults; that’s largely our culture and their parents. But here we are, and it is what it is.
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So the question is: What do we do about it?
Do you remember the movie Hidden Figures, about the African American women employed by NASA in the 60s who played a significant role in the space race? There’s a great scene where Octavia Spencer’s character, who supervises a number of women, realizes that computers are about to make her and her whole team redundant.
But she also realizes that none of the men at NASA know how to program or work the computer.
So she goes to the library and steals a book on FORTRAN, the computer language (she has to steal because she’s not allowed to check a book out). She figures out how to program that thing, and she teaches her team how to program that thing, and suddenly she and her team are indispensable again.
She realized her skills weren’t needed anymore, and so she took initiative to develop the skills that were necessary.
That’s what women want men to do.
We’re not saying that it’s easy being a man in this period of transition. We’re not saying that men don’t have things to complain about (although, again, we would like men to realize how much harder women have had it, and even to experience period pain for a few days each month, but still be expected to write an exam, do your job, and do all the regular things you do, acting like nothing’s wrong).
We’re just saying that it’s not up to us to fix it for men.
What I was hearing a lot in the comments all across my platforms this week was men saying that women are demanding too much, and only care about themselves. But what they’re really saying is that women should lower our standards, and be with men who don’t make our lives better. We should compensate for the men who make our lives worse.
And what we’re saying is–no.
For years, women worked their way up the work world with no role models. We figured things out. We formed groups and helped each other.
Men who find themselves at a disadvantage in today’s society can do that too. It isn’t too difficult. Go to therapy to work on any emotional and relational issues you have. Read books on attachment (or read my attachment series!). Find YouTube channels that teach you how to clean and organize. Get a budget. Live independently.
In other words, make yourself an attractive spouse.
It is not women’s job to fix the men they’re with, and for millennia we’ve been asked to do that.
It’s not too much to ask men to do the work first–especially since so many already have, and have shown that men can be amazing partners, amazing fathers, responsible workers, and more. Women want a to be wives and partners; we don’t want to have to mother somebody that isn’t a child.
We can still appreciate the men who are struggling and respect them and be in community with them. But fewer women will be willing to marry men who aren’t bringing something a lot to the table. If men want a wife, increasingly they will have to do the work themselves.
And part of that work means letting go of the entitlement that women are supposed to orient our lives around men. That we’re supposed to make your lives easier, make up for your deficiencies, and see things from your point of view. And, of course, offer sex on demand.
This trend is only going to accelerate.
And it will get worse in the church, because the church is still feeding men’s entitlement. That’s one of the reasons that for the first time women are leaving the church faster than men are. We’re just not interested in compensating for entitled men anymore, and men in the church are more entitled than men outside the church (which is a huge indictment all on its own).
So let’s raise our boys to be emotionally healthy, and to know how to be good partners. Let’s raise the next generation to not see men as the main story, with women as supporting characters, but rather to see all of us running after Jesus, using the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us, and serving together, as partners.
Let’s keep Jesus at the centre, not men at the centre, and then I think this problem will start to get better.
And if men continue to threaten: Well, if women want to be like that, we’ll just check out–I think you’ll find increasingly women will say, “no problem.” That threat isn’t going to work anymore. All it does is help us identify who is toxic. And this week, we identified a lot of it.
What do you think? Let’s talk in the comments!